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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Information is power, so inform yourself

The executive branch has been flexing its unconstitutional muscles lately.

The Transport Security Administration, under the Department of Homeland Security, under the office of the president, has been up to no good.

The TSA targeted several train stations last month for its activities. Special TSA teams, called VIPR teams, started searching passengers’ luggage with no explanation.

The TSA has been spotted on highways engaging in the same kind of behavior. Despite the casual manner in which the TSA searches people, the Fourth Amendment protects American citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” This means that any searches and seizures that take place without a search warrant or without probable cause to believe a crime is being committed are unlawful.

Yet, these are just the kinds of searches that the TSA does on a routine basis. In 2011, the TSA ran more than 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and search operations.

Why is the TSA permitted to continue with these violations?

I think part of it is that many of us are complacent.

We’re not concerned enough to care.

It’s to the point that people might see an informed citizen as being supererogatory.

How often do we decide that politics is a pain, and we’ll leave it to somebody else?

How often do we prefer to be blissfully uninformed, mistakenly assuming that informing ourselves won’t make a difference?

The fact is that it does make a difference when even a single person informs himself or herself, and it is critically important that we all do so.

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Why is it so important?

Because the moment any of us start looking away and not caring, and that sentiment finds its way into our culture and becomes popular, the people upstairs can rob us blind.

Whether it’s the state trying to take away our rights or a corporation trying to poison us, someone is probably trying to harm us. It’s up to us, the populace, to be the conscience of these groups — to keep them in line.

Bear in mind that the TSA is only one example of how the government violates our rights on a daily basis.

We’ve slipped up during the years with making sure our Congress has been moral, and now it’s popular for congresspersons to accept bribes.

We call it lobbying.

We’ve also slipped up during the years with making sure our presidents are moral, and now it’s routine for them to approve of torture. The current president has even had American citizens killed with drones, which means they never even got a trial.

He is also expanding his drone war in Africa and the drone fleet in general.

To think that as a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the leader of the free world, President Barack Obama continues to approve of such atrocities and remain unchecked by the general public is unthinkable.

Unfortunately, the majority of people don’t seem to care, even when it comes to elections. The United States has repeatedly had one of the poorest voter turnouts of the countries compared in analyses.

What are the odds that things will get better by themselves, without the public getting involved? Not very high, I think.

We must all commit to informing ourselves and contributing.

Anything short of that would be a moral failure and will hurt us all.

Brandon Lee Gagne is an anthropology senior at UF. His column usually runs on Fridays. You can contact him via opinions@alligator.org.

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