Politics - Liberty and Tolerance
If you read your kids' American History text books, they will describe how America was so different from other countries at the time of its founding because of its commitment to personal liberty. Yes, it was flawed as the original personal liberty applied primarily to white men. But, over 230 years, liberty has been extended to all Americans. There are surely still inequalities, but those are now news items that receive debate rather than prejudices that are taken for granted.
The scariest change for me over the past seven years has been the erosion of our personal liberty and reducton of our tolerance. The most glaring has been the USA PATRIOT Act. In response to the September 11 attacks, many Americans were willing to give up personal liberties in exchange for safety. But, we have seen that this has been just the tip of the iceberg, with strong evidence that the Bush Administration has been circumventing the FISA Court to obtain wiretaps on US citizens since 2002.
I have two big problems with these types of actions:
- The blatant reduction in our personal liberty and privacy by US government action, and
- That so few people seem to be up in arms about it.
I think that the theme of invasive government is one reason why Ron Paul has attracted a hard core of support among people of various political stripes. His Libertarian philosophy is too much for me, but I can certainly appreciate his immediate reaction that the US government has gotten too big for its britches. Ironically, this problem has accelerated during a time period of strong Republican leadership in the Executive and Legislative branches. Is this really the party of Ronald Reagan?
I would like to see all the candidates commit to restoring some of our personal liberties, even as we fight terrorism. Today's NY Times has a story that shows that we are now vulnerable to having our laptops scanned when we enter the country. Now, we are all ready to be checked out when we cross into the US. And, I have no problem with searching all of the possessions of someone who gives border agents probable cause. As much as I detest the child pornography that was found on the laptops of the people searched in the story, I don't want the US government checking out my laptop to see what's in my email, what web sites I visited, or what type of music I listen to. It's a small step to this sort of electronic eavesdropping being extended inside of our borders, and we shouldn't stand for it.
Another aspect of personal liberty is allowing people to live their lives as long as they don't harm others. For all the people who tout their family values, we seem to have lost the value of tolerance for those who are different than we are. Gay marriage is a great example. Although I am sure that there are some people who are disgusted by homosexuality, that doesn't give them the right to stop other people from living their life the way they want to. I'm happy to live in Massachusetts where we can show the country that our society has not fallen apart since the advent of gay marriage. In fact, it's a non-issue and, I believe, our divorce rate is actually one of the lowest in the country. I know that my marriage isn't under siege.
As you think about who to vote for this year, consider who will protect our personal liberties. It's up to all of us to protect everyone's liberty, not just our own. This includes being tolerant of those who are different than we are. Who knows, you might be the 'different' one on the next issue. Then, you'll appreciate tolerance on the part of others.