Citizenship

by tamarjacobson

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Quote of the day:

But we also believe in something called citizenship — citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, a word at the very essence of our democracy, the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations. (Barack Obama, September 2012)

The first thing I did when I became a citizen of the United States, was register to vote. I could never imagine living in any country being unable to vote. After all, this is a right that not everyone has – or has had. And along with attaining that right so many people have sacrificed, suffered, and died. This has to be the most precious natural right we all should have: The responsibility to think critically about who we choose to run our country, and represent our interests to the rest of the world – and then, act on it!

To me, citizenship has never been about whether a person has a birth certificate or not. After all, I was not born in the USA. I was born in Southern Rhodesia, a British colony. And then, after the rebel government of Ian Smith came to power, I lost my rights to citizenship in Britain because I came from his racist, what he then named, "Rhodesia." Even as a very young adult, I learned to think critically about the propaganda Smith fed us. Friends of mine were deported or placed under house arrest for speaking out against the oppressive government.

For me, it is not only the policies that the leader of a country strives for. More importantly, it is the tone and language used in rhetoric. Words matter. If the language is filled with bigotry breeding fear and hatred, the tone does not instill in its citizens the urge to accept responsibility for one another – no matter who the "other" is. Instead, it creates an atmosphere of anxiety, anger and blame. 

We don't think the government can solve all of our problems, but we don't think the government is the source of all of our problems any more than our welfare recipients or corporations or unions or immigrants or gays or any other group we're told to blame for our troubles … (Obama, September 2012)

Politics is personal. No doubt about it! I believe that a leader, who acknowledges his vulnerability, sets a tone of humility and compassion with his words:

And while I'm proud of what we've achieved together, I'm far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, "I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go." (Obama, September 2012)

Each day I realize how fortunate I am that I have the right to vote for what I believe in. Because I know that there are millions of people out there – out here even, who do not have the right to vote, and, unbeknownst to them, that right is being whisked away even at this very moment I write my blog post.

And so, on November 6, I will rise up as early as I can and try to be first in line to vote for four more years of President Barack Obama. I believe his language of acceptance and compassion for all people of the world, his speeches about "obligation to one another," or not blaming the "other" for our troubles set an important tone – a model that urges us toward responsibility and caring. Indeed, I still use every day, as my signature in my email address, one quote from his inaugural address back in January, 2009, that I consider says it all:

What is required is a new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives – from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry – an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels. (Barack Obama, January 17, 2009)

Four years ago at Mining NuggetsA dream realized

Seven years ago at Tamarika: A letter to my blog …