OPINION – We remember Harriet Tubman with admiration for her heroic efforts in escaping slavery and then helping hundreds of slaves find their way to freedom.
We would be wise to pay closer attention to something Tubman wrote in later years:
If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.
There’s something we can learn from the fact that she had difficulty convincing slaves in the antebellum American South that they were actually slaves.
Over time, human beings can come to regard most kinds of official abuse as acceptable. A surprising number will fiercely defend the new normal when someone else challenges it.
One of the most difficult challenges in defending personal freedom is trying to convince others that they genuinely have a stake in the matter.
This can be seen in the current impasse over privacy that is taking place between federal law enforcement and Apple.
The FBI is trying to obtain access to the iPhone of one of the suspects in the December San Bernardino terror shootings. They are currently seeking to force Apple, via a court order, to create an IOS operating system with a built-in flaw that would allow them to bypass certain security features.
Apple has provided the feds with whatever data was available and has also provided engineers to help law enforcement try to crack the pass code for the particular phone in question.
But they rightly draw the line at creating a master key that could be used, at the the whim of government, to access an unlimited number of phones.
The feds are pleading the legality of their court order which is based on the 1789 All Writs Act as a means to force Apple to do their bidding.
The court order seeks to compel Apple to create a new tool to unlock the phone. This tool would be useable on all similar phones and would establish a precedent where government could routinely demand this sort of conscripted coding.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, on the other hand, is questioning the morality of sacrificing the privacy of millions of innocent people by allowing his high tech company to become a tool of the surveillance state.
It’s not a matter of someone trying to get away with a crime. The crime has long since taken place and the suspects are dead.
For years, national security officials have been leaning on high tech companies and trying to get them to provide a master key or backdoor way to defeat their various encryption programs.
Most companies have refused to compromise their customers’ security despite legislative saber-rattling by the feds.
Now we have a high profile case with suspected terrorists, lots of dead bodies, and exactly the right iPhone model to allow the feds a possible opening. Cynical as it may sound, this is just a bit too helpful to the government spying agenda that has been taking root right under our noses.
In the name of protecting us, our government claims the power to arrest and imprison anyone, without trial or due process, for as long as it wants. It has legalized acts of torture and has secret courts in regular operation.
As Edward Snowden informed us nearly 3 years ago, our government has been secretly collecting our emails, texts, chat messages, phone calls and web browsing history.
We are regularly tracked by our cell phones and by the license plates on our cars.
As painful as these truths may be to consider, they are evidence that those in charge of the system consider us dangerous and feel the need to control us.
Keep in mind that four of the individuals seeking the GOP nomination for president have affirmed that they support the FBI’s position that Apple should do as it as been ordered. That’s pretty solid evidence that the political class is either completely compromised or clueless.
How do we go about convincing the citizens who are daily recipients of this official abuse that they are being abused?
It comes down to moral clarity.
We have to be willing to carefully examine these issues and then distinguish between what is morally right and wrong. Things that are morally wrong do not magically become right because some authority figure says they are legal.
Everything government does in regards to its attempts to spy on and control us, it calls legal. But it is still morally wrong.
We must find the courage to believe that morality is more important than legality.
That’s an inner battle that too few have been wiling to sort out within themselves.
Ambiguity over what is right and wrong plays directly into the hands of those who seek to consolidate their control over us. This is why they prefer intimidation and confusion to keep us feeling inferior and uncertain.
If only more of the slaves that Harriet Tubman sought to free had better understood the true morality of their situation, they’d have more easily recognized their abusers for what they were.
What will our excuse be?
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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