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What price freedom?

By Connor Doyle
ARIZONA DAILY WILDCAT

Monday September 17, 2001
Headline Photo

Conner Doyle

When terrorists attacked this country, they had more in mind than trying to rack up a death toll in the thousands. They wanted the American way of life to perish as well.

People who live in this country are fiercely protective of the liberties granted to them by the Constitution in times of peace. Different Americans claim they would die for those freedoms nearest and dearest to their hearts, whether it's the right to bear arms, freedom of speech, or the right to practice whatever religion they wish.

However, when something threatens our safety, it seems Americans are all too willing to abdicate those freedoms in return for a sense of security - whether that security be real or illusory.

The opinion of many lawmakers can be summed up by representative Mary Bono, a republican from Palm Springs: "The key here is to crack down. I think people are going to have to recognize that some of their conveniences are going to be gone."

Perhaps what's most bothersome about comment's like Bono's is the term "conveniences," mainly because it's such an ambiguous term. Bono was referring to a fingerprint system that all Americans would have to be a part of, and then submit if they would like to enter public spaces. I wonder if people like Ms. Bono have ever read Huxley or Orwell, and if she did, the question remains if she understood the satirical tone of the stories.

Outrage over such proposals is for the most part absent. Americans feel like they've been caught with their proverbial pants down and now want to scurry under the protective cover of government and lap up its promises of security. Who wouldn't be willing to give up some of their freedoms for safety? Who wouldn't be willing to spend three hours in an airport instead of one? Who needs that Constitution anyway? The terrorists are coming.

How quickly we as a country forget that safety is granted through the Constitution. Safety in knowing the government won't lock you up for what religion you practice. Safety in knowing that if you desire to protect your house with a weapon, you have that option. Safety in knowing that you can pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the government backs you the entire way.

However, it seems that these safeties are not enough any longer. We want the government to become the superhero that protects us from all villains, and we're willing to pay the price, be it higher taxes, three-hour waits at an airport, or the undermining of the document that made us the most distinct country in the world.

That being said, nothing that has been proposed by those in the government thus far is a direct attack on the Constitution. For example, John Ashcroft requesting that the requirements for wiretaps being loosened doesn't mandate that we rewrite our country's charter, but it's also an affront to a law based on both a fundamental constitutional right and a need to protect the citizenry from unjustified monitoring. There was once a time when the people in charge of the FBI used to place surveillance on both the innocent and criminal alike, often because those people had defied the powers that be. While Ashcroft may not abuse his power in a similar way, we have wiretap laws for a reason, and it should be kept that way. But no one pipes up because they think that such a proposal will immediately allow the government to prevent another terrorist attack.

Further examples of this are present in some of the reforms that the Federal Aviation Administration is suggesting for airport security, like random searches and armed air marshals, the U.S. Justice Department asking for increased ability to detain non-U.S. citizens and Bono's suggestion for the fingerprinting of all Americans.

Some of these proposals may be effective, some may also be just. But in most cases, they may put us on a slippery slope - one that could lead to a country devoid of liberties or happiness. Much like the country needs to be on guard against foreign threats to our safety, we must also be aware of domestic threats to our freedom.

Now, more than ever, Americans need to take that pride in our country and its liberties that usually translates to the rest of the world as arrogance. Every time another safety measure is proposed, we need to ask ourselves if it goes against those freedoms we fought to obtain.

What price freedom? Hopefully, we will find out before we decide it's too much.

 
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