I become an American

by Alexander Cockburn

I become an American

We’ll come momentarily to Obama’s discovery that it’s not all fun being president, but first a bulletin on regime change for co-editor Cockburn. Though the US Constitution seemingly blocks my path at this time, I have taken the first necessary step in my own quest for the White House by becoming a citizen of the United States at approximately 10 a.m. Pacific time, last Wednesday, June 17, in the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, Calif. To my immediate left in the vast and splendid deco theater was a Moroccan, to my right a Salvadoran and around us 956 other candidates for citizenship from 98 countries, each holding a small specimen of the flag that was about to become our standard. All of us had sworn early that day that since our final, successful interview with immigration officials we had not become prostitutes or members of the Communist Party. Inductees to US nationhood were downstairs; relatives and friends were up in the balcony, including CounterPuncher and friend Scott Handleman, attorney at law. I was determined to start out on the right path. What is more American than to have a lawyer nearby? Master of ceremonies was US Citizenship and Immigration Service agent Randy Ricks. The amiable Ricks actually conducted my final interview in USCIS’s San Francisco HQ. At the Paramount, he pulled off the rather showy feat of making short welcoming speeches to the cheerful throng in French, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Russian and, I think, Hindi. After various preliminaries, including uplifting videos about Ellis Island that tactfully omitted the darker moments in the island’s past, Ricks issued instructions. Each time — starting with Afghanistan — he announced a country, the cohort from that nation stood up and it was easy to see that by Alexander Cockburn China, India, the columnist Philippines and El Salvador were very strongly represented. A handful of Zambians brought us to the end of the roster and we were all on our feet. We raised our right hands and collectively swore that we “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty” and that that we would “bear arms on behalf of the United States,” or perform “work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.” The phrase rang a bell. In the Second World War in Britain, so my mother, Patricia, would recall from time to time, cats patrolling warehouses where food was stored would get extra rations for performing work of national importance.

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