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Are you proud to be an American these days? Some Americans consider moving out, renouncing their citizenship, seceding, or not voting, in protest. This is what we call symbolic protest.

The positive value of symbolic protest, beyond the self-expression of the individual, is hard to measure. But the impact on the vote is easy to figure: one Democratic vote lost equals one Republican vote gained. I'd like to focus on an analogous group of protesters. Most of us know people in this group, I'm guessing. And they may be more open to rational argument than the non-voters above.

I have in mind those who are eligible for citizenship but are not busy becoming citizens. More...

Now, I know for a fact that there are green-card holders who simply have not put two and two together in terms of voting. These are the ones who receive a voter registration application in the mail and fondle it gently before putting it in the recycling bin with a sigh: "Alas, I'm not a citizen.". Some of them may later have a Roy Lichtensteinesque moment when they lean their heads against the wall, close their eyes, and, fist to forehead, exclaim: "I can't believe  I forgot to become a citizen." This is all well and good, provided that moment comes real soon. It can take more than six months to become a citizen.  This group needs no convincing, just a reminder.

But then there are those people truly analogous to the protesting Americans, above. They don't want to become American citizens. Who can blame them, really? Well, I can, for one. Unlike the rest of the world, they can actually help do something to change this country back to what it wants to be. And I damn well will blame them and all other non-voters (who don't have a sufficiently good excuse), if we don't see plenty of that change when we have the chance. We do not have the luxury of symbolic protests that cost votes, anymore.

There are perks to just doing it already other than helping to re-claim America:
1.    Lower risk of detention and deportation;
2.    The questions on the citizenship test are only getting harder. Well, the questions stay the same, but answering them is increasingly difficult: How many branches are there in our government? Who selects the Supreme Court Justices? What is the legislative branch of our government?

Yup. I should have taken that test a few years ago...

(This is a revised version of a diary I posted a number of days ago.)

Originally posted to trykindness on Mon Apr 03, 2006 at 07:39 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  As someone in the US on a green card (4+ / 0-)

    I find your diary strange to say the least. Loads of assumptions and  little fact. How do you know the though processes that a non-citizen goes through? Even if you are partially correct the generalizations made are strange.

    You imply that permanent residents who are not citizens are a pretty stupid bunch who need to be reminded about going after citizenship. Let me straighten you out a little, if someone already has a green card they have usually already made the US their home. One of the things fundamental to a persons being is their legal status as a human being, it is not something that we forget about like we might forget to put a dvd in the mail to return to Netflix.

    Suggestion - go talk to some of your target audience.

    'Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it'. - GBS

    by stevej on Mon Apr 03, 2006 at 07:56:20 AM PDT

    •  err...I am a member of my target audience (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Did you read the whole diary?

      Look, if you have to actually give up your native citizenship to become a citizen (rather than just symbolically renouncing it in the process), that might be a good enough reason not to become an American citizen. The rules are different for different nations. (I leave open the possibility that there are good enough reasons for not becoming citizens, in the diary.)

      For some of us non-citizens, dual citizenship is possible.

      And, no, we don't forget what our citizenship status is. You are right, and the joke should perhaps have been worded differently:

      "Damn, I forgot I could have dual citizenship!" Some of us do forget this in the sense that we forget to act on this in time for elections! Is this stupid? I don't think so. And  I wasn't suggesting that. If you think it's stupid, you are the one calling this non-citizen (me) stupid. (Which is fine, but not really productive.)


      "Damn, I forgot that I changed my mind on the value of symbolic protest!"


      Finally, I am of course not basing this whole diary on my own, current, non-citizenship. The holier-than-thou-you-American attitude is common, in my experience.

      •  by the way... (0+ / 0-)

        I'm sorry about the "Did you not read the whole diary?" comment. I was frustrated, and responded in a knee-jerk kind of way. Again, I'm sorry. There is too much to read and know, and we tend to fetischize a very broad but shallow familiarity with stuff. Thanks for your thoughts.

    •  And there are all kinds of reasons... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...for deciding to become or not to become a citizen.  Most have nothing to do with voting.  For instance, only a citizen, not a permanent resident, can petition for green cards for one's parents.  A U.S. passport allows you to travel to many places without a visa that passports of many other countries don't.

