It’s impossible to deny that we live in one of the freest countries in the world. The civil liberties our citizens are privilege to surpass many across the western world. But as Benjamin Franklin once said, “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” With that in mind, on this Independence Day let’s honor our founding fathers’ wishes and pay attention to those parts of America that aren’t so free.
1. North Dakota's Abortion Laws
In March, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple passed the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws. The new law bans any abortion prompted by genetic defects and forbids abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. While any pro-lifer will see this law as upholding freedom and justice as it protects the unborn child, in reality it is incredibly damaging to the actual human involved: the hypothetical mother.
For one, most women don’t discover that they’re pregnant until they’re well into their first trimester, so with this law in place, by the time they do realize it they have practically zero options. The law essentially punishes women for not strictly policing their menstrual cycle. Having something that intimate be necessary to follow the law completely infringes upon any woman's right to privacy.
Additionally, as many studies show, restricting women's access to abortion has no bearing on whether or not she chooses to get one. North Dakota's law will only encourage women to seek out easier but unsafe procedures. The law in turn harms women physically, psychologically and civilly, and that's Anti-American any way you slice it.
2. Voting Rights Act
Last week, the Supreme Court rendered provision 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, now allowing states to determine their own voting laws. While this could be positively viewed as respecting state sovereignty, realistically it allows state governments and organizations to make voting as hard as possible for whichever group is out of their favor. States are imposing unbelievably strict requirements for voting, even though it disenfranchises many of their citizens. For example, in North Carolina's proposed law, almost 500,000 state citizens lack the ID needed to vote under said law. A third of those potential voters are African American. Coincidence or not, it's completely unacceptable to mess with such an important right.
Like North Dakota’s abortion laws, while the ruling doesn't ban the activity in question, it makes it incredibly hard to complete it. Instead of upholding individual rights, this new decision inhibits them, something in direct contrast to any founding father’s intentions. Voting is a special American right, a civic duty that many associate with their patriotism. With new discriminatory voting laws in place, a sense of identity is stripped away from honest citizens, and tyranny is ripe to infect the government.
3. "Show Me Your Papers"
FPart of Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigrants, this controversial law allows law enforcement to demand an individual provide proof of immigration status when conducting routine stops — i.e, pulling someone over for a speeding ticket.
Upheld by the Supreme Court last year, supporters allege the law will curb illegal immigration and therefore ensure a safer community.But quite blatantly, the law will encourage racial profiling. A Canadian immigrant will never be pulled over in Arizona with the same intention as a Hispanic citizen.
While some argue the law’s fairness with the methodology that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear, that thinking is incredibly anti-American. In a country where all men are created equal, this law creates a very unequal situation. It automatically subjects the private citizen to unfair treatment simply because of the color of their skin. With North Carolina coming up with similar laws, America seems to be moving forward in border patrol but backwards with civil liberties. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but that's the utter foundation of our 233-year-old country, not racism and tall fences.
4. Patriot Act
While this should be common knowledge after Edward Snowden’s revelations, it's necessary to mention since the media is using almost no air time to acknowledge that the National Security Administration is out of control. The Patriot Act brazenly allows the government to spy on its innocent citizens under thinly veiled jargon. While in the best of times it could be seen as protecting citizens from terrorist attacks, now it’s a scene out of George Orwell's 1984 (if you doubt that, just see what they did to Verizon).
The act goes against core American principles as it seems to suggest that true patriotism lies in big government and all the negatives that come along with it. But as Thomas Paine said, “It is the duty of the patriot to protect its country from its government.”
Because our amazing justice system and personal freedoms are some of America's only defining factors since countries triumph economically, its even more necessary to crush laws like this. The sacred right to privacy is an essential American freedom, and we must defend it. So long as laws like the Patriot Act exist, that constitutional guarantee remains eternally in jeopardy.