If you’re old enough, you remember the slogan, heavily promoted, for the American Express Card. The long running campaign suggested that more was gotten by having the American Express Card than just a means of conducting cashless transactions. Even today, the campaign, officially retired in 1996 after a nine-year run, echoes in the company’s continued promotion of a broad array of services that constitute the “privileges” of being an American Express cardholder.
Obviously, privileges of citizenship cannot simply be the same benefits that flow to anyone present within the territorial boundaries of the country. If it were, why bother to provide a system of naturalization that adds 700,000 naturalized citizens to our body politic each year? In the law, you are a citizen, or you are an alien. We work alongside, play alongside, recreate, shop and walk alongside aliens everyday. Yet, in the main, nearly one million aliens amongst us each year seek and get the “golden ticket” of citizenship. Also of note, a comparatively tiny number of citizens are rushing for the exit and renouncing our primal claims of citizenship.
As it turns out, the answer depends on who provides it.
We tend to take these things for granted. The vast majority of Americans are not in reduced poverty, living, literally, moment by moment in fear of harms, whether from criminals, tyrants, famine, or otherwise. Nor have we lived all our lives – from cradle to grave – in a society that requires or prizes severe regimentation. We choose where we live. We choose what we study. We choose whether to pursue professions or to undertake trades. We even choose burial or cremation at the end of our days.
Some immigrants, particularly coming from lands of limited opportunity, note that
I suppose that one privilege – to me – stands above all the others that might be named. That one is the power to cast a vote, and by that vote to help shape the future in which we will live, in which our children will live, and in which new Americans will be made welcome.
The next quadrennial presidential election season approaches. Already two would be nominees have announced their pursuit of the Republican nomination. As the race comes into full swing, the clamor and din, the clashing of issues and personalities, will not fade, but rise to its expected Kabuki crescendo. Strong opinions sharply stated will, at least for a time, offer voters, seasoned ones and virginal voters, seemingly irreconcilable conflicts among candidates and parties.
Now is as good a time as any to place firmly in our minds the sage and humble supplication of Abraham Lincoln, offered in his First Inaugural Address. Recall that