When I think of America I think of freedom and citizenship. The right to vote or the right of free speech are aspects that, as citizens, we posses. Being born in America automatically gives you these rights and many more, and most importantly, you become a citizen. Now, with citizenship comes responsibility such as obeying the law and paying taxes. So if you follow these simple rules does this make you an effective citizen? This question, in my opinion, is almost impossible to answer for a number of reasons, which will be addressed in the following paper. It was extremely hard to come up with a clear cut answer as to what an effective citizen entails. I grappled with this term through many drafts and in the end came up with many conclusions about effective citizenship. Let me state my main point of this paper, and that is, effective citizenship entails so many things and the true meaning of a good citizen differs from person to person and from time to time. In this paper I will share with you how the idea of effective citizenship varies according to person and time and my personal beliefs on what is effective citizenship.
As an American citizen I have a responsibility to this country as a citizen. I also have rights because I am a citizen of this country. Firstly, as stated above, being a citizen of America entitles me to certain inalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Jefferson, 352). Thomas Jefferson made sure that as American citizens, each and everyone of us has these rights which are documented in the The Declaration of
Independence. Each citizen has rights and with these rights comes responsibility, responsibility to themselves as citizens and to the country.
In my opinion, as citizens, we must make certain sacrifices for a greater cause. These sacrifices include paying taxes and obeying laws. We pay a portion of our hard earned money to the government which is for the greater good of the country. The tax money goes to funding for better schools which we send our children to and for better roads. The money also goes to pay for police and fire protection which we depend upon every day, these people are a necessity to our daily lives. Citizens must also abide by certain laws, which in the mind of some citizens, is a sacrifice. My answer to them is that we are not in a state of nature and this is a price you have to pay for living in a society. In their mind, if they were in a state of nature then they would not have to abide by such laws.As John Locke pointed out, we all are here for the preservation of mankind. We make these sacrifices for protection and, in the end, not only benefit the individual but also benefit the community, society, or nation. (Locke, pgs. 170-171, 180-186). So each citizen, in order to (in Abraham Lincolns words) form a more perfect union, must make certain sacrifices which in the end, not only helps you but helps others, this is one of our responsibilities as citizens. Finally, in regards to this paragraph, someone who DOES fulfill his or her responsibilities, are good citizens, but that is not the whole definition of a good citizen, it is simply one part of a bigger picture.
The question can now be raised, if one follows and fulfills these responsibilities does that really make them a good citizen? If a person follows the laws and pays his or her taxes, does that make them a good or effective citizen? In my opinion, it all depends upon the person defining the term effective citizenship. Each person has different beliefs and or values and these effect there
definition on effective citizenship. One person might believe that to be a good citizen all one has to do is obey all of the big laws, i.e. murder and stealing, and pay
their taxes, this makes them a good citizen.Another side that one might take is that a good citizen has to follow all laws including social laws like social toboos such as swearing in public. The way a person is raised and their environment has a profound effect on there idea of citizenship. One right wing nationalist who was raised in a strict family might feel that the only way to be an effective citizen is to die for your country or kill in the name of your country. Then there is the average Joe who believes that good citizens follow the laws and are active in there community. The term effective citizenship can have so many different meanings and in most cases, each is as valid as the next, the term it is just taken or looked at, in a different way from person to person.
Another condition, in my opinion, that helps define effective citizenship is the time period it is being examined in. An example it that in the 1960s an effective citizen was one who would fight and sometimes die for there country. And the bad citizens were the ones that were protesting against the war and the draft. Today, we might look at those people who were protesting as being effective citizens, exercising there rights to freedom of speech. Another example of effective citizenship might also include a time period around the 1940s and 1950s when women may have looked upon themselves as housewives and only housewives. They probably looked upon themselves as good citizens for staying home and cooking and cleaning for her man who was off earning the money. Today, people might view that type of situation as
sexist and say that she was being held back and her rights as a citizen were being withheld, she
had to stay home and was not given the chance of equal opportunity. Society shapes us and our views and in my opinion society is shaped by time. In the end, our views and ideas, about effective citizenship, are being shaped by time.
Now, I will share my own thoughts and ideas about what it takes to be an effective citizen. The first thing an effective citizen does is learn all about his or her rights. The second step is to respect oneself and others. If one wants to get respect, they should be giving respect. They should not be hypocritical by for example, trespassing on a neighbors property and expect him or her not to do the same. Next a good citizen should express how they feel. Part of the Bill of Rights is the freedom of assembly, they should exercise this freedom. A citizen can write to there local representative or join in a PEACEFUL protest. They should also be aware of the issues in there community and nation. For example, by going to a town council meeting one might find out about a new ordinance they are putting in that will affect their neighborhood. Probably the most important thing on being an effective citizen is, get out and VOTE! Voting is so crucial to being an active and good citizen. If you don’t vote, don’t complain if you don’t get something you want. Good citizens should live by the laws the government set out for them. The framers didn’t spend all that time for people to disobey. If someone were caught in an illegal act, or people thought they were, they have a right to a trial by jury. That means a jury is selected from the public. If they were chosen to be on a jury, they ought to serve, for it is yet another duty that contributes to being a good citizen. A role model I believe that should be listed under effective citizenship as see also, is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He had a problem with the government, and legally got to change it. He was aware of his surroundings, saw something wrong, got others to feel the same
way, obeyed all laws, and changed the country. He is one of the most effective citizens that this country has ever seen. He is a role model and if I had to sum up effective citizenship I would say, see also, Dr. Martin Luther king Jr.!
Being an American citizen entitles you to many rights but with these rights comes a responsibility be it to vote or attend a meeting. In order to become an effective citizen you must follow and fulfill your responsibilities as a duty. Finally, to quote an unknown author on what it is to be a good citizen, Good Citizens are responsible and accountable for their actions and the results of their actions. They have characteristics of honesty, integrity and respect for the lives, opinions and property of others. They are actively involved in the community in which they live…..(Time Magazine, 95) The development of good citizens is vital to the well-being of every community. A communitys future depends largely on the number and quality of productive, law-abiding citizens who are committed and prepared to serve their community….
Bloom, Lynn and White, Edward. Inquiry. Boston: Blair Press, 1993.
Somerville, John and Santoni, Ronald. Social and Political Philosophy. New York:
Jefferson, Thomas. Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia, 1776.