I have read a great deal about citizenship in the past months, a multitude of viewpoints modern and historical. One theme, which supports what I learned in high school civics, is that citizenship is both a right and a privilege.
Citizenship relates the individual to the society. Membership in society can be granted at the time of birth, or conferred later, but in either case it carries certain responsibilities, including defending the country in time of war, becoming an informed participant in political discourse and voting. It includes respect for and adherence to the laws of the country, and respect for its institutions; and when one cannot respect those laws and institutions, to work lawfully and peacefully for change.
In my mind, the American commitment to the rule of law is the reason we have enjoyed such a great degree of political stability. We bind ourselves, as citizens, with a commitment to the society and its laws–even when our personal preferences may pull us in other directions. We pledge allegiance not only to the flag but “to the republic for which it stands.”
Now come the birthers. They shirk their civic responsibility. First they shirk their responsibility to be informed citizens, by lazily soaking up and repeating rumors that sound friendly to their ears, but a moment’s critical thinking or research would prove false. Second, they disrespect all of the government: the legislative (“gutless”), the executive (“usurper”) and judicial (“traitor”) branches for no other reason than that their rumor-fueled views and frivolous lawsuits are not well received. Third, they usurp the legitimate prerogative of government when they attempt to create a shadow government consisting of “citizen grand juries,” citizen “attorney generals,” “people’s prosecutors” and citizen quo warranto lawsuits. Rather than defend their country, they try to shirk military duty by blaming the President. That is said without even considering the more extreme fringe threats of violence and calls for the military to disobey orders.
While birthers are free under the law to express whatever views they wish, to do so irresponsibly is not good citizenship. For those who put themselves forward as leaders, and those who are officers of the court, to spread disinformation is an offense against citizenship. Birthers try to take short cuts; unwilling to work for lawful change through legislation or Constitutional amendment, they want to storm the White House, they want the courts to flout Constitutional bounds, they want the Congress to impeach for “distasteful behavior”; they want the military to take over and generally they want it to be their way, whatever the consequences to democracy. They violate law when they literally wrap themselves in American flags, embracing the symbol while trampling the republic underfoot.
So I ask the question, who is it that demonstrates allegiance to the United States, and who are its good natural born citizens? Not the birthers, for sure.