This paper explores the question of the citizens’ role in democratic countries. How does citizenship influence democratic principles? The meaning of the words “citizenship” and “democracy” are explained. The topic was based on Abraham Lincoln’s thoughts about democracy. Its safety and security is never guaranteed; it needs wisdom, action and vigilance from American citizens.
There are mentioned the responsibilities of the citizens, directed to a comfort living of people and democracy support. It is impossible to build democracy with no public support.
Democracy is a government’s form in which citizens have equivalent rights in the decisions that touch their lives. That word came from Greek language; it means “rule of the people”. What is to be a citizen? There are a lot of views and opinions.
There are some important points which characterize democratic political system.
Government is chosen or replaced through free elections. It is elected by citizens. Protection of the human rights of all citizens is the democratic feature. Law rules there and applies equality of all people.
The Government White Paper (2000) has defined active citizenship as the active role of communities, people, and organizations in decision making that directly affects them. The meaning of the word “citizen” means the responsibility, first of all.
From the other side, the NESF Report on Social Capital (2003) described the term “active Citizenship” as the active exercise of social rights and shared responsibilities which is associated with affiliation to a community or society. These definitions are different, but at the same time, they have things in common. Citizen or active citizen takes part in the life of his community or society. I think that is the key.
Now let us analyze the right of the citizens in a democracy.
Every citizen has his rights. It cannot be taken away. The law guarantees protection of those rights. No one can tell the citizen what to say, what to think about and what to believe in. Every citizen has a right to choose his own religion, move through the country and leave it if necessary. That is not a full list of the citizen’s rights in a democratic state.
The role of law in a democratic state.
Here rules the law, not the individual. All citizens have equal rights under the law. No one can be discriminated because of their face, gender, religion or ethnic group. Every citizen has the right to know the charge against him and to be presumed innocent until the guilt is proven. No one is above the law, even president, government representative or the king. No one can tell the judge how to decide the case.
How can people support the democracy of the country? There are some points that should be mentioned.
People must respect and protect the law. Nothing can justify violence, even arguments between political opponents. Every citizen must respect the rights of people around. Democracy requires a compromise. People with different interests should sit down and discuss. Expressing opinion, the citizen of a democratic state has to listen to the opinions of other people and respect it. Every group of people has rights to practice its culture and accept that it is part of a democratic state. People should not reject the government’s authority. No one should see an enemy in a political opponent because of the views difference.
How can citizens help develop democracy in their country?
- They are to attend elections, vote and take part in political life of the country.
- Participate in meetings, public events and demonstrations
- It is a democratic principle to help the citizens if they need it.
- Support volunteer organizations.
- Pay attention to the problems, inform the government about them with letters, telephone, petitions and so on.
- Protect the law and struggle against violence and disrespect.
All those points develop a democracy and help improve life of the citizens.
The United States of America is the example of democracy in the world. American citizens elect their President and Congress. That means people rule. Lincoln wisely said that democracy demanded wisdom, action and vigilance from American citizens. He also said that democracy was the government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Active citizens build that system in their community and with this they create a relationship between each other. This is based on help, support, and interaction.
Finally, the term ‘Active Citizenship’ refers, as already was said above, to the charitable ability of citizens and societies working right together, or with the help of eleccted representatives, to use economic, political and social power in the chase of common aims. People must be aware, knowledgeable, and active in the society. Democratic citizenship requires using one’s own mind, voice, and actions. The sense of democracy means that rights and liberties are not for free, and unless we accept the responsibilities of citizens we will not be able to preserve them. It is very important to teach people to be good citizens.
At the same time, active citizens should watch how their political leaders use their powers, and express their interests and points of view. This must be peaceful, respect the law, opinions of other groups of people.
How is it possible to improve that positive influence of American citizens on American democracy? I think there are some points that have to be emphasized. Firstly, propagandize good relationship between citizens, their help to each other. Secondly, let people take part in public events of the country. We have to stay close to all the problems and achievements of the nation. Thirdly, let Americans take part in elections. People have to choose their leaders. They have to know all the information about candidates, their aims and programs.
It is also very important to convince American citizens to respect other opinions. There are a lot of people and all of them are different. That is even better. We have to respect everybody’s personality.
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If people follow all those points, then citizenship will be a good tool in hands of democracy. What does it mean to be an American citizen? I think it is to follow all those statements above, respect America, and respect the nation in general. The citizens have responsibilities. The democratic policy has aims and gives citizens benefits and provides security and comfort.
As a result, we came to a conclusion that American democracy is in the hands of its citizens. People develop a country, can make it powerful. At the same time, it is so easy to destroy all that American nation has. It got to be said that it is not a hard work. Democracy begins from school desk and goes through all citizens to the Government. It goes from a child to a president. Famous people of music, sports, science are to strengthen it and show the good example to their fans. If the one, who is respected by millions, can promote something that will help American democracy to grow – then millions will do the same thing. That is the thing the nation has to do together, consolidate and move forward.
I think, Abraham Lincoln does not have to worry about American democracy!