One If By Land

Progressive political commentary, analysis, and opinion. Showing no mercy to Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. "A great democracy must be progressive or it will soon cease to be a great democracy." Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, October 03, 2004

TERROR AND LIBERTY

TERROR AND LIBERTY

Since September 11th we have been told that in order to defeat terrorism we must sacrifice some of our most fundamental rights as Americans. The PATRIOT Act, the increase in domestic surveillance, the muzzling of the media and the branding of dissenting speech as treason have all been justified by the illegitimate regime ruling America today and the sycophants who bark their message on corporate media. With all the false bravado of angry poodles, their pet ‘commentators’ insist that this surrender of our freedoms is necessary to defend our freedom. The idea of canceling the upcoming elections should terrorists strike has even been raised by the usurpers who have more to fear from ballots than from bombs. When answered with the words of Ben Franklin or Franklin Roosevelt, leaders in times of greater peril than UBL could ever dream of posing, we are told smugly that times are different, and that different times require different limitations on sacred liberty.
Times are different now than they were when our founding fathers risked war and anarchy rather than surrender the fundamental principals of liberty and democracy. I will examine the differences between then and now in order to prove that to sacrifice the legacy of courage and liberty handed down to us from the first generation of Americans, and through the generations which have come between, would be to betray both those revered ancestors and the descendants who will one day look back upon us in judgment. I will not attempt to imitate the elegant style of Jefferson or Madison, or to construct complex academic arguments for lawyers and philosophers to ponder over. I will present my case in simple language because the case is a simple one. Let us consider just how different the times really were when our founding fathers demanded that the new constitution be amended to include a Bill of Rights, and decide who was faced with greater terror.
America in the decades after the revolution was a poor, disorganized debtor nation surrounded by hostile empires. To the North, in Canada, the British, still hoped to regain the land and prestige they had so recently been forced to quit. Their army was the greatest in the world at the time; their empire the greatest the world had ever seen. Their fleets were the most numerous and powerful in history. They could proudly claim that Britannia ruled the waves; that the sun never set on the British Empire. They impressed our seamen to man their ships as if we were yet their subjects; they incited and armed hostile Native American tribes along our borders. A second war against the British, to confirm our hard won independence was inevitable, and when it came the newly built capitol was burned to the ground and the President and his cabinet sent in flight as the White House was consumed in flames. It was a feat I doubt that Al Qaeda will ever match. President Madison did not see fit to rescind the Bill of Rights even as he watched his home burn, fleeing on horseback. The war ended with the enemy routed in New Orleans and Washington D.C. was rebuilt.
The British were only one of several European empires who looked on the United States as fertile ground for conquest. The French, our allies in the revolution when we shared a common enemy, held Louisiana and still ached from the loss of Quebec, where they could expect the loyalty of unwilling British subjects. Their ships outnumbered and outgunned our own, and indeed, a ‘quasi-naval war’ was fought between the two nations in the 1790s. They also had their allies among the Native Americans. They had wealthy colonies in the Caribbean in which the deployed an army with the purpose of invading the United States. Indeed, it was only a fortuitous epidemic which decimated the French army intended to be our conquerors.
The Spanish still held Florida, from where they incited bands of desperados and hostile Native Americans to harass our southern frontier. They held South and Central America in and iron grip which threatened any future expansion of the United States. They too possessed a greater navy than ours; indeed, any one of the three great European powers could menace and perhaps destroy the Atlantic trade on which our economy depended. Our trade was further endangered by the ruthlessness, cruelty and avarice of the Barbary pirates.
Where European empires did not control our frontier, hostile Native American tribes were a constant terror. It may be fairly said that we earned their hostility through our own, and that the cruelty of their tactics in war was no greater, perhaps even less than the cruelty of ours. The fact remains that the terror and brutality they inflicted, slaughtering entire towns, kidnapping and maiming in the dead of night, were far more terrifying than the threats posed by Islamic fundamentalist groups who have succeeded in only one major attack on our soil- and that through the incompetence of a regime un-elected and unfit to lead.
Our infant nation faced domestic enemies every bit as lethal as the foreign ones described above. The country was full of tories who wished to reunite with Great Britain, some of who commanded considerable wealth and controlled popular newspapers. A nation so full of immigrants was easy for a spy from anywhere in Europe to infiltrate. There were factions who wished to see the states separate into minor confederacies; factions vying to install themselves as aristocrats and monarchs over the new land. Tensions between states threatened to lead us into wars amongst ourselves. America was burdened with a crushing national debt, and a national government too weak and enervated to deal with a single one of the threats facing the new nation. Finally, the threat of mortal illness was more real to our ancestors than we in our climate- controlled, sanitized world can ever possibly comprehend. It was the norm for even the most privileged of families to fill the family plot with the bones of children lost to disease.
Faced with all of this, our founding fathers refused to accept the security of a constitution promising a strong national government and a road to greatness unless that constitution were amended to include a Bill of Rights. Even faced with terror, anarchy, and poverty they could not bear to sacrifice the liberties which had led them to walk the hard road of independence. The courage of those first Americans to call themselves Citizens of the United States rather than subjects of King George has been an inspiration to every generation of Americans since. They refused to surrender a single liberty to terror- that is why our country is great today.
Compare the catalogue of terror described above to the threat of today’s terrorists. Al Qaeda has succeeded in one major attack on American soil due more to gross negligence on the part of a particularly inept executive branch which will soon be replaced than to any prowess of their own. They have succeeded in a few smaller attacks on our interests and allies overseas; and have been harried around the globe in return. They are not a state on which to levy war but a band of gangsters to be hunted down like common criminals. They have done less harm to our economy, our environment, or our military than the very Bush Regime which holds them up as a bogeyman to scare us into surrendering liberties which endanger tyrants far more than they aid terrorists.
If you truly believe that the current crisis requires us to sacrifice our liberties and the principals of our constitution then you are a coward, and a traitor to every generation of Americans who has striven fearlessly to make our nation great. You dishonor the memory of every American whose life was freely given on a foreign battlefield to protect freedom in every hemisphere. You dishonor those who serve today. If you would sacrifice liberty for safety, would sacrifice democracy for the tyrannical kleptocracy of the current government; if you would be a subject of King George because you are afraid of a motley band of barbarians then you are the one who doesn’t belong in America. Go where you will to find safety, but leave the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The Free and the Brave won’t miss you.

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