Friday, September 12, 2008

Now I am a real American (and Swede)

Today I became an American citizen, a process that have taken over a year. After living in the US for the last 13 years, I figured that if I pay taxes and care about life here, I better become a citizen so I can vote. Yes, the president of the last 7 years had a lot to do with that I decided to become a citizen, as well as that Sweden now allows dual citizenships.

I wanted to tell you about the oath ceremony. It is in the court building in Newark, a big concrete box with boring architecture. Lots of security, x-ray machines and so on, and all cell phones off (a fact we asked about three times).

You get two little books, one is the pocket-sized constitution, and the other a larger little book called A Citizen's Almanac, that includes famous speches, events, court rulings and portraits of famous Americans that were born in other countries (Einstein, Bell, Marlene Dietrich...). You sit down in a square room with a podium, a flag, and a flatscreen TV. On the TV is an American flag waving in the wind and the seal of the Department of Homeland Security is on the podium. A woman comes in and tells us what will happen and how, and that yes, we can make as many copies of our naturalization certificate (the proof of citizenship) as we want, even if it says on it that we can't. Simply because it cost you $60 and six months to get a new a copy if it is lost, and the department doesn't want to deal with trying to get new copies for all the ones that are lost.

We are about 40 people in the room, plus some extra family members that are there for support with cameras and babies. We are asked to stand up, and we repeat the oath of citizenship and raising our right hands, then the pledge of allegiance. Too bad there is a 'under God' in both of them, that really should go. Then we get to see a short video of GWB (no, not a hormon, this is the current president) giving a speech to us, all new citizens. Actually that was not too bad. But afterwards came a music video of a song that I had never heard before, called God Bless the USA. It was like karaoke, the words listed underneath, and with lots of nice photos of America and American citizens, but just so horribly patriotic, sleazy, and slimy with self-rightiousness. How about Bless the Whole World? A friend of ours suggested bumper stickers that said "God Bless the Other Countries, for a change". After that we were given our envelopes. The person handing out mine gave up after saying my first name, the whole name was too long and complicated (yep, Swedish is complicated). And then we were free to go, as brand new citizens.

I am sending in my voter registration tomorrow.

I found the whole process of becoming a citizen tiresome and slightly disturbing, just in the way it is done. I am glad I did it, and I care a lot about this country, but 1) the immigration department is not run very well - things take a lot of time, information you get was old or conflicting, twisted photocopies are sent as official information, and the waiting room for the interviews and fingerprinting is a madhouse. And then they hand out the Constitution, and I think that the person speaking on the video (the president), is the person that has done the most to destroy the constitutional rights of the American people. It is kind of weird to be an American but it also feels like no big deal. Strange. It is kind of like turning 40. You are the same, but people think you are different somehow, but nothing looks different.

And for you Swedes, don't worry, I am still Swedish. Sweden can thank me (among other voters) when Obama becomes president.


EH said...

You will always be Swedish LS, but I do believe you have done the right thing. And not only Swedes will thank you when you and the rest of US vote Obama for new president! I believe that goes for the whole earth, really.

When I fly over Greenland on Friday I will take a long look on the disappering Ice. Who knows, something weird is happening and a whole ecosystem of the artic seems to be treathened. So, americans , vote for the earth, not for your country. Everybody counts.

AnS said...

Think that you has been american in real and can vote. I hope that you can vote in Sweden in two years. Everything will be more expensive and the retired don't become more money at all. My last bill for "sotning" was 775 kr for 1/2 hours work.