"Does it not seem a vast waste of valuable human material that the pioneers of thought, those who by their genius dare to clear unknown paths in the arts and sciences and in government, should have to conform to the dictates of that non-creative, slow-moving mass, the majority? An appeal to the majority is a resort to force and not an appeal to intelligence; the majority is always ignorant, and by increasing the majority we multiply ignorance. The majority is incapable of initiative, its attitude being one of opposition toward everything that is new. If it had been left to the majority, the world would never have had the steamboat, the railroad, the telegraph, or any of the conveniences of modern life." ~ Charles Sprading
Political Prisoners in America
Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
One bit of indoctrination I have found it difficult to shake, is the notion that only other countries have political prisoners. Perhaps you have the same mental knee-jerk reaction that I do, when I hear that phrase: people rotting in prisons in Cuba, or some other banana republic run by a military honcho, or Burma, or North Korea. But are such examples really representative of the concept, “political prisoner”?
When you look up the definition, you generally see something like “A person who has been imprisoned for holding or advocating dissenting political views,” or “someone imprisoned for holding, expressing, or acting in accord with particular political beliefs.” These definitions are not the most helpful in the world, as they are so elastic. It could cover almost everyone in prison, or almost no one, depending on one’s preference.
I’d like to propose another definition that nails things down a bit better: A political prisoner is a person in prison for commiting mala prohibita.
This definition immediately rules out murderers, thieves, rapists, and so forth. Most people (except maybe those same murderers, thieves and rapists) would consider this reasonable.
Now, getting pulled over for speeding is an example of mala prohibita. But usually, you are not thrown in jail for it, so you are not a political prisoner. It’s only if the punishment rises to the level of imprisonment that this term kicks in.
Does this fit in with existing definitions? I think so. Presumably, people who commit mala prohibita do dissent from the prevailing or state-enforced political view that they can do X. After all, it took legislation--political activity--to outlaw X, unlike the case with murder and theft (which are naturally outlawed). It may be their political belief that they can do whatever they want with their own bodies, or own whatever they can pay for, or hire whomever they want, at whatever wage they care to negotiate. These innocent activities are not inherently political; but they certainly become so when they are outlawed.
The stereotypical political prisoner is not the conservative activist, rotting in a Cuban jail. It is a pot smoker, or the guy with a worn sear in his AK-47, rotting in an American jail. With 2.3 million people in jail, largely for mala prohibita, America has more political prisoners than any other place. Unfortunately, with our government, “political prisoner” has become as American as apple pie.
It’s becoming close to the time when Americans must have their “storm the Bastille” moment, and free all our political prisoners. We can start with Julian Assange and Bradley Manning!