8.06.2006

loyalty

Yesterday I noted that some Canadians have been complaining about Canada's recognition of dual citizenship. This seems to have surfaced in connection with Canada's evacuation of its citizens in Lebanon. These bigoted rumblings, which only recently came to my attention, question the loyalty of dual citizens, and call on Canada to force immigrants to choose between their country of birth and their chosen country. (For a capsule version of the issues, see this essay, along with the comments that follow.)

In comments here yesterday, Impudent Strumpet said:
As for the dual citizenship thing, I find it odd that people are so focused about whether dual citizens are "loyal" to Canada, when in my own life as a Canadian-born Canadian citizen the fact of my loyalty or lack thereof has never come up. It might be because I'm young and sheltered, but I've never been in a situation where, if I had been loyal to another country over Canada, it would have made any difference to anything. I may well be only using Canada for convenience too, I've never actually had to think about it.
I thought this was great, and it really made me think. What exactly does it mean to be loyal to a country? And if we can define it, would be it be a good and desirable thing?

Does loyalty mean "My country right or wrong"? We've seen what that attitude leads to. I've been accused of disloyalty to the US, since I chose to leave. I suppose I have been disloyal - because the US has been disloyal to its own ideals.

That's really the crux, I think: we should be loyal to ideals, to values, and we should support whoever supports those values. When our country lives up to the values we admire, or at least strives to, we support it. When it turns its back on them - when it chooses authoritarianism over democracy, empire over self-determination, conformity over personal liberty, selfishness over community - we have to speak up. Dissent is not disloyalty.

However, if dissent is consistently ignored, and the country continues to march to a dangerous beat, disloyalty may be the right thing to do. Imagine, once upon a time, if a few million Germans had been a little more disloyal.

In this sense, loyalty is the wrong word entirely. When a person flees their country because it has been taken over by a dictator, are they being disloyal to their country? The country they love and value no longer exists. They can either be loyal to the dictator, or if they're lucky, get out. Immigrants who have escaped fascist regimes all say the same thing: I love my country, but the country I love no longer exists.

How are people who are citizens of only one country more loyal than dual citizens? In our average, daily lives, how are any of us loyal to our country? By paying taxes? Dual citizens do that, of course - as do non-citizen residents such as myself. There must be something more than that, no?

If Canadian dual citizens live and work outside of Canada, then they don't pay Canadian taxes - but then, they don't use Canadian services, either. How, then, are they "freeloading"? (Freeloading being one of the charges leveled against dual citizens. Click at your own risk - it's pretty disgusting.)

Are the Canadians opposing dual citizenship imagining a scenario where the country of birth wages war against Canada, and the dual citizen must choose which side to support? Seems a bit far-fetched, in today's world. Even so, history shows that country of choice will usually win over country of birth. It was usually chosen because it's a better place to live.

So (as I said yesterday in comments), assuming none of us are terrorists planning to blow up a building in Ottawa, how could any of us be loyal or disloyal to Canada?

13 comments:

James said...

One thing about the entire premise of "loyalty to a country" that bothers me is the implicit idea that the country is the important thing; citizens are just there to serve its needs.

As far as I'm concerned, the only extent anyone should have loyalty is to one's fellow citizens, not the country itself. And that doesn't mean "right or wrong", either -- that means not betraying their trust, but also expecting them not to betray yours.

As for the "two masters" argument, you might as well argue how someone can "serve" both the province and the country. Of course, that's exactly where separatists come from.

L-girl said...

the implicit idea that the country is the important thing; citizens are just there to serve its needs.

Right. All hail. Very fascist.

As for the "two masters" argument, you might as well argue how someone can "serve" both the province and the country. Of course, that's exactly where separatists come from.

In fact, one of the commenters on that CBC essay says "separation is the only answer".

I can't figure how the country - any country - is my master. We are what makes up the country. Without people, there is no Canada.

Klite said...

1. for the americans, not every american is required to fill out an IRS form is they live abroad. i am anglo american and i was never required to fill in American IRS whilst working in Canada. My father is a british resident, but not british citizen. he is american born and is never required to fil out IRS.
2. dual nationality is useful for children of mixed nationality. my children will be anglo-malaysian. the british will recognise dual citizenshp even if malaysia won't. but malaysia will not deny my children the right to citizenship.
Children can then decide which country they want to go for. however they will always lead a "dual" life since they will have two sets of heritage.most of my family are in theis situation and it has never been an issue.
3 i think all of this has arisen when people sudddenly become afraid of their neighbours when terrorism raises it ugly head. people look for scapegoats for their fears.
4 i think the comment that maybe if a few million germans had been disloyal, history would have been different was a bit mean.Most germans were either blind to the situation or afraid for their lives to be disloyal. my grandmothers family spent that period in question in fear of who would kill them first. their own countrymen or the "enemy" at the time.
anyway good post

L-girl said...

for the americans, not every american is required to fill out an IRS form is they live abroad.

