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Posts Tagged ‘citizenship’

Let’s take a moment to review a couple of fairly important pieces of paper, shall we? Specifically, I’m referring to the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

From the Declaration:

“We” (Americans) “hold these truths to be self-evident:” (which means we think you’d have to be kind of a bonehead not to see it)
“that all Men are created equal” (bearing in mind that in the standard usages of the time this referred to ‘mankind’, not to those of a specific gender),
“that they are endowed by their Creator” (this does not restrict us to the Judaeo-Christian God but to any creative force, be it a God, multiple gods, Nature or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster)
“with certain unalienable rights” (definition: unable to be taken from or given away by their possessor)
“that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This is powerful stuff.

When you take away someone’s life, impinge on someone’s liberty or impede their pursuit of happiness, you are actively opposing what it means to be American.

From this alone we can see that slavery, domestic violence, the death penalty, hate crimes – and any denial of rights to one group of people which another would claim for themselves – are in direct violation of our nation’s most sacred principles.

Let’s also look at the Bill of Rights a little:

The First Amendment. “Freedom of speech” does indeed give you the right to say hateful and discriminatory things. It does not in any way protect you from people calling you out for it, putting your despicable rantings on YouTube, breaking off friendships, refusing to do business with you or voting you out of office. Similarly, this amendment proscribes government from “an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Even if the people wishing to freely exercise their religion happen to be Muslims, or indeed anything other than Christian.

The Second Amendment. “A well-regulated citizen militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” Well-regulated. That means that yes, gun control measures to ensure that random nutjobs aren’t shooting up schools and churches are not only perfectly legitimate, they are necessary.

The Fourth Amendment. Understanding that the nation’s founders had no way of predicting the technological advances of the last half century, I think it’s fair to say that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” also applies to electronic data – which has been unreasonably searched and seized all too often of late.

The Ninth Amendment. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This means that the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence above (the rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness) continue to be retained by the people and must remain inviolate.

None of these things seem particularly hard to understand….

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I am proud of my national identity. I am English by birth, and also American by citizenship. I experience the same moment of delirious elation as many others when England’s soccer team scores a goal, the same heartbreak when the team subsequently suffers the ignominy of being eliminated from the World Cup in a penalty shoot-out. I experience immense pride and satisfaction when it is an American who wins a Nobel or a Pulitzer Prize.

But do I believe that England or America is ‘better’ than another nation? Are we morally or culturally or intellectually superior to the Iranians, or the Japanese, or the Congolese?

My answer to this is a resounding “NO!”, for Humanity is not comprised of nations, or of religions. We are people, each and every one of us, none more ‘human’ than another. America can – and often does – make a case for superiority based on its military muscle or its financial strength, but that doesn’t make David Brennan from Little Rock any more an exemplar of the species than Hidetoshi Yamagata from Sapporo or Abdul ibn-Aziz al-Rashid from Riyadh.

I am also white, male and heterosexual. Does this mean that I am more deserving of any form of recognition or respect than someone who might be black, or female, or gay? Again, “NO!”. Not in the slightest. Each of us is a shining jewel to be treasured and cherished, equally able to contribute to the betterment of our species as a whole.

It seems unfathomable to me that any subset of Humanity is considered ‘lesser’ than another in this day and age. In America, women have made immense strides toward equality over the hundred years since being granted rights which men had long taken for granted, and yet are still often perceived as inferior by some. Similarly, black Americans have made significant progress over the last half century, but still feel the sting of the ethnic divide. The LGBT community is even now struggling for many of the same rights for which women and African-Americans fought for so long. How is it possible that in the twenty-first century we are still discriminating between members of our own species?

This is not to say, however, that these differences do not matter. They matter immensely. Your gender, you ethnic and religious identity, your national origin and your sexuality are all parts of the recipe which makes you uniquely you, worthy of being celebrated. These traits may afford you a degree of insight which the prevalent majority may lack. Coupled with your intelligence, your creativity and your education, these all put you in a unique position to contribute something of immeasurable value to all seven billion of us, and I for one will celebrate alongside you as you do it.

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Just a few bits regarding some of my favorite posting topics:


Dollhouse: The season finale of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse last night was amazing, astounding, astonishing, and quite possibly a lot of other words beginning with A.

For those of you who are interested in the show, but haven’t yet caught last week’s episode or last night’s, I’m not going to give away the identity of the guest star, but his performances in those two episodes have had “Give this man an Emmy!” written all over them. Just incredible.

Citizenship: Thank you to everyone who tweeted and Facebooked and LiveJournaled and texted and in other ways passed along their congratulations; each helped to make an already special day a little more so.

I came home last night to find this:

handmade card

… which was amazingly sweet.


