Commentary on the status of American freedom in today’s world

Courtesy of The White House
Courtesy of The White House

When we think of the United States of America’s place among all the different nations, our initial picture would be that we are the keepers of peace and the embodiment of freedom. There is some idealistic truth to this statement, but the ideals that are associated with America do not always coincide with what is true.

What is motivating me to write this has been going on for a while but the final straw was the Umpqua community college shooting that happened on October 1 in Rosenburg, Oregon. People getting murdered for religion, for giving a bad grade or for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, shows in fact that there is a serious problem with the attitude toward safety that is going on in our country. Even the president expressed his disgust, both at this singular event, and at American citizens who are becoming increasingly numb when hearing tragic news of this magnitude.

However, as unbelievable as this singular event was, more like it have happened right under the general public’s nose.The average American is caught up with relatively trivial news that has been propagated by media channels that gain much of their funding through big corporations, such as the Republican Governor’s Association for Fox News. There are bigger problems going on other than the media’s fixation on Donald Trump building a wall or Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj having an argument.

One problem citizens should be worried about is the loss of privacy.

No one has really looked into the files that Edward Snowden has released, at the cost of his freedom. The files are living proof that in our own government, the National Security Agency (NSA) represents the Big Brother from George Orwell’s “1984” that we were warned about more than half a century ago. These are operatives at the highest level, who keep information even from other agents working on the same case. For the longest time, the government charged steep fees for any person who would want to look into these written laws, leaving anybody with a lower than average income ignorant when it came to their rights and the amount of jurisdiction authorities have. Even people who tried to fix the problems within the organization, such as Thomas Drake and Bill Biney, ended up having their own lives ruined as result.

Yet no one seems to care about these things. Actions of this severity impede our right to privacy, and the NSA has the capability and drive to collect mass amounts of information from the entire American public via programs like PRISM, which copies the data of users of big companies such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo. Snowden himself responded to why we should care about privacy by saying “Not caring about privacy because we have nothing to say is like saying we don’t care about our right to free speech because we have nothing to say.”

Another case includes the loss of Aaron Swartz’s life because he wanted everyone to have access to all academic journals. But I would be lucky to find someone who knows who he is. Swartz, one of the co-creators of the popular website Reddit, as well as many nonprofit organizations, used the network through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to copy academic journals accessible only through the Institute’s website, and redistribute them for free via the web. He ended up getting indicted, and was offered bargains to plead guilty to counts of “illegally obtaining information” and wire/computer fraud, as if he did it for reselling purposes. After countless attempts to bully him into pleading guilty for something he was innocent of, he committed suicide days before the trial.

These journals are extremely important. When scientists are going through the process of researching, hypothesizing, testing and correcting said hypothesis, the final step would be to publish their findings into academic journals, so that through science, technology, and relation, mankind can better itself. Restricting this access to only those who have the monetary resources to view these findings will make anyone without money unable to view a full picture of what mankind has achieved and is achieving, stopping potential progress and robbing the people a view of what mankind’s legacy was.

Someone wiser than me said that that the most dangerous thing in the world is ignorance. But combined with apathy, I fear that we are literally going down the path of pure submission to one-sided views without even realizing the true workings of what goes on in the circle of those with power. Similarly to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, it is also true that the rich are receiving all the information, whilst the poorer become more ignorant to the activities maintaining the powerful’s hegemony, almost as if we were living in Orwell’s “1984.”

For whoever is reading this: please at the very least learn Ed Snowden’s story, learn Aaron Swartz’s story and ask yourself, is this the world you want to be in.

 

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