Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Speaking Up

What does it take to get you to raise your voice on a particular issue?

In my Law, Science and Society - Sociology class, we spent a few classes discussing the issues of freedom in the United States and its limits in terms of National Security. The premise of the discussion was: What rights would you give away in the interests of national security?

Many people shared their insights into which rights they would feel comfortable giving up and naturally the conversation turned to the USA Patriot Act. If you take a look at the provisions of the USA Patriot act, you will see many provisions that detract from individuals' liberties in the interests of National Security. [Here is a wikipedia link with quick information about the USA Patriot Act]

Specifically, my professor had us take a closer look at the Surveillance Procedures. Under this provision, the government can observe the communications (Email, telephone, library records...etc) of suspected terrorists. The question then becomes: Who do you trust to decide who determines who is a suspected terrorist or not?

The implications behind this question is that perhaps you are seen as a suspect. Then under these new surveillance rights, the government can look into your communication history. If their suspicions were wrong, they still might uncover information about tax fraud, or some other crime and charge you for that instead.

When I was sitting in class I remember thinking: "If I didn't do anything wrong then of course I would trust the government to sort things out and judge that I have done nothing wrong." But the more I thought about this, the more uncomfortable I felt with giving up my rights to privacy. Do I feel safe checking out books about terrorism from the library because my social grouping is currently not the target of national investigation?

The question then morphed into: So in what ways do you address your concerns? And the answer is: None. I don't take time to lobby my senators. I don't organize rallies in the community to raise awareness on this issue. Maybe I'll write a blog post about it, but how far reaching will that post be? I imagine it wouldn't be so inspirational.

So, what would it take to raise my voice? Would I only raise your voice if the issue effected me directly? Would I only raise my voice if I felt that my voice would be heard?

I think we live in a world where we all shout and nobody listens. Everyone can write a blog and shout as long as they want. But what good does it really do. Does marching in the streets really bring about change? I think that from the Middle East, there is some power in standing up for your beliefs. While the effects of such protests has yet to be fully realized and understood, I applaud those who will raise their voice and make themselves heard.

I think the only way to really live in this democratic society, we not only need to vote for the right representatives, but we must raise our voice, write to those representatives continually, and speak up on issues that we deem important. Individual Freedom vs. National Security was just one example that I personally I should speak out against. But I would hope that others would speak out opposing my beliefs, as well as for other beliefs that they believe in. Ideally, i hope we will invested more time and energy in the social discourse of our society.

I know that from now on, I will invest in a few extra envelopes and stamps in order to at least write to my representatives, and send them emails - all in the interests of making my little dent in the American social experience.

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