What is citizen?
The word citizen traces its origins to an old French word citezein, which in turn, is traced to the Latin word civitas meaning ‘city’.
Oxford Dictionary 2006 defines the word citizen as “noun 1 a legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth. 2 an inhabitant of a town or city.”
Wikipedia defines and describes citizenship as “membership in a political community (originally a city but now usually a state) and carries with it rights to political participation; a person having such membership is a citizen.”
A citizen is someone who is a member of a political community. Citizenship is that membership in a given community which gives a person political rights and requires him or her to perform civic duties.
Why is citizenship and participation important in today’s world?
Citizenship and participation are important because a state or a country is only as good as its people. We cannot separate the people from anything good or bad that comes out of the State. With the privileges of a citizen come responsibilities in cooperating with one another in an orchestrated effort to improve life for all the members of that state or political unit.
The laws would be useless if people do not understand them or their duty to obey them. When people participate, they become more aware, and through this, they begin to understand better. It is through this activity that people are educated and later learn to value what is means to become part of a human community. By actively taking part of the community’s activities, a citizen understands that he or she too is a stakeholder in the whole end-result of the actions of the entire community and, therefore, he or she must pull his or her own weight.
What are the rights of a citizen?
By virtue of his or her citizenship, the citizen is granted political rights. When the US Constitution was amended in 1791, the people added ten amendments covering the rights of citizens. This has come to be known as the Bill of Rights:
- Freedom of Religion
- Freedom of Assembly
- To Keep and Bear Arms
- Freedom of Speech
- Freedom of the Press
- Protection for those Accused of Crimes
What are the duties of a citizen?
There are several duties of a citizen. The first and most important one of course is the duty to obey the law. Every law, regulation, and procedure binds citizens to obey them faithfully. Without this basic duty, there would be no state to speak of. There would only be chaos. In connection with this, all persons are duty-bound to respect the rights of others. No person must act in a way that will violate the rights of others.
Another duty is to vote. This is considered as both right and a responsibility. This duty does not speak of the mere mechanical act of voting but it demands that a citizen vote wisely – to be well-informed of the issues and the candidates’ platforms before even deciding to vote.
In times of war, able-bodied men may be called upon by the US government to give military service. In times of peace, people can enlist themselves voluntarily. There are some states that require its citizens to assist the sheriff or police officers in arresting lawbreakers.
Finally, citizens have the duty to pay their taxes. These taxes are collected by the government for the benefit of all the people in that political unit.
How has citizenship changed over the years?
Citizenship has changed its face over the years just as many complex issues have arisen. The issue of immigration, for instance, has been a problem for such a long time now. Many people from all over the world want to enter the United States and many of them, in desperation, enter the US without any proper papers or authorization. Some people want to send these immigrants back to where they belong (usually war-torn countries) while some people who gunning for human rights want these people protected as much as possible.
Today, issues like dual citizenship and immigration are being reexamined and our lawmakers are still debating on these matters.
In spite of all this, the rights and duties of a citizen have remained the same throughout the years. The nature of citizenship as both a privilege and a duty continues to hold.
How do you encourage someone to be a better citizen?
The best way to encourage someone to be a good citizen is by educating them. It’s not enough to tell them that they should do this or that. They must become better citizens on their free will. This is the meaning of freedom – to make an informed and intelligent decision without having to be forced to do it. Through education, people will understand and by understanding, they will become free citizens who know their rights and carry out their duties.
It is not enough that people know what to do. They must also know why.
How can one be a more effective citizen?
One can be a more effective citizen by being involved and always educating himself or herself of what is happening in the country and in the world today. As stated above, education is the best way to know how someone must act in any given situation. To be well informed is a necessary first step in becoming a better citizen. A person can, perhaps, read the newspaper or watch the news on TV in order to acquaint himself or herself with current events and issues. A person can do volunteer work and spend a day or two each month to help orphans or the elderly. There are a many good things that a person can do to improve the lives of others, especially the underprivileged.
When does a person lose citizenship?
Expatriation or loss of citizenship can only be accomplished through a free and voluntary act of renouncing it. Furthermore, this act of expatriation can only be done by persons who have reached the age of majority (18 years old). For example, a person might want to renounce his US citizenship because he wants to become a citizen of the United Kingdom.
Do immigration issues affect citizenship?
Yes. A person’s citizenship, especially in the case of immigrants, is very closely monitored. His or her papers will be scrutinized very well and the circumstances of his or her entry into the country will be investigated. Nowadays, Americans are very cautious about new foreigners coming into the country. This has caused a strong imbalance in the application for citizenship.
Why is citizenship the most important duty?
Citizenship is the most important duty because it is actually an entire bulk of duties that a person complies with for the betterment of the whole community. The faithful compliance of one’s duties as a citizen is the one thing that will ensure that people’s rights will be respected. It will ensure that the law will be followed and that our leaders will be chosen by a free and intelligent electorate.
It will ensure that taxes are paid completely and on time so that our roads and bridges are well maintained and our hospitals are well-stocked. It will ensure there will be no violence committed because of racism or gender differences. It will ensure that human rights will be upheld and preserved to their fullest extent. It will ensure that the country or State will be protected from any unlawful activity both foreign and domestic.
Citizenship must never be taken for granted. America provides us with a complete set of liberties and freedoms. In some countries, people are not free to speak their mind or dress the way they want. We must respect our duties and love our country for what it is. We must never forget that many people in the past have fought and died to protect our freedom. May we never hesitate to do these same for future generations.
Oxford Dictionary. “Citizen.” AskOxford.com. 2006. Oxford University Press. 23 May 2006
“Citizenship.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 20 May 2006, 15:13 UTC. Wikimedia
Foundation. 23 May 2006 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism>.