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Cheap citizenship weakens America

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Dear Editor:

Amid the immigration debate wrapped around the threat to national security, absent is the consideration of a more dire threat -- the declining role of responsible citizenship and its weakening of our country. Citizenship means little to most Americans because it's too cheap. How do most Americans "earn" their citizenship? Simply by being born here! In other words, we have done absolutely nothing to earn the privileges of citizenship other than having been lucky not to be born somewhere else. What must a citizen do to maintain his citizenship? Nothing. It's free. When something is free, it's valued little.

Cheap citizenship is devaluing our nation. Because citizenship is cheap, the responsibilities of citizenship are not only not valued, but often shirked. Voter participation in presidential elections is typically 50 percent, at most 60 percent. Turnout for other elections is much lower. One responsibility of citizenship is to pay taxes. We may not like it -- most "responsibilities" aren't pleasant. But how many "citizens" do everything they can to avoid paying taxes, whether by inflating deductions, accepting cash to avoid reporting income, or a myriad of drummed up schemes? We are self-enamored by the appearance of fervent patriotism and support of our military. Yet we have a "volunteer" military that doesn't represent our population or demand sharing of service/sacrifice from the citizenship. If asked to pay more taxes to support our wars or provide for our servicemen and veterans, no way. Don't expect us to sacrifice! Put it on the national credit card. Let future Americans pay, but not us! Or worse, underfund it on purpose.

It's deplorable that we need charities like Wounded Warrior because our government (that's us) isn't willing (shirks responsibility) to pay for the sacrifices of our soldiers. But we sing the national anthem before NFL contests and feel patriotic. Because it costs nothing. We send our military into danger and war, as long as it costs "us" nothing. We say "thank you for your service" -- it costs nothing. I served for 30 years, volunteering during the Vietnam draft era. I don't expect any thank you's. Service is selfless. I expect responsible citizenship from the country I served. Citizenship is valuable. Require that it be EARNED. Serve the country for a year or two in some way, pass a citizenship test, then be granted citizenship on your 21st birthday. If you don't vote, you lose it. If you cheat on your taxes, you lose it. If we need to fight a war, demand some shared sacrifice by requiring Congress raise taxes to pay for it. That will make us think twice before wasting fiscal and human treasure unnecessarily. Put responsible citizenship back into what it means to be an American.

Brian Wegner

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