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Freedom is like sand, when it dries out it tends to slip from our grasp. Unfortunately, each generation must lend its sweat and/or blood to wet the grains of liberty or risk losing them forever. It is natural for a society to move towards an authoritarian state as one generation squanders what the previous fought to give them. As the cultural memory of the sacrifices made to secure freedom fades, that which binds freedom to a people also evaporates. It was this axiom, proven through the ages of human history, that led Thomas Jefferson to say “liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots” a statement that seems as radical and timely today as when he spoke it nearly two hundred forty years ago.
Rules, laws, restrictions and a country’s bureaucracy, all tend to increase over time. The result is a decline in freedom that, if left unchecked, leads to an all powerful authoritarian state. Despite what many have been taught, democracy is no barrier to the loss of freedom, it in fact can be the catalyst that ushers it in. If at some point a large part of the populous does not stand up against the rising tide of tyranny, it will be drowned by it. Hayek in his book, The Road to Serfdom, laid out how this trend develops more than a half century prior, today we see the truth in what he said.
In the United States, the IRS can operate with near impunity, confiscating records, seizing property and harassing political adversaries without a hint of due process. Even formerly innocuous sections of government, like the Bureau of Land Management, have become armed menaces. The Supreme Court has often added fuel to fire. In a 5-4 decision, the court upheld rumor based warrantless searches. In what the minority opinion called “A Freedom-Destroying Cocktail,” the court ruled that anonymous tips can be used to stop and search people on the road. The effect of this ruling (along with Illinois v. Gates) is to legalize what the constitution formally forbids; that being the right not to be denied security in one’s person without either evidence of a crime being presented before a court or direct observation of those enforcing the law. It also sets aside the right to face one’s accuser. These are two of the cornerstones of freedom that form a bulwark against an abusive state. Of course this is not the only decision of the Court that has eroded liberty, cases like KELO, BENNIS, WICKARD v. FILBURN and probably a dozen more that have equally eroded liberty in the land of the free.
Calling these recent trends alarming is an understatement, especially when combined with the increasing militarization of police forces, the recent revelations of wide spread domestic spying by the NSA and political targeting by government agencies. The hemorrhaging of freedom, unless an angry and disillusioned public rises up against it, is unlikely to slow down anytime soon. Under the auspices of the “War on Terror”, radical environmentalism, public safety and even personal health, the public is seeing the grip of the state ever tightening around them. In the name of the public good, power is increasingly being centralized and opposition being criminalized. The right to practice one’s religion, express one’s views, and even determine one’s own future, is being taken away by those on a mission that has no end.
In light of all of this, the question becomes how, if at all, the present direction will be reversed? By what means will the soil of freedom again be moistened? The drumbeats of revolt are indeed increasing in volume and smell of fear permeates the air. At what point, if at all, the people will rise up and become an unstoppable force of change is anyone’s guess. During the cold war people worried that the light of freedom would be extinguished by the thundering advance of tyrannical forces, but it is more likely to succumb to power grabbing political elites and the whimpering sounds of those too afraid to fight them.
The struggle to retain freedom is an ongoing and unending battle from which there can be no retreat. As it slips from the fingers of this generation, it will not be easily regained by the next, if at all. By what method the sands of liberty will be wetted so they can once again be held onto is yet to be determined. One way is through the sweat of political activism, the other is through the blood of patriots. If Americans do not stand up and defend freedom by the first, they will soon find that the second option is all that is left them.
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