Citizenship not as simple as it sounds

By Leticia Bennett - Staff Reporter



Citizenship is like a marriage or adoption, a professor said at last week's History Seminar.

Dr. Jennifer Jones, a geography instructor, spoke last week about the history of citizenship. 

History Seminar is a weekly series of presentations on different historical topics of significance.

The word citizen comes from the old french "citeain," coming from the Latin word meaning city. 

"When I was in grade school, part of our grade was good citizenship," said Dr. Jones.

"You had to show that you were a good citizen. That meant you were polite, obeyed the teacher, were neat, and shared crayons."

But being a citizen is more than just hanging up your coat in the cloak room or sharing crayons with your neighbor, she said. 

"A citizen is counted in the census as someone who is distinct from a foreigner," Dr. Jones said, "Citizens pay taxes. Of course, lots of people pay taxes, but a citizen is expected to pay taxes. A citizen serves in the government, either in the military or in some other civic meeting … a citizen supports the country, protects it, and is loyal to it," she said.

People have been debating what it means to be a good citizen for a long time, she said. 

The earliest records from the ancient Sumerians, dating 4,000 years back, contain concepts of citizenship. These concepts included census and military records. 

The ancient Greeks connected the concept of citizenship to belonging to a physical place. 

Today, there are two basic forms of citizenship. 

One of these forms is birthright citizenship, also known as Jus Sanguinis, meaning of the blood. 

Birthright citizenship, "...has to do with who you were born to. Usually older and more homogeneous societies have that. Who your parents were is really important," Dr. Jones said.

One of the second basic forms of citizenship is Jus Solis, meaning that a person automatically becomes a citizen in the country they were born in. 

This type of citizenship is more common in the Americas and other recently established places. 

Most countries in the world do not grant automatic citizenship.

"You get a bundle of rights as a citizen. If you're not a citizen, you can't be on a jury. You cannot get financial aid in certain circumstances. There are things you can't do. You can't run for public office and for certain offices. You can't vote if you're not a citizen. So basic rights and privileges are not granted if you're not a citizen," Dr. Jones said. 

"Being a citizen is like joining the family of a country. [It's] a way of legally binding people together who don't have genetic ties," said Dr. Jones.

There will be no History Seminar next week. The Fall Quarter History Seminar series will start October 4, and be on Wednesdays, and take place in Building 3, room 102, from 1:30 to 2:40 p.m. 

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