When “Voting and Earning” Are Not Enough.

According to Judith Shklar in her work, “American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion”, there are two main components of being a full, capable citizen in America, those being voting and earning. Each person must have the right and be legitimately capable to both vote in elections (and have their vote counted) and earn a living, productive wage. According to Shklar, if a person has access to these two things, they are essentially granted the full, real citizenship that America has to offer. However, without one or both of these things, a person who has technically been granted citizenship of the United States, really doesn’t have “full” citizenship. Papers and official titles are nothing if they do not come with the right to vote and to earn.

Unfortunately, throughout history, it has been seen that these two things are not enough for some Americans, and so comes the idea of a third necessary ingredient for American citizenship. What this third thing might be, I have no definition for. In fact, the thing itself is completely intangible, and for that reason the best word I have found to describe this thing is “Being”. Being cannot be earned, you simply are, or you are not. What I mean by this, is that through America’s past, we have been witness to a number of American minorities who have both the right to vote and earn, somehow still be stripped of their rights as American citizens. These groups were, until suddenly they were not. I’ll give a prime example:

February 1942 – Japanese Internment Camps: In 1942 President Roosevelt signed an executive order that called for all West Coast dwelling Japanese Americans be relocated from their coastal homes into Internment camps closer to the central United States. Over 127,000 United States legal citizens were forced to abandon homes, businesses, assets, and anything else they could not fit in a suitcase. These citizens had the right to vote and they had the right to earn, many of them being business owners, but somehow, that was not enough to guarantee that their rights as an American were honored. It is estimated that two-thirds of all Japanese Americans that were moved to the camps were native born, which means the concept of “Being” is more selective than just being born and raised within American borders.posted_japanese_american_exclusion_order

Furthermore, while the Japanese made up the vast majority of those who were stripped of freedoms during WWII, many German and Italian-Americans were detained by the Department of Justice through an “Alien Enemy Control Unit”. Similar to the Japanese, a majority of the detained citizens were not immigrants, simply first generation families full of native born citizens. Not only does this solidify that being born in America is not enough to qualify for “Being”, but it proves that being white is not always enough either.

A second example, brought to my attention by Professor Edward E. Curtis IV of Indiana University, is the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in the year 2011. Anwar was an American citizen, full legal right to vote and earn, but because he was suspected of being an al-Quida propagandist and active supporter, he suddenly lacked the “Being” aspect of his citizenship. Specifically, his right to trial and the fundamental idea of “innocent until proven guilty” were both stripped from Anwar when he was killed by drone fire. Anwar never faced a judge or jury to decide his innocence or guilt in the act of terrorism, and while I in no way can pick a side due to a sheer lack of knowledge on the history and evidence, I am not here to argue that. Instead, the point being made is that Americans, as guaranteed by the Sixth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, are to be granted “the right to a speedy and public trial”.

So, where does “voting and earning” end and where does “being” pick up? For that, I have no answer. I still cannot provide you a definition for what being even is, what it means, how someone can “be” while others cannot. In summation of this post, all I can say is that it is clear that voting and earning are not all it takes to be guaranteed American Citizenship, and as a country, America has proven that to its people.

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9 Responses to When “Voting and Earning” Are Not Enough.

  1. vassallucci says:

    Hi, I really liked your post. I think it summarizes perfectly what we highlighted at the end of this wonderful and very interesting discussion with Professor Edward E. Curtis IV of Indiana University.
    I will try to not repeat what you said through your post. But I really think that, contrary to what people, politicians and society could think, the notion of citizenship (the American one or another one) is more than ever threatened today. If we are looking into the situation, we can see that this notion is at the heart of the majority of our societal problems today (whether they are economic, social or political). For me, “being” became more important than “voting” or “earning” today. “Being” is part of our own human essence. “Being” was why people fought during decades and why people are still fighting today. As you said, “voting” and “earning” are not enough to become a “full citizen”. I even think that, finally, “being” is the only necessary condition to become a “real and full citizen”. According to me, the citizenship’s notion is about truth, spirit and soul. These three things represent for me the basis of what we could call “citizenship”.

  2. filj says:

    Great post and evidence to further prove the idea of “being”. I think this was a great tie to what Shklar was trying to convey, and it definitely left a hole in her argument. It’s concerning to think that in such a developed country, we have historic examples of the right to “being” extracted from Human rights as easily as it was granted to these groups.

  3. Clopez says:

    I love the concept of connecting the Japanese internment camp with voter and economic identity. I think your question further pushed the question as to what permanent citizenship may look like if voter and economic identity seems to be relative. Possibly that is the true statement in your observations on citizenship? The very fact that citizenship can never truly be a stable subject. Citizenship is relative to the government in place and therefore our individualism is as well.

  4. Ryan Wadding says:

    I applaud you for, in my opinion, enhancing Shklar’s argument on what it truly means to be a citizen. I think what you describe as “being” is a critical concept for citizenship. You are completely correct in saying that having the ability to earn and vote does not necessarily guarantee the full rights of being a citizen. I also commend you on bringing a historical aspect to your argument by linking the treatment of certain American citizens during World War Two and the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. You put forth an excellent argument and I think overall you did well on this post. Cheers!

