Our own word, Liberty, is derived from this Latin one. It is a word that describes freedom, it represents openness in speech, the ability to articulate thoughts without fear, and a power to put those thoughts into action, so long as they don’t impose on another’s own liberty. It is a word our country was founded upon. Indeed, to many of our founders, it is the word our country was founded upon. Liberty from tyranny and taxation, liberty from government oppression, liberty from economic regulation and control. We were born free, and thus ought to remain free, to guide our own lives the way we see fit.
But does our country remain free? Post 9/11 America has sacrificed many of its freedoms for security. It began with the PATRIOT Act, and now that has expanded into proposed laws such as the NDAA, the House’s SOPA and the Senate’s similar PIPA bills. There is so much talk about the threats of terrorism, nuclear weapons, and riots in our daily lives that it is hard not to be afraid, and thus support these provisions. But as citizens we must attempt first to understand where these threats come from, and what giving up our rights ultimately means, before we allow our representatives in Washington make hasty decisions that jeopardize our future liberty, as well as the continuation of our country.
By yielding our freedom of speech, our right to due process, and the doctrine of habeus corpus to our government, we put our basic human rights in danger if ever there is bad leadership. Sure, the threats are real, but it is we, as citizens, who have the right to protect ourselves, and the government’s only duty is to protect that right. To advocate an interventionist policy only incites hatred and resentment. If we completely lose sight of these simple truths, we will have lost sight of what is at the foundation of our country. And if we allow our government to value preemptive and preventative protection over that which is informed and imminent, we will continue on the downward spiral towards Empire, falling further and further from our Republican roots. It is the path all empires before have followed and it always ends in disaster.
Let’s get back to the word though. And it, in fact, is simply that: a word. It is an arbitrary entity consisting of letters which represent sounds that only have meaning based on human application and understanding. In other words, it is something which does not exist physically. It cannot be seen or touched. It is beyond sense perception. And Libertas itself is an arbitrary idea. It represents something that also has no physical attributes. Nonetheless we know when we have it, fully and unfettered. When it is stripped from us, we know it as well. We feel fear and unease, as though we are enemies in our own state. We watch the things we say and avoid topics such as religion and politics; what a sad thing, for ignorance leads to bigotry, and tolerance becomes intolerable. We follow society blindly, doing that which is required of us, living life as we are told it is supposed to be lived, all without question, all without weighing these things against our own non-cultural values, our internal human principles, our basic instincts. When our liberty is slowly disassembled, we begin to feel it, even if it is in the form of lethargy.
So the question remains. Is this the same country you thought it was when you were young? Can you stand confidently, and proudly say, “This is a free country; I can do what I want!” Or do you feel as though your every move is watched and judged, and when you stray from the norm, even if it places no harm upon any other person, you are considered to be in the wrong? Is your liberty truly intact?
These are the ills we face today. Our country is at a turning point in its history. It would be folly to stand idly by and watch which path it will take. We, as citizens, have a duty to protect our own rights, and stand in favor of the rights of humanity.