Thursday, December 08, 2011

Perilous-er and Perilous-er

This morning two American Studies students (I almost said "former" students, but these two are clearly still students of American Studies!) wrote to voice their opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act. This Act, which passed the Senate 93-7, grants extraordinary power to the government, allowing the military to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely.

Sources as disparate as the ACLU and Forbes are outraged, but as we head into an important election year, it's hard to find legislators who will vote against defense -- even if it means stripping U.S. citizens of their Constitutional rights. Forbes goes so far as to call the Act "the greatest threat to civil liberties Americans face." In fact, legislators who drafted the Act say that the "battlefield [in the war on terror] right outside your window." Do you agree?

If so, what, if anything, can we do?  I have written and called my representatives to voice my outrage. If you agree, you might contact your Senators (both of our IL senators voted for it): Senator Kirk and Senator Durbin.

How effective is such an action? What else might we do?


AbbeyR said...

I think that contacting our representatives and voicing our opinions is very effective. I think spreading the word to the people is also effective, such as blogging, newpaper articles, etc. For example, during World World II, William Dudley Pelley voiced his opinions about the war and gained many followers hosting rallys and protests. He eventually got enough followers to be noticed by the government.

Doug S. said...

I agree with Abbey, but i think there are more effective ways then contacting your senator (who i am sure would love to hear the input) and posting blogs or articles. In my opinion multiple voices are much better than just one. Therefore, i think the best way to get attention and spread the word is through peaceful assembly. The more who join the merrier. I think a great example of this is with the Occupy Wall Street protests that have gained the attention of newscasts and government officials all over the country. Although it is mainly based in New York, many similar gatherings are occurring all over the country sort of like a chain reaction.

Ross W. said...

I don't think simply calling a representative will be very effective because they are not going to be influenced by one voice. The congressmen who passed this bill did so because they believe it will get them as many votes as possible to show they value safety and defense. One person's disapproval will not change their mind. Howeverm a good way to change their mind is something like Anonymous, an international hacking group that protests civil liberty restrictions, because they have a large audience and can influence a lot of people.

David said...

I agree with Ross's idea; using an online group that wields some kind of power over governments. I also agree that only contacting a representative will not help a lot, but it can be a start. If many people all petition, contact their representatives, and the internet is buzzing with frustration, then there is a chance that someone might overturn it. Also, there is hope that the Supreme Court can rule the law unconstitutional if the right evidence is presented to them and a controversial case is brought to them. In all cases, the way change will occur is through a number of coordinated movements, showing that multiple large groups with different interests all agree that this one law needs to be changed.

Miles T-G said...

This past Thursday evening I was lucky enough to see Congressman, and presidential hopeful, Ron Paul speak at my University. He brought up the recent passing of this bill in the senate and hearkened to the days following 9/11. He said that that bill had been written years before and in the calamity of 9/11, was re-introduced to the floor and passed resoundingly. He noted that he did NOT vote for it, adding that he asked the congressman beside him: "Do you know what you're voting for here?" The congressman replied "No, but if I don't, what am I supposed to tell the people back home, how am I going to get re-elected?"

This was absolutely shocking to me. The answer seemed clear: it violates the civil liberties that every American is entitled to. Nonetheless, he voted in favor of re-election, not for his constituents.

As I did late Wednesday night, people can voice their opinions to their representatives. Perhaps if the people had been educated about the bill, enough would have written in to urge their representative to vote nay, and not a blind yay. So I do think a letter is perfectly reasonable and effective. Mark Kirk's auto reply message told me he receives over 5,000 letters a day. Imagine if the vast majority were about this bill, I think he would pay closer attention.

David K. said...

Unfortunately, there's not much that can be done. The only way to actually have influence over politicians is if a significant number of people rise up and demand change. But even so, these efforts can lead to nowhere. For example, if you look at polls about the Obama's healthcare law, the majority of Americans continue to support its repeal. However, even after a few years, nothing has been done about it. Only sometime next year will the Supreme Court finally hear the case and decide on its constitutionality.

Thomas Jefferson correctly called democracy nothing more than "mob-rule", in the sense that the majority can take away rights from the minority and influence laws for this purpose. That is the way it is today. The Bill of Rights has been disobeyed, and the minority has lost its constitutional protections. Because of this, it will be nearly impossible to repeal this bill since the majority of people are either uninformed or in support of it. And Miles brings up a good point - politicians will do anything to get reelected, so most of them (besides Ron Paul and some others) will do whatever the majority will be in support for.

Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree with people saying that nothing can be done to stop this Act from being signed. Miles states that Mark Kirk "receives over 5,000 letters a day," then asks us to "imagine if the vast majority were about this bill." Well, we could make that happen. Four people just commented that their single voices cannot make a difference. However, every voice does count. There are over 1,000 students in our grade alone, and if every student at New Trier wrote a letter, we would practically double the amount of letters Kirk receives in one day! This would require every person to take initiative and realize that his or her voice does matter.

Regarding Mr. O'Connor's other point, I find it ridiculous to hear that "legislators who drafted the Act say that the 'battlefield [in the war on terror] right outside [our] window.'" The government knows that the National Defense Authorization Act unjustly limits civil liberties, so it attempts to justify its actions by claiming that we US citizens are currently facing terror on our own soil. Yet, the biggest threat we are currently facing is in fact this Act, which is supposed to be "protecting" us. This reminds me of when Frederick Douglass states that his "master found religious sanction for his cruelty" (33). The slave owners in the south during the 1800s used religion to justify their inhumane acts, just as our government today is turning to outside ideas to justify laws that restrict our rights as citizens of this country.