Freedom or security?

As we prepare for the celebration of the anniversary that marks the signing of the Declaration of Independence from the British rulers in 1776, we would do well to reflect upon the meaning of Independence Day in our 21st century lives.

Those leading citizens of the time fully understood that signing such a document would immediately be seen as an act of treason by the government in power.

Make no mistake, just placing their names to such a document made prison and death a real possibility. At the core was a desire for freedom and to be independent to make decisions for themselves based upon their beliefs and desires.

To be sure, this freedom did not apply to humans being forced to servitude and slavery in the South (and the North), but that was a fight for another day. That decision and all others were to be made by the colonies as an independent country, not by the King of England. We should never forget how big a leap of faith was the Declaration of Independence.

What followed was a long war of attrition and of politics across the Atlantic. The out-gunned Americans used what was at the time considered to be terrorism. Rather than be thrashed repeatedly on the open field, these men learned to fight in a hit and run method using harassment tactics, even going so far as to attack in Trenton on a high holy day.

After trapping Cornwallis in Yorktown with naval support from the French, the home politics back in England finally forced a truce and the birth of a new nation.

The parallels of this struggle can be seen as recently as Vietnam and the Middle East. Just as the British Army had won most battles during our Revolution, our troops in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan won all major engagements.

Yet as the atrocities (terrorist acts) rained down on our troops in Vietnam were given back-page coverage and the traps set for our troops in Afghanistan become less than news, any retaliation in kind by those men suffering the gnawing terror were splashed across the front page. The drum beat of ‘”illegal war,” “no moral standing,” “bring our boys home” led in the case of Vietnam to a full retreat and the success of the communists. This was followed by murderous “cleansing” of those left behind who had fought for their freedom.

Now we plan to leave Afghanistan. The recurring improvised and suicide bombings are constant reminders of a foe not yet capitulated. And the return of maimed and dead soldiers is a painful reminder that we are in fact fighting a war, even as most of us see no obvious change here at home and our Commander in Chief refuses to publicly recognize that we are engaged in a global war. He would rather lecture us on global warming.

As seen in our Revolution and in Vietnam, terrorism is not a new tactic. History has shown however that is is an effective tactic to sway the minds of the meek (and by meek, I mean those who only know of terrorism by reading or seeing photos of the suffering of those who actually experienced it and then swoon from fear for their own safety).

Back home, we have allowed our own government to accost freedoms in ways only seen during full out warfare. In the name of security and under a specter of fear, we allow our once-independent national spirit based upon individual freedoms to become one where we sit quietly by and let whomever appointed gather telephone and Internet information with no warrant, track our reading habits, or falsify warrants in the name of safety.

Have we really strayed so far from our founders to prefer security over freedom? Do we say that we value freedom enough to fight for others without it, but then willingly give up our own?

I see coming the worst possible outcome for our current struggle. Will we leave the fray without fully defeating the enemy and, knowing such, leave in place a security apparatus and an opportunistic government that changes the very fabric of what is America? The result of this would be a country more like those against whom we have fought past wars that spilled the blood of our brothers and sisters. That does not sound like victory to me.

The 4th of July is not Security Day or Dependence Day. It is Independence Day and the world is watching.

Alan Felts
Peachtree City, Ga.