Something that really frustrates me is when citizens of not only the United States, but of any country, voluntarily give up their rights. Often, the way in which they give up their rights is when the government claims it is for protection. For example, we all know that the U.S. government is spying on citizens, businesses, and other countries through the NSA and through other governmental agencies. The government claims, as it always has and it always will, that it is for our protection. This may be true to some extent, but the information being collected is vastly more than needs to be for our protection. The way in which the NSA is going about collecting data is first assuming that everyone is guilty by collecting massive amounts of data, then screening through them. I feel that there has to be some evidence of wrongdoing before a government agency can just search through your personal life.
You’d be surprised at how often I hear people claim that they personally aren’t doing anything wrong or illegal and so it doesn’t matter to them. YES! IT SHOULD MATTER TO YOU! Justifying illegal government activity is exactly the kind of attitude that lets the NSA continue doing what they are doing. It is exactly the type of attitude that allows the government in the book 1984, Big Brother, possible. Just because they are doing it doesn’t make it okay. Just because you may not be doing anything illegal doesn’t mean that you should give up a certain right or privilege. It is when people “give up” rights and privileges just because they are not doing anything wrong that leads to the loss of them. As with the case with the NSA, before you know it, the government knows exactly what you are doing at every second and there is no personal freedom.
This happens in everyday life, too; it isn’t just a once-and-a-while issue. Minor traffic stops can lead to an individual exercising their rights. I hate when I see videos or news stories of people refusing to be searched by police, then police making the claim that if they are not doing anything wrong they should let them search. No, they should not let the police search them and their belongings if they do not wish to be searched. As an American citizen you have a right to not be illegally searched and can utilize this right for whatever reason. Sadly though, there seems to be a decline in the use of rights.
I like to look at the loss of rights in three stages.
Stage 1: General Decline
• In this stage, the public begins to take this right for granted
• In the public’s mind, this right has always been there and always will be
• There is a failure to appreciate this right or privilege
Stage 2: Failure to Exercise the Right
• Stage 1 has progressed enough to the point of where citizens no longer feel the need to use this right
• Often, during times of turmoil, the government will abuse this right
o This is done in a variety of ways, but the right is often deemed as a threat to national security
• There is a general, often misguided, acceptance among the public that the right has to be forfeited for protection
Stage 3: Loss of the Right
• During loss of the right, few individuals remain that deem the right important
• Those wanting to abuse power and control the people, implement laws removing the right, often with general public support
• By the end of Stage 3, the right is completely taken away from citizens, even though it was once considered a necessary part of living in that society
Do not get me wrong, I think often the government is there to protect us, and often does. But we have a responsibility to be skeptical. There are examples of societies whose governments are slowly corrupted by those wishing to control the general population and abuse power. We need to watch the government and know exactly what it is doing at all times. We need to exercise our rights or else we will lose them. Just because the government is doing something wrong or abusing certain rights in the name of the protection of the people, does not necessarily justify it. We need to understand this and continue to excessive our rights. We need to not stand by passively and watch it happen. If the government is doing something wrong, we need to stand up together and speak up. It is our responsibility as the people to be in control of our government. This starts by being informed and involved.
I’ll leave you all with some famous words from Benjamin Franklin, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”