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How We Can Apply Transcendentalism to Today's World

How We Can Apply Transcendentalism to Today’s World




A new wave of civil disobedience similar to transcendentalism has started up. Like Henry David Thoreau, these people are fed up with the government intrusion, although the fight may now rest with individual expression and free thought. Governments all across the globe are now continually spying on their citizens, and even other countries citizens, making some feel as if their very thought is monitored. Combine this with radical security, and there’s a potent formula brewing.


In 2001 the USA PATRIOT Act was signed into law by President George Bush, and it was signed into extension by President Barrack Obama in 2011. Following the September 11th terror attacks that targeted military and civilian infrastructure, the fear of terrorism was at an all-time high. Less than a month after the attacks, Wisconsin Representative Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the bill, which passed the House 367-66, with critics maintaining that it “was written many, many years before 9/11 [and the attacks simply provided] an opportunity” to sign the law in for good. The Bill then passed the Senate handily, with only one opposer. The bill, on paper, sounds like a great idea. It allows the government to use extra resources to stop and deter terrorism. However, the question is often asked: At what cost? No one wants to get spied on by Big Brother, and it’s questionable if the PATRIOT Act actually works. There have still been numerous terror attacks in the US, including the Fort Hood shooting and the Boston Bombings. It’s easy to see where Thoreau would have fallen, and the movement against government spying has increased with support from politicians like Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and Elizabeth Warren.

Spying isn’t the only way government has strengthened its hold against the people. Over 30 government agencies, including the Fish and Wildlife Service, NASA, and the EPA, have their own specialized SWAT teams. This seems to negate the effect of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the use of Federal Military Troops to enforce the law on US Soil. While many would argue against the issue of a militarized police force, one must remember the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings. A combination of Boston Police Department, FBI, and Massachusetts State Police SWAT teams put an entire city under Martial Law, and investigated hundreds of houses without a warrant. The suspect was eventually found and is currently on trial, but he wasn’t found by any of these ridiculous orders, he was found by a vigilant citizen. Once again it appears that these government practices are futile, yet the American people continue to allow the government to get bigger and broader under the name of National Security, something Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Thoreau would have been staunchly against.

The US government hasn’t just targeted the American people with men in body armor and wiretaps, they’ve also targeted them with drones. Drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan are a regular occurrence, and while they do usually eliminate dangerous targets, they also kill innocent civilians who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. They’ve even been used to kill 4 Americans, one of them a teenager. President Obama’s administration has taken this to such an extreme that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was forced to filibuster for 12 hours after Attorney General Eric Holder argued that there were cases where drones could be used to kill US citizens on US soil, which not only violates the Posse Comitatus Act (All US drones are currently used by Active Duty Air Force personnel), it also goes against the ideas of due process and having a chance to defend yourself in court. It’s morally wrong to use drones to kill unsuspecting targets who are not a threat, especially when it goes against the Constitution of the United States, which this Administration swore to protect.

In closing, it’s important to remember all transcendentalists, but especially Henry David Thoreau, whose weariness of the government has become extremely poignant since the turn of the millenium. His timeless commentary should be presented to the current American government, in hopes they may right their course. It also up to the common man to fix these issues, for they still have the power to do just that.



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