I am an American. And because America is largely a nation of immigrants, I am also, like the majority of you, something else. And when I became a citizen of the United States, I swore to uphold and protect the Constitution and the laws of this nation. I, like many who came to this country from distant lands generations ago, to the recently naturalized citizen, embrace my sense of belonging to this country and the democratic merits for which it stands by living and endorsing the fundamental foundational patriotic principles incorporated in America’s constitutional values. In those values are– participation, deliberation, fairness, equality, dissent, accountability, liberty, and the common good.
Recently in the heated debates over political policy, I found that many of the immigrants who are also “something else” easily forget that to be an American patriot is to participate and uphold those same values that are entrusted to us in the constitution.
There are countless ways that define a person who claims to be a patriot. And I DON’T mean hanging The Stars and Stripes from storefronts or gates at rodeos or seeing her fly high in used car lots. I don’t mean flaunting the Red White and Blue on blue jean “derriere” pockets or having her adorn men and women’s underwear. I don’t mean plastering The Star-Spangled Banner on plumbers and AC equipment trucks or having her flap away on the bed of huge pickup trucks barreling down highways and freeways. I don’t mean using her as a piece of cloth we wear to mask our faces, or to absorb the sweat off our brow as bandanas or caps. I’m not referring to any of these uses as symbols of patriotism which in all honesty have nothing to do with the honor and respect owed those who died for Old Glory when they pledged their allegiance to insure your life, your liberty, your property and justice for all.
To be a patriot isn’t just standing for the National Anthem and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. These are obvious ones. But the most beneficial acts of patriotism are those that make the country stronger through your participation and accountability toward the common good. A few of these important givens include participating and registering to vote and voting in elections; volunteering for community service or running for elected government office; serving on juries; obeying all laws and paying taxes; and understanding the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities contained in the U.S. Constitution. Out of all of these acts of patriotism, the only mandatory constitutional duty of a citizen is to serve on juries.
Many of you naturalized “something else” associates speak of your rights allowed you by the Constitution. You speak of the wondrous opportunities granted you within the 50 or more years of being naturalized into the framework of the country. You speak of life and the right to protect it. You speak of liberty and defend your freedom. You speak of your property/ies in your pursuit of happiness and guard them as your entitlement. You speak of patriotism. You speak of being proud Americans. Yet when it comes to the one mandatory constitutional duty of every citizen, to serve on juries, you shrink from the responsibility and make arguments by any means necessary to be excused from this highest position of power in a courtroom. Jurors, not judges, determine whether the government has proven its charge against a defendant; jurors, not judges, determine whether a party seeking damages deserves an award. Yet every week, I see people strive by any means necessary to be excused from exercising this authority. Avoiding jury duty undermines the very core component in guaranteeing constitutional rights for everyone.
Every day there are people who wake up and put the flag on their arm to serve others for life, liberty and property and they do so to serve the people like you and me whom they do not know. I am sure there are times when they do not want to do what they are called to do, but they do it because it is a duty that they have sworn to and they do it with pride and honor. Every now and then you as the average citizen has to get up to do his or her duty. Most of you fought hard to be a citizen of this country so when called to duty, it is your responsibility to step up and have your voice heard as a juror because only in America is an ordinary citizen given the dutiful opportunity to consider the evidence presented, to apply the governing law, and to deliberate in good faith to render a just verdict. And when you leave the courthouse, regardless of the outcome or verdict, you will probably have a renewed faith in the system because you were part of it. That’s what makes America great. We the people.