06 May 2008

Armed to Bear Rights

I recently came across a message I wrote to some friends; it's a bit old, but I think the content is still fairly relevant. The crux of the diatribe was some activity on the part of local high schools, who had just begun a program utilizing a third-party company that supplied drug-sniffing dogs. It began with this quote:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

This friendly little tidbit comes from the United States Bill of Rights, which grants various "unalienable" rights to our citizenry and all that. It's a good little bit of paper, and it's had extremely good uses throughout its lifespan. That said, it's also quickly fading away into a memory as the government elects to rewrite, reinterpret, or revise portions of it here and there.

On to the case in question. The idea behind the drug dogs was a simple one; a random number of times through the school year, the dogs would be brought to a random handful of classrooms. At this point, the students would be asked to vacate the room while the dogs and their handlers searched their collected belongings, going from desk to desk and checking backpacks, purses, and other personal effects. They would also take the dogs through the parking lots, so as to provide a means of searching student's vehicles.

I'll take this moment to explain that I believe that anyone who brings drugs of any sort on to a school campus is a moron. There's a time and a place for everything, and that is certainly neither of those in this instance. However, that doesn't change the fact that this amounts to illegal search and, presumably, seizure -- unless, of course, they just wanted to know who has the drugs so they can keep an eye on them (not likely, my friends). Therefore, the implication here seems to be that being a high school student serves as probable cause to search for contraband. While this may, in many cases, be true -- after all, we all know what terrors we were as teenagers! -- it simply does not follow, and it absolutely does not conform to the letter or spirit of the above laws which were meant to govern our nation in such a way as to ensure the peace and security of all its citizens.

But wait, there's more! One of these students refused to allow her effects to be searched. She was suspended from school, which lasted as long as it took for a lawyer representing the American Civil Liberties Union to contact the school district. I'm not a big fan of the ACLU in most of their cases; they represent a certain sort of pandering to causes that oughtn't be secured, however, insofar as they defended a damn good document in this case, and rightly so I'd say, I have to throw 'em a bone and say that it was a good move. I'm not sure how the case ended up panning out (as I said, it was a while ago), but I do remember that the student, a female who was getting good grades, returned to school, and also did eventually allow her bags to be searched on the day that the dogs came in; she wasn't carrying anything illegal. That, to me, speaks volumes about her character -- that she was standing up against this incursion not for personal gain or for the protection of her own illegal activities, but on the very principle that what they were doing was, well, wrong.

The thing that irked me the most in this case was user-submitted responses to the article in the local newspaper online. One person suggested that the proper recourse was to call the police, citing that -- and this is a kicker, folks! -- her refusal to submit to the search translated to "just cause". In short, this person believes that if you do not allow law enforcement to search everything you own, your house, your vehicle, your pants pockets, whatever ... then you're up to no good; basically, refusing to allow yourself to be searched means that you're no longer protected, because you've given them reason simply by saying "no". Have they even read the same Bill of Rights as I have? Another gem of a user posted something to the effect of, "The next time you see a group of Middle Eastern people getting on the plane behind you, you'll think differently about what 'just cause' means." Horrendous racism aside, this message seems to forgo the decades of work put towards redefining the essence of "all men are created equal" and the entire history of cultural tolerance, civil rights, and global community that the United States has, as an entity, attempted to embrace.

That there are still people out there holding the flaming sword of this bigotry sickens me. What sickens me more, I think, is the passivity of most of those around us, those who sit on the sidelines and accept that "that's just how things are now". Of course that's how things are, if you let them be that way! Defiance of authority, as in the case of the young girl who refused to be searched, is the very basis of our country. We were founded by free-thinking rebels who rose up against oppressive regimes, banded together in their cause, and collaborated in peace and in war to fight for the very freedoms we see slipping. The founding fathers were proponents of frequent and complete revolution, of standing against any government who did not allow its citizens to be free, of raising fist and flag and never standing idly by, watching the very essence of their beliefs be stripped to nothing as the malcontents stand back in apathy.

I know that posting this to a blog doesn't accomplish much, but it gets a message out. It makes it accessible, and it lets others know that they're not alone in being sick and tired of the recent trends. The purpose of this is to stand on the hilltop and shout, however far it may be to the next set of ears. I am here as a representative of the malcontents whose apathy has grown stale and, if nothing else, I can refuse to be silent.

UPDATE:
Here's a link to the article I was referencing. It took some digging to find, but it's worth a read.

http://www.newsreview.com/chico/Content?oid=33868

A few gems from the content:

'Trott said she emptied her bag to reveal there was nothing illegal in it but still took the suspension.'

'But based on surveys that found a significant number of students in the CUSD had tried or considered trying drugs, the district is able to establish a blanket suspicion of an entire campus.'

'When Trott told P.V. Principal Michael Rupp that she was defending her rights, she said he responded with, "You don't have those rights."'
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2 comments:

Sunny said...

Firstly, posting to a blog achieves one thing, for me. I see one less bigot than when I fly and am all but pulled off the line for being foreign. I wish those inalienable rights applied to visitors to the US, and that those who enjoy the rights knew how to defend them, like that girl.

Quentin said...

The scariest thing in this post are the comments of the brain-dead. The fascists have won these guys over to their side already. When the strudggle begins to take back our country, it will include struggling against these modern-day Tories.