Monday, January 4, 2010

Citizens of the World

This is something I've wanted to blog about for a long time but haven't been able to put my thoughts in order. I might still not be there, but I'm going to give it a shot.

I love America. I'm proud to be part of this nation of immigrants and freedom, innovation and individuality, community and law. I'm an American. But I'm a human first.

I'm not a constitutional scholar so I can't speak to the intentions of the framers, but it seems inconsistent with the ideals that they encoded into the first law of the nation that the Constitution should apply to American government only within the boundaries of the States. Whatever the precedents may be, I believe that serving representatives of our government should be bound by the law of this land, wherever they are.

Here on American soil we don't believe in diluted ideals. We believe in and practice the freedom of discourse in a way that is not replicated in other western nations. We do not proscribe the wearing of the burkha in public universities. We protect the right of the Klan and of neo-Nazis to argue their misguided and hateful views, because we believe that no ideas are so dangerous that they can't be talked about. We applaud criticisms of our government, of our bigotries, and even of our traditions and culture, when such criticisms are levied with honest intent. And even when they aren't, we protect them.

On American soil we defend the right of all people, even non-citizens who are here illegally, to due process and equal access to the rule of law. We welcome far more immigrants than any other nation. We believe that YOU should reap the rewards of your hard work, and your creative ideas. We believe that every person, and especially every child, should have access to the best health care, and to a high quality education.

On American soil we hold our representatives in Congress to these ideals stubbornly, fiercely, and even foolishly at times. We believe in these ideals.

But outside the borders of the States we tolerate evil and cruel acts against humans, committed by our agents. We permit an abridgment of the rule of law. We condone the use of propaganda and misinformation, and the suppression of free discourse. We allow our tax dollars to support corrupt regimes. We lend our support to barbarous tyrants.

We do these things in our strategic interest. And in so doing we reveal a shallowness in our ideals that permits us to refuse to admit the humanity of persons who live far from us, and who are strangers to us. Yet they are the same people we welcome into our neighborhoods and our workplaces, our churches and schools, when they apply for the right to immigrate to the United States.

I don't propose a radical change to the law. I only propose that we extend the rightness of our laws to all of our actions, and to the actions of our government, wherever it is operating. I am an American, but I am a human first. What is right for the best and worst Americans is surely right for the best and worst of our neighbors abroad.


  1. Completely agree, Robert. We are all citizens of this little spaceship we call Earth. Pride is too often limited to artificial boundaries.

  2. Excellent post, I am with you brotha!