steepholm (steepholm) wrote,
steepholm
steepholm

US Citizens (Second Class)

An acquaintance of mine who lives in America and is of the teabag persuasion (his political beliefs are full of holes) has been getting into something of a stew - and not for the first time - about the so-called mystery of President Obama's birth certificate. Now, Obama's place of birth is a matter of complete indifference to me, but I do understand that the US Constitution declares that you must have been born a citizen in order to hold the office of president. My friend's conspiracy theories - or his expression of them, which makes it sound as if being born outside the US is tantamount to being a traitor - have reminded me again how odd that particular provision is. Like the business of bearing arms, this strikes me as one of those items that was understandable at the time it was written down, but has become indefensible since. Because, let's face it, it means that there are two classes of US citizens: those who can be trusted with executive power, and those who can't, by reason of their birth. No other class of American is excluded except the young,* who presumably won't stay young for ever, whereas being born a non-citizen is a stigma that bars you for life, no matter how exemplary that life may be. I'm not aware of any other country that has this kind of provision.

Oddly enough, the ban doesn't seem (as far as I can see) to be a particular bone of contention in the States itself, and I wonder why not? Is it just because relatively few adults want to become President? I'd have thought that, especially now, when immigration into the States is largely by non-WASPs, there would be a case for saying that the provision is effectively racist, aside from being just plain unfair.

There is a way around the sanction, though. I harbour a fantasy that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be able to run for president despite his Austrian birth by the simple expedient of getting himself sent back in time to 1787 so that he fulfils the alternative criterion of being a US citizen "at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution". Actually, I'm surprised he hasn't already done it.

* There may be others - convicts, perhaps? - but none seems to be mentioned in the Constitution.
Tags: maunderings
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