Should we sacrifice personal liberty for safety? pro/CON

Should we sacrifice personal liberty for safety? pro/CON

Illustration by Lauren Baker

Story By: Patrick Forrest, A&E Editor

“Liberty is always dangerous, but it is the safest thing we have.” said Harry Emerson Fosdick in 1937 and yet we still consider taking it away anytime we are the slightest bit afraid, as if we never needed it.

And it has become sad, because we live in a counter-terrorism world, where the pursuit of public security has led to the erosion of civil liberties, seemingly acceptable to an unsuspecting public. It seems that there is no distinction being made any more between real and imagined fears, and terrorism is still being invoked to justify egregious abuses of justice.

It is deeply disturbing to think back over successive World Wars which were fought so tragically and with such great loss of life in the name of freedom, the same freedom that is being treated in so cavalier a fashion now. So much blood was lost in the name of freedom, yet here we are several generations later, fearful of Islamic terrorism and blindly accepting the serious erosion of our civil liberties with barely a murmur of dissent.

“They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other,” said George W. Bush, the man who started all of this fear, in an address to a joint session of congress on Sept. 20, 2001.

Slightly more than a month later, on Oct. 26, 2001, he signed the Patriot Act into law. This newly created law became one of the most controversial laws in American history. One of the major reasons for this controversy is the fact that the Patriot Act gives the government absolute power at any time that we are afraid.

In a land that preaches to us that we are free, that we are able to speak out and fight back against our government, politicians have given themselves the power to take that away when we are afraid.

They have given themselves the power to look in on every aspect of our lives and hold us for any amount of time for any reason whatsoever, as long as it is worthwhile to those in power.

Senator Al Franken came out against the bill in a statement made public on Dec. 17, 2011, saying it was reminiscent of a dark period in American history when the government interned more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.

For the first time in 60 years, Congress will now be able to authorize the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without charge or trial, a decision which Franken says “denigrates the very foundations of this country.” He went on to say, “Our Founders were fearful of the military and they purposely created a system of checks and balances to ensure we did not become a country under military rule.”

The future for frightened democracies is no longer assured if freedom is going to be bartered for security.

I only hope that the fact of habeas corpus will not be just a footnote in the history books for my children and their children, and that the U.S. will pull back from its authoritarian stance and see terrorism for what it is; crime, and not an act of war and should be prosecuted as such. I believe in protecting the greater good, but we should not have to give up our rights to be able to do that.

What happened in Boston was a disgrace, and a horrific crime. The images that were witnessed will not soon be erased from memory. But no matter how horrific an act may be is it worth one of the few things that make us as americans special. So no matter how much people in power may lie, we never have to give up any of our rights to feel safe. It must always be remembered that the only people that suffer when our rights are executed are the people that will attempt to take them away.

We must not let fear control us. We are better than that. And if we allow the acts of terror that are perpetrated against us to change us, and we allow our government to take away our rights because we are afraid, then we will no longer deserve our place as a beacon of hope to the rest of the world. America is the land of the free and home of the brave, so let’s keep it that way.