Murdoch: Our rights

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This is a weekly installment of Craig Murdoch’s column series, “Dazed and Crazed.”

On Sept. 11, 2001, America changed immensely, though the idea of it stayed the same as it has for as long as America has been around. We began as a nation of good ideas that were executed poorly. It seems the government will decide to take our rights away whenever it is convenient, whenever we need them most. The Espionage and Sedition Acts allowed the First Amendment to be nullified. The very first and arguably most important concept of the Bill of Rights was nonexistent for those who had a dissenting opinion about the United States during wartime. How can we call them guaranteed rights when they can be taken away at any time, considering we’re seemingly always at war?

During World War II, we had Japanese internment camps. There was no due process, no jury of their peers, no trial for 120,000 Japanese-Americans because their parents happened to be born in the wrong area of the world. Yet we still claim to be a nation with the core value of freedom.

Then Sept. 11 came around and everyone was awestruck because it happened in front of their very eyes. It reminds me of the anti-Vietnam War protests that were largely sparked by the pictures and videos that came out of the war zone. No one really understands what war or terrorism really means until they see it with their own eyes in a picture or on the news.

The difference, though, is the pictures and videos out of Vietnam showed the atrocities the American soldiers committed, whereas on 9/11 everyone saw someone else committing atrocities against us. So we became very pro-war rather than anti-war. We became afraid.

On Oct. 26, 2001 the Patriot Act was put into law. Another impediment of the “rights” we are supposed to be guaranteed.  The Fourth Amendment is under attack in this case. The NSA has a record of every phone call, text and email you’ve ever sent or received. The argument I’ve heard against this is, “Well if you have nothing to hide then why are you worried?”

As I’ve shown earlier, the government doesn’t care about your rights or the law as long as they are the one’s breaking it. They could interpret any text you’ve sent however they want regardless of intent. If they are willing to break one of our fundamental rights, nothing is going to stop them from breaking the others.

On top of that, the Washington Post wrote an article where they stated, “Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.” If the FBI is imprisoning (and in 14 cases executing) people with falsified evidence of hair analysis, why should we trust the government with all of our information?

A few questions come to mind when thinking about the events succeeding 9/11. Why was everyone for the Iraq War when in hindsight it was clearly an unneeded war? Why did everyone accept the Patriot Act with such little resistance at first? The simplest answer is fear. If something so disastrous and tragic such as 9/11 occurs in our backyard and our leaders who we look to for guidance in such times are saying “revenge, war, weapons of mass destruction, etc.” then of course we will be afraid. Of course we will be angry. Of course we will be blinded by it and go to war and accept that we don’t have as much freedom as before, even though the restriction of our freedom is done in the name of freedom.

But hindsight is 20/20 and the government has even more power now, they aren’t going to give it up without a fight. Obama expanded the NSA, Hillary Clinton had no quarrels with it and most likely would have expanded it even more and now we have Donald Trump who has said he would like to expand it more as well. It’s ironic because he’s seemingly against it when it’s happening to him, as seen with his accusations thrown at Obama for wiretapping him. Most Americans seem to not fully understand the Patriot Act, which I believe were partly the intentions and hopes of those who wrote it.

But we can’t place all the blame on the politicians. What conclusions are we to draw from American society when the supposed best of the best of us “qualified” to run such a complex country are the likes of George Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Of course, an argument could be made that most people do not like Clinton or Trump considering they had record high unfavorability ratings during the campaign. However, I would bet most Americans would be like Hillary or Trump if they were in the same position.

9/11 was a tragedy in so many direct and indirect ways. 3,000 innocent people were lost on that day. Hundreds of thousands were lost in the resulting wars. We had a presidential candidate calling for the ban on an entire religion, which would be another violation of the First Amendment. I hate to agree with Trump on anything but he is right in saying that America is not great, though his and my vision differ greatly.

So here’s this,  “When you’re born in this world you’re given a ticket to the freak show, and when you’re born in America you’re given a front row seat.” -George Carlin

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