Usually when Americans’ freedom is being sold for political expediency, it is our friends on the Left that are doing it. It seems that a beast was awakened when the towers fell: the right-wing big government enabler. The faces and the parties may change, but the enemy of America is the same: it is anyone who thinks that, when dealing with a particular issue, the solution is “government” and the currency is “freedom.”
That the American Left is attacking the NSA for collecting a record of phone calls made by law-abiding Americans isn’t so hard to believe. Unless there is a health, environmental, or personal finance aspect, the Left is fairly protective of freedom, to their credit. Additionally, I can’t discount the possibility that some on the Left are looking for any opportunity to take a shot at Bush. But that doesn’t make them wrong, just improperly motivated.
The American Right’s rush to defend the NSA for spying on the phone records of Americans is a little bit harder to explain, because the Right has traditionally been distrustful of big government solutions. I remember the days of Bill Clinton’s presidency, when the Right bemoaned the way that Clinton was using government agencies to investigate American citizens. The retreat of the Right away from their principles is one of the uglier consequences of the 9/11 attacks. “Never Again” was the cry… but somehow amidst all the anger and the sorrow, it got changed to “Never Again, no matter what the cost.” What if it comes at the cost of the principles on which this nation was founded?
Some try to qualify the abandonment of the principle of freedom as being temporary, as if freedom was ever freely given back to those who have lost it, without much pain and bloodshed. “Give me liberty, or give me death,” was Patrick Henry’s cry. Right wingers might feign praise of those words, but it is clear that when the reality of death is shown on their television screens, their resolve is weakened… substantially. “Take my liberty, and replace it with some measure of safety from terrorist attack,” is the rallying cry today.
I see a lot of bumper stickers that read “Freedom isn’t free!” Apparently the owners of such stickers think that the only acceptable price for freedom is the blood of soldiers spilled in sand. As soon as the domestic cost of freedom becomes apparent, liberty is shunned. Maybe I’ve been reading those stickers incorrectly… maybe they’re complaining about the costs of freedom, yearning for the alternate universe where both can be had.
I wouldn’t want to live in a society that attempted to make terrorism impossible. It is the freedoms we enjoy that make us vulnerable. A society that earnestly tried to make terrorism impossible would be a society where all communications would be monitored by the government. Every financial transaction would be scrutinized by the government. Every purchase of a household chemical that could be used to make a bomb would be reported to the government. Guns would be completely out of the question. Every bus you boarded would give you a virtual strip-search. There would be no bathroom breaks on airline flights… you’d be locked to your seat. And the real kicker is that after all those reductions in freedom, terrorism would still be possible. No matter how much you mortgage your freedom in the interest of safety, you’ll never be safe.