I’ve learned a lot about myself, and how I want to be involved in my communities, this semester. Through this course and through simply being a high school senior getting ready to fly the coop. Prior to this course I had little knowledge of how US government actually worked. I understood that politicians were a little schemey, politics always had to be difficult, and, according to my grandparents, the government was always messing up. Though my learning curve in this course was steep, I am still baffled, and intrigued, with how it all works. Thanks to this course I am now actively interested in the politics that affect my community and life. But more importantly, I’m now more interested in discovering what I want my role to be in my community, my country, and the world. Learning to ask myself what kind of citizen do I want to be?
I am legally a citizen of the United States and, as of recently, also of the United Kingdom. But what does that even mean? I two passports. I have the ability to easily live and work in either country. I have access to government programs. Being a dual citizen, or simply holding citizenship with one country, has many benefits. But what responsibilities do I hold as a citizen? I don’t have a clear answer. And honestly, I don’t think anybody does, or really should.
I believe that in being supported by a community, no matter what size, every individual has responsibilities to that group. What I’ve realized is so interesting about citizenship is that responsibility can manifest itself in so many ways. It can mean volunteering, being respectful of others and your environment, being political aware, and obeying the law. But it can get confusing. Would we consider Nelson Mandela to be a bad citizen because he spent 27 years in prison? No. So does that mean standing up for what you believe is right is more important than the law? Not necessarily. I think that by taking this Government, Politics, and Citizenship course I am being an active and good citizen. I’m educating myself. But does that mean that you need to have an education to be a good citizen? No. This is why talking about citizenship is so confusing. Though I liked a comment Mike made in class on citizenship meaning “giving a damn,” there is no universal answer.
My personal idea of citizenship is that feeling you get after watching an inspiring documentary or TEDTalk. That feeling of purpose. Of passion. Of even frustration. But it’s so difficult to maintain that feeling and pursue that problem. It’s especially difficult as a young person who’s told “Wait till you’re older. Till you have more power.” But for me, my goal as a citizen of something, maybe the US, the UK, the world, or maybe just as a citizen of myself, is to pursue that feeling — to care. For my extroverted self, I like to be loud and talk about the problems that make me mad or the good things that are happening in this world. But now I understand that that’s not the only way to be an active citizen. That’s kind of the only concrete conclusion that I can make about what I’ve learned regarding citizenship.
So even though I find it frustrating to see that my peers are sometimes apathetic about our school, country, and global community, and while the suggestions our class, or the video above, makes for how to be a more active citizen are great, it’s all supposed to be taken with a grain of salt. For, I believe, it’s an important personal exploration.