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Where is the Freedom?

As an American, born and raised in the United States, there are things about this country that I appreciate and love. There are also quite a few things about this country that I am admittedly ashamed of. Most people would agree that America is ahead of the game on several levels; however, America is lagging in some of the most important areas like, lack of equality, persecution of personal freedoms, and governmental double-standards. Races, religions, and sexual orientations are being targeted in this country and this needs to be changed. There are several aspects of this country that could use a lot of improvement, but finding where to start and how to fix it all will be a hard task for America.

For being a country all about freedom of expression and equality, you don't see a lot of it when you turn on the news. There is persecution of different religions, sexual orientations, and races. Where is the freedom to be who you are in a country that used to be a pillar of hope to so many people? It's hard to find. What about all the people that came to America to escape their oppressing homelands and live a better life? There might not be bombs falling outside of their homes and they may not be in as much imminent danger as they would be in warzones, but if they're different, there's a chance they are not completely safe. It's not uncommon for minorities and religions outside of the norm to be targeted and attacked in this country, which is a very sad reality. Our Bill of Rights gives us the freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, to name a few. If this is so, then why are religions being targeted? Why are people that stand up for what they believe in, being killed and tortured? Why are religious, spiritual, and safe havens being vandalized, destroyed, or torched? There are a lot of "why's" flying around here, but sadly, there are many more questions than there are answers.

When we think of religious persecution, a lot of thoughts may come to mind. The persecution going on in America may not seem as drastic as what happened with the Nazi's, from our perspective staring at the TV or picking up a paper, but for the people sitting in Guantanamo Bay, for no reason other than they're Muslim or originate from an Arab country, it can be just as bad. One religious persecution that got a lot of media attention recently was the building of the "mosque on ground zero." It was freedom of assembly and freedom of religion, yet there was a huge deal made on the news. In fact, the media went as far as to paint the picture in our minds that the mosque was being built on ground zero, and it was disrespectful to the lives that were lost. The truth is, the mosque was being built just over two blocks away and there was no view of the ground zero site from the proposed establishment. Another false truth painted by the media, was that it was simply a mosque. In an article written for the St. Petersburg Times online website, Robert Farley explains.
While we're considering the term "Ground Zero Mosque," we also wondered whether it was proper to call the project a mosque. A mosque is, in fact, planned there, but it's part of a plan for a much larger, $100 million cultural center that includes a swimming pool, gym and basketball court, a 500-seat auditorium, a restaurant and culinary school, a library and art studios. Organizers say the center would be open to all New Yorkers, regardless of faith, and would promote cultural diversity.

As the article shows, it was a large project that was so much more than just a "mosque." It was a community center as well; open to anyone who wanted to go, but because it was also partially a mosque, it caused a large political debate over the building of it. If that isn't religious persecution and discrimination, then I believe those words need to be re-defined.

What about the large issue of gay marriage that's being disputed everywhere we look? How is it anyone else's business who someone chooses to marry, who they choose to love, and who they choose to raise a child with? Though I'm positive that there will be countless people arguing my opinion, and the opinion of many others like me, I simply do not see how these are matters of the government, or anyone else for that matter. If you don't want a gay marriage, then don't get one, but no one should be able to control someone else's choice of the matter.

Many people, especially churches, go on to argue that marriage is sacred between a man and a woman, and that a marriage between homosexual couples would be an abomination. However, going from the number of divorces that take place every year in America, which by 1993 was up to 1,187,000, and the number has continued to increase over the years, marriage seems to have lost its sanctity. Another common argument is that a gay person chooses to be gay, and could just as easily choose to love someone of the opposite sex. This is simply not true. As David Myers explains in Psychology in Everyday Life, new research has given significant evidence against that claim. "The consistency of genetic, prenatal, and brain findings has swung the pendulum towards a biological explanation of sexual orientation (Rahman & Wilson, 2003)" (117). Along with the rest of the chapter, this quote explains that there are significant genetic differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals, giving credit to the fact it is not a choice. Once again, I am sure there will be large numbers of people denying this, or finding a way around the evidence; however this is true not just of humans. Homosexuality is apparent in animals as well; primates, penguins, cats, and swans all exhibit homosexual behavior as well as have same-sex partners. This also adds to the point that homosexuality occurs in nature, and the animal kingdom seems to be just fine with it. The fact of the matter is whether or not homosexuality is chosen or naturally occurring, it is a person's choice. Freedom is what America is all about, yet people who love someone of the same sex do not get the freedom that straight people have. This is something I, as an American, am ashamed of. There is no freedom in this situation, just control, injustice, and inequality.

Lastly, a subject that we are all very familiar with: Race. Mexicans are deported as illegal aliens, African Americans are profiled as criminals, and Arabs are accused of being terrorists. We've all learned about the slavery in the South, the fight to end slavery, and the several years' worth of fighting in order to give African Americans the same rights as white people. Though there are now laws in place protecting personal freedom no matter what your race is, and there are equal opportunities in the work place for people of all colors, there are several people, myself included, that do not believe America has yet achieved total equality when it comes to race.

In 2007 the National Institute of Justice published a piece on Hate Crime in America, among the several reasons for hate crimes there were three specific ones related to this paper: Race, religion, and sexual orientation. Race, being the highest motivation for hate crimes in America, is at 55.4%. Religion falls at 12.9% of the incidents, and sexual orientation at 18%. These may look like relatively small numbers, but given that there are hundreds of thousands of hate crimes reported, this covers a large amount of people affected by this injustice, simply because of their skin color, religion, or whom they love.

Think of our post 9/11 world, when anyone with a Middle-Eastern name was looked at suspiciously in an airport, taken to the side and searched, and even held for questioning. Even a friend of my own family was targeted and treated as if he were a terrorist shortly after 9/11, simply because he originated from an Arab country. This is as racist as assuming the African American in your neighborhood is the one that stole your dog. There is no evidence backing it up, other than what people of the same color have done in the past. This is racism at its finest, and America is the last country that should be tolerating it. Have we forgotten that we're aliens to our own country? Aside those of Native American descent, not a single one of our families originated from America. Our ancestors all immigrated to America and claimed it as theirs, so why are we not allowing people to do the very same thing that we once did? Why are we allowing racism to thrive in our country and pollute the American Dream?

Though we have come a long way in the past decades, we are still nowhere near the equality and freedom that a country of our intelligence and power should have. If the American Dream so many people are searching for is what we have right now, this country where racism has survived, persecution still thrives, and inequality is well and alive, then I want to wake up.



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