Standing for freedom in a democracy is all of our responsibility

Declaration of Independence Rolled Up
Declaration of Independence Rolled Up

Growing up overseas in the country of Turkey has helped to shape a large part of me, from my personal beliefs to my political views.

The name “Erdogan” was one I heard regularly in Turkey. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the Turkish President. However, it was not until I was much older that I started understanding who this man truly is.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey

Time after time, I would hear my Turkish friends express their frustration about his rule. I would hear stories all the time about how oppressive he is, jailing people for something as simple as a tweet. My initial reaction was disbelief. It was hard to wrap my head around the idea that someone in such a significant position of power would dare to abuse it in such a petty way.

And then I started researching.

There were court battles and endless lawsuits filed by Erdogan from anyone and everyone who dared to defy him, or even criticize him in the most menial way. From Journalists to College professors, the list is tiring. By Turkish law, citizens can face up to 4 years in prison for insulting the president. Over 2,000 people have been charged with this offense.

Penal code, article 301, states that anything which is deemed an “insult” to “Turkishness” is a crime. This completely restricts citizens and journalists from being able to publicly speak their mind.

Freedom of speech and press is virtually nonexistent.

Yet, Turkey is still considered to be one of the most westernized Middle Eastern countries; largely because it is actually in Asia Minor, right next to Europe.

So many may wonder, how could a country under the title of a democracy-renowned globally for being highly advanced compared to other countries in its area, let one man drive it to the ground…let one man corrupt it.

The truth is, it is never just one man.

Hitler was not the reason for the Holocaust, the millions who stayed silent were. The millions who decided to turn a blind eye to the ignorance and fascism capturing their country.

Do not get me wrong, I am not saying the government in Turkey is equivalent to the Holocaust. I am saying, history will repeat itself, in even the slightest of ways- unless anything is learned from it.

Parallels between the past and present can be found anywhere and everywhere. Even in our own country.

Erdogan rose to power by playing on the irrational fears of his citizens, by trashing his opponents and invalidating any opinion opposite his own.

Sound familiar?

Of course.

This has become the new norm in our politics and policies. It is foolish to claim that there is not corruption in our government, or any government for that matter. It is also foolish not to stand up to that corruption.

Hitler was elected by a democracy.

Erdogan was elected by a democracy.

Democracies cannot prevent corruption from infiltrating a country, the only force which can stop this, is the people inside of that country.

A democracy without a country backing it up, is nothing but a title.

A Constitution and a checks-and-balance system without people to enforce it, is nothing but a nice idea.

Therefore it is the responsibility of every single one of us, as citizens of the United States of America to fight for justice and fight for democracy.

To march, to protest peacefully, to debate, and to stand up to anything that goes against what our country was built upon. This is our responsibility as citizens of the United States of America; to make “We the People” more than just a common phrase.

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