Identity Crisis Down Under

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The issue of identity and allegiance is key to the kind of bad behavior we often write about.  Security personnel need to know how to verify the identity of the suspicious person they are dealing with; are they indeed who they say they are?  A lone wolf terrorist who goes off the deep end may well be struggling with their identity, trying to make a statement about it or prove that they belong.  We depend on passports for security purposes despite the sometimes dry arbitrariness they document. Identity and allegiance are at the heart of the immigration debate.

A fascinating article that appeared in the New York Times this month describes an unusual identity crisis that is unfolding at the top levels of the Australian government.  As is the case in other countries, the Australian Constitution prohibits dual citizens from sitting in Parliament.  In the U.S. the requirement for president is that he or she was born in the U.S.  But this year so far, seven members of the Australian parliament have realized (or the information was otherwise brought to light) that they indeed hold dual citizenship – with neighboring New Zealand, Italy, Canada, etc.  Resignations are rampant and the coalition of Prime Minister Trumbull may come apart as a result.

I must say that it seems odd that a person would not know that they held dual citizenship but reading the article the possibility becomes a bit less dubious.

The world is an ever smaller place and its inhabitants are more on the move than ever before in history.  On a recent trip to London I found that a huge majority of service workers I encountered were from outside of the U.K. Brexit may be an attempt to restore a situation that simply can’t be fought.  With English as our lingua franca, people from every corner of the globe are fluid and equally fluid is our sense of allegiance.

Allegiance is not determined by the document one carries but rather by common values held.  The telling point is the answer to the question: what am I willing to sacrifice for? When pushed to a corner, what are my choices?  My allegiance to the U.S. and its rule of law in my case comes before my religion or faith.  In any event, our identity is based on context without which we are hard pressed to figure anything out.

The article (link here to read in full) concludes by noting that “modern Australia has multiple, simultaneous identities, whether expressed in government documents or not. We will remain a nation of people with emotional attachments to foreign lands of which we’re not citizens, and of citizenships of lands to which we feel no attachment.” What a lovely way of putting it.

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