“They are willing to fight for a country that they weren’t even citizens of. I wish all Americans felt that way about their country.”
— Capt. Kirk Thorsteinson, during a naturalization ceremony in Kuwait, June 2007
I was wondering just how good an American I really am. I mean if I wasn’t lucky enough to win the gene pool lottery and was born in another country, could I really make the grade and pass the test to become an American citizen. I honestly had no idea.
I haven’t studied much civics or read much of the Constitution since my high school days. The only real history I took in college were things like European history before 1600. That never really came up much on job interviews.
“Mr. Dodd, who ruled much of Europe in the 1500s?”
“Sir, I think it was the Celts.”
“Excellent, Mr. Dodd, when can you start?”
I believe the Constitution for the average American is a lot like the Bible. People can quote bits and pieces, but haven’t really read or studied either for probably forever. If many of them knew either in its entirety, they probably would reject half as far as the effect on their daily lives if strictly followed.
So, just for fun I thought I would review a copy of a recent citizenship test that immigrants must take and pass before they are legally sworn in. I really wanted to know if I could pass it without studying, since I have been a practicing American all my life. You would think I could pass this test with my eyes closed. That would, however, make it hard to read the questions.
I would bet a very large majority of Americans could answer two questions right away. Mostly because they are all over the Internet and on the television news regularly. Two almost-give-me answers would be picking from a multiple-choice selection for what are the First and Second Amendments.
If you missed either one of those, you probably should just stop reading this column and turn in your citizenship papers, because you really suck as an American.
Now let me ask you this question. What amendment is the following: “No soldier in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.” I must admit I could never in a thousand million years have answered that question. If you answered the Third Amendment, you are either a shining star or currently in a high school government class.
To be honest, that was a trick question. I didn’t even find it on the test. Just messing with your heads.
There is a question that asks how many Amendments to the Constitution there are. I am willing to bet each of you $27 that I will come out ahead when I am done collecting and paying off!
Some of my favorite questions are: “What is the “rule of law”? Name your U.S. Representative. What are two Cabinet Level positions? What are the four Amendments to the Constitution regarding who can vote (and for bonus points, who could vote under the original Constitution before those four amendments)? Name three of the original 13 states. Name one U.S territory. And, what is one responsibility that is only for U.S. citizens?
Finally, one of those questions that I am willing to ask each of you personally and bet $5 you cannot answer correctly (and you can’t cheat and look it up after you read this column and before I bet you), “In what year was the Constitution written?”
And just for fun go ahead and name all 22 of the Native American Indian tribes.
I would love to stop the first 50 people I meet on the street on any average day and administer the copy of the test I studied for this column. The good news is that you only must answer 60 percent of the questions correctly to pass. I am willing to bet 50 percent of those 50 people I choose at random today on the street cannot do that.
Thank God I was born an American!
— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at email@example.com.