Each New Year here at the Freedom Bulletin, I make a list of the top people of the year. It has taken different forms and has used different criteria over the years, but this year, like last, I decided to do a top 10 list. The following people are the 10 who, in my opinion, mattered the most in the fields of politics, law, individual rights, and freedom. The people in the list were chosen based on a combination of how interesting, influential, high-profile, and unique they are, as well as the importance (in my humble opinion) of the issues that they stand for or are associated with. Without further ado, here are the top 10 people of 2011:
10. Casey Anthony – Accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, she was almost universally vilified by talking heads, trial watchers, and the general public, who ridiculed her partying ways and presumed her guilty because of the large amount of circumstantial evidence in the case. But her acquittal this year showed that, to one jury at least, reasonable doubt is still the standard to which criminal defendants must be judged, no matter how wrong the verdict may intuitively feel and no matter how unpopular it may be.
9. Dr. Virginia Moyer – The chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, she was behind the decisions to recommend fewer pap smears, mammograms, prostate cancer tests, and other medical screenings. After decades of ever-increasing pressure by society, government, and doctors to undergo more and more frequent medical procedures, which take a huge toll on human dignity and quality of life, this is a small and long-overdue step in the right direction.
8. Gabrielle Giffords – This congresswoman from Arizona doesn’t need much of an explanation. It is amazing that she survived being shot in the head, let alone managed to return to Congress the same year. Her strength and bravery make her more than worthy of a place on this list.
7. SEAL Team 6 – Responsible for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, they don’t need much of an explanation either. While I don’t believe in celebrating another person’s death, no matter who it is, it is undeniable that bringing an end to America’s 10-year-long pursuit of the world’s most dangerous terrorist is a significant event that changed the world.
6. Jesse Ventura – The former Minnesota governor and wrestler won at least one fan with his opposition to the TSA’s pat-downs and full-body scanners. Although his lawsuit against these unconstitutional and degrading security policies was (wrongly) dismissed, everyone should admire his outspoken and courageous stand for freedom.
5. Susie Castillo – A somewhat unlikely freedom fighter, this former Miss USA similarly gave star power to the fight against airport security excesses. Her candid and brave YouTube video decrying a pat-down that was more like a sexual assault went viral and brought much-needed attention to this issue.
4. Gary Johnson – Although he never picked up a lot of steam in the Republican primary and is now running for president as a Libertarian, he is a man of principle who, both in his personal life and his political life, stands up for what he believes in instead of doing whatever he thinks will make him popular.
3. Anne Sinclair – Married to possibly the most hated criminal defendant of the year (see below), she showed tremendous bravery by fighting for her husband’s freedom when most of the world expected and wanted her to abandon him. By standing up for his presumption of innocence, she also became an icon of loyalty and true feminism.
2. Dominique Strauss-Kahn – No longer a powerful politician or banker, he is an important figure nonetheless because he is this year’s most high-profile victim of race, gender, and class stereotypes. Accused of sexually assaulting an African hotel maid, the wealthy, libertine Frenchman was the perfect villain to many people, who ensured that he was immediately convicted in the court of public opinion. The charges against him were dismissed for lack of evidence, but not before he was severely and unjustly punished, losing his reputation, his privacy, many of his friends, and his political career.
1. Ron Paul – What is there to say about the good doctor and congressman that I haven’t already said somewhere on this blog?? One of my favorite politicians of all time, he has managed this year not only to bravely, consistently, eloquently, intelligently, and passionately voice his pro-liberty views on almost every issue, but actually gained quite a bit of popularity as well. It is exciting to see his poll numbers placing him in the top tier of presidential candidates and sometimes even as the frontrunner. In addition to being a warrior of principle, he has actually changed public opinion and GOP ideology in the direction of liberty, and it is that achievement that lands him in the top spot on my list.