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This one time at Writer's Camp…

The Right to Nothing

I’m getting political here. I’m not apologizing about it, either.

When was the last time you said something, seemingly innocent, and someone chided you for it because it didn’t fit their world view? Like, for example, a friend of mine laughed at the fact that Christians believe that when they die they go to heaven. I didn’t correct him (because I’m ambivalent on the subject matter and really, who knows for certain) but when I pointed out that some people would mock him because when he dies, he thinks he’s going to just cease to exist, he got uppity and told me not to project my “Christian values” on him.

That… sort of took me by surprise. I don’t tend to be the projector type. I don’t even pretend to know what will happen to everyone else.

I shelved the discussion and got back to more important things in every day life (i.e., I think we started arguing about just how badly XBox One will suck) but it kinda stuck with me, festering in the back of my mind like a disease.

Then today, while reading some random blog posts, I stumbled across the interesting case of Tom Francois. Tom, it seems, has a huge Twitter following and is highly critical of President Obama, which sums up about half of this country. However, for reasons that are not immediately obvious to me, the Secret Service decided he was a big enough threat to come and “check out”. They did, he handled it with aplomb, then they decided to visit his adult daughter as well. What’s her crime, you may be wondering? Well, it appears that her crime is having a dad who is critical of the President and might “instigate” someone to doing something rash.

Er… wait, what?

During their investigative process, the Secret Service asked Tom if he ever left his home state or been to Washington DC lately. Hell, I left my home state years ago and have traveled all over the United States, without papers (alles en ordnung), like anybody can (which is one of the reasons we’re an amazing country).

Well, basically what it comes down to is that someone, somewhere, thought that a man who Tweets a lot is a threat to the President of the United States. So they warned him about instigating and also that next time they’ll be back for his guns (he’s a registered gun owner).

Now, I do think that anyone who threatens the President with bodily harm should be arrested. That’s not a freedom of speech thing. We can’t go around telling regular people that we’re going to kill them (unless you’re playing Call of Duty, then go right ahead… also, teabag the body afterwards. It’s funnier that way), but other than that, we should be able to be critical of who we want, when we want.

Somewhere along the way we seemed to have misplaced our Bill of Rights. I think in our steps to be safe from anyone who may hurt us, we gave up some rights. Willingly, I might add. How did something like this happen? How did we, the country everyone aspired to be, become a police state?

I love the First Amendment. It allows me to do what I like to do best. It allows for people to read information, dissect it and form opinions. It allows for people to post dissenting opinions. But the First Amendment is in danger, and has been for a long time now. All in the name of security.

When the Department of Justice decides to investigate journalists who report on matters of the government, there is a problem. When the government calls whistle-blowers “traitors”, there is a problem. When the people have no idea what their leaders are doing, there is a problem. When the government spies on its own citizens, there is a problem. There is a deep, deep problem in the United States right now, one that is a cancer upon our rights. Our rights that were have, rights we were born with. The government doesn’t give us rights, we have them. The rights are protection against tyrannical government oppression, and that’s why the Bill of Rights are numbered the way they are. The people of this country should not have to fear their government when speaking about it, for good or ill.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I’ve always been a strong supporter of the First Amendment. Right there, first line. Read that. “…abridging the freedom of speech…” Yes, that means the government cannot pass laws which prohibit our ability to talk about it, which means voicing the opinion that our current crop of leaders suck (both sides of the aisle… I’m not being picky here).

Abridging, by the way, also means “curtail”. Which means “restrict”. So if Congress cannot pass laws restricting free speech, then why are everyday people being visited by government officials for being critical of them?

And will someone please explain to me how a “free-speech zone” on a college campus is not a restriction of free speech?

People, every single time you shrug your shoulders and say “well, it doesn’t affect me… why bother?” you are contributing to the loss of freedom in this country. You think I’m being paranoid? Hah. I wish it were paranoia.

You need to understand that the government doesn’t know how to do anything except expand. Really. Off the top of your head (without Google searching for it), when was the last time a new government program didn’t grow exponentially? Grow out of control? Grow so large that we look at it and think “Damn, that’s a lot of money” and then go about our business?

Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program. –Milton Friedman

So tell me… do you feel safer yet? Giving up your freedom of speech in order to feel safe, to feel insulated from the dangers of the world, to never have to feel the pangs of being told you are wrong (or the joys that you are right)?

Does it feel right to lose your rights? It doesn’t for me, that’s for certain.

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