If you ask the average American, today is a day of beer and green-dyed rivers and shamrocks. It’s a day that, in modern times, we set aside simply for enjoying ourselves. We hopefully all find a moment in the day to feel how lucky and blessed we are to have such a day — to be free, and free to celebrate whatever we want.
For far too many, however, this day feels just as unlucky as the many days before. Our current laws make criminals out of millions of non-violent people whose personal choices harm no one. Others committed reckless acts of honesty when our government was lying to us — and for this they are locked away.
Before we head out for a pint or a party, let’s remember some of the people who should be out there with us.
You have likely heard the name Chelsea Manning again recently. After wasting away in a prison cell since May 2019 for refusing to testify against Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, news broke last week that Manning was recovering from a suicide attempt. The very next day, almost as if he had been reminded of her existence, Judge Anthony Trenga ordered that Chelsea be released from prison. While he may have given her the freedom to leave, he still imposed fees for defying a subpoena, in the amount of $256,000. Let us also not forget that this is far from the first time that Chelsea Manning has been stripped of her freedoms for refusing to compromise principles. She was originally sentenced to 35 years in prison after providing thousands of documents and files to Wikileaks that revealed great abuses by the U.S. and other governments involved in the “War on Terror.” Perhaps most memorable was the video footage known as “Collateral Murder” which shows American military helicopters opening fire on a group of unarmed civilians, including two Reuters reporters who were among those killed. For the crime of revealing this heinous cover-up, among many others, Chelsea served seven years in prison. Days before leaving office, President Obama commuted Manning’s remaining sentence. While this act of clemency is certainly one that Libertarians and other defenders of whistle-blowers like Manning rightly praise, it came at the end of an administration that acted viciously and vindictively toward leakers, and that fact ought not be forgotten. Back in 2013, Ron Paul summed it up quite perfectly: “While President Obama was starting and expanding unconstitutional wars overseas, [Chelsea] Manning, whose actions have caused exactly zero deaths, was shining light on the truth behind these wars. It’s clear which individual has done more to promote peace.”
Another story the U.S. government would hope is forgotten by all is that of Ross Ulbricht. At the age of 26, Ross created the dark web site called Silk Road, a free-market experiment with an emphasis on user anonymity. Ulbricht believed people should have the right to buy and sell whatever they want as long as they did not hurt anyone. What sentence was determined to fit this crime? Two life sentences, plus 40 years, without the possibility of parole. That’s right. A conviction of money laundering, computer hacking and conspiracy to traffic narcotics is evidently worthy of death in prison, according to our “justice” system.
In the years that Silk Road was operational, Ross beautifully articulated the need for free-market solutions, and the importance of individual rights. It’s no surprise an authoritarian state saw him as such a threat.
Perhaps sadder even than these last two people’s stories was the fate of Nathaniel Woods. Thirty states in the U.S. still continue the immoral practice of capital punishment. On March 5, 2020, Nathaniel became the most recent victim of state-sponsored murder in Alabama. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005 after killing no one, and in fact being in handcuffs at the time that four police officers were shot by another man. A jury of 12 was split 10-2, yet Woods was still given a death sentence. A police officer who survived his bullet wounds and the man who admitted to shooting all four police officers that day both testified that Nathaniel was not at fault. Not a problem in Alabama. According to Governor Kay Ivey, “Under Alabama law, someone who helps kill a police officer is just as guilty as the person who directly commits the crime.” Nathaniel’s real “crimes” were using and selling drugs, which insults the U.S. government which has abysmally lost its waged war against drugs. For his choices, he was found guilty of a crime he factually did not commit, and his life was taken by his government.
Libertarians abhor corrupt systems and governments, and the Libertarian Party platform addresses our solutions directly.
1.7 Crime and Justice
…[we] favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as gambling, the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes, and consensual transactions involving sexual services… We oppose the prosecutorial practice of “over-charging” in criminal prosecutions so as to avoid jury trials by intimidating defendants into accepting plea bargains.
1.8 Death Penalty
We oppose the administration of the death penalty by the state.
These are somber stories, and those mentioned deserve our sympathy and sorrow. Thankfully, there is still hope. Chelsea Manning is free, and within a couple of days, the entire amount of her fines were covered through donations from thousands of beautiful people. The petition calling for clemency for Ross Ulbrecht is approaching 300,000 signatures, and you can add your name as well. And finally, there is one political party that never stops fighting for the victims of a cruel and broken system. There is one political philosophy who will not waiver on principles and will always stand firm against power-hungry officials who cling to the right to say who will live and who will die.
“The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.” ― George Orwell