So, I was thinking about citizenship today, what with voting coming up and all.
And that got me thinking about my time in Boy Scouts, specifically the three merit badges that deal with citizenship (Citizenship in the Nation, in the Community, and in the Nation, and in the World).
None of which I earned while I was old enough to vote, which I think this is a good lesson for us. Voting is a right of citizenship, but not necessarily an obligation, which is how it gets portrayed. It is, least of all, our highest or only obligation as citizens.
Children and felons have as many obligations as citizens as citizens eligible to vote. In fact, even de facto citizens (businesses, resident aliens, etc.), have responsibilities to their adopted homes.
And so, here are some thoughts on some of our responsibilities as citizens based on the Scout Law:
1. Trustworthy: Obey the laws of your community, even when you’re not going to get caught breaking them. If you’re in a position of responsibility, don’t spread (even unintentionally) our state secrets to our enemies. If you’re in a journalist, report the news impartially and honestly. In any job you have, don’t steal time or money.
2. Loyal: Love your country for its best parts and work to change its worst. Honor our flag and our institutions for their promises of liberty, including those yet-unfulfilled. If you’re a soldier, fight bravely. If you’re drafted, serve willingly. If our country taxes you, don’t renounce your citizenship or try to hide your money overseas.
3. Helpful: Help your neighbors when they’re in need. Mow someone’s grass when they’re on vacation. Hold doors open for people. Look for opportunities to serve. Find your talents and share them.
4. Friendly: Treat people with respect, even if you disagree with their beliefs, way of life, or background. Get to know your neighbors and their kids. Join neighborhood clubs and organizations.
5. Courteous: Say please and thank you. Keep your voice down in public. Don’t park in handicapped spots. Push your carts into the cart corrals at stores after you load your car. Pay attention for other people and make sure you don’t unintentionally make their lives harder through your poor behavior.
6. Kind: Be thankful for your blessings. Understand that not everybody has had those same blessings. Volunteer at homeless shelters, food pantries, and literacy programs. Tutor someone.
7. Obedient: Obey your parents, even when you’re not a kid. Obey your spouse, your religion, and your nation’s laws. (Take this with the usual caveats.)
8. Cheerful: You live in the freest, most prosperous country in the world. People of all backgrounds have found success where you live in any field they’ve chosen to work in, although often times overcoming unfair obstacles. Be happy that you’ve been blessed to live in the USA.
9. Thrifty: Don’t waste resources (gas, water, electricity). Save money to protect yourself from bad times. Save money even when you’d rather buy yourself something nice. Take care of your clothes, your toys, and the rest of your stuff. Learn how to fix things around your home. Try not to spend money on things when you can’t pay it back.
10. Brave: Be willing to fail at new things until you get better at them. Understand that who you are right now is not who you have to be five minutes from now, as long as you are willing to try, to learn, and to fail sometimes. Try hard at school to learn new things, and try hard at work to get better at your job. Apply for promotions and leadership programs. Stand up to racism, sexism, and bigotry when they appear, but be as courteous and kind as you can be when you do.
11. Clean: Keep your home and personal appearance neat. Don’t spread diseases to your neighbors through unsafe activity. Stay faithful to your spouse and keep yourself chaste before and after marriage. Don’t poison your body with alcohol, sex, or drugs.
12. Reverent: Say thank you to God once in a while. Remember that there is something much, much bigger than you can understand that cares for you and that has certain expectations for you that you should try to meet. Treat matters of faith with more respect than you do other areas of life.

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