Reading Judith Shklar’s comprehensive and difficult essay on American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion, she serves the readers a blatant denouncement of what was originally believed to be this ideal form of inclusion and citizenship in America. “The call for a classical participatory democracy may, therefore, be far from democratic, because it does not correspond to the aspirations of most Americans now and has never done so in the past” (Shklar 30), well, she’s right. Blacks, women, males who didn’t own property, freed slaves even, have all been denied this constitutional right. But the question arises, is it not having the simple privilege to vote or the lack of actually contributing to political decisions by not being able to vote the problem here? The dilemma involves the right vs. the action. Seeing as that one single decision: granting someone the ability to vote defines citizenship, I believe to become actual good citizens is to contribute to the prosperity of this country. America is a microcosm of all different kinds of people.
Being included in this convoluted idea of citizenship stems from a value system of how much being an American is appreciated. Like the title of the post suggests, not everyone can have something because then everyone would possess it. How can this be of any valuable worth? Shklar writes, “the tension between an acknowledged ideology of equal political rights and a deep and common desire to exclude and reject large groups of human beings from citizenship has marked every stage of the history of American democracy” (Shklar 28). This problem continues today with the ongoing debate over illegal immigration especially with new legislation passed like the Arizona Immigration Law last year. There are millions of illegal immigrants benefitting from the fruits and labors of this country. Is the state of Arizona justified in demanding documents from illegal aliens merely on suspicion and detaining them for failing to do so? Judith Shklar, with this quote, would argue, “The excluded were not merely deprived of casual political privileges, they were being betrayed and humiliated by their fellow citizens” (Shklar 38). Even though she is talking about voting privileges here, it can be used to support the claim that Hispanics are being dehumanized and humilated by having to “legitimize their presence on American soil.”
Our country was built upon the mass influx of immigrants in the early 20th century. America is a melting pot, and the immigrants who disembarked to come to this country and stepped off the ship for a better life, attained a better life through hard work. And now, a witch hunt is being undertaken. Illegal immigrants are merely beneficiaries of the system. They do not pay taxes and they are employed in menial labor jobs that many unemployed legal American citizens could have. There is a price to American Citizenship and I do not want to see it devalued by the nonsensical view that illegal immigrants can come to this country and expect a free ride.