All of us who can remember 9/11 can also remember what we were doing when we got the news. I was writing an editorial for a conservative web based newsletter. What my original topic was, I do not recall but I do recall penning these words: “As a combat veteran, I hate war but what I hate even more is watching innocent civilians have to choose to leap out of skyscrapers to avoid burning to death.”
Then came the days afterward: Our nation found a new dignity and national identity. People were kinder to one another. We went out of our way to accommodate others. We drove with flags attached to our windows and headlights on in support of the government. We were pulling together as a nation. People were volunteering. The war on terrorism had very high support ratings. Even people like Tom Daschle supported the President.
The war in Iraq brought far less support and that has dwindled. Although I solidly support and pray for our troops, I wonder what we are creating over there. There are a myriad of questions. Should Baghdad look like Austin, TX, Chicago, IL or Phoenix, AZ? Are the petroleum resources under their soil the property of the Iraqi people or do the industrialized nations get that title deed? These are just a couple of examples of the haunting questions.
When one turns their gaze though, we are faced with what I believe is the most pressing issue in America today. That is the wake of the Patriot Act. In this age of cavity searches in airports, surveillance of our private conversations and other invasions of our privacy, have we lost our liberty? Some would have us believe that. Those who want to promote fear, distrust and contempt in an effort to change party leadership cheer every time a new foible is revealed. Are we still a free nation?
Perhaps a better question would be has this nation ever been free. Anytime more than one person is present and has power, freedom is compromised to some degree. We allow laws and restriction in order to create a general harmoniousness to live in. So, in this land of 300,000,000 or so individuals, can we say that we are corporately free?
The answer, I believe is this: Our nation is the most free on earth and has been since it’s founding but all of us make allowances in our lives for the good of the whole. We pay for groceries so there will be grocery stores. We control our driving speed so traffic can keep moving safely. We control our borders so that we are not vulnerable to infiltration by terrorists and we are not forced to pay for the welfare of non citizens.
Freedom can still be found though. During the Roman occupation of Israel, Christians would use sticks to make an arc in the sand. If the person they were talking to made another arc over the first, a fish was formed and they knew they were both believers. This was necessary because Romans were putting them in jail and to death. Although they did not have majority rule, they had personal freedom. When the Nazis were taking Jews into custody, the Jews found ways to remain free within. Victor Frankl observed people in these camps and introduced the world to existential psychology as a result. In much the same way, each of us must find freedom within because that is where it really counts. Does freedom still reign? Only you can answer for you.