Not too long ago, my wife and I were watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. In that particular episode, one of the characters holds up a piece of spaceship fuselage that has an American flag and the word NASA written on it. Later on, it is discovered that the fuselage belongs to a spaceship that was from the mid-21st century - about thirty years in our future. But what struck me was the comment that the American flag had '52' stars on it; not the current 50. And then I wondered, in that fictional universe, when did we add on two other states?

Of course, Star Trek, in all its adaptations, is fiction. But our flag, isn't. The program left me with a question in my mind: Why haven't we added any new stars to our flag?

It has been 52 years since we added on our 49th and 50th star to our flag with the admission of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959. Prior to that, Arizona was admitted to the Union in 1912 - 47 years before Alaska and Hawaii. Are we soon due? And, if we are, which commonwealth, territory or other country will this honor be bestowed upon? Let's look at some candidates.

Puerto Rico. They have been U.S. citizens since 1917, however, it seems as though the island is divided between those who want full statehood status and those who don't. Back in the 1970s, I heard a lot of talk about this territory becoming the 51st state, but nothing happened. However, those who want statehood versus those who don't are becoming the majority; we'll see.

Canada. We invaded them twice, and both times we were beaten back by the British. I recall back around 1992, Pat Buchanan wrote that due to Canada's problems with Quebec, the whole eastern half of the nation would likely end up as being part of the United States. I thought it was pretty nifty reading. It reminded me of Manifest Destiny and the things that prompted America's westward expansion back in the mid-19th Century. However, fat chance. Do we really want English-speaking Canada's Gallic problems? The French-Canadians are a proud people who haven't forgotten that they lost the French and Indian Wars. Although we are bound to each other by a common border, Canada is not another form of the United States. They could have chosen to break away from England during our Revolutionary War, but they stood fast and remained loyalist. They still are, despite their independent status, loyal to the crown. By the way, if you want to take the chance of getting punched in the face the next time you're in Niagara Falls, Canada, just tell a Canuck that their whole country is our 51st state.

How about our territories in the Pacific? American Samoa, Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands? These are places that most continental U.S. citizens only know from the Miss America pageants. These people aren't a problem to us, we never hear about them in the news, therefore, we didn't know we "owned" them. Also, perhaps we could develop these places to be the next Hawaii-type vacation paradises. Maybe these are the best candidates to add another three stars to the flag.

Mexico, anyone? We already have 12 million of their citizens taking up residence (illegally) in our country. If it were up to the interests of cheap labor and Democrat politicians who are looking for new voters (Republicans are not guiltless on this issue), we may not be adding a new star to our flag, but we sure would be adding new citizens en masse.

Israel always seems to be called "America's 51st state," due to the amount of money and support we give them. But believe it or not, I don't think Israel wants to be part of the United States. They like their independence and being governed or lorded over by a Gentile power and its people is something they've had enough of from 586 B.C. to 1948 A.D.

Poland. It has been called the "51st state" by the CIA due to its staunch pro-American policy by joining us in our 2003 "Coalition of the Willing" war in Iraq and by "extraordinary rendition" in helping our government both capture and "handle" terrorist suspects. There is also a large Polish-American population in the Northeast that, I'm sure, would be all for this idea.

Iraq or Afghanistan? No, we don't want those sets of problems, even though our government thinks we should. No nation has ever successfully held on to Afghanistan for long (Do they really want to?) and Iraq has a bad habit of violent transfer of power, even though there are some in Washington who believe we'll turn them into some sort of tame, pro-U.S., democratic republic. Tell me another one.

How about the moon? Didn't we plant the flag there or was that all done in Hollywood as some purport? I don't believe that one bit. One good thing about the moon is that it's waiting to be populated and we don't have to worry about displacing any indigenous population. However, living there is another thing altogether!

There are other countries that have been considered or thought of as a "51st state" due to their close association with our country, but from what I've read, outside of entertaining the idea or ridiculing it, none of them are truly serious about being a part of the U.S. of A. Most countries like their freedom and nationhood just as much as we do, if not more. I'd like to see us add another state, or two, but who? Maybe we should have a televised contest that people can phone in their votes ala, American Idol-style?

Then again, maybe the whole idea should just remain on an episode of Star Trek - a fiction. We have enough problems in our country to take care of as it is. We need to get the house we have in order: Fixing the burst pipes of the economy in our basement, rewiring the weak and old infrastructures, getting rid of the multi-trillion-dollar liens against our property, putting in a new furnace of industry, saving our money instead of spending it like there's no tomorrow and throwing out the junk furniture and trash that has cluttered our house and caused our country to be a stench to the nostrils of heaven - you decide what the pollutions are.

Just slapping on a new 'coat of paint' over the old or putting up a different color of siding every election year won't do the trick. I'm not saying we need to pull down the house and rebuild from the foundation on up, but we may need to see if our house has shifted away from its foundation (I think we'll see it has) and try to set it straight. And once - only once - we have our home in order and repaired, other places may very seriously consider hitching their star to our flag. And God Bless America, again.

(Humes is a copy editor at The News-Item.)