Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Liberty: Use it or lose it

There has been a lot of talk in the past few months about a number of our rights as citizens of the US and how they should or shouldn't be interpreted. It should come as no surprise that I have thoughts and opinions on these incursions. I've already shared my thoughts on the Second Amendment, but it might surprise you that this is not the most important of those "magical" first 10 for which I care. That is a privilege that goes to whichever one is currently the most under attack. Unfortunately, that list keeps growing.

PRISM, metadata, FISA courts...these are the buzzwords now. Why should we be upset that the government has access to our personal data while we willingly give it away to private companies more interested in adding to our stock-pile of consumed junk than watching gout for threats to our way of life? To me, the answer lies right in the question. When you get a credit card, order from Amazon, or sign up for a gmail account, you agree to allow them to collect that data and use it. True, most of us just click "accept" and never read an EULA, but when we do this we make the choice that we don't care enough to do so. Yet when a government institution gathers broad details in search of crimes that may or may not be happening, they are not seeking our permission and are (IMO) going past the 4th Amendment and the intent of illegal search and seizure. No longer do you have to be suspected of a crime to start an investigation, you simply need to have a phone number or email going to the wrong person.

Combine this with the Supreme Court's decision that gathering DNA from a suspect and keeping it in a national database is acceptable. Now we're moving in on the 5th Amendment, too. Should a crime ever occur, even one where you are not a suspect, your DNA can be searched and compared to crime scene evidence. As wrongful arrests occur more than we care to admit, the possibilities painted are grim, allowing for a future where crimes are pinned to an individual before he is interviewed or aware he might be a suspect. Simply having your DNA on file implies a level of criminal nature that should make us uncomfortable. Being wrongfully or maliciously accused of a serious crime as a minor could lead to a point where you remain tagged for your entire life, worried that having contact with someone unfortunate enough to fall victim to a crime places you instantly on a path of defending your innocence.

Incursions like these, combined with the way in which the snooping was exposed, not to mention other recent scandals around the IRS and the AP, lead to a building distrust of our government. To be clear, I in no way am implying this is strictly an issue with the current administration as it was obviously occurring in prior ones. It does, however, add fuel to the fire of those who are worried about what else the government might be capable of encroaching on. Is free speech truly safe, or by opining on such issues might we expose ourselves to incursions on our personal freedom? Do blogs such as mine put a person on a watch list of those who might be dangerous to national security as defined by those who seek to preserve the power they have gained at the expense of the American people?

Thus do we come to the crossroads of preparedness and liberty. You're all aware by now that I like to plan for the worst, but you also hopefully realize I want to live for the best. To me, this means living the life that I feel is my right as a citizen of this country. That is not a life free from all danger, safely wrapped in a security blanket of declining civil liberties. It is not a life where success, comfort, or wealth are promised me, but rather a life where I can pursue those items within the confines and opportunities afforded me by a document hundreds of years old, yet crafted with hard work and deep thought. That means being ready for the worst that can come from that liberty, but living to make the most of it.

I have a duty as a citizen of this country to live up to those very same ideals. Rights that are not exercised will disappear. We see that erosion today, we've seen it over the history of this country, and we see it in other nations around the world. I have been told implicitly by folks whose advice I treasure dearly that I would be well served by staying quiet. This is something I simply cannot do as a patriot, as a citizen, and as a believer in the ideals upon which this nation was founded. My opinions are put here exactly because we need to exercise and stretch our rights lest we lose them.

Live free, my friends, as best you can. But prepare in the event that freedom is taken from you, by nature, by fate, or by the very government sworn to uphold it.

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