Do you consider the U.S. to be the land of the free? What does it mean to you to be free or to be an American? “Proud to be an American” is a catchphrase that is often used to convey a great sense of pride in being from a country whose very flag is a marquee of freedom. This is an interesting concept, however, as there are many practices within the country that seem to violate the very essence of freedom.
Freedom, by definition, means that you are not subject to the control of another person or institution. In theory, freedom would mean the ability to do as one pleases (provided it does not violate the safety and rights of others) without hindrance or restraint.
Yet many laws and regulations within the U.S. enforce the exact opposite of freedom. We certainly need laws and regulations to protect basic human rights and ensure the safety of others and ourselves. This article does not seek to argue against or invalidate all forms of law. Instead, we are focusing on the myriad of laws and regulations that attack and destroy our personal rights and freedoms.
In order for laws and regulations to be in sync with freedom they would need to be in sync with the wants and needs of the majority. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. More often than not lawmakers do not reflect the voice of the people, regardless of whether said lawmakers are Republican or Democrat.
Firstly, many citizens fail to so much as form opinions regarding the country’s legal and political happenings, and when they do it is often from a perspective of insecurity and fear rather than from one that values freedom.
Secondly, most politicians are no more than affiliate marketers who attempt to decide for you which issues carry the most gravity. They do this by means of constantly pushing buttons intended to arouse biases and fears. Said biases and fears can and do translate into votes. Sometimes, they even incite citizens to help push the causes of these politicians without having truly thought about whether the issue is personally important to them. Regardless of the party they belong to, most of today’s politicians seem to be pawns of the most sophisticated oligarchy in history of the world.
The following quote provides a chilling hint at what can happen when people don’t bother to inform themselves, allow supposed authority figures to think for them, and become willing to exchange their rights for a higher sense of security: “The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.” This quote is commonly attributed to Adolf Hitler, which makes it all the more frightening that aspects of it can be seen in events that have taken place in our country for the past several years.
Any law that chips away at the freedoms laid out by the Bill of Rights should be cause for concern. After the tragic events of 9/11, several bills were hurled through congress. Unfortunately these bills eradicated many freedoms previously protected by the Fourth Amendment. The Patriot Act, which is perhaps the most famous of these laws, was met with minimal resistance and passed by the senate 98-1. This, of course, is just one of many examples of United States citizens in what seems to have been in a stupor. Terrified by 9/11, most citizens neglected to examine one of the most significant violations of American freedom.
Amendment IV, located in the Bill of Rights states acknowledges, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Despite this, the Patriot Act enabled the government to monitor your telephone calls and search you, your home, or anything else that you own without so much as a warning, let alone a warrant.
Whether this actually happens to you or not, the fact remains that we as Americans no longer have the right to be secure in our persons, houses, or papers, nor are we protected against warrantless searches and seizures.
Another example of infringement upon basic rights in the United States are some of the laws and practices regarding DUIs, particularly in the states that allow DUI checkpoints and forced blood samples. As with the Patriot Act, these laws and practices came into existence because citizens were willing to give up freedom in exchange for security. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, someone dies every 51 minutes from an alcohol related accident. Alcohol related accidents are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1-24. Worse yet, well over 10,000 people die from alcohol related deaths in the U.S. each year. It’s easy to see why drunk driving creates so much fear.
As with the deaths resulting from 9/11, alcohol related deaths have caused U.S. citizens a great deal of pain, suffering, and terror. Countless people have lost loved ones to the senseless acts of driving while impaired. Laws to combat drunk driving are becoming stiffer and stiffer. Multiple offenses can land you years in prison, and, in many cases, rightfully so.
However, as we have seen in many other instances, many are willing to surrender their freedom to government officials in an attempt to protect our society from drunk driving and alcohol related deaths. The DUI checkpoints are not legal in all states, but they violate Fourth Amendment rights even in states where they are legal.
Not only do DUI checkpoints violate your Fourth Amendment rights, but frivolous traffic stops by officers in order to make potential arrests without probable cause are also violations of those rights. Local governments exploit the citizens who rights they violate, bringing in millions of dollars of revenue.
For the most part, there are alternatives to the checkpoints on various streets. There are also alternatives to the cop in the cut waiting to pull someone for something frivolous, an issue which tends to have a disproportionately negative effect on minorities and the poor. Moreover, alcohol related deaths are more common off the road than on, so there should be more effort going into decreasing them off the road. Alcohol related homicides that occur off the road, however, are unable to generate even a fraction of the revenue that those related to driving can.
There may not be any simple solutions to the many problems discussed in this article. However, one things is all but certain: We must not surrender our freedom, especially to those who do not have our best interests at heart and who seek to serve tickets and collect rather than to serve and to protect.
A popular quote states that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It’s unfortunate that a country built upon freedom could become such a fitting example for this. It’s sad to see people slighted in the land of the free. It’s even worse to see citizens deprived of simple rights that are supposed to be upheld by our Constitution.