After the ratification of the Constitution in 1787, the debate over the inclusion of the Bill of Rights intensified. Based off of Locke’s belief that government should protect the liberties of citizens, the Anti-Federalists rightfully wanted to ensure that the new government would not overstep their bounds. Thus by lobbying successfully for the Bill of Rights, the Founders of the United States established the vital importance of protecting individual liberties. These liberties that were once so unalienable have now become commonly abused by the government, but these violations do not come without reason. On numerous occasions concerning national security and general public welfare the government has proclaimed that it is both necessary and constitutional to violate liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights - an ugly aspect of reality that I’ve come to accept.
Perhaps one of the most controversial examples of a violation of individual liberties is the landmark Supreme Court case of Korematsu v. US. In this ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which mandated the internment of Japanese Americans throughout the duration of World War II. In the name of national security (for many Americans saw the Japanese as an internal threat), all Japanese Americans, regardless of citizenship status, were detained. Justice Hugo Black argued that since the situation was of “direst emergency and peril,” the internment of Japanese Americans was justified. By allowing this, the government compromised on several fundamental liberties stated primarily in the Fifth Amendment: the right to never be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In addition to Korematsu v. US, the landmark case of Schenck v. US helped to create another example of the government taking away liberties for national security. The issue at hand fell upon whether Charles Schenck’s actions of mailing suggestive circulars to draftees were protected by the free speech clause found in the First Amendment. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Schenck’s actions could not be permitted. Schenck posed a “clear and present danger” during wartime by attempting to inflame a national hatred of the draft, an act of free speech that the government could not permit. While this case affected only Schenck, its implications were vast. It illustrated that even one of the most sacred principles of government - the right to free speech - can be taken away in the name of national security and general welfare.
In modern times, the right to bear arms has become a prominent topic of discussion. Differences in party allegiance, opinions, values, and culture have divided Americans, leading to spirited gun control debates in all forms of government. Many small advances have been made at the state level, such as the incorporation of gun restriction laws. Following tragedies such as Sandy Hook, lawmakers in my home state of Connecticut have become strong proponents of gun control. Thankfully, it’s now illegal to possess “assault weapons” and “large caliber ammunition magazines” in Connecticut, which is a direct but necessary encroachment on the old-fashioned ideas instilled in the Second Amendment.
Individual privacy has also been compromised. The most blatant example of this is the Patriot Act, followed closely by the NSA controversy. In an effort to track down suspected criminals and terrorists, the Patriot Act allowed the government to invade the privacy of individuals at new levels. Specifically, sneak-and-peek warrants, roving wiretaps, and trap and trace searches were all fair game under the newly expanded interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. The NSA controversy dealt with similar violations of an individual’s right to privacy.
The government has been forced to shoulder the burdens of a dangerous world, leading to increasingly common infringements on the Bill of Rights. Many Americans are outraged when they hear about mistreatments of individual liberties, but generally, the government does so to protect the security of the public. No longer can people like Neil Gorsuch proclaim that we must interpret the Constitution literally. It is a living, breathing document that must be adaptable in the context of our current society, and the government has a compelling obligation to recognize the validity of the “loose constructionist” view. Overstepping the bounds set by the Founders is a necessary sacrifice; only then will the security of the United States be maintained.