  5. azwoodland says:

    Every time there is a mention to Japanese interment in the United States, a large part of me can’t help but think, how was this allowed to happen only seventy years ago? Let me be clear, I am horrified by Japanese interment – I find it one of the most shameful moments in the history of the United States. But, moreover, I cannot understand how this happened in the first place. Where was the systemic failure that allowed this to happen, and what has been done since to ensure that the United States never deprives the right to “be” again?

    Answer: 6 people. Hugo Black, Stanley Reed, Felix Frankfurter, William Douglas, Wiley Rutledge, and Harlan Stone. All Supreme Court Justices, all appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, all ruling that Executive Order 9066 was constitutional. This court case was Korematsu v. United States (1944) in case anyone is interested.

    During his time in office, although he was unable to pack the court, FDR appointed nine people to the United States Supreme Court, filling eight seats on the court, more than any president. Well, any president since George Washington, but does that really count?

    When a president essentially restaffs the high court, it is not surprising that they are able to do what they want, when they want, without intervention from the Supreme Court. Only one of FDR’s appointees, Justice Frank Murphy, dissented in Korematsu.

    I can’t help but think of the current state of the Supreme Court. The next President faces at least one and possibly four appointments. Because justices serve for life, it is important that they appoint people who are fit for the position, not people who will act as a puppet by simply ruling in favor of the sitting President.

  6. cckremer says:

    I enjoyed your idea about the concept of “being” as being a necessary, but missing, part of Shklar’s argument about citizenship, but I have to wonder what ways we might be able to better expand this argument. This “being” component may be something more tangible like “in-group acceptance”, where the in-group are the current set of established citizens. In this way, we would be able to explain situations like this as unfortunate circumstances where the majority opinion was swayed by recent tragedy (Pearl Harbor, WW2, 9/11 and the War on Terror). Unfortunately, this raises a more key issue : if being a citizen relies upon gaining the favor of the current citizens, how can we sway the opinion of the majority from an individual standpoint? It almost seems hopeless that we would have to convince a hostile audience in order to gain citizenship. It also makes sense that we would have to gain the favor of the current set of citizens; one idea that leads credence to this theory is the civics test that we have when a foreigner attempts to become naturalized. I do not think it is much of an exaggeration to say that there is a decent chance for current US citizens (by birth) to fail this exam, because of their lack of knowledge of their own country. However, we have people wishing to become citizens take this exam, because it shows their effort at assimilating and appreciating our history. In this way, they attempt to gain favor by being “a US model citizen” even when current citizens do not play that role. At any rate, I believe your concept of “being” helps to explain a significantly lacking area of Shklar’s argument.

  7. Satchel Wells says:

    This was a great post about something that has always resonated with me having Japanese ancestors who were in those camps.

    Your concept of “being” that’s this intangible idea I believe is one of the ideas discussed by our guest speaker, social citizenship. All or at least most of the Japanese who were rounded up were all legal citizens of the United States but those rights were stricken from them because of a lack of trust from the citizens in power/majority. I felt this to be the most crucial part of social citizenship, those in the same social class trust each but not those of other social classes as much as their own.
    Even being born native in the States wasn’t enough to gain the trust of the majority in power. Voting and earning are components of citizenship but they aren’t the only ones, have the trust of your other citizens is just as important and I feel could be a way to describe your concept of “being” better.

  8. pinkfreud96 says:

    Your post is great! I thought it was quite helpful to view “being” a citizen through the lens of how our government has handled that problem. In both cases, of Japanese internment and Anwar al-Awlaki’s extralegal assassination, the U.S. government was making the decision (whether proper, or permitted, or moral, or not) on who qualifies as a citizen. These episodes are of extraordinary importance to us today considering the era we live in: Post-9/11 America.

    Our personal liberties are in more danger now than perhaps they’ve ever been–and within our own lives, we’ve never known anything different. The PATRIOT Act, the NSA’s meta-data program, Bush’s suspension of Habeas Corpus for Gitmo detainees, unaccountable endless drone warfare–these are threats, foreign and domestic, to us citizens. Our government, long ago–and in the examples above–crossed the line between staunch protector and potential abuser. When the intention of our Constitution was violated in the Korematsu decision, or in al-Awlaki’s assassination, or through the passage of the PATRIOT Act, or countless other actions our government has undertaken throughout the decades to wrongfully deprive citizens of their rights, then the entire system has been compromised. Today it’s unnoticeable invasions of personal privacy, just simple tracking of your internet history–tomorrow the government will kick down your door for reading subversive materials online. Yesterday it was two Apache helicopters in Baghdad gunning down Reuters journalists because they looked suspicious (the “Collateral Murder” video)–tomorrow we’ll have the first drone strike to take out a terrorist on U.S. soil. It’s only a matter of time until these nightmares become reality (or something close to it). I don’t say these things to be an alarmist. It’s simply true that when the door to fascism is cracked opened, it becomes nigh impossible to shut it again without massive surrounding events, like wars or revolutions. We have an obligation and a duty to hold our government accountable when it treats any of its citizens as less than. When the government robs one of us of our rights, the rights of each of us become endangered as a consequence. To truly “be” citizens, our government must recognize and more importantly treat us as though we are. Without both parts, “citizenship” is little more than a euphemism for “subjugation”.

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