Constitution Politics

A Changing Nation

Thursday, June 27, 2013 Sophia Sanchez

On Tuesday, June 25th, millions of people watched history in the making as Senator Wendy Davis fought to protect women's rights against Texas Lawmakers who's proposed bill would leave the state of Texas with less than 5 abortion clinics & rendering abortions beyond 20 weeks illegal.  Activists and citizens united outside the Capitol building in Austin in what is being declared as a glorious spectacle of Democracy in which the people of this great nation fought to protect our rights.  In all my years, I have never been so moved by a political movement and in having been able to witness these events, it makes me proud to be a citizen of the United States. 

That being said, I'll be honest in admitting that for most of my life, I have cared very little about what happens up on Capitol Hill.  I have never given much thought to proposed bills, the laws being passed and the possible privileges and/or ramifications that come along with those changes.  I've cared very little about elections and who's running for president, congress, senate, etc.  And I can't give you any legitimate reason for why I've never shown any interest in politics other than - "it doesn't directly affect me so why should I care?" 

Politics has always been one of those topics of discussion that is a bit "taboo" and off limits.  People always get heated and are set in their ways of thinking and in my experience, nothing good has ever come from a political debate.  As a result, I chose not to care about what was taking place all around me. 

So why now am I choosing Halfstack as my media platform to speak out so publicly about something I just openly admitted to caring very little about? Because for the first time in my life I am paying attention.  I am listening; and I'll be honest and vulnerable in admitting that what I've learned scares me. 

I'd like to preface the proceeding information by saying that in no way is this a political stance taken by Halfstack Magazine.  Neither am I trying to shove my personal beliefs and positions in the readers' faces. I am a journalist and my intent is merely to inform the public of our changing nation.  My attitude in the past, I admit has been one of naivety.  By assuming that because anything pertaining to politics had little to do with me, I chose ignorant bliss.  Good, bad, or ugly.... I strive to bring a little education in today's post to everyone reading. 

Over the last several months, some rather disturbing information has surfaced about the way the United States government is being run.   And at the risk of sounding crass, many American's feel as if the Bill of Rights, including rights that fall under other amendments of the constitution, are slowly being eradicated leaving citizens stripped of their basic civil liberties.
To name a few... our right to bear arms, the Supreme Court's ruling that citizens no longer have the right to remain silent as proposed under the Miranda Rights, changes to the Voting Rights Act that will leave certain minority groups susceptible to discrimination by the States, our invasion of privacy as perpetrated by the NSA, and the most recent incident of the state of Texas wanting to strip women of their rights to make decisions pertaining to their own bodies.  Whatever your political position - Democrat, Republican,  Moderate - at some point we all need to take a step back to realize that in the bigger picture, lies the issue that our rights as citizens are being taken away. 

Without delving too much into the details of each of the issues mentioned above, here's a little background information on each one.

The never-ending debate of gun reform.  We can sit here all day and go back and forth on the reasons why the government should or shouldn't take away the right for citizen's to bear arms.  And I've done my homework.   I know the statistics of gun related deaths/violence by city and the laws pertaining to the associated states in regards to the right to bear arms.  At the end of day, there will never be 100% agreement among the population, HOWEVER, our right to bear arms shall not be infringed as stated in the 2nd amendment of the Bill of Rights.  Any changes to that law is in violation of our rights as citizens and that is essentially what is at stake here. 

Two days ago the Supreme Court ruled to revoke the right to remain silent as stated under the Miranda Rights.  Meaning, if a person does not formally make it known that they are in fact invoking their 5th amendment rights, then the police can use their silence as evidence of guilt.  The courts ruling in Salinas is all the more troubling because during such informal, undocumented,  and unregulated questioning, there are special dangers that police may, intentionally or not, coax false confessions from innocent suspects.  This becomes very problematic because it gives the police, who bank on people not knowing their rights, more power to use their intimidation tactics to get a confession for something (anything) from you (ie stops and searches, DUI, etc).  And if this wasn't already evident, this is clear infringement on our 5th amendment rights.....  more civil liberties being taken away.

On the same day that the Supreme Court ruled to revoke our 5th amendment right, they also struck down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.  For those of you unfamiliar with what this is, it is an Act that was enacted in 1965 because Congress had determined that racial discrimination in voting had been more prevalent in certain areas of the country.  This act was put in place to help identify those areas and to provide for a more stringent remedy where appropriate.   In a 5-4 decision, the Court's five conservative justices ruled that the formula, which required states with a history of racial discrimination to "preclear" changes to their voting laws with the Department of Justice or a federal judge before enforcing them, was unconstitutional.  Since then, 6 states have already started moving on restrictions, many of which have adverse effects on the abilities of minorities, young people and the poor to exercise their right to vote.  What is the end result here?  The eradication of our 15th amendment right.  

And of course there is the issue of one of the biggest NSA leaks in the history of this country.  Where it was revealed by an ex-NSA employee that a secret court order by the U.S. government had forced the telecom giant Verizon to hand over the phone records of millions of Americans.  A second story, a day later revealed the existence of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which internal NSA documents claim gives the agency "direct access" to data held by Google, Facebook, Apple and other U.S. internet giants.  Barack Obama has spoken out defending these two programs, saying they are overseen by the courts and Congress.  Insisting that "the right balance" had been struck between security and privacy, he says:  "You can't have 100% security, and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience."  Which, may very well be the case, but then why all the secrecy?  The government cannot impose on our right to privacy as is protected under the 4th amendment of the constitution without at the very least informing it's citizens of their actions.  

I could go on for days talking about all the recent issues that have risen as of late, pertaining to the injustices and inequalities we face as a nation.  I just don't have the time, as I'm sure you don't have the time to read through it all.  That being said, it is my assumption that many Americans have taken the position I once did where it was just too bothersome to care.  I've heard it all from:

"Why should I care?  Nothing will ever change."

"It doesn't affect me so none of it matters."

"I'm just one person, I can't make a difference." 

Don't get me wrong.  The United States is by far an amazing country and an incredible place to live.  There are still opportunities here that you will not find in any other country in the world... but that doesn't mean that we should sit idly by and let this government turn into a police state... a Big Government.  It could very well be that none of these issues directly affect you as a person.  I'm certain that I am not planning on running out and committing a crime where I'll need to exercise my right to remain silent, I also have no interest in bearing arms.  But just because something doesn't affect you today, doesn't mean it won't affect you tomorrow and the time is NOW to ensure that no more of our rights get taken away.  

Two days ago, Senator Wendy Davis stood in the Capitol Building in Austin for over 11 hours without food, without breaks of any kind and fought for the right of a woman to make her own decisions regarding abortions.  Whatever your position on the subject matter - whether you are pro-choice or pro-life - isn't what's important here.  What is important is that as a nation we banded together and stood our ground.  Our voices were heard and we made a difference.  That is what Democracy is all about.  No longer should we take the attitude that none of it matters and that we'll never be able to make a difference, because just a few days ago we DID matter.  The people of this country are who matter and we need to fight for what is fair and what is right.  

So... if you are still with me after this long edition, I encourage you to pay attention.  I encourage you to get involved.  The only way we will keep our rights and privileges is to make sure Democracy stays in action.  

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