How does one define freedom? Or liberty? Or security even?
To all but the least of America’s politically attuned citizens, last Saturday’s Chelsea bombing kicked off a national debate on the role “order” plays in allowing those within a society to go about their daily lives in a “free” manner.
Chelsea seems to have set off a rather calamitous sequence of events for those arguing in favor of liberty during times which appear all the more favorable to security. Whether it be the manhunt in Chelsea, or CNN’s coverage of the riots in Charlotte following Keith Scott’s shooting by an officer of the law, the questions of utmost importance before Americans in an election year are:
“In a civil society, what bare minimum conditions of safety and security have to be met before a free individual can exercise his or her liberties within it? Are there any such conditions?”
“Is safety a prerequisite of liberty?”
The vast majority of middle age, middle income Americans undoubtedly watched the aftermath of Chelsea and the rioters in Charlotte and came away with the question: Is this the country I grew up in?
Upon considering said question, the dutiful urge for government to “do something” was undoubtedly sparked, and therein lies the dilemma for libertarians, upholders of the U.S. Constitution, and any and all who worry about the passions of the masses overwhelming the rule of law and right to due process.
In the face of chaos, how does one offer a solution based on individual liberty?
It was not so long ago that fearful Americans clamored for safety in the face of danger. The lasting imprint of September 11th on the American psyche cannot be underestimated. On September 12 the calls of safety and security culminated in a set of laws (Patriot Act, NDAA, etc..) whose intentions became an unjustifiable attack on individual liberties and privacy. Did those concessions to liberty enhance the safety, and therefore the quality of life for the Americans it effected? That answer is a resounding no.
Republican Presidential nominee, Donald Trump, touts himself as the “Law and Order” candidate. His Democratic counterpart has performed an admirable tightrope act in order to carefully navigate the fine line of not being seen as blaming minorities, while being equally careful to avoid the label of unpatriotic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither addressed the issues at hand or dared raise the level of civil discourse. Had they, they would have raised questions like:
Are Americans right to expect a level of order and safety as a constitutionally bound citizen? Yes.
Is such an expectation a prerequisite of individual liberty in a civil society? Right or not, it is the political reality.
How do overcome the draconian calls for action by our leaders? How do we overcome solutions resembling snake oil and offering little in the form of greater “order” and safety”? Luckily, all one must do is point to the endless failures of the surveillance apparatus and militarization of our police force championed by the leadership class.
Domestic terrorism has not, and will not, be defeated with the surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden.
Race relations in urban areas will not be solved through the militarization of the police force via the 1033 program allowing the transfer of military weapons and supplies to police forces throughout the United States. Especially when one considers that as a condition for accepting said weapons and supplies, they must be deployed on an annual basis in order to retain them.
Americans must be continually reminded that sacrificing individual liberties to the government, even in the most scary and chaotic of times, will yield neither the order nor the security they seek. History tells them so. It was the French political philosopher Jean-Jacque Roussea who wrote,
“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are.”
The dilemma of Chelsea and Charlotte for American voters is that fury and the inclination to act will only perpetuate the chaos they seek to extinguish. In falling for “Law and Order” by those who evangelize its merits, Americans fit themselves with chains in pursuit of freedom…
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