      There are also factors to the contrary that sometimes motivate against acquiring U.S. citizenship.  For instance, some countries will yank your citizenship if they find out you have naturalized elsewhere.  There are sometimes considerations of property ownership that are tied up with this -- some countries prohibit citizens of foreign countries from owning property, and if your mother and your brothers and sisters are living in an apartment that you own, and you lose your citizenship, they may not have a place to live.

      Voting is a consideration for some, but oftentimes, family considerations take preeminence (as, after all, they should, no?)

      The last time people listened to a talking bush, they wandered 40 years in the desert.

      by DC Pol Sci on Mon Apr 03, 2006 at 08:38:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  you are absolutely right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        people may have very good reasons, sufficient reason, not to become citizens, and I meant to make this clear:

        And I damn well will blame them and all other non-voters (who don't have a sufficiently good excuse), if we don't see plenty of that change when we have the chance.

        I meant to be addressing the non-citizens who don't have a sufficiently good excuse. In particular, I meant to be addressing non-citizens like myself who resist becoming citizens for the same or similar reasons some citizens want to give up their status.

    •  question (0+ / 0-)

      I'm not sure what point you were making when you said that someone who already has a green card (i.e., someone who is potentially eligible for citizenship) has usually already made the U.S. their home. I'm not making an argumentative point here, just trying to see what yours is with that claim.

  •  part of what pushed me to write this diary (0+ / 0-)

    Darksyde on a Lichtenstein moment, calling on people  to register to vote:

    most [DKos readers] are [registered], I would guess. But there's about half a million people who read DK each weekday who aren't even registered at Dkos. Never hurts to help get out the vote.
    Just FYI: I wasn't registered to vote having moved to Florida until I saw a link on a website just a couple of months before the Presidential election, and it jogged my memory to register, and stop putting it off. I can't imagine I'm the only one then, or now.

    And I know I'm not the only one who has been putting off becoming a citizen for insufficiently good reasons.

  •  Symbolic protest (0+ / 0-)

    I have to take issue with your assessment of what you term "symbolic protests".

    I have left the US after fighting against the Iraq invasion, the vote stealing machines, and the fascist take over in general.

    Though I still troll (as in search) the internet activist sites and blogs for news and actions that I can take part in, my mental health has improved considerably since moving to Montreal. So that's a personal win, and one that keeps me engaged.

    I am still fighting the fight, only from the outside. I still contribute money and vote absentee in elections every two years (which I never did in the US). One can leave and still do more than most in the US do.

    But most important; I am not paying into the empire's war machine! Foreign income is excluded from US income tax up to $80,000. This is hardly symbolic, this has a concrete measurable effect! All the activists in the US that I know are still paying their taxes. What are they doing that has a bigger effect than what I am doing? As Alexander Haig said to Nixion, "Let them protest, as long as they keep paying their taxes."

    Less measurable is the fact that I am an engineer who is no longer contributing to the pursuit of empire in any way. My intellect is not being harnessed to further its aims. Many PhDs like me have left the US, or are have stopped coming to the US in the first place. A brain drain is not insignificant, just check out Germany in the 1930s (not that I compare myself to Einstein, Planck, Heisenberg, etc.) The Axis powers lost the benefit of their considerable brain power, which was the Allies' gain.

    •  thanks for your interesting comments (0+ / 0-)

      Just to be clear: I do think some people have good reasons not to remain/become citizens.

      What ties do you have to the US, currently? You are still a citizen, right? So you still get to vote? So, are still planning on voting? If so, my beef in this diary is not with you under any circumstances, even if your reasons for moving were based on pure hubris, which it seems they were not.

      Say a little bit more about what you take the tangible consequence of the loss of your tax dollars to be. Less money for evil or less money for good? I admittedly have not thought very much about this line of argument, but it seems that this is symbolic at best and potentially pretty counter-productive. What, after all, is the goal? That you not contribute directly to the evil or that there be less of it (or at least not more of it)?

      Same goes for the brain-drain argument. What is the goal of this kind of brain-drain protest? To render the US as Germany was, after WWII?

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