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Mutt & Jeff: I pledge allegiance to…?

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I definitely agree with Nicole Toussaint’s column in the Sept. 20-26 Sopris Sun in which she lamented the fact that large numbers of Americans “are deeply uninformed” when it comes to understanding the issues we are called to vote on.

However, at the same time, I don’t know how anyone — even an accountant — can understand the convoluted mess that is Amendment 73 on the Colorado ballot to change the funding procedures for public schools.

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Having complained about that, let me go on to a more pressing concern. To vote legitimately, one must have some understanding of the workings of our system of law and government. For example, to become a naturalized citizen applicants must pass a test on basic government function, history and philosophy of the United States. This paper’s editor, Will Grandbois, desires these columns to have a local flavor if at all possible. In that spirit I must bow to the well-known adage that “all politics are local.”                                                                                                                             

I digress momentarily to a television scenario I viewed recently. It was about the involvement of Mike Tomlin, the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, with a humanitarian organization working virtually world wide to stop the for-profit kidnapping and enslavement  of literally thousands of children. One of that organization’s rescuers described a situation in which a pregnant woman from Haiti gave birth to a child while temporarily in the U.S. receiving aid from this group, and that this child was, therefore, a citizen of the U.S.

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This brings me to the point of this column. This man was doing a wonderful thing but at the same time was ignorant of the false basis for believing the baby was automatically a citizen. He isn’t alone — most of us suffer under the same erroneous assumption — which has led to the present political tempest known as the Dreamer Act and also the anchor baby situation.

Prior to giving a critique of this assumption, I want to assert that I have great respect for many of the qualities that recent immigrants to our country bring. Most are hard-working and honest, probably moreso than those of us who have been here a few generations. Bottom line: They are made in the image of God just like anyone else. The problem that arises originated over two hundred years ago when our American forefathers concluded that “Lex Rex,” that Law Is King, not King George III, is our guiding principle.

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So what was the intent of the law enshrined in our 14th Amendment, which in 1868 established a definition of citizenship? “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

The phrase “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” does not mean simply that they must obey our laws. Senator Jacob Howard of Ohio, the author of the citizenship clause argued that it meant to owe exclusive political allegiance to the nation. Senator Howard used the American Indian as an example: He maintained that they were not automatically citizens. Why? Because their allegiance was to their tribes, not to the U.S. and, therefore, they were not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. In 1923 there was a universal offer to all tribes that any Indian who consented could become an American citizen. Today, most congressmen and undoubtedly most Americans are unfamiliar with this half of this formula — the half that requires this country to offer and confer citizenship to anyone who passes the test and pledges their allegiance solely to this country.

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Imagine if Kim Jong Un, if he has a wife and she delivered a baby while in this country on a diplomatic mission, would that baby be an American citizen? Incidentally, this concept should apply also to dual citizenship. I have an adopted son whose biological mother was a Canadian.  He applied for and received Canadian citizenship. Is his political allegiance exclusively to the U.S. or to Canada?

Finally, and most importantly, we should be aware, if it were taught in our schools, that a constitutional democratic republic such as ours, as history has shown, can only exist in the form of a nation-state with not only defined physical boundaries but boundaries of rights and responsibilities of allegiance. Perhaps some might disagree and argue that the nation we withdrew from, England, was and still is a nation-state. True — but they were a monarchy at the time, not a republic, and its people were subjects, not citizens with any right to vote.  If we neglect or distort the standards handed down to us we will see the demise of constitutional democracy.

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Paige Meredith alternates this monthly column with fellow conservative Stan Badgett.