I had a class in the seventh or eighth grade, I think it was called Civics, that introduced the concept of citizenship. I suspect that a lot of us can’t even remember the eighth grade, and I can’t remember any specifics from the class, but I recalled it recently while reading an article about immigration reform.
The concept seemed to have had more importance in the early days of our nation than it does now. Then, it was more about there being an “us” to fight “them” over rights; most notably taxation without representation. It only occurred to me about a week ago that the Boston Tea Party had any connection to the modern one, duh. If I had ever thought about it when I was young, I imagined it being like a margarita party, but with tea.
So, back to citizenship. We have certain duties: jury duty, Selective Service; as well as rights: freedom to reside and work, enter and leave the US, vote, stand for public office; and benefits: consular protection outside the US, access to social services, protection from deportation. But there is no requirement for civic participation. Shouldn’t every citizen be more involved in the business of our country? In the 2010 elections only 37.8 percent of the eligible voters showed up and voted.
Is there a more important way to show your involvement in American politics than by voting? There are some strong arguments saying that uninformed voters are worse for government than informed ones, but to me that means that more time should be spent educating potential voters. I think I agree in principle that if you don’t understand the issues you shouldn’t just vote for the candidate who has the most air time, or whose ads are glossiest, or who slings mud best, but how can we get more, informed involvement in politics?