PACE invites community members to write on the trait of the month. Thank you to West Valley High School student Aisha Abdurhuman for this article on Citizenship.
The Braveries of Citizenship
Practicing citizenship is vital to being a good citizen, but it takes a lot of bravery. It harbors many responsibilities, and in order to meet those, citizens must see beyond themselves as individuals and meet the needs of society, something often easier said than done. For example we follow laws in order to maintain order, but when those laws are more difficult to see a personal benefit from, they are more challenging to support, however someone who keeps citizenship in focus is able to see the benefit for all. If we all play our part and support the workings of our community and society, we can reap the rewards as well and benefit from having safe, fair, stable, and prosperous democracies where we can live out our lives. If we refuse to do our part, then perhaps we’d live in more dire circumstances. When we all choose to cooperate with one another and abide by our laws, we find a much more livable society. Having this sort of stable space in which we fulfill our citizenship, we can, as PACE has stated, “positively contribute to society and community as well as dutifully respecting authority and the law,” and thus all have the ability to maintain our rights and also pursue happiness.
It’s interesting that when one is born a citizen of a nation, we don’t truly understand what it means to be a citizen, to practice citizenship, or have civic duty; we tend to take those things for granted. The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in 1975 said, “While anyone can live in this beautiful nation, and legal citizenship is relatively easy to obtain, being worthy of this citizenship takes a little more effort. No one is worthy of the name American until he or she can be termed an asset to this nation…” When people immigrate to a new nation they have to go through an entire process to attain their citizenship, and must make several verbal and written commitments to their new nation. In that process and even in being born a citizen, we understand that part of our duty as citizens is to abide by laws and vote. But what about citizenship? We’re never given a pamphlet on what it means to be a good citizen, much less how to or what it means to practice citizenship throughout our lives.
We have quite a large duty to fulfill however what’s the guidance on doing so? The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs also said, “…We must accept the responsibility that will keep these freedoms intact. We must not only be free, we must be brave. Brave enough to make known our views, to fight for what we believe in. Brave enough to face the responsibilities of citizenship, and not to shirk our duty when our country calls us.” So citizenship is about bravery, being brave enough to do the right thing, even if it’s not the most beneficial thing for oneself at the time. Part of the concept of citizenship is for us as individuals to make decisions that are best for our community and our nations as a whole, in order to be indivisible.
Now all of this is very honorable, but there are still those who live on the fringe of society, those who may stray from society’s laws because they feel they have no other choice. For them, looking out for the greater good, sometimes means they can’t survive as easily. Practicing good citizenship also means looking out for those who aren’t in the best position to do so, so they don’t feel the need to veer away from society.
I’d like to give you just one last statement from the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs 94th congress. “If you can honestly say ‘I am a responsible American citizen. I have a duty to my country, I know that duty, and I fulfill my responsibility’ then you are an honor and an asset to the great American keyboard, and worthy of the opportunity to keep the symphony of American democracy ringing loud and clear in the ears of the entire world for generations to come.” So perhaps we may recognize that our privilege of citizenship is one that takes bravery to enact but is well worth the cost.
Currently a junior at West Valley High School, in my spare time you can find me playing classical jazz on the piano, reading all sorts of literature from science fiction to poetry, admiring pop art, or pondering the political landscapes. I was a recipient of the 2019 PACE exceptional character for Centennial Middle school for which I would like to credit my frequent passing by the Dishman Dodge dealership, and seeing and taking to heart their message board displaying each month’s character trait that served as a frequent reminder of traits that I try to always hold myself to.