How Violations of Privacy and Broad Brush Strokes Diminish Human Dignity

by Whitney Pitcher

human-dignity2

Between the seemingly daily revelation of the federal (and even local) government’s violations of Americans’ privacy and the media and political reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict, the constant disregard for the human dignity has become tiresome.

Over the past couple months, we have learned that the federal government is collecting metadata on our phone calls (e.g. who we’ve called and how long we talked with them) and that local police departments are able to take photos of our licence plates, sometimes keeping such photos (and a snapshot of our location at a given time) indefinitely. Obamacare includes numerous ways in which the IRS will collect information regarding not only our income, but our health insurance, and often share this with other agencies. Immigration reform proposals have included national biometric databases, and gun control proposals have included changes to HIPAA regulations to allow doctors to disclose mental health information about patients.  Common core educational policy includes massive data tracking of American children.

The federal government collects all of this data on our lives (often “accidentally” disclosing it) often without our consent. Essentially, we become naked before the government, in an informational sense– our private data laid bare. This diminishes human dignity…and our liberty. The government knows (or has in place the potential to know) the intricate details of our comings and goings, and this makes us less free. It also means that the government knows our uniqueness, but only in the terms of categorical or continuous variables in some massive database that would put Karl Rove to shame.

While the surveillance state and a “big brother” government seek to know the unique details of our lives, the paternalism of such ideology also seeks to paint us with broad brush strokes of generalities. When a horrific shooting occurs in Aurora, Colorado or Newtown, Connecticut or when a  FBI investigation or trial verdict violates preconceptions, the President calls for soul searching. In doing so he paints Americans with a broad brush–all Americans have the meditations in our heart to kill or to act in a racist manner.  We’re a nation of cowards, according to Eric Holder. Somehow the government that seeks the unique details of our lives, also paints us as violent and racist across the board–even while they rightfully call out those who paint African Americans with broad brush strokes. This violates our dignity. We are not seen as unique individuals judged by the content of character through our words and actions. We are prejudged as needing to soul search because of the actions of others, not ourselves.

Again, the government seeks to become god. However, the true God both knows the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30), and He does so without having to keep a massive database. He has discerned the words on our lips before we speak them (Psalm 139:4).  He knows the motivations of our hearts. The true “prism” is not a data mining surveillance government surveillance program, nor the “soul searching” prism through which the President often patronizing instructs us to view the world. The true prism by which we must see those around us is by through the prism of everyone being created in the image of God. This is the only way to ensure we are treating others with the dignity they deserve. God is the only one who truly knows such intricate details of our lives, and He is the only one who knows our motivations.

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