Are You a Citizen or a Subject?

(This was originally written as a column for the Star-Exponent Newspaper)

It’s a good question. Most people probably would consider themselves a citizen, we’re Americans after all, not subjects of a crown.

But what’s the difference?

Simply, citizens have rights—subjects have privileges.  A citizen is free. A subject lives at the pleasure of the sovereign.

But being a citizen implies an element of respect from the government. Citizens, we are told, are ultimately in control in our constitutional republic.

Subjects are to take orders.

Fundamentally the thing that made the country so unique in the world is that we were (and hopefully still are) a nation of citizens.

However the line between being a citizen of the United States and a subject of the state is becoming increasingly blurry these days.

Not long ago, before September 11th,  the government needed to get a warrant from a judge to tap a phone or to monitor other correspondence. Today warantless wire tapping goes on all the time.

Now comes word that the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which outlawed the use of State Department propaganda aimed at US residents will soon be all but overturned by Congress.

At least the new legislation allowing the government to officially indoctrinate Americans is a bipartisan effort sponsored by both a Republican and a Democrat. Good to see that when the chips are down congress can come together and get something done.

Also something else to look forward to, the FAA estimates that 30,000 drones will be in the skies over the United States by 2020. That’s right 30,000. Soon there will very few places one will be able go without the government watching one potentially.

Those who are familiar with drones know that they are a weapon of terror, we use them to terrorize terrorists all over the world. Why would we use such tools on our own people? Is our fear of attack so deep that we cannot live without being monitored on our evening walk?

Of course there’s also the TSA which has the license to molest anyone who flies on a commercial airliner.

Notice I said anyone who flies “commercial.” Those who fly on private jets don’t have to run the grope and radiation gauntlet. I wonder why this is? I guess it’s completely impossible that a terrorist could get a hold of a private jet.

Incidentally the odds of an American dying at the hands of a terrorist has been pegged at about 1 in 30,000,000. These are about the same odds one has of getting cancer from one dose of radiation from an airport strip scanner.

There are of course many other examples of abuse at the hands of the government. Let’s not forget the drug war, which is basically a war on the American people.

So I ask again. Are you a citizen or a subject?

I believe that citizens would not stand for such treatment, and yet Americans have not risen up in defiance. (Yet.)

Subjects on the other hand simply accept such indignities and go on with their lives happy in the knowledge that though they might not be free, there is probably something pretty good on TV tonight. Sadly I see more of this than active citizenship.

And what is freedom anyway? What a hassle. I’m already a debt slave to the bank, why not be a subject of the state too? What do I have to lose? My freedom? I lost that long ago anyway. Why rock the boat? Just go along.

This seems very un-American to me. A lot of people lost their lives to make sure average everyday people could walk with their heads held high. It would be sad if this generation was the one that let this ideal, the ideal of American citizenship, die.