The March 2 edition of The Brazil Times announced proudly that the owner of Mario's Restaurant, Mauro "Mario" Martinez, had become a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. Good for him! According to the article it took about five years of effort and study to achieve citizenship. For me it was easy, having been born in Missouri shortly after the Louisiana Purchase. Of course the case has been made that being born in Missouri and not Indian made it harder to become a citizen.
The biggest part of becoming a naturalized citizen is taking a 100 question test on the Constitution and American history. I ought to be able to do that. My father was very interested in history; which means I was motivated to be interested in it, too. And, I had the remarkable good fortune in High School to have five consecutive teachers who deeply loved their subject and were born teachers. In addition, at least according to our children, I've lived through about 80 percent of America's history. Surely I could pass a Citizenship Test.
The History Channel has one of those instant results test at www.history.com which uses the sample questions given to real applicants. There are a total of 96 questions in three sections: American Government, History, and Civics. Apparently the passing score is 80%. I took the test to see if I would have been able to become a citizen if I'd been born a year or so sooner -- before the Louisiana Purchase. Wouldn't you know it, I missed two questions:
"In what year was the Constitution written?" I guessed wrong.
"Which is Not a United States Territory: Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, North Mariana Islands, or Cayman Islands?" Why would that be on a Citizenship test?
If I hadn't wanted to go to all the trouble of taking a full sample test (or risk the embarrassment of missing so many questions), there is a much easier example at www.msnbc.com which only has 20 questions. Some of the simplest of these are:
How many stripes are on the Flag, and why?
How many stars are on the Flag, and why?
How many Supreme Court Judges are there right now?
What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?
How many Representatives are there in Congress? (Bonus question: Name yours!)
Which were the 13 original States? (OK, I missed that one myself)
Why is Indiana called "Indiana"? (No, that's not one of the questions, but do you know?)
Under the law of the land in which we live anyone born in an American State or Territory is an American citizen. Indiana became a designated Territory of the United States about 1800, so if you were born after that you'll not have to bother knowing as much as Mario to be a United States citizen. Truth is, you don't have to know much of anything about American Government, History, or Civics. Some say -- given our lack of emphasis on Civics in today's educational system -- most people don't know enough about their country to become citizens, anyhow. Is this a great country, or what?
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.