Amid the huge media pile-on that’s gradually taking down the Birther fantasy, nobody’s actually bothered to point out that almost every element of their argument is based on a near-total ignorance about how U.S. citizenship works.
There’s nothing like moving abroad (which I did five years ago) to make you acutely aware of exactly what being an American citizen means, and who gets to claim it, and how that privilege is gained or lost. Living abroad is a sort of involuntary immersive education in citizenship law. My life, liberty, and property depend daily on the agreements worked out between my home country and my adopted one; and even the most mundane travel and financial choices are deeply affected by the rights and protections granted to me by each country. (If you think dealing with one federal tax authority is bad, try reconciling the demands of two.) Based on this working understanding of U.S. citizenship, three things have become obvious to me: