I ate dinner with my boyfriend and his family. Mike, my boyfriend’s dad, is a very kind man that doesn’t talk often but when he does, he always has something valuable to share. He is a mechanic. Monique, my boyfriend’s mom, is originally from the Netherlands and moved to the United States about thirty years ago. She works at a coffee shop and enjoys cooking. She insisted that she make the meal and that I was not allowed to bring anything. Kalina is my boyfriend’s older sister. She also works at a coffee shop. She is very outgoing and enjoys laughing with others. My boyfriend, Robbie, is fairly quiet. He likes making up stories and trying to get people to believe them. Their family moved to Kentucky three years ago from California. I have met Robbie’s family once before, but this was my first time having a real conversation with Mike. I was excited to use this project as an excuse to get to know them more.
The first question we discussed was “What does citizenship mean to you?” This was when I learned that Monique is not a citizen of the United States. Monique was born and raised in the Netherlands. She speaks four different languages. When she moved to the United States, she acquired a green card. Before answering the question, I asked her if she had considered becoming a United States citizen. She said that she had definitely thought about it. The rules for citizenship have changed a lot in the past ten years. The United States is very strict about how one can go about attaining citizenship. She would most likely not be granted dual citizenship and would have to give up her citizenship in the Netherlands. Monique is not willing to give that up and is planning on continuing to live with a green card. She does pay taxes and feel that she is a part of her community just like everyone else. Kalina feels that part of being a citizen is being a good person. She gave the example that if you see a guy beating up his girlfriend, you are obligated to call the police. She feels that looking out for each other is an important part of being a citizen. Mike had another view. He believes that the definition of citizen has been warped since the government has become what he called “corporate.” He believes that instead of the government benefitting the people, the people are working so that the government can get more in debt and less out of debt. The people don’t own anything themselves anymore; the government owns everything.
We continued to the question “Does your religious background affect how you think we should treat each other?” Everyone at the table agreed. Monique elaborated more. She said that growing up as a Christian helped her learn that we need to take care of those in need. We are not to overlook those that need help. Mike added that it was once the churches’ job to take care of the needy, but the government usurped control of that job. He believes that job is done much better when private organizations are in charge. Robbie tried to steer the conversation back on track to remind everyone that we weren’t talking about welfare, but about helping the community as a whole. Robbie agreed that we all have a moral duty as citizens to help each other.
Through this dinner I learned that caring for others is very important to other people than just my family. Although religious backgrounds did affect their beliefs, this can be applied to many different, diverse groups of people. Having a religious background in this situation is not a bad thing, it’s very positive. I also learned that there are very negative views of the government out there, but people are sitting on those views and doing nothing about them. It was very interesting to hear from Monique since she has experienced life in the Netherlands and in the United States. Her outlook gave the dinner something that my family dinner couldn’t have had.
This relates to the overall importance of citizenship and being a good citizen. Like Kalina mentioned, it is important for citizens to look out for each other. It shows that we care about our neighbors, our community, our country, and even our world. It implies an unwritten duty that is higher than the laws and regulations. As seen by Monique, citizenship also doesn’t just apply to just citizens. It applies to everyone living in the United States. Somewhere in time, we decided that we have the moral obligation to care about someone other than ourselves, and that it is our duty to improve the world around us. That is being a good citizen.