Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Thoughts on being a citizen

Part II
Thoughts on being a citizen.

                Every country has its own definition of what a citizen is. The Constitution of the United States of America defines a citizen in Amendment XIV, Section I as: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law: nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

                I was reminded of that when I heard Khizr Khan, father of Captain Humayan Khan, challenge Donald Trump by asking him if he had even read the U.S. Constitution. Mr. Trump took a few days to respond that he had, but in truth I would guess that few Americans have recently read the Constitution and more importantly how many of those who have, really understand it, and that includes me. Mr. Khan’s challenge did make me get a copy and begin reading and studying it. It took me less than two hours to read but it will take me much longer to understand, but I will try; however, anyone running for President of the United States should automatically understand before they begin their candidacy what they will be swearing or affirming to uphold, if they are elected. Maybe that should be the first test?

                It is interesting that the word citizen(s) is mentioned nineteen times in the U.S. Constitution and while several sections and amendments describe protections afforded to citizens and requirements for citizens who want to run for elective office, it does not provide any continuing education requirements to be a citizen. The long history of an individual’s responsibilities for being a citizen certainly predates Plato and Aristotle, but even during their era, few people were actually permitted the right as a citizen to vote and they were primarily men.
                According to Herman, “a democracy like Athens or a republic like Florence was a cooperative partnership, in which men agree to be the best that can be in both their public and their private lives, (Aristotle’s view), instead of (as in Plato’s Republic) having those rules imposed from above. Only under liberty could men realize their true nature as human beings both as free individuals and as part of a greater whole.” So how do we do the best we can when it comes to being a citizen?
                I am sharing this from my perspective and in no way is it judgmental since it applies to me as to any American citizen. If you say you don’t have time for politics. You don’t vote because you don’t know the issues or the candidates. You’ve got to many other things going on to spend time on learning about your local, state, or national government, and how does it really affect you? What difference would your involvement in politics make? Then ask yourself just a few of the following questions:
1.       What do you do for a living?
2.       Are you single, married, or divorced?
3.       Do you rent or own your home?
4.       Do you have children or other dependents?
5.       If you work or go to school? If yes, how to you get to your job or to school?
6.       Do you want your food to be safe to eat and your water safe to drink?
7.       Do you want the medications you take to be safely manufactured and dispensed?
8.       Do you want to be protected from someone attacking you or stealing from you?
9.       Do you want to have a say in how much your education costs?
10.   Do you want to have a say in how much your health insurance costs?
11.   Do you want to have a say in how much tax (income, sales, gas, and property), you pay?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then you want to be involved in politics. You have a vested interest. If you hope to change things when they are not working correctly or in your interest, you have to decide whether your involvement is a higher priority than doing something else. For example, according to the CDC in 2014, roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) got sick, 128,000 were hospitalized, and 3,000 died of foodborne diseases. (48 million – are you kidding me?). Can you see this is something that could affect someone in your family? What do you know about it and what are you doing to protect yourself, your family, and your friends. Are you involved in trying to reduce it? Are you contacting your health board, are you contacting your member of Congress and demanding action or are you like me and not doing something?  Seeing these numbers have motivated me as a citizen to do what I should have done – I will be contacting my local and state health board and sending a letter to my representative and senators.  If you see an item in the list or something else that is of interest to you, please become informed and then get involved. That’s what a citizen does.
                Mr. Khan also made me painfully aware that many naturalized citizens probably know more about our Constitution than native born Americans. If you want to test your knowledge, try taking the complete one hundred questions quiz (challenge yourself, avoid the ten, twenty, and fifty questions quiz and go for the big one). See how you do.  You don’t need to share your results with anyone, but if you miss a few questions, it might be an opportunity to learn about your history and your Constitution. http://civicsquiz.com/100-question-u-s-civics-quiz/.

                Also, here’s is a little video about being a good citizen that you might enjoy watching and thinking about – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhAV-Z7thbc. Think about the fact that people from other countries leave almost everything behind and come to our country because they want to be a part of it. We should welcome them and honor their desire and take greater pride in showing that we too know and understand our Constitution. A lot of people have truly made sacrifices so that we have the rights and freedoms that we have. We should honor those individuals by being the best informed and involved citizens that we can be.

1 comment:

  1. "many naturalized citizens probably know more about our Constitution than native born Americans" - indeed, and more in general about our nation's history and founding vision. Nativity is treated by chauvinists as a point of privilege, a special status exempting them from the Aristotelian responsibilities of citizenship. This republic was created from a spirit of cosmopolitan pluralism, making the narrow nationalism of Drumpf & his blind followers doubly objectionable. Thanks for the civic lesson, Don, and thanks for your splendid example of involvement. Mr. Jefferson would applaud.