The Right to Choose

As a citizen of the USA people often hear the phrase “right to choose”. Inevitably the phrase may be associated with any number of topics, most often associated with carrying a baby to full term or having it aborted.  I want to use this phrase in a broader context and in a very specific topic recently in the news.

Socialite Denise Rich Dumps U.S. Passport Frankly I’m not concerned with what entertainment or public people are doing and how they wish to conduct themselves. If this individual or others like her wish to surrender their citizenship because they believe they will save millions of dollars in taxes or don’t approve of the person in a leadership capacity, I say go for it.

As for me, I’m unashamed, unabashedly an American.  I may not always like what our country has positioned itself in parts of the world, however the principles which our nation was founded upon are the ones in which I wish to always align myself under. If I don’t like the person in office as President, Senator, Congressman or local Sheriff, I can work, donate money and ultimately vote for someone who I prefer. If I don’t approve of taxes, new laws or the change in ethics, I can lobby with a larger group to influence a change. What I can’t do is expect things to get better if I run away or bury my head in the sand.

Ms. Richards gives up that right once she or anyone else does in renouncing their citizenship. She has the freedom to choose but not the right to a specific outcome. A child may choose to perform an act or say words which are inappropriate and believe there aren’t any consequences to those action or words. As an adult we may wish to continue that self-deception however what we choose does have consequences. Sometimes there are unforeseen consequences.

In the short story written by Edward Everett Hale, we have a person granted their wish to never have anything to do with his country again. After a trial for treason, the protagonist Philip Nolan is permanently banished to American warships and to never have the opportunity to receive any news about the US. Of course none of this will happen to American expatriates but to make the author’s point through the voice of Philip Nolan he concluded; “Remember, boy, that behind all these men… behind officers and government, and people even, there is the Country Herself, your Country, and that you belong to her as you belong to your own mother. Stand by her, boy, as you would stand by your mother…!”

His appeal was to the preservation of the Union during the Civil War. In many ways we have a similar situation in an almost stealthy brew today, a cultural war. There are sides to any war and clearly there are sides to this one as well. Some are identified with labels. Some groups such as LGBT, ACORN, Tea Party, NRA and Occupy were formed to voice their opinions and promote their collective agenda. Their agendas may conflict with the other group but all are part of a larger collective group as citizens of the USA.

By separating oneself from a country, an individual no longer has the right to be involved with influencing their former country. They also are not entitled to the protection of that country. A tax haven may shelter your money from confiscation but you can no longer lay claim to any of your former Constitutional rights. It’s also possible the laws governing your assets may change in the countries in which they are sheltered and you may find some or all of those assets confiscated.

Your loss of rights may also include incarceration / Habeas Corpus, excessive fines or punishment, protection from foreign seizure.

In the broadest sense of the phrase all of us have the right to make choices, just not the right to necessarily choose our consequences.