“The Bad in Each Other”

The idea of citizenship fascinates is quickly becoming a favourite research interest of mine.

I’ve long complained that people are ridiculous: they want services from their government, but they never want to pay for them.  Andrew Sullivan has now officially validated my complaint in a nice little post called ‘Big Babies Watch.’  The money quote is this:

But if there’s one thing we know about the great American public right now it is that it is firmly in favor of no cuts on spending, no increases in taxation, and no raising of the debt ceiling limit. Very few of our actual politicians, including president Obama, has been bold enough to tell them that this is impossible, and that they are effectively big babies, incapable of making basic choices about what to pay for, and how. In that sense, what America truly lacks right now is a real conservative: a Thatcher figure who can insist that things have to paid for or cut, and that you cannot have it both ways. Neither side has that courage, and since Reagan, it has been a truism that stark fiscal honesty with the public is political death.

EXACTLY.  And my fellow Canadians, don’t think we’re that different from our American neighbours.

Reminiscent of John F. Kennedy’s famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” President Obama said the following in his speech to the Democratic National Convention this past September:

But we also believe in something called 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. . .We, the people recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only, what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.  As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us.

I love that phrase, “our destinies are bound together.”

When I watched ‘Inside Job,’ the story of the 2008 global economic crisis, I was struck by what one of the commentators said.  I can’t remember the exact words, so I can’t really paraphrase it, but it was similar to this: “Our most affluent citizens now have less to gain from cooperation with the rest of us than they once had.”

I’m not about to start bashing the affluent for their lack of citizenship, which I think is what the above quote was getting at, because none of us are terribly good citizens anymore (according to me).

So what does citizenship entail?  In my opinion, it’s a lot more than what comes with your passport.  And that’s what I’m going to explore on Tuesdays (at least that’s my goal) throughout the coming weeks.

What does citizenship mean to you?  Leave a comment below!

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