Saturday, June 27, 2020

Being A Good American -- Our Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities

Citizenship is the common thread that connects all Americans. We are a nation bound not by race or religion, but by the shared values of freedom, liberty, and equality.

Throughout our history, the United States has welcomed newcomers from all over the world. Immigrants have helped shape and define the country we know today. Their contributions help preserve our legacy as a land of freedom and opportunity. More than 200 years after our founding, naturalized citizens are still an important part of our democracy. By becoming a U.S. citizen, you too will have a voice in how our nation is governed.

The decision to apply is a significant one. Citizenship offers many benefits and equally important responsibilities. By applying, you are demonstrating your commitment to this country and our form of government.

Below you will find several rights and responsibilities that all citizens should exercise and respect. Some of these responsibilities are legally required of every citizen, but all are important to ensuring that America remains a free and prosperous nation.

Our Rights As Citizens:
  • Freedom to express yourself.
  • Freedom to worship as you wish.
  • Right to a prompt, fair trial by jury.
  • Right to vote in elections for public officials.
  • Right to apply for federal employment requiring U.S. citizenship.
  • Right to run for elected office.
  • Freedom to pursue “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Our Responsibilities As Citizens:
  • Support and defend the Constitution. 
  • Stay informed of the issues affecting your community. 
  • Participate in the democratic process. 
  • Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws. 
  • Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others. 
  • Participate in your local community. 
  • Pay income and other taxes honestly, and on time, to federal, state, and local authorities. 
  • Serve on a jury when called upon. 
  • Defend the country if the need should arise.
All of the above came directly from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' website. 

So why I'm posting this? Well, first, I enjoy talking about Civics. But more importantly, I have readers from other countries who wanted me to talk about this. One of my long time readers asked if there is any more to being an American Citizen besides what the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services states. He wanted to know if there are things the federal government website wasn't covering? He can't believe that that's all there is to being a "good American."

Thinking about this, I decided to post this here as a small reminder to folks about our basic rights and responsibilities as American Citizens. Of course, while reading over the list of rights, I was surprised to see that our rights and freedoms as listed in our Bill of Rights was not listed among the things that citizens should realize. 

Signed in convention on September 17, 1787, and ratified on June 21, 1788, The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of the United States. Our nation's "Constitution is empowered with the sovereign authority of we the American people." It was created by our framers and the consent of the legislatures of the states. It is the source of all government powers, and also provides important limitations on the government that protect the fundamental rights of United States citizens.

The Preamble states, "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Before someone writes to tell me that the word "defense" is spelled wrong in the Preamble above. It is exactly as spelled in the official document. 

It should be noted that our Bill of Rights, that which is the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, specifically spells out our rights in relation to our government while guaranteeing our Civil Rights and the Liberties that we as individuals hold dear to us. 

Our Rights per The Bill of Rights: 
  1. Freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceable assembly, and petition.
  2. Right to keep and bear arms.
  3. Right to not to quarter soldiers without the consent of the owner.
  4. Right of American citizens to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.
  5. Right to due process of law, freedom from self-incrimination and double jeopardy, freedom of being deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process. 
  6. Rights of accused persons. Our right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, be informed of the accusation; meet our accusers, have witnesses for us, and the right to a lawyer. 
  7. Right of trial by jury in civil suits.
  8. Freedom from excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishments.
  9. Rights not specified which are rights of the people.
  10. Powers reserved to the states -- states rights, or more accurately rights "reserved to the States respectively."
As for the responsibilities of citizenship that are listed in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, I was surprised that our responsibility to conduct ourselves as a civilized people while respecting the rights and freedoms of others was not listed. It does state, "Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others." But really, do people understand what that means? 

It is an age old belief in America that one's rights and freedoms end when the person exercising those rights and freedoms harms others or destroys property. We should remember that our Founding Fathers recognized this fact and included the word "peaceably" when they created the 1st Amendment of our Bill of Rights. 

As stated: 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.

While we should not have to tell our potential citizens that conducting themselves in a civilized manner is a responsibility of our conducting ourselves as responsible citizens, as citizens, we should all understand that acting civilized and not a mob is conducive to good citizenship. 

After all, we are the "We The People" that our Constitution talks about. We are the people responsible for insuring our domestic tranquility as well as for promoting the general welfare of our nation. If we are to act like a mob than that's the jungle will create. And frankly, most Americans do not want an America that's a jungle ruled by jungle law of kill or be killed. 

Sadly, it takes times like these when the rule of law is ignored, when looters, rioters, and murderers go unchecked, that teach us how important the responsibility of being civilized really is to being a good American. It is also times like these that reaffirm why some of our rights are in place. Like it or not, these recent riots conducted by those simply out to wage war on America, and destroy lives and property, is why we have the 2nd Amendment. It is why we have our ability to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. It's times like these that the basic right of a citizen to own guns demonstrates why we are afforded the ability as citizens to protect our loved ones. 

As for my referring to our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, our nation, our liberties, our rights, our responsibilities, our citizenship as Americans. I do so because its specifically "ours." Our Constitution does not apply to other countries. What's written in that wonderful document has met the tests of time and has endured and prevailed. Of course it applies to our federal government and not other nations. The same goes for our Bill of Rights. Those 10 Amendments only apply to American citizens. 

As an American, this is something that I feel very territorial about because our Constitution and our Bill of Rights were not written to give rights to non-citizens, those people who are citizens of other countries. They have rights or not under their laws. Our Constitution is solely ours because it was written for us. Our rights and freedoms are why others want to be American citizens. 

Being a good American means making a real and honest effort at being a responsible citizen. While it's our duty to do so, it actually comes very easy to those of us who love America.  

Tom Correa

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