September 18, 2008

American LL: Citizenship Day 2008 at Fenway Park

LL officially became a US citizen yesterday at Citizenship Day 2008, which took place at Fenway Park. Just over 3,000 other immigrants did as well. The event was huge, disorganized and took more than five hours to complete. It included lots of canned patriotism, not the least of which was a videotaped message from Dubya congratulating the newly-minted Americans on having achieved citizenship — inexplicably shown before the oath was administered. The event also included lots of religious hoo-hah; god bless this and that and the other thing. The event was also a great advertising opportunity for the Red Sox. Even as attendees were being shown patriotic imagery and having certain bits of the Constitution explained incorrectly to them (since when does the second amendment guarantee a right of self-defense with firearms? My copy of the Constitution only has a bit about a "well-regulated militia."), Red Sox marketing was passing out "Red Sox Nation" bracelets, and more than one speaker equated being a Red Sox fan with being a good American. No, really.

For me, there was a certain irony to the repeated advising of the new citizens to get involved and learn English and such. LL speaks and writes English better than the majority of people born in this country and she's certainly more involved with the community than most, including myself.

Nonetheless, it was a big ritual and now LL can cast a vote against the religious right wackos and incompetents in the next election, a big part of why she wanted to go through this whole trial in the first place. So, here are some photos.

Citizenship: It's over there to your left.
Crowd shot; line up over here. No, line up over there. "If you don't stand behind me, you don't get to be a citizen." The first practical lesson in American civics: shut up, take out your paperwork and get in line. Everyone being sworn in was instructed to show up at the ballpark at the same time and funneled in through a single gate, even though they had "appointments" at three different times. Most of these people don't speak English as their primary language. The result was a great deal of confusion and consternation. You can see the many happy, smiling faces in which this resulted in this shot.
The notices everyone received in the mail told them to report to Gate D for the ceremony, but Gate D was closed and the crowd was told to go to Gate B instead upon arrival. Is this what they mean by "mass migration?"
In case you didn't know which ballpark you were at, the sign on the Jumbotron was there to remind you, along with a rotating Red Sox logo. There were many reminders throughout the day of how the Red Sox are patriotic. Be a Red Sox fan... be a Red Sox fan... did we mention that you should be a Red Sox fan? Nobody leaves the stadium until they pledge allegiance to the Red Sox, goddamit.
Once we entered the stadium, those who were being naturalized and their guests were separated into two groups. The immigrants were sent to the left, the guests to the right. The immigrants were tagged with bracelets and nobody lacking such a bracelet was allowed into the half of the stadium where the immigrants were seated... for two hours before the ceremony actually began. The immigrants were, however, allowed to visit their guests in the other half of the stadium. Here, LL makes her way over to sit with me since we were both bored out of our skull as we sat there waiting for something to happen. She later went to the concession stand and brought me food, since there was a concession on the immigrant side of the park and we were told that we shouldn't go back out into the hallway due to problems checking people in. I couldn't get to the concessions until after the ceremony. All in all, it was a zoo!
Still, LL and I made the best of the situation. That's not saying much... our butts were already going numb by the time this shot was taken. The Venezualan kid sitting behind me was falling asleep. I wouldn't have missed this for anything, though, since it's a marker in LL's life. Even if it was five hours of ritual nonsense that could have been done with a five minute oath and a piece of paper.
On command, wave those flags! These people aren't immigrants; this is in the guest section. Many tiny cameras were also present. The flags themselves were made in China.
The very first photo of LL as an American citizen. She looks more American in this shot, doesn't she? The certificate says that she's one of us now (Gooble gobble gooble gobble, one of us... one of us...) As a waitress told her when we went for dinner at the Eastern Standard when LL told her she'd been born in Lebanon, "Welcome to our side." I hadn't known that LL was on the other side previously! But she's 'merkin now.
The good news: George Dubya Bush's signature didn't appear on the certificate. Some guy from Homeland Security's signature was on it instead, I think. Neither LL nor I had ever heard of him before. We arrived at the stadium at 10:30 AM. It was 3:30 PM when I took this shot. I think it shows in LL"s face here. Still, the paper says she's 'merkin now and, thankfully, doesn't also say that she's a Red Sox fan. I'm sure that part was just an oversight.
LL washes her hands as an American for the first time. The hand sanitizer she used was made in China.
LL's first bloody mary... as an American. Nice eyes.
LL calls her mom in Lebanon for the first time as an American. She still spoke that funny language that's nothing like English, so maybe the waitress was wrong about her being on "our side" now. I'll have to keep an eye on her for the next lifetime or so.
LL's first raw oyster as an American. The oyster came from Duxbury, MA and not, thankfully, from China. She's eating it at the Eastern Standard restaurant in Boston, which is probably good but man, overpriced. A dozen oysters goes for about $30! A bucket of three dozen goes for $18 in Florida. You do the math. Welcome to America! Still, after the loooooong day, all we wanted were some oysters and a couple of drinks. We didn't even bother checking the menu beforehand. We only went to Eastern Standard because their awning says "oysters" right on the thing.
On the train from Boston to Worcester; does LL look tired? We finally got home just after 8:00. LL is glad this whole citizenship-seeking song-and-dance is over, as am I. If she had to fill out one more stupid form asking whether she was selling "marihuana" (good morning, 1933!) or working as a prostitute... it wouldn't have been pretty. Best question on the forms? "Have you ever given false testimony." Why even bother asking? If you've given it before, why wouldn't you just give it again?
So, yep, LL is officially American now. She'll always be a Lebaneezer to me, though.

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