Modern concepts of American civil rights are in a constant struggle between an unfaltering federal government, and a pointedly more concerned society. While these may be two extremes of the spectrum, a good majority of American society lies complacently in the middle. The overwhelming general feeling of acceptance has the public entranced, and the administration on a pulpit. The portrait of a politically conscious American citizen, actively following the tendencies of the nation has been tragically lost. As the Bill of Rights washes away with legislation such as the USA PATRIOT Act, and the secret operations employed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, few Americans bat an eyebrow. Waves of instances of warrant-less wiretapping, racial profiling, and questionable government behavior crash against the steady, unconcerned face of the American public. There remain, however, an infallible few, manifested primarily by the ACLU. With a seismic gusto, the ACLU takes the bull by the horns, taking virtual behemoths such as Verizon and AT&T to court for assisting government agencies in securing information on individuals to "combat terrorism."As well as taking a new age perspective on the fourth amendment, and promoting the right to privacy, the ACLU is prominently known for its Voltairian take on free speech. By protecting homosexual slanderers and anti-semitic nazis, the ACLU has got a bad rap for taking freedom too literally. But is there really such a thing? Realizing that most Americans are unable to recite even one fourth of the Bill of Rights, let alone the first amendment, it's easy to understand the inevitable backlash from citizens around the country over the ACLU's dogged defense of free speech. Yet, the ACLU sets an important precedent, an unwavering reminder that Americans' rights are slipping away, and we, as a community must do something about it. Taking an ACLU perspective on civil liberties may not be a reasonable option for many, however any amount of political knowledge and discussion is a step in the right direction. In a classical sense, education is the keystone of political participation and discussion, elements needed to combat a rapidly changing society. While the concept of civic virtue, and one's duty to society as a whole is nearing extinction, the drive to protect individual liberties is also wavering. To lose something so distinctly American is a tragedy, indeed, however it is reversible. As Atlas' knees buckle, the uncertain future of the American people's rights is yet to be seen.
September 1, 2007