Defend and Extend Civil Liberties
Many people, including Mr. Nader, have made personal privacy an issue since the beginning of the PATRIOT Act. They seem to me to be overly concerned with the potential for possible government abuses. They also seem to ignore the benefits of the PATRIOT Act; which are to help protect us from death and destruction at the hands of terrorists. I don’t deny that the potential for abuse does exist, but, at this point in time, that must be relegated to a secondary level of importance. The primary goal is to protect us from terrorism, and that is where our attention should be right now.
It is possible of course for Mr. Nader and others to argue that our personal freedoms are being trampled on, but shouldn’t they at least acknowledge the value accrued to the defense of the nation and the American way of life?
Also, when these hypothetical abuses of power do materialize; if they ever do; then we can marshal our resources to take care of them.
It seems obvious to me that even in the near perfect world of Democracy in which we live, our freedoms must sometimes, temporarily offset one another. It may not be ideal, but it’s real.
Furthermore, let me state for the record, Edward Snowden is no hero to me.
I do, however, agree with Mr. Nader that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) often plays an important role in protecting civil liberties, and I also agree that politicians on the Right need to do more to defend personal freedoms.
Allow me to shift focus here to the long view.
In general, your stance on the advisability of extending Civil Liberties depends, fundamentally, on how you would answer this age old philosophical question…What is the nature of human kind? Are we, in the long run, capable of improving ourselves? Or, are we destined to remain greedy and corruptible?
I believe Ralph Nader and I share a general optimism about the future of men and women on the face of the Earth. The best values have always been a part of our psychological make-up. Ever since the times when the cave-gentlemen and the cave-ladies were living in caves, we have valued cooperation and loyalty for instance.
However, Mr. Nader’s prescription for the future seems somewhat more paternalistic than mine. He sees government’s role as protecting us from ourselves. Hence, he seems to put his faith in institutions, and he seems to want us to rely on the power of institutions to protect and to nurture our better nature. I put more faith in the power of individuals and less faith in the power of institutions. If we are to win increased civil liberty, then we will have to carefully go out and earn them. The process I am proposing will not be easy, nor will it go smoothly.
I will attempt to describe both the problems and the solutions in a few short paragraphs below.
I do not believe in crimes without victims. I do believe in giving people the right to make their own mistakes as long as they are harming only themselves and not others.
Ideally, we would all have perfect freedom as long as no others were harmed. “Your right to swing your fist ends at my face.” * Unfortunately, some among us do not want to abide by that simple restriction. Those few want the freedom to harm others. Are the freedoms of those people equal to my freedoms or yours? I’m going to say, “No!”
Here’s a problem I have with our Pledge of Allegiance. The last line reads “with Liberty and Justice for all.” I say, “yes” to Justice for all. However, Liberty, in the form of Freedom, should remain out of reach for some of us. For instance, I don’t want to see Charlie Manson set free. ** I would revise the Anthem’s ending to say, “…with Liberty for the law abiding and Justice for all.”
I believe mankind is poised to take on a larger role in its own defense. But how is this transformation going to take place? Not without sacrifice.
I believe in Liberty tempered by two things:
1.Rights must be coupled with responsibilities. “Freedom Is Not Free.” *** Nor should it be. True Democracy depends on the readiness and the willingness of its citizens to serve.
2.During times of all-out war and national peril, all citizens should voluntarily relinquish some rights for the good of the country. I don’t believe our government is evil. I believe it is good; as good as its people. If we are in a war to the death with Isis; and if reading my emails helps us win that war; I say, let those in charge of the national defense read those emails.
So I may, at times, sound like a Libertarian, but I am a variation on the Libertarian theme. I am a Libertarian that puts freedom second only to responsibility to my fellow citizens and to the safety of my country.
*Versions of this quote have been attributed to John Stuart Mill, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Abraham Lincoln, and others.
**Charlie Manson is still alive. His parole has been denied many times. If he lives another ten years, he will be 92 and he will come up for parole again.
***Inscribed on the Korean War Veteran’s Memorial in Washington D.C.
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