Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Founding Fathers and Freedom

This morning, I read the poll that claims 56% of Americans want the government to get a warrant before then can spy on American citizens. I liked to see that the majority of Americans believe this is a nation of laws, but still, a full 42% of Americans didn't find it necessary for the government to get warrants before spying on us. (Poll: Americans Want Warrants for Spying).

This poll made me think of a quote by James Madison, the father of the Bill of Rights:

The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.

Of course, the split was sharpest along party lines. This made me wonder, what was the difference between liberals and conservatives on this matter? Why is it that liberals are more concerned with freedom and conservatives more concerned with security? Why is it that conservatives don't see the grandeur of freedom the same as the founding fathers did? And why liberals see a tangible danger to safety less important than fundamental freedom?

I remembered reading something over at My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.

I saw National Treasure this weekend with some family, and it had some interesting lines in it. At one point, he quite rightly said that by signing the Declaration of Independence, they were signing their own treason. They were doing what was right, for the safety and security of their own people, to pull away from a tyrannical government.

This is where the difference lies. Not only do conservatives make a fundamental misjudgment about the founding of our nation, they fail to see that they are fundamentally different than our founders.

First, the misjudgment. The founding fathers were not fighting for safety and security. This is an assertion I have seen over and over from conservative bloggers. Yes, we were separating ourselves from a tyrannical government. No, it was not for safety and security. The rule of King George was not like the rule of Saddam Hussein. King George did not have torture chambers set up across the colonies. King George was not gassing the Virginians. We fought not for safety, but for freedom.

In fact, the founders made a conscious decision to give up security for fundamental freedom. The founders decided the risk of death was less important than the acquisition of freedom. To them, the trade of was security for freedom, not freedom for security. The founders fought and gave their lives willingly to enshrine in a constitution certain freedoms that were more important than temporary security. Benjamin Franklin said it best:

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security

Second, conservatives fail to see that they are in fact they are the ones that were the loyalists, not the revolutionaries. The passage of two hundred years does not change the fact that the founding fathers were "barking moonbats," as conservatives like to call liberals now. The founders' ideas were bold and, without question, the most liberal the world had seen in over 2000 years. Shrugging off the yoke of thousands of years of hereditary rule for the liberalization of law, rights and freedom was not the work of conservatives. It was the work of men who were embarking on the greatest experiment the world had ever seen.

Conservatives of the day thought the revolutionaries were crazy. "Separate from our king? You can do that... he is our king." Is there any question who's side Rush Limbaugh would have been on? He would have been on his soap box, somewhere in colonial American yelling, "friends!... these revolutionaries!... these traitors to the crown want to destroy everything that makes these British colonies great! They call themselves patriots, but they want to depose the king, the god appointed sovereign."

I have often said, conservatives are just those who accept the ideas of liberals that came several generations before them. Every idea was new at some point.

This is not to say that all liberal ideas are good, nor will they all be accepted with the passage of time. But, some of the things we accept now as fundamental, were new liberal ideas in their day.

End to slavery, end to segregation, women's right to vote. All of these were moonbat ideas at their inception, but are embraced as fundamental by both conservatives and liberals now.

So, when thinking about what our founding fathers would hav thought about the current NSA warrantless spying, think of what our founding fathers really thought, not what you may want them to have thought.

Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it. - James Madison

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