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Youth Rights As A Political Issue

Written by Alex Koroknay-Palicz Jan 07, 2008

This blog entry is partially a response to the e-mail below, and partially a general comment, so not everything is gonna be directly related to or in response to this quoted bit:

Well that is definitely an issue but not the only one. There are many steps it making this country bearable again and that isnt my only concern. Granted it is an issue but i think we can live without alcohol for a little while. What about our right to privacy? You know the patriot act allows the government to tap into your phone lines and listen to your conversation with just a flick of a switch. No questioning. The war is out of hand and just about everyone is either against it or fed up with it. I am personally more concerned about that rather then when I get to drink a beer and when I don’t. I would hope that would not be your ONLY reason for selecting a candidate…

The Patriot Act is extremely mild compared to the many infringements on privacy that young people are subjected to. If you care about the right to privacy, consider the following.

The Patriot Act doesn’t require that individuals submit to random, suspicionless drug testing as many schools and indeed some parents are now requiring. Unlike drug testing at work, youth usually don’t have any choice whether to be at school or live with their parents.

The Patriot Act doesn’t allow authorities to search through an individual’s property without probable cause like schools do with lockers and parents do with everything.

The Patriot Act allows for increased use of wiretaps and monitoring of e-mail but nothing close to the kind of tracking software parents regularly place on their kid’s computers that tracks and records every keystroke and action taken with the computer. Every website, every word typed, every program used is recorded and sent to parents.

The Patriot Act may allow the government, in some cases, to look at what books you are checking out, but it doesn’t outright ban you from looking at or listening to certain books, movies, websites, magazines and music like age restrictions do.

While not part of the Patriot Act, no doubt you are alarmed by the increasing use of security cameras in public places watching our every move. That pales in comparison to the ways teens are tracked. Parents have taken to putting GPS tracking devices into backpacks and cars. Plus many cell phones now have GPS enabled on them and parents use those to track their kid’s movements. Furthermore there are computers parents install in cars that record every turn you make, how fast you go, how complete a stop you make, etc.

More directly, parents are even installing cameras in their kid’s bedrooms to monitor them at all times. Or removing their bedroom doors so they have no privacy whatsoever. This is all perfectly legal and happens all across the country.

As you of course know, the government (via schools) controls what clothes you wear, how you style your hair, whether you can have a cell phone or other electronic device, and what you can say or write in school. The Patriot Act doesn’t come close to that.

The war is indeed an important issue. But who is it that we are sending overseas to fight and die in that war? Young people. Young people who probably weren’t old enough to vote for the politicians that sent them to that war. Young people who risk their lives in the desert and are not treated as equals in this country or given the respect they deserve for making such a sacrifice. They return home and unlike most Americans can’t open a can of beer while watching a football game, or go out to a bar with a few buddies, or even attend many concerts. Over 645 young Americans have died in the desert while never being respected as equals in the nation that sent them there.

The infringements on the privacy of youth are more extreme than the Patriot Act ever was or will be, and affect far more people on a daily basis. After being raised as youth with no expectation of privacy is it any wonder people don’t value privacy as much when they get older and get into power? And while I’m not going to say that the drinking age is more important than the war, it directly relates to the war and is another injustice heaped upon young people that absolutely needs to be addressed.

Youth rights isn’t just some side project or a somehow a selfish, small issue that distracts from ‘bigger’ issues out in the world. I know you didn’t say that, and I’m not saying people should vote only on the basis of youth rights, but youth rights is a HUGE issue that deserves a lot more attention and respect than it currently gets – even from NYRA members. Cause if we don’t put youth rights first, who will?

Finally, if you (and this isn’t just directed to you) oppose the Patriot Act and the War and invasions on privacy and everything else, did you vote for candidates who opposed those policies? Were you able to or were you prevented from voting by the voting age? Who knows how different the country would be today if you and your peers were able to vote.

Youth rights is directly intertwined with all other issues you care about in society. It should never be put on the backburner, even in an election year.

If youth are free, then we all will be free.

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