Freedom comes first

Jul 022007
Authors: Sean Reed

On the eve of our nation’s celebration of it’s independence from Britain, the air is already thick with the smells of hamburgers and hotdogs, and all talk around the water-cooler is on freedom.

Americans, however, in spite of all their big talk, no longer value liberty as they once did.

Patrick Henry, American Patriot and Revolutionary, once said “Give me liberty or give me death.”

It is interesting that now, in the wake of 9/11, with growing fear of future terrorist attacks, we have exchanged Henry’s old battle cry for an opposite philosophy – one that puts freedom, our nation’s central ideal, secondary to security.

The greatest example of this is the most ironically named measure in the history of our country – the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act – more commonly known as the USA PATRIOT Act.

This measure, intended as a means to protect citizens from the global threat of terrorism, has done far more damage than it has done good at protecting us.

Giving the government the authority to tap telephones, monitor library records for suspicious activity (which includes the reading of any Islamic texts), and to detain American citizens indefinitely without filing charges for suspected terrorist activity, may seem like a good idea if safety is your primary concern, but it is shows a complete degradation of what we stand for as a nation.

The Declaration of Independence set forth the idea that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator unalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Not listed among these, interestingly enough, is the idea that security is a fundamental right. Looking at the founders and their actions – willingly putting their lives in jeopardy to defend their freedom – it is clear where they stood on the subject.

Ben Franklin was particularly outspoken on this subject. He was once quoted saying “those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.”

They must have been made out of tougher stuff back then. Either that or not having their rights given to them on a silver spoon as we have, they valued it more.

So, before relinquishing our civil liberties as we cower at the thought of another terrorist attack, maybe we ought to get our priorities straight.

The United States is the greatest nation in the world not because we are the biggest economic power, or because we have the strongest military. We are not the best because people of other nations flock to our nation in droves – legally or illegally – because they know they can live a better life, or because of our entertaining political system.

We are the greatest nation in the world because we were the first group to realize the value of freedom.

I think it’s high time we got back to that commitment.

Editorials editor Sean Reed is a junior political science major. His column appears weekly in the summer Collegian edition. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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