Not sure what you're responding to here, but American citizens living abroad are required to file with the IRS. They're not taxed twice - there's a credit for taxes paid in the country of residence.

i think the comment that maybe if a few million germans had been disloyal, history would have been different was a bit mean. Most germans were either blind to the situation or afraid for their lives to be disloyal.

Mean or not, it's true. Hitler didn't do it by himself, did he? He had lots of eager and willing help from ordinary Germans, Austrians, Poles, French, etc. It's been shown time and again (this book, for example). Anti-Semitism ran very deep in Europe, it had been a tradition for centuries, and it wasn't very hard to tap into.

I'm not saying all Germans were Nazis (I'm not accusing your grandmother's family of anything!) but the Holocaust and Hitler's empire wouldn't have been so successful without a lot of ready help.

The same holds for all other genocides as well. Rwanda would probably be the most recent example.

L-girl said...

Hey, KLite, I just realized I don't have a link to you. I'll put one up right now.

Lone Primate said...

Something that needs to be brought up immediately whenever such subjects raise their heads is that the vast majority of Canadians in Lebanon were not screeching for Canada to come rescue them. Ottawa finally raised its head, looked around and wondered if it had any responsibilities abroad, and when it realized it did, sent out the ships. In truth, they sent them out for the "real" Canadians -- the ones born and raised here, or at least only in Lebanon temporarily. To the country's credit, it rose above that sentiment and rightly made no distinction whatsoever -- as it must, because in law, none exists.

Has anyone noticed, though, how the same people are quick to claim, "Oh, William Shatner, he's Canadian!" Yeah, and Neil Young, and Mike Meyers, Mary Pickford, your Uncle Gus who moved to Chicago in '64, your sister and brother-in-law who've been in Nice since 1987, and millions of others who will never be back except for funerals and vacations... Yeah, they're all Canadians, but not those bloodsuckers over in Lebanon. They're just Canadian to make dupes of us.

Disgusting double-standards.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Very interesting post. I recently heard the quote "why should our loyalty be to the nation-state," and I've been asking it to anyone who will listen for a couple of weeks now. So far, no one's had a good answer, or even a crappy one.

Greetings from another American by birth, Canadian by choice (that's my blog's tagline, actually!) who knows Matt Bin!

L-girl said...

Has anyone noticed, though, how the same people are quick to claim, "Oh, William Shatner, he's Canadian!" . . . . Disgusting double-standards.

Lone Primate, this is an excellent point (as usual) and one I hadn't thought of. Geez, Canadians claim everyone and everything as Canadians, no matter how flimsy or tortured the logic.

Winnie The Pooh and Saul Bellow are my favourite examples of that - one British and one American. (PLEASE anyone, do not explain to me the connection, I know it and think it's ridiculous.)

This little double-standard points out what's really behind the "freelaoding" comments: xenophobia, scapegoating, bigotry.

L-girl said...

I recently heard the quote "why should our loyalty be to the nation-state," and I've been asking it to anyone who will listen for a couple of weeks now. So far, no one's had a good answer, or even a crappy one.

Interesting! Let's keep asking, and keept meditating on this idea.

Greetings from another American by birth, Canadian by choice (that's my blog's tagline, actually!)

!!!! That's amazing. Not that I thought it was such an original idea, but what are the odds?!

who knows Matt Bin!

Even better. :) Welcome to wmtc. Don't be a stranger.

James said...

I recently heard the quote "why should our loyalty be to the nation-state," and I've been asking it to anyone who will listen for a couple of weeks now. So far, no one's had a good answer, or even a crappy one.

The only good answer I know is, "It shouldn't". So far as I'm concerned, a nation-state should be nothing more than a mutually-agreed-upon administrative organization for managing and coordinating the needs of its citizens. Anyone who insists on deifying such a thing is just asking for trouble.

Unfortunately, when the trouble comes, it's often inflicted on other people...

Geez, Canadians claim everyone and everything as Canadians, no matter how flimsy or tortured the logic.

Hey, I warned you about the National Inferiority Complex long before you crossed the border. I believe it's now on permanent display in Ottawa. ;)

Though I don't know anyone who claims Winnie the Pooh as Canadian -- only the inspiration for Winnie's name. :) Having Winnipeggers in the family exacerbates the condition, of course.

L-girl said...

So far as I'm concerned, a nation-state should be nothing more than a mutually-agreed-upon administrative organization for managing and coordinating the needs of its citizens. Anyone who insists on deifying such a thing is just asking for trouble.

Ah, well said!

Hey, I warned you about the National Inferiority Complex long before you crossed the border.

Indeed you did. :)

Though I don't know anyone who claims Winnie the Pooh as Canadian

I've seen it on several blogs and several "great things that are Canadian" lists. They're out of control! :)

impudent strumpet said...

Well, Winnie the Pooh does have his own Heritage Minute: http://www.histori.ca/minutes/minute.do?id=10193

So whoever has the authority to make these things and put them on TV seems to claim him as Canadian

L-girl said...

So whoever has the authority to make these things and put them on TV seems to claim him as Canadian

That's it! If Winnie the Pooh is Canadian than no one should ever again gripe about dual citizens. :-)