How do we get freedoms back?
Thomas Friedman advises the American people: “Give up most of your rights now so the government doesn’t take all of them later.” Coming from a member of the free press this is frightening.
Chris Keeler a man whose opinions I have always respected notes, “Friedman makes a compelling argument. It seems to makes a lot of sense. After all, we all want to feel safe. The problem becomes how much freedom do we give up in order to be safe? How will we know when we’ve given up too much? When we decide too much freedom has been taken how will we get it back? Who will decide this, the president, Congress, Supreme Court, the people?”
These are tough questions and should be the basis for a serious discussion that is long overdue between the government and the American people.
In Hitler’s Germany from 1933-1939 life for most German citizens was good as long as you remained a loyal German. The economy was getting better, people were working, Germany was regaining its prestige. The majority of Germans felt that life was getting better for them. This came at a very high price. The price was unquestioning allegiance to Hitler’s regime
There were those who feared the regime and attempted to do what they could to lay bare its evils. But because of Hitler’s control of radio and the press, it was almost impossible to organize any real form of resistance, and many of those who did try were arrested and/or executed. In the end all of Hitler’s controls could not save Germany from itself.
So what of the United States? Mr. Keeler has posed four questions that are central to the future of this country.
1) How much freedom are Americans willing to give up in order to be safe? The president stated, “We can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy.” We are often told that the United States is a nation of laws. The Fourth Amendment is a law, and it states what privacy I do have.
If the people of the United States are so afraid of terrorists that they wish to change that law, so be it. But it must be done by the people. The people must give Congress the right to change that amendment and this would require that Congress and the people go through the legal process of changing it.
Neither the president, nor Congress, nor the NSA can legally do this without the American people. Unless of course the people out of fear or apathy allow it. Which at present considering the muted outcry over government surveillance of all our communications seems to be happening.
2) How will the American people know when they have given up too many of their freedoms? This is a very difficult question to answer. How do we find out? Is it when people begin to be arrested for questioning the government? Is it when we realize that the press only reports and supports the talking points of the government? Is it when we are subjected to public searches based on suspicion or searches before entering any public building?
3) When we decide too much freedom has been taken how will we get it back? It should be clearly understood that governments are not in the habit of giving back rights once they have been taken.
4. “Who will decide this, the president, Congress, Supreme Court, the people?” Historically Americans have gained their freedom through active revolt, demonstrations, and civil disobedience such as the Civil War, women’s rights movement, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam antiwar movement. Americans must understand that once they give up their rights the only way to get them back will be through these same movements.
If as Americans we don’t feel this issue is serious or important enough, we should think of our children, grandchildren or their children. If we don’t stand up now, then we’ll be leaving it for them to stand up later, and the cost will be much, much higher.
The American people should remind themselves daily of the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”