Cit - i - zen: a native or naturalized member of a state or nation who owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its protection; an inhabitant of a city or town, especially one entitled to its privileges or franchises
We are all citizens. Whether you just joined a community or you have been there since the day you were born, we are all citizens of many things. We are citizens of the globe, our country, our city and for many of us our universities. Now in the definition above, there are a few things I would like to point out.
1. Owes Allegiance
This is not a question, you owe allegiance. Allegiance does not mean that you always agree with your government, whether state or national, and it definitely does not mean that you have to agree with its leaders. It does mean, however, that you must respect the law of the land and abide by its rules and regulations. I would also add that allegiance has a connotation of respect. While respect is not the same as allegiance, I think that it is a highly encouraged aspect of the word.
By being a citizen, we are entitled to things like protection, privileges, and franchises. It is important to recognize this entitlement and to note that ALL citizens are entitled to these things.
So, now we have the basics of what a citizen is and who the term applies to, let's look at the best practices of being a citizen.
Being involved in your community is a huge part of being a citizen. There are millions of ways to do this. There are large scale charities that you can give to like the Red Cross and more local charities that you can give to that just reach your community. You can be involved in your local religious center of choice and encourage your community that way. Involvement can be mentorship of younger people in your community, choosing to shop local, or participating in local events. The idea is to not be isolated and to engage with those around you.
Participating in government is another MAJOR part of being a citizen. This can be as simple as voting or as big as holding public office. It is up to you on how involved you are but it is important to participate. Voting is not just confined to presidential elections, something we often forget. As a citizen, you should vote in your local elections frequently for things like mayor and city supervisor as well as for governor and your national representatives.
Civil discord is another part of being a citizen. This, again, can be done in a variety of ways, but if as a citizen you do not like something the government is doing you should stand up and say something. This can be as simple as signing a petition or as large as organizing a protest; either way, it is important to stand up for what you believe in. This should be done on both a local and global scale.
Now, here are a few misconceptions about being a citizen. A major one is that in order to make a difference in government you have to do it nationally. This is so wrong. Government occurs at many levels and you can make a difference at every level. The biggest issue facing citizens today is the lack of civic duty we feel. It is important to participate in government, to know who your representatives are, and to speak up for what you believe in both locally and nationally. We are all citizens and we all have a duty to participate in our community, in order to make our world and our lives better.
This is the first article in a series on government and our role in it as citizens, check back next week to see more.