State of the Union

Within the United States we like to take comfort in our notion of freedom, this concept that no matter how awful the outside world becomes we in the U.S. will always be guaranteed the right to speak, to think, to live as we please, etc. We see atrocities happening on the news, events occurring around the world and we think, “aren’t we lucky to be in America where that could never happen.”

This notion of freedom, I think, makes it all the worse that it must be stated that “the land of the free” is becoming evermore the opposite of that.

There are myriad events to choose from, but I feel compelled to exemplify only a few of the events illustrating that if we as Americans do not learn to see what is really happening, instead of hiding in our delusion that bad things can’t happen in American, we may find ourselves in the midst of a great and terrible nation.

I am writing of our removal of freedoms. Time after time freedoms that we take for granted are being removed. Perhaps not yet and not always in a grand legislation, but by small means do great things come to pass.

To start, I begin in September. I was driving home from school listening to Democracy Now! I was horrified to hear journalist Amy Goodman recount her experience of covering a protest at the Republican Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, when she and other journalists were arrested. All arrested were wearing press badges, indicating they had a right to ask questions, take photographs, the works. They were arrested with brutality and with no clear charges. The cameras of some photojournalists were broken.

Let me remind you of a little something called the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights on the U.S. Constitution. Among other things, this amendment protects the freedom of the press, meaning our press is not government controlled and that those working for the press have a right to do their jobs without fear of arrest. These rights were literally met with brutality as Amy Goodman and her colleagues were arrested.

In recent weeks in my home town of Salt Lake the First Amendment was challenged. Members of the Occupy SLC movement were forced to vacate their post in Pioneer Park due to the death of a homeless man. While the death of this man is tragic, it was not caused by the Occupiers. It is more likely, in fact, that they extended his life given that the Occupy people were providing aid to what homeless people gathered in the park, a popular place for the destitute.

His death was used as an excuse to end a protest that has been giving governmental figures the jitters. It is well-known that there is a homeless problem in Salt Lake. There is a homeless problem everywhere. And just like every person on this earth, homeless people die. This time, a homeless person died in the limelight of a protest, giving attention to a problem people easily overlook, that of the poor and needy and homeless.

Let me make it clear that whether you support the Occupy Movement or not is completely irrelevant. Regardless of if you like it, dislike it, think it is affective or not, has no weight in the significance of the event. These protesters had a permit to camp overnight in the park. It is usually illegal to camp in the park, but they were given a legal permit to do so. They did not violate the permit or break any laws. And yet their permit was revoked, another clear attack on the First Amendment which protects our right to peaceful assembly.

Though there are many, many more events that exemplify this growing problem in the U.S. of our rights being violated, the last I choose to reflect upon is that of first the Senate’s, and then President Obama’s decision to pass the National Defense Authorization Act.

This is an act that is revamped and re-passed every year. This year, however, an amendment makes it legal for U.S. citizens to be detained at Guantanamo Bay without a trial if the persons arrested are suspected of terrorist affiliations. Last I checked, the Bill of Rights guaranteed U.S. citizens the right to fair trial and a jury of our peers. To do away with those rights removes the “land of the free” from the picture.

It is easy to look around your house and examine your life and think, “life seems pretty good. Why should I worry?” The reason you should worry is this: rights aren’t taken away over night. Governments don’t usually up and change from for the people to a freedom-eating machine in one fell swoop.

Apathy and ignorance are two sure ways to ensure the farewell of liberty. Be watchful and fight for the rights you are promised. Do not let them fail.

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