Reading Metafilter today, I am struck with how lucky I am. In some countries, journalists who question the party line can expect the government to start whispering campaigns against them. Some countries call themselves democratic, but when minority representatives get out of line, the police can be used as a threat against them. In some countries, you can be stopped from getting on a plane because of a button you are wearing, or may be questioned by plainclothes agents for reading “questionable” materials. In the same countries, you may find yourself in jail for sharing a single song with someone. In some countries, those brash enough to speak out against war or policy are targets of police surveillance, and dossiers are constructed to help track them. Those suspected of anti-government sentiment can be “detained” indefinitely, snatched from the street without any warning or explanation, and agents watch what websites and books people are reading to keep them from “dangerous ideas.”
Of course, the irony is that most people who live in police states or totalitarian regimes are unaware of this. There are always exceptions, but most of these folks never feel the need to test whether or not the freedoms they take for granted really exist. I’m glad I live in the home of the free.