CIVIL LIBERTIES AND THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM 1
Democracy for the few by Dr. Parenti
Therepression of the dissent
By “repression of the dissent”, Dr. Parenti refers to theactions that some state entities take to subdue the efforts forliberalization and democracy by some parties. The tyranny is composedof efforts that the state entities take to stop the free parties frommaking civil progress, or do something that directly affects theirinterests. Dr. Parenti gives an example of one state agency, theInternal Revenue Service (IRS), which suppresses leaders andpoliticians who are not aligned to the ruling regime (Parenti, 2011,p.119). Categorically, the IRS, as one of the tools of acorporate-dominated state, makes an effort to minimize, or altogethereliminate, the efforts of organized dissents who fight the regime’sinterests. The actions in the “repression of the dissent”therefore amount to illegal and unjustified efforts that those inpower pursue to neutralize democracy and intimidate their enemies.
Thenational security autocracy
National security autocracy is a form of ruling where power isconcentrated around one entity, say, the President or General of theArmy. In his book however, Dr. Parenti refers to the entity as acollection of individuals and agencies, all which have a commonstrategy to govern the way that the United States governmentadministration runs. The people that form this autocracy have acommon goal, meaning that they have a form of “autocratic” powerwhich they use to run the state affairs. For instance, in Dr.Parenti’s book, the function of this autocracy is to “seekalternatives to free-market globalization” (Parenti, 2011, P. 129).One of the characteristics of the national security autocracy iscarrying out illegal activities, such as monitoring individuals andwatching their every move, without any formal jurisdiction to do so.
By homeland insecurity, the author is coming up with cynical meaningto what the Americans understand as “homeland security.” Insteadof the government and its security agencies protecting the citizensas they are mandated, their actions amount to the people’sinsecurity. As such, instead of referring to the state agency as“homeland security”, the author refers to it and its actions as“homeland insecurity”. Instances of the “insecurity” that Dr.Parenti identifies are holding citizens without warranty, trackingtheir online activities without their consent, and spying on theirlibrary studies (Parenti, 2011, p.35). All these are infringements ofvarious rights and freedoms that are provided for by the U.SConstitution. This amounts to the suppression of democracy in thecountry, which is carried out by the very government that swears toprotect the citizens by all means.
In this subtopic, Dr. Parenti refers to the tendency of the Americanjudiciary attempting to come up with explanations to justify rulingsthat favor persons and political interests. Categorically, the authorimplies that the judges on almost every level of the judiciary makedecisions that are not based on the law, rather on an independentdecree. Moreover, there is a peculiar notion among activists andlegal experts that this tendency has turned to be a conservativebehavior, whereby judges replicate historical injustices every otherday in the American courts. For instance, Judge Marshall was aslaveholder and a judge, meaning that his judgments did not favor theslaves (Parenti, 2011, p.253). Such situations mean that some peoplewill always suffer injustice even before the courts themselves, hencethe term “conservative judicial activism”.
Circumventingthe First Amendment
Dr. Parenti intends to communicate the efforts that the governmentagencies puts in place to avoid following the First Amendment to theletter. As the book addresses how democracy is not practiced well inAmerica, this sub-topic explains the way that the people’s rightsand freedoms are violated by the few in power, who work for theirselfish interests. For instance, the capitalists make amendments andpass laws that restrict the American’s civil liberties, such as thefreedom of speech and press (Parenti, 2011, p.255). With these lawspassed, the people do not enjoy their freedom of speech, hencelimiting their ability to exercise full democracy. Through suchlegislations, those in power, and the capitalists as well, find a wayto beat the First Amendment and shape the American democracy to fitand serve their interests.
Asthe court turns
Dr. Parenti intends to argue that the American Supreme Court makesjudgments that are unorthodox, or are based on ideological bias.Therefore, the court “turns” away from what the public mightconsider as logical conclusion to court cases, making judgments thatare not popular among the people. The “turning” also refers tothe way that that the Supreme Court may influence the perception andunderstanding of the law among the citizens based on some keyjudgments that shape its image. This way, the public interprets thecourt’s decisions as a making of their judgment of the politicalclimate of the time (Parenti, 2011, p.258). The decision of the courtare therefore more controlled by the sitting judges, rather than theperception of the law among the people. While some of the court’s“turning” decisions shape the future of American law and justice,some forever remain sinister and unpopular among the people.
