Monday, May 30, 2005

It's Great to be the King

As Big Brother encroaches upon us from every direction, I find it quite fascinating to talk to people about where they would like to draw the line upon this encroachment. There seems to be this sense that if things go to far, we the people will have the ability to roll things back if the majority disapproves. Yet there is no real evidence that we have the ablity to roll anything back.

The Federal Income tax started as a temporary fix to fund a war. Most americans detest it and the way it works. Yet, everytime it has been attempted to be fixed, it gets worse.

So, with some amusement I find it interesting to see that we now have traffic light cameras to catch violators so that citations can be issued, and cameras for catching speeders are on the horizon. These cameras have the ability to do something that we have not been able to do: apply the laws equally to all citizens all the time. Race, color, creed, red car, green car, male, female, blonde, brunette are all subject to the same camera and same enforcement 24 hours a day.

Recently, I asked someone if they were enthusiastic about such technical intrusions, would they be as enthusiastic if each time they broke a law that they were cited. I also asked do they break common traffic laws now on a regular basis. Do they really want to live in a society where everything done is under constant scrutiny and subject to prosecution? The answers are terrifying to me.

They were for the traffic light cameras but against the speed monitoring cameras. There was the constant assertion that there must be some sort of reasonableness decided by society overall. Yet society has not really shown the ability to agree on what reasonable it. The deciding factor usually seems to be that what is reasonable is what I agree with, and unreasonable is what I disagree with.

Then there is the concept that if we the public find it unreasonable, we can change it. That has not proven to be true either. Each day we become less and less significant in as individuals in America, and indeed, the world. Each day I have less and less impact on the laws that are passed, on the representatives I cast votes for, and who is president. Indeed the individual is at risk of becoming totally insignificant.

As the population grows, and we become more and more segmented, protecting the rights of the individual become less and less important. Suppose a law can be passed that takes away the rights of 1 % of americans. The other 99% will not be affected. Suppose that this law is for the greater good of the entire nation. Do you really believe that there will be an uprising amongst the 99% in support of that 1%? Or will the concept of greater good combined with the knowledge I am not affected effectively silence us?

I was once a very strong advocate for the death penalty. Recently though, I have changed my view. Scores of inmates that have been wrongly convicted have been released through dna evidence. Putting an innocent man in jail is something we as a nation once believed to be the worst thing ever. So terrible that we would have rather let a guilty man go free rather than imprison an innocent one. That believe seems to have changed.

How can we pursue the death penalty, when in some cases, we are not completely sure of the guilt. In each of the cases that have been reversed, the innocent were indeed found guilty. Yet they were not.

And in spite of this terrible wrong, we do not have a national revolt against the death penalty. Why? Because I believe all of us who are generally law abiding do not think it will happen to us. If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear. Yet how many not doing wrong have been placed in jail, forfeiting years of their life, or worse been executed?

If the rights of the individual are surrendered to society there is no one to stand and defend us. There may be no one to defend you. Of course the odds are against you, but long odds do not keep things from happening. The odds are very long against winning the lottery, yet someone will indeed win. And even with the long odds, look at how many are willing to take that chance for winning. Are we also not taking that same chance at losing rights as an individual?

People expect the enforcement of laws to be reasonable. If the speed limit is 55 and you are going 56, then most people think getting a ticket for 56 is unreasonable. Yet that is the law. And the closer to the law that they broke, then the more unreasonable they feel it is when they are ticketed. If you are caught doing 85 in a 55, you are not likely to think it unreasonable to get a ticket, unlike the first case. But our laws are not designed to be that way. They were meant to treat all equally, and breaking the law is, basically breaking the law.


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