Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday Thirteen #235

I was fiddling around on the 'net and came across a civics site for the Virginia Standards of Learning. I found it interesting and wondered if I could come up with 13 things one should be aware with regard to civic duties and citizenship.

What does citizenship mean, anyway? If we are citizens of the United States, or any other nation, what are we supposed to be doing?

1. Obey the laws. Laws are the cornerstones of our civilization. They are society, or all of us, gathering together to say murder is wrong, extortion is wrong, jaywalking is wrong. Of course, not everyone agrees with the law, which is why we have spirited debate about various topics.

2. Pay taxes. Yep, it's your civic duty, your responsibility as a citizen, to pay up. That's your cost for living here, whatever that might be. The world may not owe you a living but you do owe the government taxes.

3. Serve in the armed forces if called. Being a pacifist I have trouble with this one, but I also understand it. I am anti-war and do not believe in killing, but if I were drafted and they could find a place for me that didn't involve killing, perhaps I could work it out in my conscience though it would be difficult to support something I find so abhorrent.

4. Serve on a jury or as a witness in court. I think this is a great honor, myself. I've been called but I am never asked to serve. Apparently writers and people who think are not welcome on juries.

5. Contribute to the common good. How does one do this? By holding a job and paying taxes. By volunteering. By serving on committees. By picking up trash in the park. What is the common good? Well, that's a pretty in depth discussion, but I found a good article on it here. Here are a few excepts:


... an expert on bioethics, argues that solving the current crisis in our health care system--rapidly rising costs and dwindling access--requires replacing the current "ethic of individual rights" with an "ethic of the common good".


And this:

Examples of particular common goods or parts of the common good include an accessible and affordable public health care system, and effective system of public safety and security, peace among the nations of the world, a just legal and political system, and unpolluted natural environment, and a flourishing economic system. Because such systems, institutions, and environments have such a powerful impact on the well-being of members of a society, it is no surprise that virtually every social problem in one way or another is linked to how well these systems and institutions are functioning.

6. Register and vote. This is one of the most important civic duties, and I am always aghast at the number of people I come across who say they do not vote. I am no fan of Calvin Coolidge, but I cannot say this any better:


But the right to vote is conferred upon our citizens not only that they may exercise it for their own benefit, but in order that they may exercise it also for the benefit of others. Persons who have the right to vote are trustees for the benefit of their country and their countrymen. They have no right to say they do not care. They must care! They have no right to say that whatever the result of the election they can get along. They must remember that their country and their countrymen cannot get along, cannot remain sound, cannot preserve its institutions, cannot protect its citizens, cannot maintain its place in the world, unless those who have the right to vote do sustain and do guide the course of public affairs by the thoughtful exercise of that right on election day. They do not hold a mere privilege to be exercised or not, as passing fancy may move them. They are charged with a great trust, one of the most important and most solemn which can be given into the keeping of an American citizen. It should be discharged thoughtfully and seriously, in accordance with its vast importance.


And


The people of our country are sovereign. If they do not vote they abdicate that sovereignty, and they may be entirely sure that if they relinquish it other forces will seize it, and if they fail to govern themselves some other power will rise up to govern them. The choice is always before them, whether they will be slaves or whether they will be free. The only way to be free is to exercise actively and energetically the privileges, and discharge faithfully the duties which make freedom. It is not to be secured by passive resistance. It is the result of energy and action.


Thoughtful stuff, that.

7. Hold elective office or an appointed position. I do not believe our forefathers meant for a political office to become a life-long career. I think everyone of us should serve in some capacity. I served on the local library board, for example. That is not an elected position, it was appointed, but it counts. It was a service to my community and I am proud to have done it. There are many different community boards; contact your local officials and see how you may serve.

8. Communicate with government officials. If you agree or disagree with a political leader, at whatever level, you have a duty as  a citizen to let him or her know. Writing to your congressman, therefore, is not just a privilege. It is, in fact, a duty. It's easy these days with email - go to his or her website today and let them know how they are doing.

9. Keep informed. I personally think this is an important duty. If you don't know what is going on, you cannot make an intelligent vote. Unfortunately, I think we're seeing the result of voting via emotional gut feelings as opposed to rational, well-thought reasoning.

10. Respect other people. This is severely lacking in today's society. I see it at all levels, from young to old. I have as much right to my opinion as you do to yours, but people are so busy shouting out their thoughts that they never take time to listen to the other side. On TV, all you hear are people shouting at each other. No one is listening. It's rather scary.

11. Know your rights. But also know that other people have these same rights. For example, your right to practice your religion ends when it infringes upon my right to practice mine. People don't understand this. But rights are like cigarette smoke. If you want to smoke in your house, go for it, but don't blow it in my face.

12. Participate in the process. Helping with political campaigns, serving in various democratic institutions, belonging to organizations - these things matter. Unfortunately, I don't think organizations such as the League of Women Voters have the clout they once did. I'm not even sure we have one, locally. I should check into that.

13. Be trustworthy, honest, and courteous. That should not be hard, but apparently it is.

If you do these things, you will be a good citizen. This does not mean that you don't fight for what you believe in, or that you roll over and let others walk all over you. It means that you are active in the process. You do not let others think for you.

Be active.
Be a good citizen.
Make a difference!



Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 235th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.
 

11 comments:

  1. They used to teach citizenship in school as part of a class.

    Do you think the jury selectors thought you were going to write about them?

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  2. I am aware of communicating with government officials as a fact, a privilege but not very aware that it's a duty. Indeed how will one's congressman know anything if he is not informed.

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  3. I'm with you until we get to contribute to the common good, which still seems a bit vague to me, but when it comes to things like holding office, I'm a bad citizen. No interest at all.

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  4. Excellent timing on your post.

    Have a great Thursday!
    http://harrietandfriends.com/2012/03/happiest-and-unhappiest-jobs-in-america/

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  5. An excellent and well-thought out post, Anita. I think they need to go back to teaching civics in high school. It's appalling how many people know nothing about the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or even who their elected officials are.

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  6. #4 -- I think that depends on where you live. I get called ALL THE TIME and have even served, and I'm a writer by trade. You're right -- it is one of the finest things a citizen can do. I have learned though, from hanging out in the jury pool, that the people who WANT to serve tend to be the ones who shouldn't. You know, those who go into it wanting to convict because they personally have a score to settle. Of course, this could depend on where you live, too.

    In terms of the military, firing a gun and dropping bombs doesn't square with my personal ethics, either. But I've squared that circle by doing what I can to help the military.

    This is a wonderful list. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. #4 -- I think that depends on where you live. I get called ALL THE TIME and have even served, and I'm a writer by trade. You're right -- it is one of the finest things a citizen can do. I have learned though, from hanging out in the jury pool, that the people who WANT to serve tend to be the ones who shouldn't. You know, those who go into it wanting to convict because they personally have a score to settle. Of course, this could depend on where you live, too.

    In terms of the military, firing a gun and dropping bombs doesn't square with my personal ethics, either. But I've squared that circle by doing what I can to help the military.

    This is a wonderful list. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. 4. oh really? I listed my career as poet and still I'm due for jury duty next week. wish me luck.

    Sounds like we're the citizens of the same country. Now what shall we do with the others who disagree with our vision? ;)

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  9. Wish I could have used writing to get out of number 4 last year, but no dice. They saw I'm a teacher and snapped me up. Spent three weeks on a case.

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  10. I love your list and I am getting ready to share it. I agree with everything. Thanks for sharing.

    The Food Temptress

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  11. LOL they never want me on the jury either.

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