19. September 2010 · Comments Off on Elizabeth Moon on “Citizenship” · Categories: General

My surfing of the information superhighway today led me to a blog post by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Moon. As I began reading her post, I really liked what she was saying about good and bad citizenship, and what is expected of citizens.

The first paragraph drew me in – how could it not? (emphasis mine)

I was on a “Politics in SF” panel at Dragon*Con which once more convinced me that a lot of people should’ve been made to read “The Man Without a Country” a few more times. Though, with the sneering generation (Baby Boomers, starting a year after my unnamed contingent, were spectacularly good sneerers) that probably would not have had the desired effect…my desired effect, at least, which would be to remind people that the person with no loyalty to anything but his/her own pleasure is not a noble hero of individualism, but a pathetic failure as a human being.

Well, I liked it up until the paragraph I quote below… the next few paragraphs after this one also irk me, because she only picks on conservatives and business-people (Pres. Bush & Ken Lay, respectively), without noticing that what she describes cuts across party lines.

The post I’m quoting can be found here: click me. Again, any emphasis is my own.

This nation was founded with an overt appeal to universal rights of mankind–those stated (but not stated to be all) being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But the survival of this nation depended then, and has depended since, on citizens taking responsibility, not just liberty, as one of the rights of mankind. Had the signers of the Declaration been as wedded to personal liberty as the right wing today, there would have been no successful Revolution. For these men, who pledged their “lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to the cause, did not want total freedom for themselves–they did not demand that others bear the burdens so they could ride in the well-sprung coach.

Ummm… I don’t think it’s the right-wing that demands others “bear the burdens so they can ride in the well-sprung coach.” I think it’s the folks who want to do away with the colonial Jamestown edict that he who did not work would not eat. Although again, I’m confident it cuts across all party lines.

They were familiar with, and based their concept of citizenship on, ancient understanding of citizenship–that courage/fortitude, integrity, temperance, sound judgment were all desirable virtues which, if held by all citizens, would knit together a culture otherwise tolerant of diversity. They knew enough of human nature to know that no nation had yet achieved such a citizenry–that it was unlikely to exist in future even with the best possibilities–but they knew it was worth trying for.

She moves on to talk about 9/11, and The Mosque. You know the one – it’s been in all the news, and all the blogs, and all the emails. That Mosque. And her words have aroused a firestorm among certain people, folks who are fans of her books, and would most likely agree with her comments that I quoted above, and the paragraphs that followed after it.

…in order to accept large numbers of immigrants, and maintain any social cohesion, acceptance by the receiving population is not the only requirement: immigrants must be willing and able to change, to merge with the receiving population. (snip)

Whether a group changes its core behaviors and values after immigration or not, it must–to be assimilated later–come to understand the culture into which it has moved. To get along, it must try not to do those things which will, sure as eggs is eggs, create friction, distrust, and dislike. (snip) A group must grasp that if its non-immigrant members somewhere else are causing people a lot of grief (hijacking planes and cruise ships, blowing up embassies, etc.) it is going to have a harder row to hoe for awhile, and it would be prudent (another citizenly virtue) to a) speak out against such things without making excuses for them and b) otherwise avoid doing those things likely to cause offence.

The firestorm was such that she has since deleted the comments and closed comments on the post. But she says things that have been said here, and in other blogs that I read, and on other message boards that I read, and she speaks the truth, no matter how unpalatable that truth may be to those who are now up in arms and ready to boycott her. I’m not quoting the portion everyone took issue with, I’m quoting the portion that we don’t hear often enough.

But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they’ve had. Schools in my area held consciousness-raising sessions for kids about not teasing children in Muslim-defined clothing…but not about not teasing Jewish children or racial minorities. More law enforcement was dedicated to protecting mosques than synagogues–and synagogues are still targeted for vandalism. What I heard, in my area, after 9/11, was not condemnation by local mosques of the attack–but an immediate cry for protection even before anything happened. Our church, and many others (not, obviously all) already had in place a “peace and reconciliation” program that urged us to understand, forgive, pray for, not just innocent Muslims but the attackers themselves. It sponsored a talk by a Muslim from a local mosque–but the talk was all about how wonderful Islam was–totally ignoring the historical roots of Islamic violence.

I can easily imagine how Muslims would react to my excusing the Crusades on the basis of Islamic aggression from 600 to 1000 C.E….(for instance, excusing the building of a church on the site of a mosque in Cordoba after the Reconquista by reminding them of the mosque built on the site of an important early Christian church in Antioch.) So I don’t give that lecture to the innocent Muslims I come in contact with. I would appreciate the same courtesy in return (and don’t get it.) The same with other points of Islam that I find appalling (especially as a free woman) and totally against those basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution…I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom. It would be helpful to have them understand what they’re demanding of me and others–how much more they’re asking than giving. It would be helpful for them to show more understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship in a non-Muslim country.

And then she ruins it all for me with her final line.

(And the same is true for many others, of course. Libertarians, survivalists, Tea-Partyers, fundamentalist Christians, anyone else whose goals benefit only their own group. There’s been a huge decline in the understanding of good citizenship overall.)

Elizabeth Moon. Award-winning author. Texas Native. Former Marine. Statist. *sigh*

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