Struggle for democracy by Dr. Greenberg and Page
Nationalizationof the bill of rights
By “Nationalization of the bill of rights,” the authors refersthe efforts that the judiciary of the United States has applied, asprovided for by the country’s constitution, to protect the citizensat every level. While the Americans enjoy the bill of rights today,the same was not experienced about a century ago. This is because thejudiciary focused on applying the bill of rights at the Nationallevel, and ignoring paying attention at the State level. According toStephens & Scheb (2007, p. 22), initially, the Americangovernment had the idea that States could not violate the bill ofrights of their citizens, hence paying attention only at the highestlevel, the National level. However, with time, the issues of slaveryled to raised concerns about how some states abused the civilliberties of their subjects, hence prompting the National governmentto nationalize the bill of rights, up to the State level. Followingthis, the national government put in efforts to ensure that the billof rights extended to the states, which was triggered by the eventsof the Barron v. Baltimore (1833) (Greenberg & Page, 2011,p.489). The nationalization of the bill of rights saw to thedevelopment of laws that protected the citizens against stateinjustices, deprivation of their privileges and immunities, as wellas the protection of their status as American citizens.
The evolution of the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, civilliberties and the fight against terrorism, as explained by Dr.Greenberg and Page, are developments of the first Amendment. As theauthors explain, these rights and freedoms are all products of theselective incorporation, nationalization, and incorporation of thebill of rights (Greenberg & Page, 2011, p. 489). Some of the keyfeatures in the timeline of the development of the freedom of speechin the 20th century were the right to counsel (1963), jurytrial (1968) and most recently, free speech for corporations andunions in campaign (2010) (Greenberg & Page, 2011, p. 489). Onthe other hand, the freedom of the press traces its developments backto about 1931 in the case of Near vs. Minnesota (1931). Withthese foundations, the freedom grew later through the protection ofsources, media and more recently, controversial art (Greenberg &Page, 2011, p. 495-496). Civil rights are also enshrined in the firstconstitution, which over time has led to the provision of freedomssuch as religion and privacy (Greenberg & Page, 2011, p. 501).The development of the fight against terrorism has been characterizedby executive orders, most significantly beginning with the Bushadministration after the 9/11 attacks (Greenberg & Page, 2011, p.510). The fight began with the formulation of the USA Patriotic Act(which is also a part of the civil liberties), to a series ofexecutive orders and Congress bills that have strengthened the fightagainst terrorism.
In general terms, these readings provide an oversight of the progressof the American civil rights struggle. The main objective of theprovisions of the constitutional amendments is to help the Americancitizens protect themselves from the government (Williams, 2013,p.17 Janda, Berry & Goldman, 2011, p.431). However, as seen fromDr. Parenti’s book, democracy, which is the fruit of the civilstruggles, is not shared evenly across the population. Some partiesseem to take advantage of their positions, for instance, ingovernment, to shield their interests, and in the process, loseconcern for the democratic welfare of others. While civil libertiesmay be documented well within the American judicial system and thelegislature, the executive, and other government agencies haveconsistently abused the rights and freedoms of other Americans.Precedents of democracy, such as freedom of speech and the media,have suffered categorical and institutionalized abuses emerging fromthe top ranks. With the 1st and 14thamendments, among others in the American constitutions, the foundingfathers had the idea of a free nation where civil liberties wererespected and upheld (Jones, 2009, p.67). Unfortunately,circumstances have influenced the shaping of democracy, which has ledto the thwarting of the civil liberties through the judicial systemand legislature. Regardless, the struggle for civil democracy in theUnited States is in some cases a fruitful undertaking, given the factthat over the past century and a half, civil liberties and thefreedoms of the citizens has recorded commendable progress. This isevident through landmark court rulings that among other courses, haveled to the abolishment of slavery and upholding of human dignity atall levels. However, unprecedented developments, significantly suchas the 9/11 attacks, have led to some executive decisions thatdebaters of democracy might consider as a violation of theconstitutional amendments that bore the concepts of civil liberty anddemocracy.
Greenberg, E. S. & Page, B.I. The struggle for democracy, 10Ed. New York, NY: Pearson Education.
Janda, K., Berry, J.M., Goldman, J., & Hula, K.W. (2014). Thechallenge of democracy essentials: American government in globalpolitics. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
Jones, A. (2009). Losing the news: The future of the news thatfeeds democracy. London, UK: Oxford University Press.
Parenti, M. (2011). Democracy for the few, 9thEd. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
Stephens, O. & Scheb, J. (2007). American constitutional law,Volume II: Civil rights and liberties. Mason, OH: CengageLearning.
Williams, J. (2013). Academic encounters level 2 student’s bookreading and writing: American studies. Cambridge, MA: CambridgeUniversity Press.