I cannot quell the pain of the empathy I feel for the billions who suffer a worse existence simply by where they were born. I happened to be delivered to a place where I can speak my mind, but I could have easily been raised in a totalitarian state where I would be unable to freely express my opinions. If I lived in many of the oppressive dictatorships the U.S. has supported throughout our nation’s history—exemplified by U.S. support of regimes in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in the 1980s—I would have been murdered for expressing the views I’ve had for the past five years. It is a privilege to be born into a society where I am free to publish what we do at Can the Man; in many countries this website would be shut down, users denied access, or worse.
In the light of this knowledge I am awed by those courageous individuals who continue to speak out against tyranny as 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai did, knowing that she was risking everything. Because she expressed her belief that every child should have access to education regardless of gender, belief or economic background—she was shot in the head. Miraculously Malala survived, and after her cranium was repaired by numerous surgeries in a British hospital; she continues to speak her mind.
Blatant censorship is a reality in totalitarian governments and those who express themselves live in jeopardy. State retribution is a daily threat that many free thinkers experience in these societies. I know I am fortunate to have this freedom, but how long will it last?
All of my purchases online are being monitored, down to nearly every stroke of the keyboard. Phone lines are frequently tapped, emails hacked; in short, the scariest aspects of 1984 are now realities. In the age of civilian deaths via drone strike the state is often scarier than George Orwell could have imagined. I live in a malaise of paranoia, anger, detachment, escapism, fleeting hope and a search for liberating truth. I am haunted by a nagging feeling that the thin crust of certainty and convenience that we enjoy in this country can easily crumble. Our relatively stable society can quickly disintegrate to mayhem, seen in the harbingers of mass shootings and police brutality; perhaps devolving into the type of state sponsored terrorism seen in totalitarian regimes across the world.
Historically, we live in a democratic-republican country, but, in recent years, our constitutional checks on Executive powers have been drastically curtailed. The erosion of the Posse Comitatus Act and abuses of numerous presidential powers during the Bush years have undermined our freedoms. It is the burgeoning powers of the government combined with our dwindling rights that make it vital to use every opportunity to express one’s opinions freely. We must create a meaningful discussion that challenges people’s ideas and moves the discourse forward to raise awareness in others. I am thrilled to have the right to express myself freely and using this ability is central to my happiness. It is a freedom that should be available to all human beings. A freedom that is pivotal in releasing the masses from the Man’s chains.