America became even more diverse today as a new batch of citizens was sworn-in in Baltimore (and presumably elsewhere). One of these new citizens is my wife. Her group of about 50 was, as one would expect, quite a melange. It contained a few Anglos, at least one Frenchwoman (my wife), a handful of Eastern Europeans (mostly Russian), many Latino[a]s, many Africans, and some Asians, a few from the near east and a few from the far. There may even have been a couple of Bush voters in the group. I didn’t notice any Arabs, though.
The ceremony was low key, but moving. The highlight for me was a taped message from President Bush, which the presiding government official supplemented with quotations from his State of the Union address emphasizing that, since 9/11, Americans are engaged in a common historic struggle. The overall theme was that America is a special country, bound by common ideals and beliefs. To me, the only off-key moment during the ceremony occurred when the presiding official referred to the U.S. as oneof the world’s great democracies, instead of the world’s first and foremost democracy.
The other off-key moments occurred before the ceremony, as we sat in the waiting area while CNN offered wall-to-wall coverage of the Abu-Ghraib story. Had the citizens-to-be been watching, they might (depending on their ideology) have wondered why they want to enroll in a country that (a) systemically engages in horrific abuses of human rights or (b) does not systemically engage in such abuses but acts as if it does. Fortunately, during the ceremony the reasons for enrolling were stated with reasonable clarity.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell