The plan is complete:
After months of bureaucratic paperwork, America books, electronic fingerprints, and government-issued plastic furniture, the end is finally here. I can tell you who was Commander-in-Chief during WWI (Woodrow), who takes over if both the President and the Vice President die in a freak horseback-riding accident at Camp David (Nancy Pelosi), and YES, I am capable of naming at least two national holidays in the United States (MLK Day and Christmas). That’s right: I am an American.
The ceremony took place in a giant America room, full of star-spangled murals and stone busts of John Adams; I sat before a striking portrait of George Washington with his hand on a horse’s behind, front row, off to the right. It was a perfect view of the afternoon’s proceedings.
But as soon as the speaker introduced himself, he began to talk about travel and obtaining American passports. What is this? I thought. The moment you become a citizen, they want to get rid of you. But this is yet another thing I have learned as a new voting member of this great land: as soon as you become an American, you must get the hell out of here and tell everyone else. You, too, must go forth to other countries across this great Earth, proudly bearing your stars and stripes, and ask if they serve cheeseburgers and freedom fries, wear fanny packs, and curse at everyone, foreign or otherwise, who does not speak English. You are an American now, not one of those damn immigrants taking up space in our country. That was yesterday.
After spending about an hour with a fine publication entitled The Citizen’s Almanac and reading up on notable naturalized citizens (Bob Hope, Marlene Dietrich, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar), we were called to order. Single file, each line of new citizens rose and surrendered their green cards into the official, government-issued clear plastic garbage bag at the front. The judge was summoned to announce us as new citizens; she spoke slowly and made a lot of hand gestures for the hoards of presumably deaf new citizens in the room. I then rose my right hand, mumbled some stuff about bearing my arms, and said the Pledge of Allegiance, which I remember well from having recited it with Julie the Nun in first grade, the same woman who nearly gave me a spinal cord injury one time in church.
Following these proceedings, I picked up my certificate of citizenship which, by default, makes its bearer look like an immigrant. Let it be known that passport photos can make even the WASPiest among us appear to have recently arrived from a village in Eastern Europe, having spent weeks at sea in the cargo hold of a ship surviving on crackers and saltwater. Taking up my certificate and my mini American flag, an added bonus to new citizenship, I trudged out of the America Hall and onto the pavement, where hundreds of relatives of new Americans were taking pictures of us as we squinted in the daylight. I shouldered my bag and walked home.
BUT HERE IS WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW. While this story may have told you of my path to citizenship, of the typical conversion ceremony that initiates hundreds upon thousands of new Americans into society every year, it has left out one key fact, something which you have yet to discover: I am a sleeper cell. That’s right, beneath the poor English and the Big Mac-induced bloating, I am still a natural-born Canadian and, when you least expect it, I will unleash the powers of your neighbour to the North in a whirlwind of proper spelling, ice hockey, maple syrup, and flannel outerwear. I will order double-doubles from Starbucks. I will eat donuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I will pose questions where questions are not necessary, and I will apologize for everything. Be aware: when you least expect, that good old American next door will revert back into one of your fiery, tundra-raised neighbours to the North…I mean, my neighbours to the North.