Gay marriage: So I got a little pocket-sized copy of the Constitution at the ceremony yesterday, and was reading through it when I noticed something.

“Article IV, Section 1: Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records and judicial Proceedings of every other State;”

Doesn’t that mean that these supposed decisions taken by states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states are really just the states in question deciding to do what they were already constitutionally bound to do?

And by extension, if every state is required to recognize gay marriages performed in other states, doesn’t that make banning them a little pointless?

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At 10:37 this morning, I was officially sworn in as a citizen of the United States.

While this doesn’t change very much in terms of my day-to-day life, it still represents a new chapter, the completion of a process which began with my moving over here eight years ago.
RIT auditorium

The last time I was in this room, it was for a concert by Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm. Today, the room was temporarily made a federal courthouse for the naturalization of 62 new Americans.

It was a welcoming and humbling experience, in a room filled with new hopes and dreams and a sea of smiles demonstrating a quest fulfilled.

I got to work today to find this, because my team here are awesome:
Photo_050809_003

In another post, years ago, I exhorted Americans to make me proud to fly their flag myself someday. While there have been tribulations a-plenty, you came through.
Photo_050809_004

Thank you.

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I’m following some unusual advice today, from the good folks at On Your Feet:

“Go through your entire day visualizing that you have a personal giant robot that protects you, defends you and gives you outrageous compliments.”

It sounded like fun. And I’m going to liveblog it so you can see all the action as it happens.

7:00am Alarm clock went off. Reached out to silence it and came terrifyingly close to pressing wrong button. Was saved by giant robot who quickly grabbed alarm clock and threw it out of window at such velocity that it left Earth’s atmosphere and took out Chinese spy satellite. May get DOD commendation. How’s that for Chinese takeout?                     

Robot says I am really good at sleeping and snore in a delightful basso profundo

oyf-giant-robot                     

Illustration copyright ©2006 Gary Hirsch

7:36am Getting curious about robot’s programming. Intentionally turned water in shower as hot as possible to watch robot decide between letting water scald me or risking electrocuting me by getting in way. Robot instead saved me with strategic deployment of shower curtain.

Robot says I have the deviousness to be one of the best evil masterminds in a generation and by the way my dick is enormous.

Am beginning to be quite fond of robot.

8:34am Commuting. Robot is allowing me to focus on my driving by taking over the duty of flipping off the other drivers.

Robot is also equipped with a satellite Internet connection which allows it to take dictation from me and update this liveblog accordingly.

9:16am Am now at work. Colleagues are cowering in fear of giant robot. Also having to dodge pieces of dislodged ceiling.

Have instructed robot to soothe colleagues’ nerves by giving them a few compliments as well. Team have been duly informed that they are awesome.

Robot whispering to me that I’m still awesomer.

Like robot. Need to name robot.

9:57am Have been informed by customer that the website work I spent the entirety of yesterday doing isn’t necessary after all and please undo it. Giant robot held me down so that my fit of rage would not be too detrimental to my health, provided cushion so that I could safely slam head repeatedly against desk, then procured me vodka and strong coffee and vodka again.

Robot tells me that I am an XML wizard and JavaScript god. This helps. Quite motivational.

Have decided to name robot Bunny. Bunny tells me he loves it and I’m a genius but I think he is having a harder time giving me compliments now.

10:33am Have been offered $3,000,000 for Bunny by Toyota. Not impressed.

Bunny says I’m the bestest for not selling him. Not sure how to break it to him that I think they might come back with a better offer.

10:54am Have now been offered $8,000,000 by a coalition of Republican Congresspeople to sell them Bunny so that they can say what they actually think and let Bunny keep Rush Limbaugh’s ego stoked.

Not selling. Bunny could crush Limbaugh.

Hmm. Idea has potential, though.

10:55am Have been offered $8,000,001 by Congressional Democrats to have Bunny crush Limbaugh.

11:08am Liking the Dems’ offer better. They need to stop with the razor-thin margins of victory, though.

Drinking a Dr Pepper. Bunny seems a little confused that it contains neither doctors nor peppers. Have explained the pleasure of carbonated drinks and Bunny now wants to try one because if I like them they must be wicked good.

11:14am Ever seen a giant robot with hiccups? This is pretty fucking hysterical.

Bunny tells me I have quite nice eyebrows. Compliments seeming a little forced again.

11:27am Have decided that Bunny is a stupid name for a giant robot. Now accepting suggestions for names in comments here, on Facebook and on Twitter. For now, he is Giant Robot again.

Giant robot liking me more now that hiccups have subsided and name is no longer Bunny.

