Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid | AspenTimes.com

Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

We, the wife and I, stayed with some friends recently down in Boulder. Her friends, mind you, not mine initially. I have no friends. They’re a nice couple, originally from the Netherlands, and they had cake in the fridge left over from a party in honor of their both attaining U.S. citizenship. I don’t know about you, but I consider cake a definite plus when I decide whether someone is worthy of being American.

I’d always heard rumors about the citizenship test, mainly that it was so hard most Americans would fail it. I was curious to see just what it entailed, so my wife’s friend emailed me a link to the study guide and the application for naturalization, which is the official form one has to fill out to become a citizen.

I had a look at the study guide, which contains 100 questions, 10 of which randomly appear on each test, and I’m happy to report that it is not quite as difficult as advertised. Most Americans would probably do just fine, provided they got to review the study questions first. Certainly some Americans would fail it, but some Americans will fail every test they ever take that doesn’t involve the amount of alcohol in their blood.

Some of the questions, such as “What is the name of the President of the United States now?” were laughably easy. (Both “Barack Obama” and “Obama” were listed as acceptable answers. “That guy from Kenya” was not.) Some of the other questions, though, were really hard. For instance, I would not have guessed that the Constitution has 27 amendments, and since the study guide didn’t provide an answer to “Who is the Governor of your state now?” I still don’t know who Colorado’s governor is.

Much more interesting, however, was the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services form N-400, the Application for Naturalization. It starts off with the standard rigmarole about your name and whether you’d like to trade it in for something more American, and then it asks some personal questions about you, including a box that can be checked that reads “I am blind or sight impaired.”

I realize, in retrospect, that someone could be helping a blind person fill out the form, and that’s why the question is there, but when I first read that it was pretty darn funny.

The really probing questions come later in the application, though, and they have to do with your past affiliations and moral character. Part 10, question No. 9 gets right to the heart of the matter by asking if you’ve ever been a member of: “a. The Communist Party? b. Any other totalitarian party? c. A terrorist organization?”

Now, I understand that all communists, totalitarians and terrorists are necessarily stupid, but do we really think they’re that stupid? I mean, seriously, how often does someone actually answer yes to part c? Maybe we’re just relying on the inherent trustworthiness of terrorists to ensure they respond to the question honestly. I’m sure many an al Qaeda operative has been deterred by that clever ploy.

Question 10 asks “Have you ever advocated (either directly or indirectly) the overthrow of any government by force or violence?” Again, not the sort of thing that most folks admit, but maybe if you advocated overthrowing the government in Iran, it could be considered a plus. And question 12 asks you to admit if you were a German Nazi at any point between 1933 and 1945. That’s why Hitler never became a U.S. citizen.

The first question of section D of part 10, “Good Moral Character,” may be the best of all: “Have you ever committed a crime or offense for which you were not arrested?” I think, however, that this one may be a trick question. Given that virtually every person who’s ever driven a car, loitered in the wrong place or ripped the tags of their mattresses has committed a crime, it stands to reason that anyone answering “No” to this question is a liar and, thus, a terrorist, communist or totalitarian, unless, of course, they admitted to being such back at question No. 9.

In any event, I think it’s fair to say that I speak for all Americans, naturalized, native-born or otherwise, when I say I find it very reassuring to know that the Department of Homeland Security is helping keep us safe with the stringent screening process provided by form N-400. Thanks, gang. Keep up the good work.


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