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Constitution can be taken for granted

April 21, 2017 - 12:05am

Have you ever noticed that immigrants — that is those who’ve stood in line, paid all the fees, did the paperwork and waited and waited to get the green light to become American citizens — have not only a deeper appreciation for that thing called U.S. citizenship, but also a better understanding of our founding documents and how our government works? I certainly have. Let’s face it, native born Americans can be jaded.

So my question is how many of us could pass the naturalization test given to prospective US citizens? There are 100 questions and the applicant must answer successfully six out of 10 that are picked from the 100. Of course, they don’t know which 10 questions so they study for any possibility and as a result know a lot more than many U.S. citizens. The following are actual sample questions from the test:

1. What does the Constitution do?

2. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are they?

3. What is an amendment?

4. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?

5. How many amendments does the Constitution have?

6. What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?

7. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?

8. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the Constitution. Name one of the writers.

9. There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.

10. What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?

Traveling abroad to less than free countries does a lot to open one’s eyes, but if you don’t have that experience or perspective you really don’t know what a gift you have in being a U.S. citizen. My first eye-opening education in this regard came with a visit to East Germany before the reunification in 1990.

After WWII, Germany was divided into four sections, each controlled by a different country; France, the U.S., the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. France, the U.S., and the U.K. together formed West Germany, and the Soviet section became communist East Germany. The East German leader Erich Honecker built the famed Berlin Wall in 1961 as an “anti-fascist protection” against the free, capitalist West German sector.

Over the nearly 30 years of communist control of East Germany, close to 80 people were killed trying to flee to the West, not exactly a good advert for communism. We were only allowed into East Germany because they needed tourist dollars. In fact, we had to show a certain amount of East German marks and had to spend it before we left which proved very difficult as there was nothing to buy. Stores were all but abandoned and the restaurants had extensive menus, but they were out of everything. Worst of all, there were what looked like phone booths along the streets with armed soldiers inside keeping an eye on everyone.

You better believe those liberated with the fall of East Germany had a deep appreciation for their new-found liberty, just as immigrants from all over the world who are finally granted U.S. citizenship do today.

As citizens of a free republic it is our duty to preserve it. If you would like to take a free online course on the U.S. Constitution go to:

Constitutional enthusiast Mikie Kerr writes a monthly opinion column for West Hawaii Today.

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