August 20, 2019

To Ensure Citizenship: Pizza rolls, guns and everything American

Carlos Restrepo

“What are pizza rolls?” I asked my roommate as we shopped through the aisles of Aldis. His jaw dropped. His eyes widend. The question resonated through the frozen foods section.
“How can you call yourself an American and not have had pizza rolls?” he said.
“But I am not American,” I replied.
I have been a resident of this country for nearly six years, and I am now able to apply for citizenship. There are many questions in the Department of Homeland Security’s N-400 application for naturalization form, but “have you ever had pizza rolls?” is not one of them.
They do have other questions, however, such as:
“Have you ever been a member of or in any way associated (either directly or indirectly) with: The Communist Party? A terrorist organization?
Have you ever advocated (either directly or indirectly) for the overthrow of any government by force of violence?”
I take offense to such questions.
If we are to determine who an American citizen is by asking them their political ideologies or affiliations, then we have defeated the purpose of coming to America — to be free to speak our minds. Furthermore, would advocating for the overthrow of the Iraqi government, or Fidel, count against me?
I imagine these are routine questions, perhaps born in the era of McArthyism. The questions ought to be updated. There is a question much more inherit of the American culture. A question that today, in the wake of the Arizona shootings, can cause both shame and pride.
“Have you ever fired a gun?”
I have never considered firing a gun. In Colombia, where I am from, guns are limited for those who have a police badge and those who have enough money to purchase them on the black market. I had neither.
But in America, the Second Amendment protects the right of Americans to own and carry guns. To be a citizen, many have told me I must fire a gun.
So I went to Branson, Missouri, where my mother lives. She is the proud owner of several firearms. She says she owns them in case “a disaster happens and she has to hunt for her food.”
I asked if I could fire her gun. She was happy to show me.
What better place to fire a pistol and feel like a true American than Branson: home of Andy Williams, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede and the Cowboy Church. Home to hundreds of buffets and Montana Mike’s restaurant — where patrons can eat “mountain meals.”
My blood was red, white and blue. This was the epiphany of traditional, Christian, consumerism America. I was ready.
We went to the firing range, and my mom handed me her .38 caliber revolver. I felt powerful, until I saw a 10-year-old with his dad firing a long-range hunting rifle.
I shot, one, two, three, six bullets. It felt great. It felt American. It was the beginning of my journey in this column to try all things that people tell me are “truly American.”
Eat pizza rolls. Check. Fire a gun. Check.
Every month, I will bring readers my experiences in the process that leads to citizenship. Suggestions are welcome.
God bless America, it’s freedom, pizza rolls and firing arms.

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