It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority – Benjamin Franklin
When did America become a nation of frightened wimps? When did we cross the line from courage to cowardice? Was it sometime in the 1990s? After the Oklahoma City bombing? After the Columbine shootings? After 911?
When did we decide to allow the police to smash into private homes without knocking and identifying themselves? Recently, in the suburb I live in, a special police force dressed in black Nazi style uniforms busted into a suburban home without warning and dragged a school teacher out of her house with an automatic weapon at the back of her head. They forced her to the ground, handcuffed her, and hauled her away while her neighbors watched. They did it without a warrant and without consequence. Why? A misunderstanding. That is precisely why we need checks in place, to avoid misunderstandings and abuses. The police chief said, “When we realized it was a mistake, we all had a good laugh.” If a group of unidentified men dragged his wife away at gunpoint, I wonder if he would still think it was funny.
When did we decide it was okay to strip search an old lady at the airport because the pin in her hip set off the metal detector? When did we decide it was too risky to take a cup of coffee on an airplane? When did we decide it was reasonable to make a nursing mother drink her own breast milk to prove she wasn’t a terrorist? When we impose such extreme levels of security, haven’t the terrorists already won? Haven’t we willingly given our freedom to the government and the terrorists in the name of security?
When did we decide it was okay for policemen in combat boots with German Shepherds to patrol High School hallways?
When did we decide to allow routine police roadblocks? Why weren’t we outraged?
When did we decide it was too dangerous for our children to ride their bikes to school?
When did we decide it was okay for the government to seize property without a trial, without due process, at the whim of a government agency?
When did we decide that our government had a right to the fluids inside our own bodies? Or a right to the very breath in our lungs? When did we decide that it was the accused’s responsibility to prove they hadn’t been breaking the law? When did we decide that drug testing High School students was reasonable? Hell, why is it reasonable to drug test anyone – ever? Why would anybody, for any reason, have the right to invade your body without your permission?
When did we decide to give 10 year prison sentences to adolescents for having sex? Was it before or after we decided to put them in jail for smoking cigarettes and drinking beer? If my memory serves me correctly, when I was a teenager, almost everyone I knew either was doing it or wanted to do it. Why did we make what is biological and natural, criminal?
When did we decide it is too risky for 20-year-olds to drink but reasonable for them to kill and die overseas? Does that make sense to anyone?
We’ve justified every one of these injustices by claiming that it was necessary to preserve health and safety. I say bullsh!t. What is the point in being a safe slave?
I think we crossed the line somewhere between 1984 and 1988, around the time we outlawed lawn darts and every mini van in America had a ‘baby-on-board’ sign. While lawn darts and baby on board signs may seem trivial, they were warning signs of a mass shift in American values – a shift away from freedom and liberty as predominant values to health and safety as predominant values. There will be no end to the loss of freedom if we believe being healthy and safe trumps all else.
I believe there was day when most Americans accepted that life was risky. They accepted that bad things can happen to good people. They accepted that risk was an inherent part being free. They didn’t need a new law or government program every time something bad happened.
It is sad to watch our freedom slowly disappear in front of our eyes with so few people taking action.
But I have hope. I sense a shift. Something is blowing in the wind. I can smell it. I can feel it. I can see it in young people. A move away from authoritarianism – like the people that run The Free Talk Live podcast, one of the most popular podcasts in the world. The Free Talk Live podcasters make no apologies and pull no punches in their love of freedom. They tell it like it is.
He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither – Benjamin Franklin