Freedom and Security
By Royce Carlson
The Patriot Act and the new bill creating a
Department of Homeland Security leave out something very important. With these
two bills enacted, the government will be allowed to create a central database
that will contain information on every purchase you make with your credit
cards, every medical prescription you fill, the web sites you visit, the
emails you send, your bank deposits, and anything else that leaves an
electronic record except one thing - gun purchases.
The government is not allowed to use the FBI's
records of background checks for gun purchases to find out if a suspected
terrorist has bought guns. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has made that
clear. Does this omission make sense? I don't care what books a terrorist
reads, or what he buys at the supermarket. I do care if he is buying weapons.
But the government is not allowed access to that information. Since this is the
case, I can only conclude that George W. Bush is not the president of the
United States. Charlton Heston is.
But maybe I'm wrong. Bush's original Homeland
Security Department bill had 37 pages. By the time it passed the Senate, it had
close to 500 pages. That's over 400 additional pages of riders and add-ons. I
doubt if the senators who voted for it had time to read much of it. They are
hoping the President will read it before he signs it. Maybe it now contains
something allowing the use of gun background check information. If so, what
would the National Rifle Association think about that? It seems that the
current administration has backed itself into a corner. If they leave gun
purchase records out, terrorists can freely buy guns without anyone knowing
about it, but the NRA would be happy - or they can consistently monitor all
purchases, including guns, thereby turning against the NRA's traditional
influence on the Republican Party.
Which is the correct path to take? I don't like
either choice. I refer to Ben Franklin who said, "Those who are willing to
sacrifice essential freedom for security deserve neither." The recent
security bills are taking away our rights to privacy. The government is become
more like Big Brother, watching everything we do. What intrusions into our
lives will be undertaken by our government next? I am not willing to sacrifice
my freedoms for a false sense of security.
The only approach that can give us true security
is to change our actions overseas. U.S. foreign policy is arrogant and
bullying. We are constantly going into countries and changing and manipulating
their governments. We sell weapons and give military aid to all sorts of shady
characters and then go and bomb their countries when they turn against us. We
talk about spreading democracy but support dictators, kings, and communists as
leaders of other countries if they will only sell us some oil, or help us
attack their neighbors. We talk about supporting human rights while turning a
blind eye to human rights abuses in any country that will side with us in a
conflict or sell us cheap products. We talk about freedom but will support any
oppressive regime that will let us put military bases on their soil. We
arrogantly assume that our culture is superior to any other culture and seek to
impose it on everyone. If some country resists, we call for "regime
change." We use our economic resources to bribe other countries into going
along with our ideas and, if they don't, we have the largest military in the
world to threaten them with. This is an approach guaranteed to make lots of
With this kind of foreign policy, there is no
way to make America safe from terrorism. The more we try to control the world,
the more resistance we will meet. It's like trying to grab a fist full of
water. The harder we squeeze, the less water we'll end up with. As our
government creates more laws that limit our right to privacy, more Americans
will begin to fight these laws from within. It's a dangerous path and it's
ultimately doomed to fail.
The U.S. has got to stop meddling in the
business and governments of other countries. We have plenty of work to do here
at home. Our economy is faltering. Investors can no longer trust the
information they get from companies, auditors, or stock analysts. The rich are
getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Millions of Americans do not
have access to health care. Violent crime in the U.S. is, per capita, much
higher than any other Western country. Homelessness is increasing rapidly. We
have to deal with these problems. They won't go away by themselves.
It seems that the countries that we most want to
mess with are the ones that either supply us with oil or sell us illegal drugs.
If we can switch to renewable energy sources and reduce energy use via
increased efficiencies, we can minimize our dependency on foreign oil and save
ourselves boatloads of money in the process. No longer would we have to spend
billions of dollars and American lives fighting in the Middle East to protect our
access to oil resources. We can use the money instead to improve the lives of
If the U.S. government legalized marijuana for
adult use, they could tax it like they do cigarettes and use the money to treat
people addicted to dangerous drugs like crack and heroin. Our overcrowded
prisons and overworked police forces could use their freed up resources to help
fight violent crime. We then wouldn't have to spend billions of dollars trying
to destroy drug sources in other countries. We could use the money instead to
reduce demand for drugs via education and by dealing with the social problems
that create the circumstances which encourage drug addiction.
On the occasions when a dangerous leader of
another country threatens world security, the U.S. should willingly participate
but only with the approval and support of the United Nations. Policing other
nations is better left to the world community. The U.S. invites problems when
it tries to act alone.
America needs to be a good world citizen. We
need to stop thinking only of ourselves, and work with other nations to create
a healthier and more peaceful world. With respect for other nations and support
of the world community the U.S. would not be hated by so many. We would not be
a target for terrorism and dangerous and futile things like the Patriot Act and
the Homeland Security bill would never have to be enacted. With a less
aggressive and less invasive U.S. foreign policy we would not have to be
put in the position of deciding whether to trade freedom for security.
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