Defined by Merriam Webster, the word “citizen” means “a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it.” This is a simple definition for a complex topic, because each citizen is an individual person, with different perspectives, opinions, allegiances, and responsibilities. Each citizen is in a different situation, either in their relationships, economic standing, and political preferences, yet they all belong to a common country. A citizen’s responsibility is very much a personal choice, but looking at it in terms of importance, responsibility should lie first with family, secondly with the country, and thirdly, to a political leader. Allegiance to a political leader should not take away from the betterment of a country, and the betterment of a country should never take priority from caring for one’s family.
The least important responsibility a citizen has is to a leader. Firstly, the very concept of placing loyalty to one person above everything else is illogical. In theory, one would look to a political leader to guide their country and make it better. This would be attributed to loyalty to a country, which isn’t inherently wrong. The problem is becoming so caught up in the leader as a person and following their every word without question. When the leader has amassed a multitude of followers, they essentially have permission to do whatever they want. No matter how delusional and corrupt their decisions and rhetoric, people will listen to them, because they take it as Gospel truth. History isn’t a fan of absolute loyalty to one person either. Take Nazi Germany, for example. No matter how outrageous his propaganda, Hitler had amassed so many followers that they took anything he said and accepted it. This blind discipleship of the German people led to concentration camps for Jewish people, and much more. It is clear that loyalty to a leader, when it gets out of hand, can have catastrophic results.
Of the three discussed, responsibility towards a country is the second most important attribute of a citizen. While it should not even come close to the responsibility one should have to family, one does have a responsibility, albeit not a requirement, to be involved in their country. Citizens have a say in how their country is run and what happens politically, so they have a responsibility to act in a way that changes the country and makes it better. As discussed, loyalty to a leader of the country must not be mistaken for loyalty to the country as itself. It is actually the opposite. Loyalty to a country is the willingness to stand up against corrupt leaders in order to make the country better, not to follow them blindly. This is why loyalty to a country must include active participation in the betterment of this country and the world.
The most important responsibility of a citizen is to their family. Without the family itself, “the basic unit of society,” the rest of society could not function. Support of family is completely necessary for society to prosper. With the help of families, future leaders are nurtured and protected. One can never let loyalty to a country or leader get in the way of their responsibility as a family member, especially as a parent. Once those loyalties get in the way, the family becomes meaningless. If the purpose of a family is to support and nurture the next generation, there needs to be a certain level of commitment. With all of this considered, there is also a direct connection to the other two aspects of citizenship discussed. Without family dedication, those leaders everyone looks up to may not have existed, and if families foster good morals and intelligence in their children, those children certainly could grow up to make their country a better place to live. In the article, “The Family Unit and Its Importance,” Lawrence Wilson, MD, writes, “When the families are strong, society is strong, as a rule.” This direct correlation proves why responsibilities must lie first with the family.
Though citizenship is thought of as loyalty to a country, it is an extremely personal and diverse topic. Each citizen has responsibilities, both in the personal and political sense, but it is clear that responsibility to the family is the most important, because from there branch out all other aspects that keep the whole society together. Loyalty to a leader can be a positive attribute, but it can also get significantly out of hand and lead to catastrophe. Loyalty to a country is also a positive attribute, as long as it involves trying to make it better, but still must not take away from the value that families have.
In Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, there are several examples of these different responsibilities, but in the play, responsibility does not seem so black and white. In the play, Macbeth shows loyalty to all three. At the beginning of Act I, Macbeth shows great loyalty to his country through his success in combat and is referred to as “Bellona’s bridegroom”(Scene II, Line 61) by Ross. Since Bellona is the Goddess of War in Roman mythology, this quote illustrates Macbeth’s violent success. The loyalty and responsibility he has for his country, because of these feudal times, is extended to loyalty for his king. This shows that Macbeth doesn’t have many ideas for how to make his country better, like actual loyalty to a country would be, but rather does what he’s told, showing only loyalty to his political leader. As he says in Act I, Scene 4, lines 22-23, “The service and the loyalty I owe, / In doing it, pays itself,” showing his loyalty to the king. The problem in this story especially comes with the responsibility to family. Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth, is a character whose desires come into conflict with those of the king, and, to a degree, Macbeth. In Act I, Scene Three, the Third Witch proclaims that Macbeth “shalt be king hereafter!”(Line 52). Soon after, Macbeth begins to have evil thoughts, but decides against killing the king, because he knew he would be king anyway. This showed, once again, loyalty to his leader. In Scene V, however, Lady Macbeth finds out about the witches and worries that Macbeth won’t have what it takes to kill the king, saying “yet do I fear thy nature; / It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness.”(17-18) This is where Macbeth comes to a dilemma, of whether to kill the king and be responsible to his family or let the king live, and be responsible to his leader. It is clear, though, that responsibility to the family should not go as far as succumbing to manipulation. One of humankind’s first responsibilities is to the concept of honesty, and justice. Killing the king would not be a just, nor honest way for Macbeth to become king, so in this case, the most responsible thing he can do overall is not to act on his, or his wife’s, murderous desires.