Aung San Suu Kyi and Citizenship.

So I just returned from the 21st Annual Wallenberg Medal and Lecture, where Aung San Suu Kyi received a Raoul Wallenberg Medal, given to those who show how “One person can make a difference.”. During the questions and answers section, which featured Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma via Skype since she couldn’t leave the country, one of the answers she gave regarding democracy reminded me of citizenship. She talked about how Americans do not realize how lucky and fortunate they are to be in the system that they are in, to be able to take part in government through voting, to be able to exercise freedom of speech. She also implied that it amazes her that so few Americans vote, and that even fewer Americans recognize how fantastic the privileges that come with being a citizen within a just society.

My mind immediately went to Shklar, and how we talked about in class how so few people within the realm of citizenship recognize their privilege, and that it takes being on the outside of the parameters to truly appreciate the inside. I just thought it was a really cool thought that I would share. See you all Thursday.

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7 Responses to Aung San Suu Kyi and Citizenship.

  1. Nicole Y says:

    I can definitely agree with what Aung San Suu Kyi said. I think that a lot of people do take their rights and privileges for granted because it’s something that we as Americans have grown to expect (ie, the right to vote, freedom of speech, etc.).

    I think that in a way this supports and challenges Shklar’s argument. Yes, citizenship as standing and people have to be excluded for citizenship to be “special.” But, a step beyond that, what about the importance of actually using the vote to further your feelings and what you think is best for the group?

  2. nmanningham says:

    This post reminds me of the quote “you never know what you have until it’s gone”. Citizens in our country take for granted their right to vote. However, if there were to loose the right to vote, they would wish they had the right to vote. They would not feel like citizens, because being a citizen is recognized as having certain rights and liberties. However, having the right to vote and actually practicing this right is an important distinction to Shklar. She believes citizenship requires voting, earning, and standing. Therefore, you would think people who choose not to vote would not feel they lost anything if they were to loose this right. However, this would not be the case. I find it interesting that Americans would take this right for granted. These are the types of people that Shklar would identify as not being full citizens.

  3. brbarlog says:

    I vehemently agree with Aung San Suu Kyi in the notion that many Americans do not vote, and should. There is no doubt, that citizens in our country, many times, take for granted their right to vote. I have heard a common excuses, including that it was “raining outside” to “I just didn’t feel like it” to “I am not interested in politics.” These statements show dismissal and ignorance that is bad, in my opinion, for democracy as a whole. With difficult economic times and a deadlocked Congress. For the great political debates that go on in this country, it seems quite interesting that so many people have a problem with their government, in yet, many fail to act, call their Congressman (let alone they may or may not know who there Congressman is in the first place), or vote. Voting turnout should be very high, which is why I am encouraged to see so many Get out the Vote movements. To me, voting is our most powerful asset in this country. Without it, people are powerless.

    One of the best quotes I can remember when it comes to elections is this: “Bad public officials are voted by good people who do not vote.” This could not be more true. Being a good citizen, even relating to Shklar’s point, in my opinion, requires voting. Now, it is important to know that voting simply for the “action” of voting is degrading to democracy as well. In other words, people should not vote for Obama or McCain simply because they like the name Barack or John. This is not what voting is intended to be. It requires intense self-deliberation of candidates and who, in the voters mind, will do the best job if he or she is elected to the position.

    Imagine if every country in the world could vote for its leaders….Aung San Suu Kyi is right

    Below is a great cartoon about voting

  4. jlpach says:

    I can relate to this blog post based on a personal experience I had while I was in high school. I was interning for a State Senator in Illinois who was campaigning for the upcoming election. On the day of the election, the group I worked with gave me the responsibility of collecting the voting results from the poll in my district. As I was waiting there for the last few people to vote, I met an international Chinese student. For a while, he was just standing around with a huge smile on his face, and, I will admit, I wondered why. He saw me standing and waiting around, and so he decided to come to talk to me, asking me questions about the election and voting process. I will never forget him telling me how excited he was to be there. Even though he could not vote since he was not a citizen, he continued to tell me how amazing it was that he was experiencing the election process, and how I am lucky to have the right to vote. That brief moment gave me an entirely new perspective on voting and what it meant to be an American citizen. His insight on how fortunate Americans are to have the freedom and independence to vote and contribute to the democratic system helped me see how valuable it is to be an American citizen.

    In reference to the comments made about Shklar, I do think it is true that American citizens do not recognize the true value in what it means to be an American citizen. Shklar writes, “The simple act of voting is the ground upon which the edifice of elective government rests ultimately” (25); yet, how many people actually know what is happening in the government or even plan on voting in the next upcoming election? In thinking back on my internship during the campaigning process, I made a lot of phone calls to residents in the area to retrieve data about their voting preferences and campaign for the election. While making these phone calls and talking to residents, I would receive responses that lacked interest in what I had to say or ask, but some of the time the lack of interest was stemmed from the fact that whoever I was talking to was not planning on voting. They just did not care enough about what was happening in the government and who was being elected to represent them. I think that is just sad, especially when thinking about the Chinese student who merely felt privileged just by watching the election process happen.

  5. chrisjay44 says:

    I definitely agree with what Aung San Suu Kyi said. I believe that a lot of people take their rights and privileges for granted because they are born with them and do not earn them. But as a minority, I feel greedy, in the sense that I want more. I still feel that there are some inequalities in America that simply are not fair. Shklar says, “Only education, radically reformed, could eliminate the “prejudice of occupations.”

  6. bkemeter says:

    I definitely think that Aung San Suu Kyi has a very good point in what she said. In high school there were very few students who were interested in politics and some who weren’t claimed it was because they couldn’t vote, so they didn’t really care. However, in 2010 when they could vote, they still didn’t.

    Back when we learned about the amendments, many people made comments about how it wasn’t until 1971 when eighteen year olds could vote and they would hate if it was still that way. I’m not sure how many of those people it would effect. They, like Shklar, only care about their ability to vote. Once they have that ability, many ignore it. On my facebook, like most people’s I’m sure, there are countless people complaining about some elected official or government policy. It would be interesting to see how many of those people voted or will vote in the next election. Like their right to free speech, people should not only worry about their right to vote but exercise it.

  7. palaie says:

    Thank you for sharing this modern-day example of the citizenship that Shklar refers to. I have always been fascinated with how democratic us Americans think our political system is, to the point that we will shove it down the throat of other countries, regardless of whether or not they want it. And at the same time, despite claiming that we are the most democratic country in the world, we do not have nearly enough citizen participation when it comes to the elections.
    Democracy only works when the citizens are involved in it by voicing their opinions and actively participating. How else would their privilege of being citizens be put into use? It is this lack of involvement and information that makes us move farther and farther away from a true democracy.
    This example that you provided, of someone that does not have citizenship and stands outside of the citizenship circle explaining her idea of citizenship and how we take it for granted, is precisely what Shklar refers to in her book. It is a shame that we have such a privilege and do not value it to put it into use.

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