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As American citizens, everyone is given the rights that are stated in the Constitution. As an American citizen myself, I understand that protecting the nation as a whole is very important, but at what cost? Taking away innocent citizens rights seems a little too harsh for me. I disagree with the national security arguments made in the sources provided for this discussion because it takes away the rights of American citizens, it brings to light racial profiling, and shows some corruption in the government.
During World War I, it became illegal to speak out against the war. Saying unpatriotic things was illegal as well. This was due to the Espinoage and Sedition Acts. One man, Eugen Debs, went to court against the United States and lost. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.1 Making it illegal for people to have spoken opinions about something is taking their rights away for freedom of speech. It also seems excessive to put a man in prison for 10 years due to speaking out in objection to the war. This doesn’t necessarily protect the nation as a whole. It protects the government from having to deal with the opposition to what they have in order.
When Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 by the Japanese, the American government took steps to “protect” the Japanese-Americans. By doing this, every Japanese-American that lived on the west coast had to be moved more inland into confined living. President Franklin D. Roosevelt made this happen because he wanted to protect the Japanese-Americans from other Americans that may have strong dislikes towards anyone with Japanese descent.2 Another main reason anyone with a Japanese descent was moved away from the west coast and from the Pacific Military area was to not threaten the war. Japanese-Americans did not know where they were going and had no idea how long they would be gone. All they knew is that they had to sell all of their things and leave.3 In the eyes of the government, I can somewhat understand why they might be a threat and why it was necessary to move them, but at the same time, it is making assumptions that all Japanese people are harmful and should be confined.
In June of 1971, the Pentagon Papers became public. The Pentagon Papers brought light to some corruption that was going on in the government. The conflict in Vietnam was provoked by America in order for the U.S. to get Ngo Dinh Diem out of government in South Vietnam. President Johnson had also lied to the people by telling them he was not planning to bomb North Vietnam, even though in reality, it was his plan. It wasn’t until the corruption became public to the people that Nixon decided to try and end the war.4 When it comes to national security, it seems obvious as to why they kept this from the public. If their plans came to the surface, it could compromise the war and make things far worse. Sometimes things are just better left unsaid to the public in order to keep national security, but completely lying about what’s actually going on is going too far and in the end can cause even more chaos than what was intended.
Today, unfortunately, I can see the same things playing out the way they did back then. In a way, it already is. The whole thing with ISIS and Muslims brings a lot of fear to people, and there are some people who believe that every Muslim is a threat. This goes back to how the Japanese in America were treated during WWII, and it seems un-American to me and unfair to those who are completely innocent. Also, with the Espinoage and Sedition Acts, I could see that somewhat happening again today. I feel that there are a lot of issues with people saying they have the right for freedom of speech, but then people get overly offended or don’t agree with what someone said so it starts a lot of protests and outrage. Making it illegal to speak about certain things in today’s time might be unlikely, but with the amount of chaos these days, it wouldn’t surprise me.
1. UTA History Department, World War I Lecture.
2. Japenese-American Internment in WWII, Japanese Relocation During World War II
3. Japenese-American Internment in WWII, Japanese Americans at Manzanar
4. Corbett, et al, (U.S. History, 2016), chpt 30 section 3
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