Citizenship: Passports, visas, and green cards, please?

Ever since I came back from southeast Asia, and slightly from my huge interest in history, I have been interested in democracy and its effect on the world. The book talks about the diffusion of democracy and the hegemonic beginning from the US and UK. The chapter then goes into theorists like Huntington, Fukuyama, and the pair of Bell and Staeheli, who all have different theories about Democracy. Huntington is about phases of democratization, Fukuyama about democracy being the final form of ideological evolution, and Bell/Staeheli discussing procedural and substantive approaches to democratization. Then the book talks about how there was an increasing number of procedural democracies, but not necessarily stable or substantive democracies. I’d like to focus on the Bell/Staeheli and the world’s procedural democracies. What I can compare to, as an example, is the US and post-war Iraq. We have tried instituting procedural democracy in terms of setting up a government that is not only what we believe to be civil, fair, and the universal answer, but is also pushed onto the Iraqis by a nation known for hegemonic ideologies. The Iraqis now have a government that is more open to women and is fairer to the citizens, but it is debatable if this change is substantial or lasting to Iraq. When will it be apparent if the change stays? We will have to wait a while, but it is doubtful if you can change a people’s perspective long enough to convince them to change what they have been doing for many decades.

What is also in the book is a whole section dedicated to formal versus informal citizenship, otherwise known as de facto and de jure respectively. Formal citizenship is the legal extension of citizenship by the state or citizenship in law, while informal is about citizenship in practice or the social processes and mechanisms that discriminate and welcome certain people. Discrimination and acceptance can be based on many things such as gender, social class, ethnic origin, religious affiliation, age, disability, sexuality, and finally place of birth. This links with many of the main ideas from the article by Staeheli about citizenship. Staeheli discusses what it means to be a ‘true’ citizen, which may be founded on ideas of participation, moral behavior, and demonstrating respect and care for others. However, laws from the state can be very determinative in what the formal aspect of citizenship are along with how people are brought up to believe what is acceptable and unacceptable for them. Law is ‘fused with abstract norms and behaviors, relationships, and interactions with life.’ Values of people that inhabit the state begin to filter into politics and law as legitimate and normal ideas for everyone. They may seek to do good for all of the state’s constituents or cause harm or discrimination against certain ideas or groups. The main point is that society shapes what we view as citizenship, both formal and informal, and we also shape the law which influences society.

To give an example of this at work, I used to believe in not giving anyone who illegally entered the US any mercy and having them immediately deported to wherever they came from. However, after making many friends, one from Africa who came over legitimately, and one from Mexico, whose parents came illegally but he was born in the US, I am less staunch about my own position and am in a current state of limbo regarding my view on illegal immigration. I simply don’t want to deport my friends. Society and the individual came together to make my views and remake them.

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One Response to Citizenship: Passports, visas, and green cards, please?

  1. Jake says:

    Interesting aspect to consider…during the US occupation of Iraq (under Bush Jr.), the Iraqis held their own elections that included local community leaders and they did this of their own accord. However, the pentagon official who was running the show in Iraq under the orders of Bush II saw fit to nullify these elections across the board because he and few others (on the other side of the world) didn’t feel that these democratically elected officials were the most ideal candidates for the job. Instead, they put their more US-friendly leaders in power. That was the introduction of US “democracy”…and we wonder why they’re now embroiled in a a civil war. Oh, their constitution was voided as well. Precedents!

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