End Birthright Citizenship

The recent kerfuffle over whether or not Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was born in Canada to an American mother — which I will not dignify with links — misses the broader point: birthright citizenship is an anachronism that actually is destructive. The concept of the “citizen” has changed a great deal over the 2,500y that separate the present from the first explications of the concept in Greece. It’s changed a great deal in the past 150y, when male non-whites were brought into the fold and in the past 96 years since women have had the right to choose their leaders. “Citizenship” has involved many things throughout the centuries: ethnicity, gender, property, sexuality, et al. To hypostatize “citizenship” is to misunderstand it deliberately.

In the current dispute, if you want to dignify it with that term, the ends are blatantly political. Opponents of Sen. Cruz use his nation of birth (over which, of course — he had no control) to sow doubt among Republican primary-goers and to reinforce Donald Trump’s reinvigorated nativism; Democrats stay silent, offering platitudes on the morning shows, but preferring to let Republicans eat their own children.

The greater question, though, is why is there such an arbitrary institution anyway? Especially in the U.S., the self-styled “nation of immigrants”? By Trump’s logic, Washington, Adams I, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, JQ (Adams II) and Jackson would have been ineligible to serve as president, as there were no United States at the time of their birth. The prohibition exists as a lingering reminder of America’s xenophobic and racist past; there’s no rational justification for it, especially now, in an interconnected, multilingual world such as ours. Invoking it is merely stirring the pot, already bubbling since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, exacerbated by our unwillingness to provide a home for refugees from nations we played a major role in destroying, and fueled further by Islamophobia and our nation’s rich history of using skin colour and language to discriminate among groups of people.

Why should an individual born elsewhere, but having become a United States citizen, with the privileges and responsibilities pertaining thereto, be barred from seeking the leadership of her or his *chosen* homeland? Ian Fleming fantasies aside, name one good reason why birth in the territories collectively referred to as “The United States of America” (though some are commonwealths, some territories, protectorates — is a Puerto Rican eligible to run for president?) constitutes the sine qua non of eligibility for the highest office?

Scrap this antiquated nonsense. It has no purpose other than the enshrining of Caucasian power (exclusively, until now, male Caucasian power) and no justification other than a concept of the nation-state predicated on shared lineage, language, morés that does not and has not for some time now reflect the reality of an ever-changing world.

I vehemently oppose practically everything Sen. Cruz stands for and proclaims; yet, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be allowed to stand for the presidency. To (liberally) paraphrase a well-known quotation, “If this man becomes President, it will be a sad day, but: based on what I’ve learned about him, I will defend to the death his right to do so.”

~ by Benji on January 8, 2016.

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