Posted 5 years ago on March 6, 2012, 12:14 a.m. EST by Underdog
from Clermont, FL
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
Ever since I became aware of H.R. 347 and it's violation and disregard of the 1st Amendment (Congress shall make NO LAW...abridging the freedom of speech...or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble...), I have had an opportunity to reflect on a few things. I have gathered up my thoughts as best I can, and tried to produce them below. I am quite aware that these views are likely to be met with very strong criticism, but have decided to write them anyway. I'll try not to be too long-winded, but it might end up that way. If so, I apologize in advance, but please stay with me to the end if you can.
The central, and perhaps ultimate question to be answered for our time is..."Must liberty be sacrificed in an age of terrorism?" Many people have already answered this question with a resounding "YES!". The Patriot Act, enacted post-9/11, was a political (and some would argue practical and necessary) reactionary piece of legislation created and passed into law while the images of 9/11 and the fears of the nation were at their peak. Constitutional scholars were quick to observe its impact on the Bill of Rights, but this just didn't seem to matter at the time to congressional legislators, and they had the popular support of the people due to the terrible recent events.
This type of behavior was not without precedent. The rights of American citizens were violated (actually removed) during the early days of WWII by the internment of Japanese Americans. They had violated no laws and were, by all rights (no pun intended) perfectly innocent, loyal, and perhaps even patriotic Americans. People of Germanic background were also viewed with suspicion (my mother was part of a rural Germanic community in Texas during the outbreak of the war, and the word quickly spread throughout that community that no more German could be spoken). So there appears to be no shortage of misguided, but perhaps well-meaning, fear and regrettable behaviors that emerge in otherwise rational people during times of national threat, whether only perceived or actual.
I restate the history above for a reason...the tendency of lawmakers to suspend freedoms associated with the Bill of Rights. In the first case, the rights of a certain ethnic segment of the US population were suspended during wartime, then restored at the end of the war. In the case of the Patriot Act, it has not been repealed since its signing into law in 2001, and has been cited with violations of the Bill of Rights in many sections (for a detailed comparison, please click here:
Since no formal declaration of war on terrorism exists, no formal declaration of the end of this "war" has allowed for the repeal of the Patriot Act, and it could, in theory, continue in perpetuity, although numerous efforts on the part of various organizations such as the ACLU continue to make attempts to reduce its impact on civil liberties (thus far to very limited success). Additionally, controversial actions under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2012 include such things as the "right" to detain anyone, foreigner or US citizen, for an indefinite period of time without due process. Now, H.R. 347 places further restrictions on the right of US citizens to peaceably assemble under their right granted by the 1st Amendment --- one of the core freedoms contained therein. So, taking the Patriot Act, provisions of NDAA, and now H.R. 347 all together, we can clearly see a trend toward the lessening of personal freedoms for US citizens, all under the banner of that most vaguest and malleable of terms -- National Security.
Patrick Henry has famously been attributed with uttering the phrase "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!". This single phrase gets to the crux of, and clearly crystalizes, the matter regarding the nature of human freedoms and what is required to not only attain them, but to preserve them. Freedom is not free! It comes with a very high price! Countless numbers have died in the defense of freedom in this country, most of them in the US military. But what is the relationship between these freedoms and death? Is freedom really worth sacrificing ones life for? Despite the obvious fact that so many have died in war to preserve the US and it's freedoms, the US citizenry might very well be viewed as having a different opinion about exactly what they would be willing to sacrifice their lives for. This requires a bit of explanation about death itself that all of us may have, upon quiet moments of reflection, given some degree of thought to. Rarely, however, do we give it any thought whatsoever as we carry out our busy everyday lives.
Most people do not realize just how prevalent and ever-present death is. They conduct their lives under the assumption that they have decades to live. They give no consideration as to the tenuous nature of life. While some, perhaps even most, can live long lives in our modern age of science and medicine, the undeniable presence of death is everywhere and can come at any moment through tragic accident, unexpected disease, or any other mortal cause. I know this reminder is a bit morbid, but it helps to set the stage for what follows.
