Becoming American

Today I became an American citizen. The ceremony itself is, well, very American. Me and 854 other soon-to-be citizens assembled at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, clutching our precious green cards and the flimsy single-page letter we received in the mail saying we had passed all the tests needed to become citizens. As we filed in, a choir of elderly volunteers on stage sang various patriotic songs, with more enthusiasm than talent. At the door, you hand them your green card -- a terrifying event; my green card is a precious document that cost me 5 years and well upwards of $25,000 in fees to acquire -- and in exchange you get a tiny American flag on a stick, and an envelope. In the hallway, a massive team of USCIS officials work in parallel to process all 855 applications at once, so that by the end of the ceremony they can hand you a certificate of naturalization. A USCIS official who had obviously done this many, many times -- there are two ceremonies per month, and he looked like he'd worked there...
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