"If a man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes is a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear." - Gene Roddenberry
This is a complicated topic, and there are a great many people who are very passionate about the topic on both sides of the political spectrum in this country. The problem is that people take certain aspects of Citizenship and treat them as separate entities, like immigration. For anyone that comes into this country, immigration to the country is just a part of a much longer process, whether they come through official channels or they are undocumented, most will have a very long period, even after they are granted a visa, of waiting, paperwork, heartache, and frustration before they get a chance to swear in. Unfortunately, even then, some are still under the threat of having that citizenship taken from them if they are so much as suspected of being anything other than squeaky clean, cooperative, and well spoken. However, the people that do earn that citizenship, having spent years fighting and working for it, actually tend to be some of the most loyal citizens known. It's people that are not required to earn their citizenship, but are granted it is as a right of birth that are more likely to take their citizenship for granted.
Now, here is the kicker, everything else about what we do is part of being a citizen, as well. The taxes that we pay are our contribution to the maintenance of our infrastructure, a Citizen's duty. When people sign up for the Draft, putting their name on the rolls of able bodied citizens, they are offering to defend their country from all threats, both foreign and domestic, a Citizen's duty. When we choose our leadership, we are doing our duty as Citizens. When go to work and fulfill the needs of the market, we are doing our duty as Citizen's because we are helping to keep the economy on the move. The social benefits that exist for the poor, disabled, and the elderly in this country, are funded by additional taxes that we pay to ensure that those people are able to maintain a certain basic level of economic security, housing, food, and healthcare, etc. If people want a stable social climate to exist in, helping to fund these programs is essential to that end. It is, therefore, their duty as citizens to do their part to ensure that everyone in this country is able to be happy and productive, and if not, provided for so that they do not resort to other means to support themselves, i.e., crime and the like.
Here is the problem that I see. Immigrants pay taxes that help maintain our infrastructure, immigrants pay taxes that help to fund social programs, and many immigrants, throughout this country's history, have signed up for military service. This was their way of earning the respect of their new homeland, at least, conceptually. The reality was that feeding themselves and their families was the most important thing for them, and a soldiers salary was able to do that. Whereas, a paperless job in the fields or the factory almost guaranteed that they would be stuck in poverty. Veteran's status gave them a foot in the door economically, and when their service was over, they were granted the full rights of citizenship, something that they exercised with great pride because they had earned it with their own blood, sweat, and tears. Now, this nation has made that option unavailable to immigrants. Why is that? It is, very simply, because of where the immigrants are coming from, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and South and East Asia. As it turns out, discrimination against such immigrants has existed throughout this nation's history. It was immigrants from Europe that were most often given this opportunity, an option that somehow made them instantly more important than African Americans. African Americans are still fighting for the full rights of citizenship, as are many others.
This is followed by a second problem. For some reason, white culture fails to recognize, or tries to forget entirely, the fact that the only people in this entire country that are not born of immigrant stock are Native Americans. The conditions under which many of them reached the country are more than questionable, in fact, they are completely unacceptable, but the point remains that a person with the last name O'Brien is not native to the Western Plains region of North America. He may have been born there, but his ancestors came from across the ocean. Further, someone with the completion of a West African is not native to Alabama. They may have been born there, but some years back, their ancestors were brought here, both against their will and in conditions not fit for a rat. The point still remains that they are not native to this country. A great deal of Mexicans, the Brown ones whose ancient ancestral lands are what we now call the American West, are from a region of this country that encompass the south ends of Colorado, Nevada, California, Utah, and everything southward. They refer to their ancient homeland as Aztlan, and some have an oral history connecting them to the land. There is also, of course, a great deal of scientific evidence that supports their claim, as well. The plight of Native Americans is well known. They are prisoners in their own homeland. Legally, when it comes to first deed laws, they have more right to the land than we do.
