By Thursday I needed a break from the frantic and frenetic pace of being a present mom and wife, preparing for our region’s Black Campus Ministries student conference, and being the in the middle (but sometimes invisibly) of the Deadly Viper situation. I found myself relieved that I had to go my fingerprints taken for my citizenship application – some time to decompress in the car and then in the waiting area. Clearly you can understand that my state of mind was compromised.
I walked in and realized I could not run away. The male desk clerk looked at me (sisters, you know what kind of look I’m talking about, right?) that made me grateful I was holding my Bible in front of my chest. I took the form to fill out and sat down, only to find that FOX news was on the tv – closed-captioning running and the volume up.
I couldn’t imagine anything louder than the tv, but then a conversation between a woman asking about the fingerprinting process and an INS officer took over the room. She was asking whether or not the office provided fingerprinting for a fee because her initial application was denied and she was hoping to move the process along by getting the biometrics done before a new application was completed. She spoke with an accent, and with every sentence I swear the INS officer raised his voice.
She would ask a question or make a comment, AND THEN HE WOULD SPEAK SLOWER AND LOUDER THAN HE DID A MOMENT AGO PERHAPS TO MAKE IT CLEARER. Apparently speaking louder and slower helps us non-Americans understand you better? I thought about saying something, but an internal filter kicked in and while I was having a conversation with myself in the silence of my head about speaking up and helping her and this LOUD INS OFFICER COMMUNICATE she left and I was up for fingerprinting.
I was imagining ink pads and paper, but clearly the US government has better technology – all computerized with no ink. It was a pretty cool thing to watch, but then I had this strange feeling. All of my personal information, including every ridge of my fingerprints was in the system. I am still not a US citizen, but the government knows about me.
It felt vulnerable in an uncomfortable, unwelcomed way as information about me was taken in an uninviting, uncomfortable way. I looked at the table where I had put down my purse and Bible. The government knows about me, but I had to remind myself that only God really knows me. He knew the ridges in my fingerprints even before I knew I wanted to become a US citizen. It comforted me in way I can’t explain in a moment where I felt completely uncomfortable in a way I can’t explain.
The government knows. But to God, creator of the universe, I am known.
And a random thought on efficiency – there ought to be a way to simultaneously apply for citizenship and a passport so that once citizenship is granted a passport is issued. Call me crazy.