Is America really 'the land of the free?'

Andrew Reese

  Cameras are implemented in public buildings and parks by the government, but many Americans feel this action is an intrusion on their privacy.

  Used with permission / Wikimedia Commons 


      When the thought of America comes to mind, we immediately think of its motto, “The Land of the Free.”  Or is it?  

     Compared to China and other Communist governments, the U.S. seems to be the definition of freedom.  However, upon closer inspection, the United States may not be as free as you may think. 
     Although Communist countries may censor their population or spy on it, America has its own ways of intruding on a person’s civil liberties.  For example, in New York City’s Washington Square Park, cameras hidden behind trees attached to poles watch every movement of skateboarders or joggers. In Texas, roadside cameras take pictures of license plates of anyone crossing state lines and report back to government officials.
     Personally, I used to think America was free, but not only has “big brother” begun spying on us, he is also been laying down the law even harder.  It upsets me to know that years ago the law was much less harsh then it is now. 
     Back in the 1970s, having a paintball gun would not have been a problem to anyone.  Now, the minute someone sees a paintball gun, it’s assumed it is real weapon, and the situation gets blown out of proportion.  Recently, an event occurred here at Hudson High School, where several students were “seen” with a “gun,” which happened to be a paintball gun. 
     The students involved were arrested in front of the entire school and were suspended.  Freedom was violated in this situation in that the students were treated like criminals when cuffed and were not even given a chance to explain.  Although in this circumstance an explanation could have been the difference between life and death, these students’ reputations were tarnished not only by police officers, but also by their government.
     Other examples of abuses of America’s freedoms include speeding cameras and red light cameras.  While it is obviously against the law to drive faster than the speed limit and drive through red lights, being filmed at every intersection seems to be a blatant invasion of privacy.  Being constantly monitored certainly gives the impression that “big brother” is constantly watching.  
     It is not a huge stretch to fear that in the near future, cameras will be placed in restaurants, movie theatres, parks and concert venues, for the express purpose of monitoring people for criminal activity.  At that point, how are we different from the many Communist countries that constantly monitor the activities of their citizens?
     Unbelievably, John Stossel reported on his show in March that lemonade stands across the country were being shut down due to the fact that law enforcement “simply did not know who made the lemonade, what it was made of, nor how it was made.” 
     In addition, they were being regarded as “unfair” competition.  What kind of a country allows lemonade stands to be shut down due to this kind of bureaucracy?  Fifty years ago, lemonade stands were a common childhood endeavor and were encouraged to give a firsthand experience at entrepreneurship to America’s youth.  Now, not only are they viewed as a threat, law enforcement officials are actually spending time and effort to close them down. 
     One of the major questions regarding the U.S. government’s apparent disregard for our civil liberties is that they do it with no regard for whether it is right or wrong.  Do they have the right to do what they are doing?  
     If we review the U.S. Constitution, we would most likely find that many of our rights are being violated.  
     We, as U.S. citizens, have the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, and the right to peacefully assemble.  It seems that many of these rights are infringed upon in these modern times.   
     Our government defends these infringements by telling us that it is for our own good.  They tell us that times have changed, and to protect modern society, stricter laws and harsher punishments are necessary.  It is an absolute fact that not only has law become stricter over the decades, punishments have become much more severe.  
     If things are going to get better, we as a society have to take back our rights and continue to stand up for them.  We need to speak out against invasions of privacy, such as being monitored in public places, or being filmed on the highway.  
     We have to speak out in defense of high school students being punished for using paintball guns, and we have to defend children who want to have a lemonade stand to earn a little money. 
     If we continue to let the U.S. government make stricter laws and enact harsher punishments for our society, we will someday be just like other Communist countries in the world.  We will wake up one day and wonder what happened to the “Land of the Free.”


2012-04-19 10:04:14