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Monday, March 26, 2007

American Dream

My stepfather was born in England. He grew up drinking warm Guinness and watching cricket matches that lasted for days. Now he drinks cold Natural Light and watches Nascar. Quite a change.

He is a naturalized American citizen. I distinctly remember helping him study for his test, and let me tell you, he earned it. He had to learn everything that is taught in the average civics class and more. His final exam wasn't for a grade, it was for a new home. He loves America and he votes more regularly than my mother, who was of course born here. A little rain is enough to keep her from the polls. I have often wondered at the logic of this. The America I know means too much to be taken for granted. Yet that is what the majority of us do. We complain about politics, but don't vote. We complain about taxes, but don't have any idea where those taxes go. Most of us seem content to let a few privileged individuals run our country unmolested by the masses. That's not "of the people, by the people, for the people." That's not "liberty and justice for all." It's oligarchy, not democracy.

Recently, I wrote a post regarding the purpose of public education. In a democracy, teaching kids about their rights and roles as citizens ranks way up there, if not number one. Which is why I was impressed by an article about a 61-year old Scottish immigrant teaching in Tennessee, who believed so strongly in the lesson of civics that he arranged for his naturalization exam to be given in front of his students. I hope they learned what I did, when helping my step-dad study for his. He doesn't take his citizenship for granted, and neither will I.

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