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SERWAN ZANGANA: American Liberty Is The Product Of Those Who Bravely Broke The Silence

“I don’t want to talk about politics or religion” or “I don’t get involved in politics.”

Do you hear this often? Or do you say it?

These are comments we often hear. There are even some employers who advise their employees to avoid political or religious discussions. In fact, some companies have policies that ban such discussions.

What is the purpose behind such policies? Is it to prevent arguments and conflicts among people? Or to prevent the employees from being distracted at work?

However, like it or not, (and most don’t like it), politics today touches most areas of society, and so both employers and employees are affected by it. However, what is the purpose of keeping people quiet on political matters that are part of their lives, especially when those policies are being pushed to change the entire direction of our society?

Most people avoid commotion and hostility surrounding a political discussion, unless an outside factor provokes one group against the other and creates an environment for such a commotion. In these cases, restricting people from engaging in political or religious discussions are actually attacks on the our freedom of expression.

We need to think clearly and ask ourselves: why must we avoid political discussions and mindlessly obey those who hold a higher position, such as our work supervisors, lawmakers, and other decision-makers, while they are free to make decisions for us through their policies and legislations?

These attempts to silence us are a modern-day oppression of freedom of speech, whereby people are not allowed to discuss certain subjects and matters! It is ironic that a small group can freely discuss and promote any subject they desire, but the rest of us are supposed to be careful and not discuss or criticize such subjects. It is unfortunate that some people choose the mentality to avoid political or religious discussions, and thus allow politicians to choose the Yes or No for them.

I remember the mid-1980’s while I was in middle school and lived under the former dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The members of the Arab Socialist Baath Party, which was the ruling and only party, were distributing Membership Forms to the students to join the party. Of course, because of the fear of being arrested and tortured if we got on their wrong side, we were suppressing our feelings on this matter and hid our opposition to the regime. Therefore, when asked to join the Party, a common response was “I don’t get involved in politics” or “I am an independent.”

So, when Americans say similar things today, does this mean we are living under a kind of dictatorship already? And does our silence show spinelessness?

Definitely, to voice our opinions and discuss political issues are some of our rights as Americans as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. In fact, avoiding political discussions and quietly moving aside is no different from abandoning our beliefs. Therefore, we should not surrender to silence and suppress our feelings and values. American liberty is the product of those who broke the silence and destroyed the oppression.

It’s up to us to protect that legacy and pass it on to our future generations.

– Serwan Zangana supported Operation Iraqi Freedom as a U.S Army translator before coming to the U.S from Kurdistan, Iraq in 1997 to seek political asylum. He was granted asylum status and years later proudly became a U.S citizen. He currently serves as a correction officer in Roanoke.

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