The Right for a Voice

The debate regarding whether metics and slaves should be granted citizenship in the Athenian democracy closely resembles the argument of whether “Dreamers” should be granted citizenship in the United States. In our in-class debates as well as in ancient Athens, the topic of granting metics and slaves’ citizenship was highly scrutinized. Both sides of the debate made compelling arguments about the reason for or against citizenship. On one hand, these groups were contributing members of Athenian Society that greatly increased the quality of life and spread of Greek culture. These people had great ideas and work ethics that helped further the strength of Athens and increase its cultural diversity. Furthermore, they also helped fight in wars on behalf of Athens and were critical to the success of the Athenian Empire in many battles. As stated in our studies of this debate: “Last year, when the democracy faced its gravest danger, you (Thrasybulus) received crucial support from metics, the foreign-born residents of Athens (especially Lysias, who paid the cost of hiring two hundred mercenaries), and from many slaves who fought on behalf of the democracy” (The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BCE Gamebook, Thrasybulus, p. 2). The argument against allowing these members of society to become citizens was fundamentally based on the idea that they were not true Athenians and did not deserve the same rights as one. As immigrants and not native members of Athens, they would be diluting the quality of what it means to be an Athenian. While this debate had strong emotions on both sides, one idea of compromise thrown around was the principle of allowing metics and slaves to work their way to citizenship through public and military service as a contribution to Athens and a way to prove their worth. Similar to modern-day United States, the argument regarding the children of illegal immigrants and their citizenship is a hot topic. These children spend much of their lives in the United States and are contributing members of society, but yet are not “true” citizens in some people’s eyes. This debate greatly resembles that of Ancient Athens, with members of both societies arguing about whether the true quality of a citizen is being diluted by allowing these immigrants to become citizens. On the other side, an argument can be made that in both instances these people are contributing members of their societies and deserve to be treated as such. Similarly to the ideas tossed around during the debates in Ancient Greece, The Dream Act offers a similar compromise, stating “The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 would provide current, former, and future undocumented high-school graduates and GED recipients a three-step pathway to U.S. citizenship through college, work, or the armed services” (“The Dream Act, DACA, and Other Policies Designed to Protect Dreamers.” AmericanImmigrationCouncil.org, American Immigration Council, 3 Sept. 2019). In both cases there is no argument regarding the immigrants’ contribution to society and how their presence can help further the spread of ideas and cultures in both countries. What may be needed to get citizenship approved for them, is a compromise that allows a pathway to citizenship through civil and military service. As a whole, the discussion regarding Ancient Greece  furthered my understanding and awareness of modern-day immigration issues.

Matt Benedettini: 546 Words

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