11:47am Suggestions so far are “Fred the Robot”, “Distructor”, “Lucinda” and “Circuits O’Toole”. Am also considering “Mister Sexypants”, “Giant Robert” and “Crush Limbaugh”.

12:21pm Great names all, but the winner is “Circuits O’Toole”, suggested by @blueslives on Twitter.

Circuits thinks you rock. He also thinks I rock, but we’ve established that.

12:36pm Pointed out to Circuits that the ‘protect and defend’ part of his job doesn’t seem to be happening very much. He pointed out to me that I am not in very much danger in my cube at work, but he read on my old blog that someone was plotting my demise in a copier-related ‘accident’ and is thus very alert when I walk past the print room on my way to the restroom.

12:37pm Circuits just offered to hold it for me the next time I go to the restroom. Politely declined.

12:38pm Circuits now looking minorly dejected. Explained things like personal space and comfort zone and other emotional-spatial metaphors, but these are tough concepts for a giant robot to grasp.

Wishing I hadn’t used the word ‘grasp’. Imagery still unsettling.

Going to lunch. If I do not return within an hour, please send me a @message on Twitter, and Circuits will come rescue me from something.

1:20pm Back. Accidentally choked on peanut butter sandwich. Circuits administered rather enthusiastic Heimlich.

Ow. Want my blankie.

1:48pm Doing better now. Practicing sign language. Circuits is complimenting me on how well I do the macarena. Now I know he’s lying. If I were doing the macarena, I would be signing biscuit biscuit monkey monkey blue blue walk walk house sky crotch. And I’m not.

2:12pm Told Circuits the news that I get to become a US citizen in 2 weeks’ time. He is very thrilled for me and says I’ll be such a great American that I’ll be voted in as President even if I don’t run. Told him about Article II. He thinks they’ll change it for me.

2:33pm Accident in print room! Went in there to get a document and a member of the maintenance crew suddenly stood up from behind the copier. Circuits grabbed him and fed him THROUGH the machine.

I hope at least one of him is OK.

3:07pm Helped maintenance guy back to his usual building. Via interoffice mail.

Circuits thinks that was really nice of me and I should be given a medal of some sort.

3:16pm Novelty has worn off. Coffee also. Circuits starting to irritate me.

3:20pm Circuits now starting to piss me off rather a lot. Is currently singing “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” over and over again because he’s so thrilled at being around me. Probably a bad idea to stab the large electrical object.

3:26pm AUGH this sodding robot is more annoying than Microsoft’s little paperclip guy.

3:31pm Procured high-powered electromagnet from manufacturing department.

3:35pm Trapped Circuits in place and dropped a large copier/printer unit on him, pulverizing him completely except for one small piece of arm. Not worried about it. Even if the Terminator thing happened, he could then annoy someone else.

3:38pm Just realized I could have sold him to the GOP instead of squishing him, and been eight million bucks richer. Fuck.

3:39pm Got papercut while getting document from other copier in print room. Stings like heck.

Circuits would have prevented that.

Kind of miss him. Rest In Peace, Circuits O’Toole. Or more likely in pieces. But I’d prefer peace.

3:40pm Guess Giant Robot Day is over. If you’re still reading, get a life or something. It’s Friday afternoon, for goodness’ sake. But thanks.

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What do these have in common? They’re all easy. In the last case, this is only allegedly, in case her lawyers are reading. ‘Cause, you know, this little blog would be a major threat to them.

But what of it? Why am I talking about easy things?

Oh yeah – my citizenship exam. The guy didn’t bother asking me ten questions from the hundred, he simply stopped after my first six answers were correct.

For those interested, the questions I got were:

  • Which ocean is on the east coast of the US?
  • Name a state that borders Canada.
  • Define freedom of religion.
  • How many US Senators are there?
  • In which year was the Constitution written?
  • At what age do men have to register with Selective Service?

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Tomorrow is my interview for naturalization as a U.S. citizen, along with the testing of my literacy in English and my knowledge of American history and government.
citizenship1

It’s been a long road to get here (Interstate 90, actually, back and forth to Buffalo a gazillion times) and for a long time I wasn’t going to bother going any further than the green card. And yet, here I am preparing.

The stack of paperwork I am bringing with me for their perusal is, I shit you not, over half an inch high.

It’s a little strange – I know the test material probably just as well as the interviewer will, and yet I’m actually getting a little nervous about this. I really shouldn’t, though, since they will pick 10 out of these 100 questions (all of which I have the answer sheet to on my desk right now) and I will need to get 6 of them right.

This should be my last trip to Buffalo, at least for this purpose. I will still need to go through the ceremony and swear an oath of citizenship, pledge allegiance to the flag and so on, but that can be done locally.

So yeah. I’m almost an American.

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