I’ve been offered many definitions of citizenship in recent years, ranging from the philanthropist to the critical thinker, from internationalism to fierce patriotism. We are taught to link responsibility and citizenship as Americans, as though our residing within these borders demanded a response and ability to the idea of nationhood. After all, our history teachers likely nursed us on JFK’s inaugural address asking “what you can do for your country.”
But I will dare to disagree with one of my favorite historical figures and say responsible citizenship is not simply a pattern of rituals and duties but the interdependence of individual and community created by choice. We do not have a single citizenship but many; we do not have an artificial obligation to a political system but rather organic needs and talents to employ in the societies of which we are a part.
To illustrate this idea, I must refer to my experience studying abroad in Spain. Spaniards are disillusioned with their government, yet rarely question each other’s’ Spanish-ness – feeling all in the boat together (with a few notable exceptions). For the annual Holy Week festival, entire cities join in a common craft of parades, fine arts and the Catholic canon to produce a shared tradition. Rather than nativity scenes for sacred Christmas decorations, Spaniards build elaborate models of Bethlehem, turning their towns into living replicas. Sports have the same shared appreciation.
Therefore I claim responsible citizenship is interdependence, the symphony made when many people play their songs as one.
-Pearce Edwards, TCU Student