Sunday, January 19, 2020

Pre- and Post-Citizens

From Victor Davis Hanson:
Americans cherish their citizenship. Yet they have all but lost it. The erosion of the citizen is insidiously accelerating in two quite different directions. It seems as if we are reverting to tribal pre-citizenship, in the manner of clan allegiances in the centuries before the rise of the Greek polis and the seventh-century-B.C. invention of the concept of the citizen (politês). Or perhaps the better comparison is to the fifth-century A.D., when northern nomadic ethnic bands crossed the Rhine and Danube and replaced the multiracially encompassing notion of “civis Romanus sum”—“I am a Roman citizen”—with tribal loyalties to fellow Goths, Huns, or Vandals. 
In particular, a regression to a state of pre-citizenship can be seen in the conflation of mere residence with legal citizenship. Whether they feel particularly American or not, those who happen to live within the borders of the United States (legally or not) increasingly enjoy almost all the same rights as those Americans who were born here or were naturalized. In addition, multiculturalism is retribalizing America, in the manner of the fragmentation and evaporation of the Roman Empire. Millions seem to owe their first loyalty to those who share similar ethnic, racial, or religious affinities rather than to shared citizenship, common traditions, and collective histories that transcend race, creed, and clan. And the middle class, the classical foundation for citizenship, is also eroding as a medieval society of lords and peasants returns, especially in progressive states like California. 
On the more privileged end, we are paradoxically entering an age of post-citizenship. Our alleged elites, mostly on the two coasts, often prefer to envision themselves as “citizens of the world” and, consequently, see their Americanism as passé. They prefer to respect the authority and reputation of transnational organizations rather than American legislative bodies and jurisprudence. Certainly, the protocols of the European Union earn more respect from many members of our professional classes than does the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. 
Moreover, many of the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights have already been radically curtailed by our current “cancel culture,” which is supported by the demons of social media, the administrative state, the courts, and popular culture. An individual citizen’s right that is legally protected is often practically impossible to enjoy. More formally, there is a concentrated academic, legal, and legislative effort to alter the Constitution, or at least to jettison abruptly decades of American legal and political traditions in the name of equality and at the expense of freedom and liberty.

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