Monday, October 8, 2012

Proud to be a Murican

So I have finally become a us citizen (actually a dual citizen, as I could no more give up my UK citizenship than I could give up beer and chocolate - my Britishness is such an intrinsic part if me).

This is a process that has cost over a thousand dollars, has generated an inch thick file of documents and as an introduction into what it means to be in America, I have to say it does not flatter the country. Throughout, the whole process has been marred with chaos and incompetence. Lost paperwork that miraculously reappears after a call to the local congressional office - this has happened three times, and it smacks of corruption with a soupcon of evil, when who you know seems to help your process along, and without it your application is filed into the big round file on the floor. Also, letters contradicting them selves arrive from the powers that be (e.g. a  letter saying "we have not received your paper work and therefore are canceling your application" arrives on the same day another lands on the doorstep noting that my paperwork has been received and processed, etc etc etc.). Finally, the State of Virginia unilaterally deciding to change my name, leading to me have to petition the court to change it back...
Once I got my final notification that my citizenship "ceremony" was nigh, I thought the it was the end of the trail of trials and incompetence, but no, the immigration service had to have one last hurrah,
First, the address of the event said the immigration offices - it turned out it was actually in a community college's theater. As a result, a lot of participants actually went to the local offices, and missed the event.
Not as many as should have done though, because although the invitation letter distinctly said be the at 8 am without fail, immigration officers did not turn up until 8:30, to funnel 400 or so people crammed into a tiny vestibule with no idea what was going on. So there was time to get to the (closed) offices and then try to find the actual venue. Then came the farce of processing 400 people in said vestibule, with just half a dozen officers having to check everyone's paper work.
Finally everyone was seated and ready to progress by 10:30...
The initial part of the ceremony had us stand up as our original countries were called. The chief immigration officer making announcements was incredibly "chipper" yet profoundly patronizing. She so reminded me of Effie Trinket (from the Hunger Games) that when they called on me to stand, I felt like yelling out "I volunteer to be tribute!"
There then followed the oath. Now, myself, along with many others, were there to become dual citizens. However the oath you have to say has you renouncing all ties with other nations absolutely - effectively your first act as a citizen is to effectively lie. I could not bring myself to do that, so instead of swearing a blatant lie and to "absolutely and entirely renounce" my allegiance to the UK, I said my own oath: I "do not entirely renounce" ...
We were then congratulated and given little stars and stripes flags to wave, like a bunch of kindergarteners as they played a DVD of "I'm proud to be an American" * which the audience could sing along to.

Effie Trinket then reappears to congratulate us and talk to us like 3 year olds about how exciting this was and did we want to have pictures taken with immigration officials. I got out of there as soon as I possibly could, back into the jam-packed vestibule and the crush of 400 people trying to get their citizenship certificates, while a hundred or so more who had gone to the wrong location cried and pleaded to be allowed to do the citizenship ceremony. It was 1pm by the time I left.
By the end, a potentially solem and patriotic event had basically been reduced to the level of organization and grandeur of elementary school sports day. A lot of people were frustrated, irritated and upset on their first day of citizenhood, pride was not something felt by the majority.
Anyway, so now I'm a US citizen. I can vote. For the first time in ten years of paying taxes, at a rate more than double that of Mitt Romney I might add, I now no longer have taxation without representation. I think there was a bit disagreement about that in the past ...

*link to the karaoke version, so you can sing along too...

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