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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Citizenship, God, Federalism, and the State of the Union

Previous posts have discussed rhetoric and the State of the UnionIn his address last night, the president emphasized the role of citizenship:
We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside, even as he lay bleeding from 12 bullet wounds. And when asked how he did that, Brian said, "That's just the way we're made."
That's just the way we're made. We may do different jobs and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title -- we are citizens. It's a word that doesn't just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we're made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations, that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter of our American story.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless these United States of America.
The reference to God is a standard American practice, but when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper once closed a speech by saying "God Bless Canada," a controversy ensued.

Also note the phrase "these United States."  Nearly a hundred years ago, a historian noted that it had already become archaic, since Americans had long adopted the habit of referring to the United States as a single unit.  Nevertheless, it still crops up in political rhetoric from time to time.