to be a citizen of the world

When I attended an adult class on Judaism, the rabbi described the significance of four entities within that religion: God, people, law, and land. Although I did not convert, I think about the interplay among the elements of that tetrad. The national motto of the Philippines expresses a similar sentiment: Maka-Diyos, Maka-tao, Makakalikasan at Makabansa (For God, People, Nature, and Nation).

Politicians in the United States do invoke the will of God and sometimes claim to defend Christianity; our money contains the national motto “In God We Trust”; the Pledge of Allegiance introduced the phrase “under God” during the height of the Cold War; court witnesses and elected officials often swear on a Holy Bible. Despite all of this, unlike nearly half of all countries, the United States has no state religion and never has. The Declaration of Independence, which broke the previous system of governance, refers to “Nature’s God” and to the Creator only to justify how the rights of the people take precedence over the divine right of the King of England. The Constitution, which established the current system, does not mention God, while the First Amendment prohibits Congress both from restricting religious practice and from favoring one religion over others.

US citizenship at birth is defined with regard to people and to land: whether your parents are American, or whether you were born in the country. I have been a citizen of the United States my entire life for the latter reason: by birthright. There is a long tradition across the Americas of citizenship by jus soli. This makes great historical sense because the so-called New World is mostly populated by immigrants (both willing and unwilling) and their descendants.

In addition, I am a citizen of the Philippines by ancestry. Nearly every nation today permits citizenship by jus sanguinis, that is, the nationality of the child’s parents at birth.

I could apply to become a citizen of Spain by naturalization, if I resided there for two years and can demonstrate that I understand and have integrated into Spanish society. The two-year residency period is much shorter than the usual ten years because I am already a citizen of the Philippines. This is a form of reparation for the colonial actions of the Spanish Empire across the globe in the Philippines, Ibero-America, Portugal, Andorra, and Equatorial Guinea. There is a similar scheme for Sephardic Jews who can trace their heritage to Spain.

In order to become a Spanish citizen, Spain would require me to renounce US citizenship, because its naturalization process does not permit dual citizenship (except for situations above, like the Philippines). However, the United States does not recognize renunciation of US citizenship unless the declaration is in front of a US official (the US is eager to retain citizens, who must file and pay Federal taxes no matter where they live). Therefore, in this situation, it seems:

  • España would recognize me as a dual citizen of ES and RP;
  • the United States would continue to hold me a citizen of the US and RP;
  • Republika ng Pilipinas would consider me a citizen of the US, ES, and RP.

Under this plan, we could maintain residences (only Philippine citizens can own land in the country) in Europe, North America, and Asia: home bases on three continents from which to explore the world. In particular, Spanish citizenship would grant freedom of movement across the European Union. Its passport is more powerful than nearly any other.

One downside is a potentially complicated tax situation. Also, in order to maintain Spanish citizenship, we could not live abroad for three years or longer, at least without notifying the government. But perhaps the largest question for me is whether I am willing to pledge loyalty to the Spanish monarchy.

Wikipedia classifies Spain as a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy. It’s not clear to me what it means for Spain to be unitary, in contrast to the US, for example, which is federal. Yes, the Spanish national government maintains the central authority of a unitary state, but in practice it devolves many governmental functions among the country’s autonomous communities and cities. This creates a highly decentralized governmental tapestry that reflects the distinctions in language and culture among Spain’s regions.

In any case, I have no qualms about being subject to a unitary parliamentary constitutional government. The question is whether I am willing to be the subject of a monarch.

Although I have considered living for a limited time in an absolute monarchy, mostly because CMU maintains a campus in Qatar, over a longer period I could envision living only in a more constrained monarchy, where the right of rulership derives from and is limited by written law. In addition to Spain, I could well imagine myself living in other constitutional monarchies such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, or the United Kingdom.

Still, most monarchs hold hereditary and lifetime appointments, which offends my democratic republican sensibilities. While the actions of contemporary limited monarchs are generally ceremonial and politically neutral, this summer Queen Elizabeth II prorogued the UK Parliament, preventing legislative oversight of PM Boris Johnson’s plans for Brexit. Within my parents’ lifetime, former Emperor Hirohito led Japan when its military committed atrocities in China, the Philippines, Korea, and elsewhere around the Pacific. My reflexive distaste for monarchs even extends to Disney royalty and the mad public obsession around Princess Diana and her progeny.

However, monarchies are not unique in these problems — republics can also foster authoritarian leaders founded on the cult of personality. The US today has Donald Trump, who flagrantly defies modern norms of the presidency and who appears headed towards impeachment; the Philippines had Ferdinand Marcos, who plundered the nation, and now has Rodrigo Duterte, who supports and has himself performed extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations; during World War Two, the other Axis powers besides Japan were led by the totalitarian fascists Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, who rose to power from the Italian and German parliaments.

A more nuanced view of Spanish monarchy is that former King Juan Carlos I, whatever his faults, did manage the transition from the decades-long dictatorship of Francisco Franco towards a more humane and democratic government. His son, King Felipe VI, seems relatively benign. Ultimately, the Spanish people will decide for themselves whether and why they have a monarch. I can have faith in a country that attempts to make reparations for its actions dating back to the Inquisition and the Spanish Empire.

I am going back and forth on the notion of pledging loyalty to a monarch. I have mixed feelings because I admire the overall operation of many contemporary monarchies but have a deep dislike for hereditary leadership. And yet doesn’t this resemble jus sanguinis? In republics, the political power is based in the citizens, where citizenry itself is largely defined by bloodline…

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