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The Cost of liberty is less than the price of repression

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The day the war officially started on Iraq, thousands of people gathered at the Texas Capitol to protest the U.S. involvement in the war. That morning, as a government employee working at the Courthouse, I was notified via email of the impending protest. The email urged supervisors to let “non-essential personnel” leave early so that they could avoid the turmoil that the protest was sure to cause on traffic. I, unfortunately, am considered “essential personnel”, so there was no early release for me and I was caught up in the pandemonium. I sat behind the wheel of my car, hot, irritated and perturbed at the time it was taking me to make it the four blocks from the courthouse to IH-35, due to the sea of people protesting the wrongfulness of the war. As anger rose up in me, the only way I could pacify myself was to pause for a moment and ponder the “big picture” of the situation.

My inconvenience of sitting in rush-hour traffic a little longer than usual was a small price to pay for freedom of speech for all, even those with conflicting views from my own. I sat and felt a sense of awe that I live in a country where those protesters were allowed to march and voice their opinion without the fear of retribution. My blood pressure slowly came down, and I made myself take back the thoughts I had given voice to moments earlier, when I said out loud, ” Dang, why doesn’t someone arrest them all and get them out of my way so I can make it through this light.” At that moment, I came to the realization that even though they were exercising their rights by trampling all over mine, I still was thankful that I did not live in a country where police could just restrain people for opinions contrary to those of the government’s.

Evidence of the accuracy of W.E. Dubois’ quote can be found in the plight of African Americans for suffrage. Today, if you are of legal age and have registered, then more than likely, you can vote. That was not always the case. African Americans decided that after slavery, they would jump any hurdle that tried to repress their rights, especially their right to vote. Barriers such as poll taxes, literacy test, good character tests and the Grandfather Clause were instituted to restrain blacks from voting. One by one blacks found ways to jump the hurdles to voting put before them. These obstacles were implemented to subject blacks to severe and vexing embarrassment in an effort to humiliate and demoralize them into not wanting to go through the hassle of voting. But African Americans realized that the humiliating treatment that was inflicted upon them was a small sacrifice for their right to vote. In the minds of many blacks, enduring those humiliations in order to achieve the right to vote, whether they utilized that right or not, was far more important than allowing the government to deny them the right to vote at all.

Since the 911 terrorists attacks, the government has taken a no-hold-barred strategy toward increasing national security. We have focused suspicion on groups of people based solely on their religion or national origin. The color of someone’s skin or the features of their face have been enough to allow the government to spy on American citizens, invade their privacy, and imprison people without due process. This power, which was granted to our government under the USA Patriot Act, tramples on our constitutional rights. While it is necessary to protect the blessings of liberty that we as Americans have a right to, this increased security cannot be done at the price of our fundamental rights, or at the restriction of our liberties.

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