One of my friends is becoming a US citizen soon, and it got me thinking about this country and what citizenry means. It also happens to be the year leading up to a Presidential Election, so that definitely adds to the thought process.
So what does it mean to be a US citizen? At it’s core, for me, it means a belief in and a willingness to accept the US Constitution. That sounds all fine and dandy, and I’m sure almost every American out there would agree with this sentiment. But recent events in the political arena have made it painfully clear just how little the average American knows about this country’s founding and governing document. I think it’s safe to say most Americans take their citizenry for granted, and that comment was directed at those who are Americans by birth rather than naturalization.
Watching the political debates, election advertisements, and news coverage of the candidates has made it clear to me that some of the most basic concepts and decrees outlined by the US Constitution are grossly misunderstood, and in some cases, completely neglected. As a future (hopefully) member of the US military and a die hard patriot, there are a few key points I want to hit on. If only because watching the GOP candidates has made me strongly question my sanity, as well as that of America in general.
On the topic of religion:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It is without a shadow of a doubt that the majority of the populace of the USA is affiliated with one aspect of Christianity. But, that does NOT make this nation a Christian nation. The United States was founded on the principle of religious freedom and equality. The majority of our Founding Fathers were questionably religious at best, and agnostic or atheist by most accounts. This nation was founded with the notion that people from every walk of life could coexist in harmony. Article VI and the First Amendment clearly outline these decrees. I’m sorry, but I don’t see how this could be stated any more clearly.
To hear Republican candidates and Fox News lambaste Obama for leaving God out of his Thanksgiving address is simply ridiculous. All it does is prove their ineptitude and their inherent misunderstanding of the fundamentals of our great nation. It’s annoying at best, and scathing at worst. I don’t agree with many of Obama’s policies, but I do condone his separation of church and state. Quite simply put, I condone it because it’s IN OUR CONSTITUTION. It does not get any clearer than that. It boggles the mind how Republicans and Fox News condemn Obama for following the US Constitution, the very document he was sworn to uphold.
On the topic of sexual orientation:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of 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.
The Fourteenth Amendment, in laymen’s terms, states that all persons born under or accepting of the American flag are subject to the same laws, the same liberties, and the same human rights. The Fourteenth Amendment served as the basis for the landmark Brown vs Board of Education case in the US Supreme Court. It serves as a reminder that all persons who are citizens of the US are allowed the basic freedoms provided under the other sections and amendments of the Constitution. To withhold certain rights and privileges from a particular group of Americans based on race, creed, or sexual orientation is quite frankly un-American.
The leaders of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s fought for the equal treatment of all Americans. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently stated, But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
What MLK, Jr. had to say in 1963 regarding the equality of race is a direct analogue to today’s arguments of equality regarding those of different sexual orientation. The simple fact is that we are ALL Americans. We are all guaranteed the rights provided us under the Constitution. And to deny someone the right to marriage or freedom based on any demographic goes against everything this nation stands for.
And so I’m reminded of the words of Michael Douglas in The American President, in his role as President Andrew Shepherd. You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”.
We live in a great country, no doubts there. No where else in the world are so many freedoms granted and protected. But also, no where else in the world are so many freedoms taken for granted. We must remember what and how this country was established. What our founding documents and principles are, and what this country stands for.
And so I will end this tirade with a sampling of the immortal words of Edward R. Murrow. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
Good night, and good luck.