27 March 2007

What's in a Name?

Yesterday at Guantanamo, a person pled guilty to knowingly giving aid to al-Qaeda. That person’s name is Abu Muslim al-Austraili, or Mohammed Dawood.

But never mind what al-Austraili-Mohammad-Dawwod has done. Some would have us believe that this man, forever David Hicks in their eyes, is the victim of this tragic tale. And he will remain David Hicks forever and ever. Nothing he could have done, or might do, or might want to do will ever cause some to believe that he should loose any of his freedoms, any of his endless, breathlessly defended “rights” or his Australian citizenship. That he will get to serve his sentence in an Australian jail is (from an American point of view) a bit of a blessing, as the calls for his release will soon be voiced only at the Australian government – though this is a very small consolation, as Australia has been the staunchest of allies. That he is still considered by many as an Australian citizen is a bit surprising given the charge he plead guilty to.

It’s odd, that last part, from an American point of view. Australians, comparatively, are a little stingy with giving citizenship. Folks actually have to work for it, it seems, and illegals are detained and deported. In America, citizenship or pseudo-citizenship is granted, seemingly without question, to just about anyone who occupies space in America. The idea of actually deporting people is portrayed as barbaric (those people came here for a reason, after all, so they should be allowed to stay).

At some point, though, citizenship will have to be shown to mean something which can be granted, experienced, touched, and if circumstances necessitate, revoked. At some point, folks like the man formerly known as David Hicks will have to be recognized as they choose to be, like Mohammad Dawood – he changed his name for a reason, after all – and they should also be thought of as the criminals they are, not as victims.

Correction (made 29 March 07) - I heard on the news tonight (in Australia) that Mr. Dawood/Hicks is no longer a Muslim. No reason was given for his un-conversion, but apparently that's why he wants to be referred to by his given name, Hicks.

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