Monday, August 20, 2012

Blue Like Jazz- Just Another Christian Film?

A while back I went to a pre-screening the movie Blue Like Jazz and wrote a review of it for The Beggar Blade.

"Blue Like Jazz is a film for rebels. The director, Steve Taylor, seeks to break from the stereotypical Christian sub-culture that produces poorly filmed and unconvincing stories where everything turns out okay in the end." Does the movie fulfill it's mission, or is it just another Christian movie? 

Follow this link to read my full review.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Cost of Freedom Is Freedom

In the 19th century,Napoleon Bonaparte was a spokesman and proponent for the freedom of the Frenchpeople. Yet, he contradicted his own ideas of liberty by censoring the French press from criticizing the Revolution or Napoleon himself. This presents a struggle between protecting the good of the nation and preserving the rights of the French citizens. Napoleon believed he was doing what was best for the nation, but the cost of protecting liberty was taking the liberty of the people. Today, Americans face this same struggle. What is more important, the civil rights of individuals or the well being of the nation?

A series of controversial reports published by the Associated Press this year revealed that the New York City Police Department has placed Muslim-American communities under surveillance since 9/11 with the goal of preventing any future acts of terror. NYPD has photographed and mapped out these communities, visiting and investigating restaurants, bars, and nightclubs owned or frequented by Muslims. According to the reports, police have also paid informants to attend Muslim worship services at NYC mosques, even when the police had no reason to suspect any wrong doing; police also keep Muslim neighborhoods under surveillance. Undercover agents are sent to college campuses, even colleges outside of their jurisdiction, like Yale and the University of Pennsylvania, to investigate members of Muslim student groups.  The names and information about these students are then returned to police Commissioner Ray Kelly to be put on file with other information about suspected American-Muslims.

This once-secret operation of spying on citizens of a specific religion and race is done in the name of national security. In the name of protecting the liberties of Americans from the war on terror, American-Muslims are profiled, putting their freedoms at risk. This is more troubling than it may at first appear. Such actions put all Americans at risk.

Yet monitoring of certain suspected groups is not uncommon in the United States. The 19th century saw Catholics targeted in America and Europe because their religion was considered monarchial by nature, and therefore thought to be in opposition to democracy and freedom. In America, Irish Catholics were particularly targeted with many abuses. In the 20th century, the Cold War resulted in paranoia toward communists, and the government monitored citizens who were in the least bit suspected of being communists or even knowing communists. The Espionage and Sedition Acts enacted in WWI both limited the rights of individuals to speak against the war to prevent the war effort from disintegrating. In America, the land of the free, there is a history of subjecting certain groups --religious, racial, political—to  surveillance in order to preserve the nation.

Although NYC is a target for terrorist activity, most of these business owners, worshipers, and college students draw attention to themselves only because of their religious affiliation, rather than because of a criminal past.  The fourth ammendment states that all people should be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures…”  In order for the police to lawfully search, or perform a massive spy investigation, they must have a legal warrant proving the legitimacy of their suspicion. The NYPD investigation of spying on Muslims without probable cause is a violation of the fourth amendment. The investigation, if continued, should be refashioned so that the police only spy on people if they have a warrant backed by legitimate proof of their suspicion. Their reasons for suspicion should never be based simply on religious discrimination.  

The police exist to protect the people, but instead they are profiling citizens and marginalizing them through religious discrimination. If our police departments can act as unwarranted spies on Muslims, and suspect them of terror simply because they share the same religion as some terrorists, what does that mean for the future of other religious groups? The well being of our nation should not precede the civil rights of individuals guaranteed by the Constitution. The government, according to the Declaration of Independence, “derives its power from the consent of the governed." When the government stops respecting the rights of the people, the people have a duty to“alter or abolish” the government. Protecting the wellbeing of the nation involves protecting the rights of individuals who give the government its power and who are the nation.