Posted at Free Republic, TruthUSA, and Friends of Liberty.
I have heard it said that the wisdom of the ages can be summarized in three words: life goes on. Even in the aftermath of orgies of madness such as those of September 11, 2001, life must go on.
Across America, people are getting on with their lives. They are courageously doing so in spite of great loss, personal inconvenience, and economic uncertainty. The heroic efforts of the relief workers and the unprecedented outpouring of goodwill across America have been most reassuring. The scum who perpetrated these tragedies have not brought America to its knees.
This is the good news.
The bad news is that, in the name of security, too many Americans will drop to their knees and give up their freedoms. This is not a matter of partisan politics or abstract political philosophy.
No one wants to repeat the events of September 11. However, you need to ask yourself how much freedom you will give up in order to obtain security. How many travel restrictions will you endure? Do you want the federal government monitoring your bank accounts, your phone calls, your e-mails, and your faxes? Do you want to turn in your guns? Shall we surrender our Fourth Amendment protections against "unreasonable Searches and Seizures"? Shall we outlaw plastic knives and box cutters? Shall we issue internal passports to everyone and require that they be stamped whenever you cross state lines? Shall we outlaw air travel altogether? Shall we forbid more than 200 people to congregate in one edifice at one time? Shall we set up internment camps for all first- and second-generation Arab-Americans?
Perhaps some of this last paragraph sounds silly, but the tendency after any traumatizing event is to overreact. Political opportunists all over America are taking advantage of the events of September 11 in order to scare people into giving up more freedoms. Do not let them do this. Further erosion of our domestic freedoms constitutes nothing more than victory for terrorists.
If you want to give up all your freedom in the name of security, there is a place 90 miles south of Key West where they have done this. You will note that they have no immigration problem there. We in America have lost our freedom at an alarming rate over the last several decades. Are we any better off? Any safer? Any more secure?
The events of September 11 point up the failure of the FBI, CIA, INS and numerous other alphabet-soup agencies we trust to protect us. We have pursued a foreign policy which has put American troops in dozens of countries around the world where no American interest is at stake. What threat do Haiti, Somalia, or Serbia pose to us? Why have we spilled American blood in these places? We have jerked around with Saddam Hussein for three times as long as we fought Hitler, and yet he remains in power and a thorn in the side of U.S. policy makers. (Quite possibly, he had a role in backing the tragedies of September 11). Our security apparatus against foreign perils resembles a screen door in a submarine.
America must initiate swift and overwhelming retaliation against any and all persons and organizations who had a part in the events of September 11, as well as any governments or other entities who harbored, financed, or otherwise abetted them. Domestically, we must root out anyone and everyone who aided and abetted the hijackers, as well as anyone with prior knowledge of the events, and punish them to the fullest extent of the law.
However, we must exercise restraint here as well. How far we go calls for prudence. President Bush has voiced his intent to "rid the world of evildoers." Some people say we should go ahead and occupy numerous Arab countries. Our experiment with empire failed once. Let us not repeat this.
There is a biblical proverb which says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6) The notion that we can rid the world of all evils foreign and domestic is not a biblical one. In the days ahead, we need to seek God's guidance when retaliating abroad and when legislating at home.
We need to pray for courage and prudence on behalf of President Bush, our Congress and Senate, and our military leaders. We need to pray for our sailors, soldiers, airman, and marines as they deploy for battle. We need to pray for the survivors of the tragedies of November 11, and for the friends, families, and co-workers of those who perished. We also need to pray for all the police, fireman, and other relief workers who have worked so heroically and indefatigably during the past week. (My apologies to anyone accidentally left off this list.)
In the early 1830s, a Frenchman named Alexis deTocqueville came to America to examine its civil institutions. His studies were spelled out in the classic work "Democracy in America". In it, he wrote, "I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
The outpouring of goodwill we have seen in response to the tragedies of September 11 is evidence that we have not lost our way as a nation. America is still great because America is still good.
However, Scripture tells us to look to the Kingdom of God rather than the kingdoms of man to fulfill our needs. America was founded on the principle that God, not man, is in sovereign. The Founders limited the scope of civil government, as we were to appeal to God, not man, in times of trouble. America became the greatest nation on earth because it was the freest nation on earth. To paraphrase deTocqueville, America is great because America is free. And if America ever ceases to be free, America will cease to be great.
Let us act with prudence and reason in the days ahead. Let us not panic in the face of chaos. Let us not surrender our freedom in the name of security. Let us not permit terrorists to bring us to our knees in any way, shape, or form. Let us resolve that those who died as a result of the tragedies of September 11 shall not have died in vain.
Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman
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