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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

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For the week of March 6 - 12, 2002

  Opinion Column

On security and freedom

Commentary by DICK DORWORTH


Everyone has heard the sophomoric witticism, "He who dies with the most toys wins." And so has everyone heard the poignant Kris Kristofferson line, "Freedomís just another word for nothing left to lose."

The first describes the end of the road (and, apparently, the goal) of those for whom security in life is a contest measurable by material possessions. The second indicates what happens to those who use freedom to avoid lifeís difficulties instead of a means to keep growing, learning and staying free.

Both have been in my mind since a recent conversation about the changes in America after Sept. 11, in which a man I like and respect said, "I donít mind giving up freedoms for security." For me, such a statement, and the fears behind it (and the realities in front of it) are disturbing. They are also dangerous to the life of the mind and to oneís ability to think and make informed judgments and decisions. They are destructive of democracy and of the institutions that preserve it.

For some, the question seems to be, What use is security without freedom?

For others, the question is, What use is freedom without security?

Since there is neither absolute freedom nor absolute security, the answer to each question involves a middle road between the two. How much freedom do you give up for security? How much security do you give up for freedom?

It seems to me that these are matters best decided by each individual according to individual needs. And I do not mean one individual deciding for another. They are not matters that can be rationally thought about, much less decided, from a foundation of fear, individual or collective. Before Sept. 11, few Americans would have said, "I donít mind giving up freedoms for security." The fear inflicted on the American psyche by the horrors of Sept. 11 changed everything, and that fear, and many of the decisions being made from it, are more disturbing than terrorism itself. It is not inconceivable that they will prove to be more dangerous and destructive than terrorism itself to freedom itself.

Even in sparsely populated Idaho, there has been the fearful and ludicrous (and poor) example of the governor barricading the State Capitol, making himself and a handful of fellow politicos secure against the imagined hordes of godless Taliban, fording the Boise River, knives drawn, seeking to bring down the strategic and symbolic center of Dirk Kempthorneís inflated imagination. Meanwhile, the freedom of Idaho citizens to do business, seek information, monitor, question, criticize, watch or even visit the workings of state government has been seriously impaired, all at considerable taxpayer expense.

In New York and Washington, citizens are no longer free to walk down the street without being monitored by surveillance video cameras providing an ill-defined sector of the populace a questionable security and an unquestionable loss of freedom to anyone who believes that Big Brother and freedom are antithetical, all at considerable taxpayer expense.

A couple of weeks ago a U.S. Department of Energy official told an audience of people in Twin Falls that the nuclear waste buried just east of the Wood River Valley at INEEL will not be removed, as scheduled, mandated and promised by the federal government, because of Sept. 11. That nuclear waste will continue to impact the health of the people and the environment of Idaho and beyond. While the governor is barricaded against phantom threats in Boise, just a few hundred miles east the real threats to the health and well being of Idaho citizens are ignored. The question is, Whose freedom is being secured and at whose expense?

There have been many hundreds of people detained for months with no charges filed against them, no evidence against them that they have broken any laws, and, in many cases, no word given to their families about where they are or what they might expect. United States law, which is the foundation of both freedom and security, has been suspended. Many citizens who do not mind giving up freedoms for security approve of the suspension of law in the case of these detainees. You never know when one of "them" might turn out to be a terrorist, and those who arenít are simply casualties of war. Too bad for "them." But you also never know when a law once suspended for "them" might be suspended for you. Too bad for you. A law once suspended is no longer a law, but only a tool of expediency for whoever wields power.

And those who currently wield power have even created, literally, a shadow, underground, bunker government. The public does not know who comprises this bunkered government, nor does it know the physical location of that government. The public does know that it has been put in place without elections, that the democratic process as been subverted in the name of security, that it is not a government of the people, for the people and by the people.

Are these sacrifices of freedom to security necessary? They are certainly being accepted too easily, with far too little scrutiny or resistance, with barely a whimper of protest from people who donít mind giving up freedoms for security.

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.