Current trends seem to suggest that America may not be the "land of the free" much longer. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, our federal government seems committed to the proposition that freedom is expendable if expunged in the name of security. Even more disturbing is the fact that a majority of the American people seems fine with the idea.
Fox News recently reported, "A handful of U.S. senators and some in the Bush administration are calling for changes in a 150-year-old statute, known as the Posse Comitatus Act, that keeps the military out of the business of domestic laws enforcement."
The Posse Comitatus Act became law in 1878 in order to end military occupation of the Reconstruction-era South. It states, "Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army . as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both." However, both Republicans and Democrats appear ready to amend or scrap Posse Comitatus to allow the U.S. military to engage American citizens.
Georgia Democrat, Max Cleland, said, "We've got to figure out a new Posse Comitatus that allows the Department of Defense to step forward and defend America." Virginia Republican, John Warner, echoed Cleland's sentiment in a letter to the Secretary of Defense asking his department to "re-examine military doctrines to enable our active duty military to more fully join other domestic assets in the war against terrorism."
Using military forces for domestic law enforcement was anathema to America's Founding Fathers. Subsequent generations of Americans, likewise, found the idea repulsive - but such is not the case today.
A local newspaper, The Florida Sun, recently asked Pensacolians, "Is it worth giving up your personal freedom and privacy for greater national security?" A significant majority responded in the affirmative. It is noteworthy that the area served by this paper, the Florida panhandle, is among the most conservative districts in the nation. Yet, even in this bastion of political conservatism and Bible-belt spirituality, freedom does not seem as fashionable as it once did. All that seems to matter nowadays is "security."
This reminds me of a quotation attributed to Benjamin Franklin. He is reputed to have said, "They who give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security." However, Franklin's concept seems lost to the current generation of Americans.
Instead, the vast majority of our neighbors and friends seem quite content to voluntarily surrender their liberties to an ever-increasing and extremely intrusive federal government. Neither does it seem to matter whether they are Democrats or Republicans. Both appear more than ready to accept a European-style police state.
© Chuck Baldwin
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