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The two terms “Civil Rights” and “Civil Liberties” are usually involved in our daily conversations. We use these words so regularly that many of us don’t even realize we’ve been using them interchangeably and incorrectly. Even though we can say that they are similar to each other in some level, but they actually have very distinct meanings. Knowing how to distinguish them is necessary, especially when we are talking about political situations. There is already so many distinct features made by political scientists and experts to help us to differentiate them, but the easiest way to notice that they are not the same is to look at their definition. Civil liberties are the most basic rights and freedom that is protected by the Constitution of the U.S, protecting people against government actions. Such freedom often exists in a system where the supreme and the governed are intertwined. On the other hand, civil rights refer to the actions of the government to create equality among their citizens. It is guaranteed by the Constitution in the form of amendments.
Many American believe that, although both civil rights and civil liberties are under the protection of the Constitution, these two aspect sometimes strengthen each other and sometimes cam be completely contrast to each other. In the article Thomas Grey points out a situation when these two conceptions seem to be completely against each other. In his example, organizations protecting women rights criticize that legalizing pornography, allowing people to make pornography freely is actually increasing sex discrimination and thus, it is violating civil rights. Another example when civil liberties and civil rights are conflict is also mention on the same article. In term of perspective and mentalities, harassment problem is also similar to pornography issue in some degree, which again, illustrates a paradox of liberties and rights. This trigger several debates between people believe in libertarian theory of liberalism and those believe in egalitarian theories of liberalism. Thus, the solution for these problems are not always easy, we need a variety of solution that can oscillates between being framed in civil-liberties and civil rights term. Thomas’ research also proposes circumstances when gender and educational background could affect one how someone supports for civil liberties.
This aspect was mentioned in the. The author indicates the theory suggesting that the experience of political involvement will improve people’s thinking is not a new theory; instead, this idea appeared a very long time ago in history. The investigations on the relationship between political involvement and education has shown that while education is the more important of the two in promoting support for civil liberties, participation has an important additional effect among those who are highly educated. In 1957, in Berkeley college and then in Nebraska college, a study of libertarianism in college students was held. It compared the extent and consistency of civil liberties support in both school. And as expected, the results came out was somehow similar in two schools. Conclusions were clear!
Things did not seem to be changing much since then. Our group from Politics class did some interviews with people from college and from works and most of the interviewee claimed that they supported the Liberties over the Conservatives. Although some older people considered themselves to be more a conservative person, our result from the interview still matches with the researches from 1950s, showing that younger people are usually more open minded and have higher support for civil liberties. Many surveys were conducted to show the ratio of Libertarians and Conservatives among Americans and they all showed that Libertarians always account for a large part of the populations. This lead to a problematic consequence: civil liberties of those who are conservatives are unconsciously limited. In 2017, Cato Institute held several surveys on free speech and tolerance.
One of them was taken among college and university students:
Looking at the chart, we can see that college and university students, no matter they are Democratic or Republican, they all agree that a majority amount of students on their campus are liberals. This is reasonable since we can predict that most of people from the student’s body are young, and young people are supposed to be more open-minded and be the most Liberian group.
Another survey was on the media bias among America’s major news oganizations:
We can clearly see that since Libertarians make up a large part of our population and media, they receive more privileges over Conservatives, and those people from minority groups started to feel they are threatened toward the Libertarians. Thus, these people will try to hide their real thoughts and opinion, afraid that saying what different from the majority is wrong. According to Civil Liberties, we are supposed to have freedom of speech regardless of our political view. It’s said that no matter which Party you support, no matter you are a Liberian or a Conservative, you are free to express your thought about political issues. However, surprisingly, it’s not what everybody feels when sharing their political perspectives. Cato Institute also carried out another survey in 2017 on Free Speech and Tolerance, to see the degree of comfortability of people from different political views expressing their own opinion to the public without being prevented by others’ opinion. We can see that, according to the result, the stronger liberal someone is, the more likely they feel free to speak out their opinion. They do not have the fear that what they say was prohibited due to the different opinion of surrounding people, since they know for sure that they are the majority group. In contrast, strong conservative think that they should be more careful of what they are saying since they are minority group, and they are aware that they might receive contrasting opinion.
This lead to a case when Civil Rights and Civil Liberties seem to be conflicted; people obviously have their rights to express their opinion on political issue, but due to what is called “political correctness”, they afraid to speak out their own thoughts and thus, unconsciously giving up their liberty of sharing their perspectives. You may ask, what is political correctness? Political correctness is said to be the fear that some speeches or behaviors, regardless they were conscious or unconscious, could make someone feel offended, especially those speech about sex or race. Some people are really sensitive to political matters and they could feel distressful because of some words or actions. Thus people believe in political correctness think those should be eliminated. Since a couple years ago, political correctness culture has been increased tremendously that it plays a serious part in the elections, especially in Trump’s election. It is not that people are more and more believe in political correctness, but they a more and more aware that political correctness is killing their freedom of speech. During his campaign in 2016 election, Trump debate that “the big problem this country has is being politically correct.” The result seem like he has successfully attracted people attention and there’re a lot of voters agree with him. Others think that more people voted Trump because what he said, his foolish and unthoughtful speeches, was completely against political correctness culture, the thing that they are trying to avoid. Although to me, the trend of fighting against political correctness was actually overemphasized in Trump’s case, I can deny that political correctness is the enemy of freedom because it rejects honesty and authenticity. It also creates unnecessary debates on whether political correctness is good or bad in some situations, and on how do we solve such problem. In the other hand, those debate around political correctness is somehow beautiful and admirable because those discussions are usually about how people should treat each other, how we can collectively change the world into a better place where people sit down and talk to understand each other’s feelings and needs.
In conclusion, civil liberties and civil rights are two major concepts for comprehending political science. As we are studying political science, we should not only be able to distinguish between these ideas, but also put a deeper thought to the issues relative to civil rights and civil liberties. The issue of political correctness culture is a good example; what we can see immediate is people’s fear of fighting against the majority. But this is just the visible part of an iceberg, a larger invisible part is that it limits and prevents people from performing their civil liberties. With a good knowledge on politics, we can identify this kind of issue and take action solving them. Since politics involves in almost everything in our daily life, a better comprehension about political activities will result in a greater perspective of the government’s policies, as well as many national issues, thus we can take actions against something wrong or enhance something if it is right.
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