Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Freedom Vs. Security

With George Bush putting on his media blitz the past two weeks, trying to shore up support for his failing policies at home and abroad, he constantly returns to the rally cry of "War Against Terror." His only option these days in his talking points, whether it be illegal wire taps or treatment of detainees is to say "trust me" or "freedom isn't free." He seems to have placed security of our nation far ahead of freedom. Is this American?

This rhetoric 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 in support of the president is 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 of our founding fathers. 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 safety and 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, all of the things we accept now as fundamental American principals, 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 have thought about the current NSA warrantless spying or denying basic human rights to anyone, 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


Reuben Yakobovich said...

Taking the position you do in the freedom vs. security debate begs a fundamental question that Liberals have not been able to adequately answer.

Given the threat posed by the Islamists to convert the world to Islam or kill those that won't (their words, not mine) how would you propose we protect ourselves? Oh, and just to make the task more difficult, how would you protect us against an enemy that welcomes death and uses a violent end to their own lives as a weapon?

MaxedOutMama said...

Dingo, this is an excellent post.

The tension between freedom and security is a dynamic one. I'd like to see a better debate on all sides of the issue. We must defend the internal security of our country in order to maintain the rule of law, but maintaining the rule of our law is the reason for the founding of this country, and to the extent we have managed to make our laws and our culture support human rights and freedoms, a huge reason why we have become a prosperous nation.

It's definitely not a simple calculation. We must accept some degree of insecurity in exchange for maintaining our freedoms.