I had a rather dull morning. Still, it was inspiring.
That requires some explanation. I spent the morning sitting in the juror lounge at the Henry Hyde Judicial Office Facility, Wheaton, Illinois, home of the 18th Judicial Court.
No, I was not in trouble; I was called to jury duty.
Some folks fear being called to serve on a jury. The timing is uncertain and nobody who works wants to be away from the job days or even weeks.
However, I thought it might be interesting. Visions of old Perry Mason episodes ran through my mind and I imagined having to weigh complicated evidence and be part of a wise decision.
That wasn’t how it worked out. I went through something similar to airport security, reported to the juror lounge, received a badge with my official number on it, and was told to wait.
The juror lounge was quite comfortable (my tax dollars at work). It had big comfortable chairs, tables with outlets for phone and computer chargers, free WIFI and free coffee. (I really should say the WIFI and coffee were taxpayer-funded; nothing you get from the government is free.)
I settled down in a comfy corner, turned on my computer, and went to work on the things I usually do in the morning. At any moment, I expected to be called to serve the needs of the nation. But after about three hours, a pleasant voice came on the intercom and announced that no jurors would be needed today and everyone could leave. (There were several dozen of us waiting.)
So… I picked up my juror pay (a check for $16.48) and departed.
I think that covers the dull part of my morning.
As for the inspiring part… that had to do with being reminded that I am a citizen of the United States of America. That reminder came in the form of the nicely produced video they showed all the potential jurors telling us how noble it is to serve on a jury.
OK. I know. That sounds really corny. So be it.
No… someone should not be able to just wander across the border and declare themselves an American – and a voter.
Officially, there are two ways to be a citizen. I am a citizen because I was born and raised in the USA
The video talked about the history of the American judicial system, the right to a fair trial, and lots of good things mentioned in that often-misquoted document, the Constitution of the United States. It reminded me that serving on a jury is a responsibility not offered to people in most countries of this world. And because you have to be a citizen to be a juror, I was reminded that citizenship has – and should have – requirements.
The other way is to come from another country (legally, please) and go through the 10 steps to become a naturalized American citizen:
Step 1. Determine if you are already a U.S. citizen
Step 2. Determine if you are eligible to become a U.S. citizen
Step 3. Prepare your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
Step 4. Submit your Form N-400 and pay your fees
Step 5. Go to your biometrics appointment, if applicable
Step 6. Complete the interview
Step 7. Receive a decision from USCIS on your Form N-400
Step 8. Receive a notice to take the Oath of Allegiance
Step 9. Take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States
Step 10. Understanding U.S. citizenship
I know several people who came to the United States from other nations and went through the long process of becoming citizens. When they got to the finish line, it was a day of gratitude and celebration.
Today, I’m thinking about how grateful I am to be an American… about the men and women who sacrificed to make this country free… to the people who died fighting for us in some of the most desolate corners of the planet.
I’m also thinking of the debates going on over voting rights, immigration rights, and the many government benefits Americans enjoy. We have to take seriously the meaning of citizenship, its responsibilities, and its value.
This morning, I had to prove with an official picture ID that I am who I say I am – even though I was summoned to jury duty by the court. I believe the same proof must be required to vote, drive a car, adopt a child, take out a loan at a bank, or collect mail at the post office.
If an American isn’t required to prove his identity and citizenship, the value of citizenship is lost – and so is America.