The United States places great effort and expense in the supposed preservation of the lives of its citizens. This is to be commended, but the great question must be asked..."At what price?". No one wants a repeat of 9/11, but what if the entire city of New York were bombed out of existence by a terrorist nuke? What if millions, not thousands, died? What would the US government be inclined to do then? The fact of the matter is, US citizens were never in greater threat of nuclear annihilation than during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October,1962. Was the Bill of Rights repealed then, and a police state implemented, in order to prevent any "possible" US citizen from carrying out an act of nuclear sabotage (a.k.a. Terrorism)?
We have become a nation of irrational people. We live in a society that has come to love a Jerry Springer debauchery spectacle, Friday night liquor parties, and Internet porn. Yes, we have gone pretty far downhill indeed in our never-ending search for pleasure distractions. But we need to face up to some sobering, albeit inconvenient, facts:
First, absolutely nobody lives forever. We don't want to think about this. We love our life of pleasure so much that we are willing to give up a lot in order to maintain our pleasure focus. We know not when or how our death will come. But we live our lives as if death were the great adversary to be defeated. But it cannot be defeated. It is inevitable. We must accept it. People gradually come to understand this on a deep level the older they get. It is a difficult thing for the young to contemplate. But the sooner we come to fully realize it, and accept it, the better. Unfortunately, many people, regardless of age, never come to accept it. They lack a certain depth in their understanding, because one cannot fully understand life without having a pretty good understanding of death.
Second, once one begins to understand death, one begins to put ones life into proper perspective regarding just what it means to sacrifice ones life. Here is where I want to make my point about terrorism and it's stated purpose of destabilizing a nation with fear. People fear terrorism because they fear death. Where there is no fear of death, the impact of terrorism is eliminated. People may still die, but they do not die afraid. The passage of laws designed to reduce or eliminate personal freedoms is predicated on fear. This is the terrorist's only true weapon. The actual carrying out of terrorists acts, whether large or small, is of secondary importance. The primary purpose is to kill with no rational purpose other than to generate the constant fear state on the part of survivors.
So it begins to come down to this.
Do we wish for and accept a free society coupled to the possible death of a certain number of its citizens, who will all die sooner or later anyway, so that the survivors can continue to live free? Or do we "tolerate" a police state that has removed all freedoms/rights simply so that the citizenry has a supposedly better chance of staying alive for a longer period of time, under greater controls and scrutiny, in order to "combat" terrorism? Is not the second option completely irrational, since no one knows when or how they will die, whether it be by terrorist bomb, traffic accident, or cancer? If the latter choice is made, exactly what kind of "life" is the person living? Were people "living" under Stalinist Russia, Castro's Cuba, or Mao's China? Well, from a biological standpoint they were alive, but one would have a hard time convincing a freedom-loving person that an entire population, stripped of all human rights and subjected to an Orwellian police state e.g. "1984", is truly "living". If anything, it is a Twilight Zone state between true life and true death --- a type of living death.
So now we swing back around to a greater understanding of what Patrick Henry meant when he said "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!". He was saying that Liberty IS Life, and the lack of it is Death. One leads to the free exercise of ones intellect and aligns with Jefferson's Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The other aligns with it's opposite, i.e., Death, Slavery, and the general state of Misery. Both Henry and Jefferson were familiar with the latter, as specified in numerous examples of the violation of the colonies rights under King George III in the Declaration of Independance.
As children of Henry and Jefferson, we need to choose Life, not Death. There is a final Death, and there is a "living" Death. The erosion and removal of Rights results in this Twilight Zone of "Living" Death. Let us choose Liberty, which Henry equated with Life. Let us fight these terrible laws which are destroying our freedoms and, thus, our Lives. Let us not be afraid to face Death in the process, if necessary. For, in the end, what is Life anyway?
When you know the true answer to that question, you will know what you have to do.