The third problem is that no matter where anyone has come from, we are still here, and we cannot seem to find a way for everyone to get along. We need to learn how to get along before shit breaks down, and we end up finding ourselves witnesses to battles in the streets of American cities. The idea that I have for the solution, I argue, should eliminate nearly all forms of discrimination in this country, from sexism to racism. It will create another, though. This will not eliminate economic disparities on its own, it will require additional social legislation. Having admitted this, the following idea is simply an effort to offer a solution to a very broad problem that is making this country look worse the longer it goes on.
First, make the sole requirement for citizenship, service to the state. Further, make this available to literately everyone that enters the country, no matter where they are coming from, to include people with disabilities. The interesting thing about this plan is that service does not necessarily have to be military service. They could do anything from travel the harvest circuits in California and Florida, to doing office work at a steel mill, to suiting up and going off to war in defense of the nation, to working as public relations officer for the government. After a guaranteed term of service is completed, these people would be full citizens of the United States. Admittedly, such a system could be taken advantage of. However, another guarantee would serve to reduce this threat to a bare minimum. Remove the right of citizenship granted to those born here. This does not mean taking citizenship from people. Understand that. A specific date would be chosen to implement the plan. Everyone born before that date would be a citizen. Everyone born after that date would be a civilian, with citizenship now existing as a right that all must earn equally. This goes for women too. If you want the benefits of citizenship, you have to serve, ts that simple. If you refuse to serve, you sacrifice access to the rights of citizenship.
So, how would such a society properly function without fostering discrimination or depravity. First, a few things would need to be in place, like universal healthcare delivered to everyone who needs it, basic living quarters provided for everyone that needs it, access to nutritional food to everyone that needs it, access to all government services on an equal basis, access to entertainment, access to education, and access to civilian work. This means that anyone who does not become a citizen still has access to the basic necessities of life. What would citizenship mean, then? It would mean this; if you want to vote, if you want to hold public office, if you want to be a judge, or if, among other things, you want to be a police officer, you must be a citizen, and the only thing keeping you from that reality is your decision to serve or not to serve.
You were born in the slums of Djibouti. Your family came to the United States to get away from war, starvation, poverty. Your parents remained civilians, but you joined the Federal Service and received your citizenship. You now have access to all of the rights of citizenship, all the way to the Presidency of the United States. To you, your citizenship holds it's weight in gold. It is something that you earned with your own hard work, sweat, and determination, and you stand next to other people, no matter where they come from, who have earned their citizenship the same way you have. To you, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference and other minutia do not matter. All that matters is that the people you are standing with put themselves on the line the same way as you have and take pride in what they fought for, American citizenship. This will create a class system, no doubt, but it will be a class system with only one discrimination versus the many we have now. Economic discrimination will even be eliminated because there will be zero options extended to the wealthy to opt out of service. If those wealthy people want to hold public office, they will have to serve like everyone else. There will be no exceptions provided, minus those already provided to everyone, such as physical or mental incapacitation. Further, anyone caught attempting to avoid service through fraudulent means will risk permanent civilian status, especially, given the fact that service would remain voluntary.
Our people have a genuine lack of interest in the fact that what they earned by birthright, the ability to govern themselves, is something that people throughout history have fought and died for. Very few people in this country can say that they have done that, and those that have are considered violent criminals when they rebel against a system that discriminates against them on such petty levels as race, gender, or religion, among others.It also tends to treat the fact they defended this country with their life as nothing more than a side note to the fact that they are African American or Latino, male or female, straight or gay, or from one religious sect or another. They ignore their military service because it makes turning them into a criminal a much more complicated process. They do this instead of giving them the tools that they need to successfully reintegrate into society, otherwise known as rehabilitation. Criminalizing them is not the answer. The right thinks that people do not respect this country like they should, and they are right. The left thinks that people are too caught up in a system with racism built into the very fiber of its existence, and they too, are right. So, here's an idea to help both sides. Make citizenship in this country something to be earned and cherished, and make it an open franchise, so that all people can come here and enjoy the rights that we should hold more near and dear to hearts than we do our own lives.