On April 10, Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress on how Facebook manages user data, defending his company against accusations of privacy violations. In light of this scandal, Facebook quietly dropped a plan with hospitals and health organizations to receive anonymized patient hospital records in a data sharing program that included Stanford’s own medical school. The data would be anonymized before being shared to avoid privacy violations, but Facebook planned to deanonymize the data, ostensibly to look out for users’ health. This planned invasion of privacy exemplifies the dangers of Silicon Valley’s move into the healthcare industry. If Silicon Valley tech giants become omnipresent forces in the healthcare industry, like Facebook is for social media or Amazon for e-commerce, they would be able to manipulate the decisions we make regarding our bodies, or even eliminate the possibility of freely making those choices. This is a violation of our human right to bodily autonomy, which demands that we be able to freely make choices about our bodies and that no one else make such choices without our consent.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” These words start the American Bill of Rights and, supposedly, guarantee the freedom of speech to American citizens. While this may sound nice, America’s immemorial commitment to free speech is a simply a myth.
The Resistance is winning. Last Tuesday, Democrats won races throughout the country, securing the three highest elected offices of Virginia, the triple legislative crown of Washington State, and a smattering of offices in smaller level races throughout the country. Meanwhile, Robert Mueller’s pursuit of evidence of Russian collusion in the 2016 Election has begun to bear fruit, with his indictments of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and generic stooge/foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos. Trump’s presidency is in disarray, with no major legislative achievements. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act was an unqualified disaster, and the newly introduced tax plan looks increasingly at risk of a similar fate. After a first half of the year that looked increasingly dire (remember Jon Ossoff?), recent months have shown the power of the Resistance against Donald Trump.
The platitude “Do not discuss religion or politics at the dinner table” is so ingrained into the American psyche that we rarely discuss religion in a serious manner. This hesitation is understandable given the current political and cultural climate. Whenever we do hear about religion, it’s usually in the unpalatable form of a Fox News diatribe against Muslims, or an aggressive attack on faith by Richard Dawkins. Perhaps in reaction to such tongue-lashing, respect for religion has been conflated with a fear of religion, or at least an unwillingness to discuss it. According to a Pew Research Center survey on religion in everyday life, roughly half of American adults rarely or never discuss religion outside their immediate family. Given that religion continues to play – for better or for worse – such a large cultural and political role, it is a shame that we relegate the conversation to the media’s all too often simplistic narrative. We owe much of what we take for granted in the modern world to questioning religious dogma and practices. So on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation, it is worth examining how censuring and debating religion in the past resulted in profoundly positive changes.