What comes to mind when one calls you a civilian? How about when one calls you a Citizen?

The distinction is subtle but significant.

To me, civilian is almost derogatory (I know, I am an odd person). It says “get back little lady, I’ll take care of this” or “Nothing dear, you are not qualified”. It is a “us” vs. “them” call. It implies that one needs a special qualification to be “other than civilian” and as a civilian I just get to sit and wait, and mostly get out of the way. Civilian is not an empowering term.

Citizen, on the other hand, invokes participation. It tells me that I am part of something and that get to participate. Citizen in inclusive. It invokes not only a sense of belonging but a sense of responsibility. As a citizen I get to do something. The term citizen is empowering.

I hear the term civilian being used by more and more people and it makes my ears perk up. I am aware that most people may not even think twice about it. I contend that words matter and the way language changes reflects somewhat on the culture of the time. If people are thinking of themselves as civilians, then at some level they are yielding some of their responsibility to someone or something else. The else could be Government, teachers, police, parents and more. The who is not as important than the actual state of mind of relinquishing that responsibility. We cannot have liberty without responsibility.

I came across this video recently that reminded me of the importance of responsibility; i.e., being a citizen over civilian.

I consider myself a citizen. Unless you drop me in a war zone, a civilian, I am not.