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Alternative Culture Articles

November 19, 2002

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 enemies.

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 all Americans.

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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Royce Carlson