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As Long as We Remember...

March 19, 2013

Challenging Our Personal Freedoms From Within

Steve Gottlieb

Since September 11, 2001, there is an aggressive move in the United States to implement policies and pass laws which seem to violate the principles of freedom upon which this great nation was founded.


Undeniably, these were not the first attempts at restricting individual rights in the name of safety.


After the attack on 9/11 (2001) people were rightfully afraid and politicians used that fear to their advantage. Instead of a real thoughtful discussion on how best to combat Islamic terrorism, the Patriot Act was passed and signed into law by President George W Bush. This law arguably increased the amount of latitude U. S. law enforcement agencies have in gathering intelligence and also expands the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism. This expansion has the effect of increasing police activities and powers at home, which are said to also include warrantless wiretaps.


The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, signed into law by President Barack Obama, includes the power to indefinitely detain persons, including U.S. citizens, who are engaged in hostilities against the United States and our allies; this includes anyone who commits a “belligerent act” against the United States or our allies. Given the perceived objectiveness and rather broad context under which someone may be indefinitely detained, the fear is the president has too much discretion in determining what constitutes a “belligerent act” and who may be detained under this law.


After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into World War II, our government rounded up Japanese-American citizens and placed them into internment camp, ostensibly for the safety of the country. This is another example of the type of knee-jerk reaction the American public accepts from our leaders without any real thought or discussion that attempts to define the actual problem and develop a real solution.


In 1994 President Bill Clinton signed into law the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, also known as the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act. This attack on our individual Second Amendment rights was an attempt to curb violent crime in America. It really made no difference.


However, once again our state and federal leaders are attempting to infringe on our constitutional rights under the Second Amendment in the name of public safety. No legitimate discussion addressing the real cause of violent crime is taking place; only political grandstanding and the attempt to convince Americans that giving up their individual rights guaranteed under the Constitution is the only way to be safe.


In 1887 Alexander Hamilton wrote the following words:


“Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”


These words were published in the New York packet on Tuesday, November 20, 1787, and are known today as Federalist Number Eight.


Now, while Mr. Hamilton was addressing issues such as war between the states and standing armies, could his warning have appropriate meaning to the issues mentioned above and what is happening in our society today?


Are we giving in to fear and allowing our leaders to make decisions that in the long run will destroy our freedom?


If our country continues to allow this to happen unchecked, are our citizens, as Mr. Hamilton goes on to state in Federalist Number Eight, “unavoidably subjected to frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their sense of those rights?”


As our government continually bombards us with assaults on our individual rights by degrees, we the people are brought to consider the government not only as our protector, but as our superior. (For illustrative purposes the last phrase was changed from the original version used by Mr. Hamilton in Federalist Number Eight substituting government for soldiery and using our in place of their.) “The transition from this disposition to that of considering them masters is neither remote nor difficult.”(This last sentence is a direct quote from Federalist Number 8.)


The threats we face as a nation are real. It is imperative we take steps to ensure our safety and the safety of future generations of Americans.


That said, it is incumbent upon us to have a real dialogue that succinctly and accurately identifies the threats and addresses how best to defend against them while maintaining our individual liberties. It is inconceivable that the only way for us to protect ourselves is to give up our freedoms and become slaves to the government.


It is once again necessary for us to rein in our out-of-control government and find a better way for us to forge a safe and prosperous future.


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