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Born in the USA, Just Like Me

August 22, 2015

AMENDMENT XIV

Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.

Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I’m no Constitutional scholar, but this looks pretty clear to me, and I like it.

I like the way it prevents us from becoming a nation that it is identified and united by everybody’s being born in one clan (that came into dominance a long time ago). There’s no way we’re going to be eine wahre Volks, in some Aryan Nation fantasy.

We’re a nation identified and united by a set of ideas, articulated in our Constitution and other major documents such as our “Declaration of Independence,” and Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”

It prevents us from having classes of citizenship, with different value placed on higher classes and different privileges allowed to higher classes.

Furthermore, as that implies, and as the amendment goes on to state, we prohibit ourselves from applying our laws differently among our citizens and inhabitants.

And suppose a few people come from Mexico, or other countries in Latin America, or China, or wherever, only in order to give birth so that their child will be an American citizen (which I take to be a compliment—even if the parents’ motives are materialistic), the number will never be large enough to matter. It simply will not affect, and does not threaten, me or my society or culture.

In fact I feel enriched. People come here, with many cultures and languages, but subscribing to our set of common, foundational ideas (and the justice system that puts them into practice) and our corresponding attitudes, their children grow up in the security and freedom that we value so highly, and those parents and children contribute to the dynamism and variety that keeps us awake.

We’re able to be just folks, with a bunch of different culture traits, in our local families, neighborhoods, and larger communities, who are enriched by each other and who come together as the American people when we are called upon to enact or defend our Constitutional identity.

Or at least that’s the Idea, and the ideal. It says that if you and I were born in America (even if you were “born and bred in the briar patch” like our brother, Rabbit), no matter where our parents are from, you and I have a lot of humanity and a lot of future in common—guaranteed. Americans with parents from all over the world, including ancestors who were born here before Europeans knew this place existed, have died for that Idea. I’d say, keep it.

And btw, isn’t there something of the obscene, as well as the sociopathic, in the way some politicians are talking about people, and about something as miraculous and sacred as birth? And for that matter, parenting.

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