Give me liberty and give me life
I've been reading Markos' comments (at Daily Kos) taking on the cowardice of the Association of Chickenhawk Bedwetters and there is one thing that I've been meaning to say but never got the time to write about. While Markos makes some good points, there's one point that he has been making repeatedly that is unfortunately out of place.
Here it is (and I've emphasized the part that I am writing about):
Their fear is exposed when they violate the very values on which this country was founded. Instead of "Give me liberty or give me death!" we get "Here's our liberties, just spare us from death!"
Markos mentioned this again more recently. I understand his intent - and when viewed from the perspective of what he is trying to say in his post there's nothing wrong with his statement. He is obviously appealing to our inner courage and convictions to fight fear and terror of all forms without being cowards. But the term "give me liberty or give me death" is not the right analogy to describe the situation we are in today. Others have likewise adopted this unsuitable motto as well - be it bloggers (like Digby), op-ed columnists (like Robert Steinback) or Senators (like the great Russell Feingold).
Why do I say this? Well, Patrick Henry's famous phrase may have been valid when the founders were fighting a tyrannical king for their own freedom, but the point that many of us (including Markos, Digby, et al.) have also been trying to make is precisely that in today's war against terrorists the life <or> liberty argument is a false choice perpetrated by Bush Republicans. (Moreover, unlike America's founding era, today we are the rulers of our country - not the terrorists).
"Live Free or Die" may have been an appropriate cry against monarchical tyranny. But the cry that is appropriate today is "Live Free" for there is no reason we cannot effectively and successfully fight terrorism while continuing to maintain our most valued civil liberties.
"Give me Liberty or Give me Death" may have been an appropriate cry against monarchical tyranny. But the cry that is appropriate today is "Give me Liberty and Give me Life" for we can absolutely have both, with just minimal compromises.
To make people stop living in fear, you need to highlight that the alternative is not death, but rather, a life with cherished liberties.
Indeed, the very foundation of the Libertarian/Liberal Democratic Republic is based on that premise. It is also the antithesis of the governing philosophy of monarchical, fascist, totalitarian or communist regimes that dramatically curtail civil liberties using the demonstrably false argument (based on the history of Western capitalistic democracies) that liberties need to be dramatically compromised if security ("life") is to be guaranteed for the people. An argument not unlike that of Bush and his cronies who simultaneously believe that freedom should "ring" in Iraq - to release Iraqis from the clutch of Saddam's "terror" - but not in the United States, where they argue it should be curtailed to fight "terror". What can be more misguided and unAmerican than that? I mentioned this before in my letter to Sen. Reid:
President Bush, in his words and actions, has demonstrated that he is always quick to raise the white flag of surrender and cut and run from America's fundamental governing principles and philosophies. The words and actions of Bush and his blind supporters in Government and the media, regrettably, help America's enemies perpetrate the myth that people worldwide should abandon dreams of liberal democracy because such democracy is not possible under threats to the people's security. I simply and soundly reject this false notion and act of surrender to terrorists and communist dictators everywhere, an act that also deceives all our children - the future of America - into believing that you cannot have a liberal democracy in this world as long as there are terrorists around.
The great Benjamin Franklin was perhaps even more emphatic on this than I am:
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
We also have our very own American patriot-extraordinaire Al Gore who eloquently said this two days ago (emphasis mine):
Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."
The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.
Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.
Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars?
It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.
So, I respectfully suggest that it is time to temporarily set aside the phrase "Give me liberty or give me death" and adopt a different motto to highlight the unconstitutional and illegal power grab of the new King George.
P.S. Yesterday we had a commenter at TLC who provided the Bush argument - that exposed the real political ideology that Bush Republicans prefer for the U.S. The commenter made it very clear that Government has a right to disregard the most important civil liberties in order to guarantee security. Other than the fact that a Cabinet post in Fidel Castro's Cuba likely awaits him, let me emphasize that true conservatives don't think in these terms, as they showed in their support for Al Gore's speech.