When George Orwell wrote the famous “1984″ where “big brother” (government) had cameras to watch everything you did, although political, it was also science fiction. The realities of such an endeavor at the time seemed mind boggling and that a free society would allow this to occur seemed even more outrageous. Yet George Orwell’s vision of the future was tame compared to the reality that we have now.
Whether it’s the government’s cameras at intersections, their eyes in the sky, private security cameras for businesses, or just a hand-held iphone, your every move is virtually being recorded in our society. With the subpoena power of the government and laws involving exigent circumstances, the government has the ability, when desired, to have access to almost every move you make in public.
Yet we now find out that is just the tip of the iceberg. Revelations about the NSA tell us that every phone call that you have made or anticipate making was or will be a part of a government log as to where the call was made from and to whom. The government contends that your messages are not being recorded nor are you being listened to. Certainly, having your messages recorded or listened to are more intrusive, but the cataloging of who you are talking to and at what times, isn’t that intrusive enough?
The government apparently also has been using your internet providers and other social media avenues to catalog who you communicate with. Again, supposedly, they are not reading your messages, but only the messages of the bad guys.
For argument’s sake, lets take the government at its word. Your messages are not being read over the internet. All they are doing is cataloging who you are sending your messages to and who you are calling by way of your phone. Their justification for these acts is one of safety. They purportedly have thwarted 50, or is it 200, or whatever number they decide to say on any given day, terrorist attacks. Without saying so, they use the age-old, the ends justify the means.
Again, lets take the government at its word. Lets agree that they have thwarted terrorist attacks. The question then becomes, would these terrorist attacks have been thwarted by other means that are less intrusive to the American way of life? Or, how many freedoms and how much privacy are we willing to give up in the name of safety?
Some of the most safe places and times for citizens have been in countries that have embraced fascism. The streets were safe under Franco and non-governmental crime was the aberration under Hitler. But would we be willing to give up our freedoms and live in a police state so that we could walk down the streets at night not fearing?
Without having done a crime-statistic analysis, coupled with an in-depth look at different societies, it is impossible to make the generalization that with more freedoms comes the potential for more crimes and therefore the potential for more danger. But if we assume this to be the case, the question still is, what is more important to the American way of life? Is it freedom? Or is it safety?
What separates this country supposedly from the other countries of the world is, in fact, our freedoms. After 9/11 the administration was proud to announce “the terrorists hate us because of our freedoms”. If that is the case, let them hate us even more by preserving our freedoms. It is time that we, the American people, remembered what makes this country great. It is the First Amendment freedoms and incumbent with it, the right to privacy. It is the right to be free from unlawful search and seizures guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment and the rights to due process of law and confrontation of witnesses promised to us by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. What makes this country great is the ideals that it stands for. And the ideals that this country stands for, and has stood for, is not having big brother watch our every move and listen to our every conversation or catalog our every contact. Let us be a little less safe and a little bit more free.
History has repeatedly shown that once freedoms are given up voluntarily or allowed to be taken away, they are seldom returned or restored. One may look to the freedoms that were lost to the American people during World War II and then given back as an example of just the opposite. They would be right, which just shows how much this country cherishes those freedoms.
Yet, World War II had an end. It had a definable enemy. It had a measuring stick to gauge success. The war on terror has no such parameters. By definition, it can never end and therefore, if we allow the government to continue to encroach on our freedoms, to take away our rights, this process too will never end.
We should demand of our government that it protect our freedoms, as well as our safety. No matter what the government does, it cannot guarantee our safety. It can just try. But it can guarantee our freedoms. It seems just logical that we go with the sure thing and do our best with the wild card. Instead of giving up the sure thing of our freedoms and betting on the wild card, our safety. After all, even with these intrusions on our rights and freedoms, there still has been the shootings in the grade schools, the movie theaters and even the carnage at the Boston Marathon.
The war on terrorism can never be won. But the war on our freedoms should never be lost. This is a war that the American people can be assured of victory, if they only care.