Friday, May 12, 2006

Poignant Lessons

The framers of the principles of governance that ruled the United States before "the world changed" (*) would be very disappointed in the way that the current citizenry accepts trespasses upon their rights in the name of security. When "No Such Agency" is listening in on certain phone calls and tracking almost all of them, what has occurred is nothing more than an erosion of the right of the people to speak freely. Recent examples show that your government has databases that expose who you're talking to, what you're searching for online, and what books you are borrowing from the library. You are expected, however, to entrust them to use this information responsibly -- despite the fact that they won't tell you how they are actaully using it. "Because I said so," may occasionally be a valid response from parent to child, but it is never a valid response from government to a free people.

In the modern age, the fundamental rights of association, belief, and assembly -- whether stated explicitly or rendered implicit in the first, fifth, and fourteenth amendments -- must be understood to embody our new forms of communication. If we choose to assemble or speak via the internet or the telephone, these technologies serve simply as an enabler of speech. When choosing to take advantage of the tools of modern society to express our opinions and beliefs, we should feel neither more opressed nor less free than if we chose to assemble in the presence of the monuments to Lincoln and Washington and to profess our dissatisfaction "the old fashioned way."

However, we must clearly understanding that expressing an opinion via these tools is at once trivially easy and profoundly impotent. Merely expressing a belief in no way should be seen to constitute taking action to uphold or defend that belief. This is one of the principal failings of the citizenry today; we are collectively willing to complain, but reticent to act. I urge you to follow the advice of the framers; take a stand against those policies of, and individuals in, your government that are failing to defend your rights, your freedoms, and your beliefs. Never be afraid to stand against your government, and always question acts of your government which serve to stand against your constitutionally-defined rights or freedoms.

Benjamin Franklin:

"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

Thomas Jefferson:
"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground."
"Though [the people] may acquiesce, they cannot approve what they do not understand."
"Lethargy [is] the forerunner of death to the public liberty."
"No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority."
"[The] liberty of speaking and writing... guards our other liberties."
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
"Were we to give up half our territory rather than engage in a just war to preserve it, we should not keep the other half long." [Note: Substitute "liberty" for "territory," and the sentiment remains the same...]

(*): The world didn't change on September 11, 2001. The world has always been a place where the irrational actions of the few can have a dramatic impact on the many; a place where misguided beliefs lead to conflict, strife, war, and death. History clearly demonstrates that as a species, we are somehow unable to "just get along." Too many individuals blind their rationality and follow leaders that act in ways that are detrimental to mankind. Human history is filled with such leaders, who have emerged from all sources of human power and influence, including: military, political, religious, industrial, and financial.