enders_shadow (enders_shadow) wrote in talk_politics,

Citizenship and Voting

Welcome my fellow citizens secret Kenyans. I have come across a book I highly recommend. It's a simple little book; not very complex or highfalutin but good none the less. I've typed up a chapter from it to share with you; I'd like to discuss the ideas contained in it:

Notice: your citizenship has expired.

What? Yes! Term limits for citizens. Why not? This term-limits thing is still a good idea. If it is true that elected officials get corrupted if they stay in office too long, maybe it's the same for us who hold the political office of citizen. Let's at least set tough standards for all incumbents, citizens included.

Suppose that every twelve years our terms expired. Before we could requalify as citizens, our records in office would be judged. Remember, most of us got something for nothing the first time just by showing up here at birth. Now we have to qualify.

It's put up or shut up.

Let's use the same standards already set for any alien who wishes to become a citizen of the United States. As I write this, in early 2003, the standards are being rewritten and raised, but in a nutshell, here are the basic qualifications:

First, you have to demonstrate competency in reading, writing, speaking, and understanding the English language.
Already a bunch of us are in trouble, ain't we?

The government also wants a recent photograph. Most of my friends are old, ugly and irritable. If looks count, they're out. (I pause here, realizing I'm being both literal and sarcastic. I trust you can tell the difference. But having recently worked through the citizenship process with a by-marriage relative I can tell you that many of the most disconcerting questions are taken from actual government documents.)

You have to pass a physical exam--no TB, HIV, STD or mental illness.

And all this qualifying costs money--application fees and lawyer fees and doctor fees and notary fees. Proving financial support is essential. Somebody must be able to support you. The government wants to be able to seize somebody's bank account for nonpayment of obligations. True. It seems that we no longer fling wide our doors to the tired, the poor, or the huddled masses.

Next, there are some "Additional Eligibility Factors."

Ever been a communist? A Nazi? A terrorist? Persecuted anyone because of race, religion, national origin, or political opinion? Ever failed to pay your taxes? Been a habitual drunkard Advocated or participated in illegal gambling? Got a criminal record? If you answer yes to any of these questions, we don't want you. True.

Next, you must appear in person at the office of the INS and take written and oral tests to demonstrate your working knowledge of the history, principles, and form of government of the United States. I haven't taken the actual test, but here's the flavor of what might be asked:

Explain capitalism. Distinguish between the Democrats and Republicans. Define liberal. Define conservative. Did Betsy Ross really make the first flag? Who coined the slogan, "America--love it or leave it"? What rights are in the bill of rights? Whose rights are they? Is there are a bill of responsibilities.

Add questions about current world affairs, local and state issues and economics. Name those who represent you in local and state government. Bad news. Most of us wouldn't pass without six more weeks in a high school civics class.

Finally, we're required to take an oath of allegiance in court. We must declare that we will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies; fight if called on to fight, and work for the common good. Everybody--not just those who volunteer for military service.

What? I thought citizens in a democracy did or didn't do do what they damn well pleased. It's a free country, right? Wrong.

About half of the Americans I know wouldn't qualify for citizenship.

Besides not getting passing scores on the exam, some haven't participated in elections for a long time except to bark and bleed and moan a litter louder just before the second Tuesday in November every year.

As for taking oaths, however, most of the people I know would swear to Almighty God that the problem with this country is all those lazy, stupid, double-talking, chowderheads who are running the government.

It's all the rage. "Term limits? Damn right! Throw the rascals out!"
But are we any better than the rascals we throw in? I say, let's find out.
I say: tough standards for all elected and non-elected officials of government.
Suppose that every twelve years we lose our perks and privileges of office. We reapply, submit our record as citizens, get examined, tested and checked out for competency, and pay our fees. If we pass, we get a citizens license, stamped with big red letters saying: "USE IT OR LOSE IT."
If we flunk, we'll be given mercy and sent back for retraining in history, law, and civic responsibility. We'll be allowed two more chances to pass muster.
However. Recall our latest standards: Three Strikes, and you're out.

-Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten

So Fulghum may be taking a little creative license here and there-and I'm not here to debate the actual Q's and Req's of getting citizenship here in the US--tho anybody want to share relevant anecdotes I'd be happy to listen.

What I am more interested in is this notion that citizenship is important; and yes, in a sense, it is--it confers upon people certain rights and govts treat citizens and non-citizens differently. But why the hell does me being born in a Manhattan hospital make me different than someone born in a London hospital or a Moscow hospital? Being born here doesn't make me an *informed* citizen in my country--and as we can see from the TEA party people, being an informed citizen isn't necessary for engaging in politics; but (and here is my real Q and purpose of post) should we allow uninformed citizens to engage in politics? I say no--for what I hope are obvious reasons. Maybe you'll disagree--maybe you'll have something different to add. Maybe you'll mention that you support mandatory voting--and perhaps mandatory education on the political system beforehand.

I am here to talk and listen; I've done a lot of talking here, so your turn!
Tags: books, elections, society
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