The United States of America was founded on the principle that all of her citizens would have equality under the law. Thomas Jefferson affirmed that principle when he drafted these words for the Declaration of Independence, “we hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.” Those powerful words set the groundwork for the foundation that would define what it means to be an American. As an American citizen, a person
should be viewed as an equal under the law. Equality means that there should be no superior or inferior treatment given to any specific citizen or group. Being a member of a minority or majority group should not have an impact on what rights are afforded to one person verses another; all should have the same opportunity and protection under the law.
When Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, he was ahead of his own time. Even though he was a slave owner, he pictured a country that would be tolerant of those that are different from the majority. Others also saw his vision and could foresee the problems that our country would face when it came to the rights of minorities. One such person was James Madison. After the U.S. Constitution was drafted, Madison wrote many essays for publication in New York community newspapers to raise support in ratifying the Constitution. In one of those essays, The Federalist, No. 51, Madison argues that, “it is of great importance in a republic not only to guard society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizen. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of minority will be insecure.” At the time, Madison may not have meant those words for different ethnic races or sexual preferences in society, but they could not ring more true today in the complicated society we now live in. Madison also stated that if a majority oppresses the weaker members of society, then our system of liberty would collapse. Madison clearly saw a need for laws to protect minorities, so they could have the same rights as the majority; without certain laws for protection, America would fail.
America is presently in an unstable world. This instability caused a panic that needed to be comforted by action. In 2002, in response to the 911 attacks, Congress and President Bush put into law the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act is a law that is supposed to protect all Americans, but in reality it may just do the opposite for American minorities. The Patriot Act gave law enforcement officials the ability to profile people for the sake of national security. The law also gave law enforcement officials the ability to violate Americans’ civil liberties through illegal wiretaps. It is clear that the only people that will be targeted as suspects are Muslim Americans and anyone who is thought to be associated with terrorist groups. There is a very slim chance that any of these suspects would be classified as a part of an American majority group. The Patriot Act is a law that was passed with good intention, but it is, in fact, doing what Madison had feared the most.
Throughout American history, the U.S. government has added amendments to the Constitution and passed laws with the intent to protect the rights of both majority and minority citizens. There have been laws passed to give equality to women, ethnic groups, homosexuals, and special interest groups. Laws like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have brought our country a long way. However, laws such as the Patriot Act set our country back. The point of the great American experiment is to progress through history by improving the quality of human life for all. The intent of the 911 hijackers was to cripple our system of freedom. In response, the government passed the Patriot Act to strengthen America, but all it did was make us weaker. In a sense, the hijackers have succeeded.