LEE’S SUMMIT, DECEMBER 24, 2016 – On this Christmas Eve morning I sat discussing the fine line between the safety we all want, and the liberties protected by our constitution. It is so difficult to live in a truly free society the way the founding fathers meant the United States to be. My question to you – at the end of this piece is: What do you value more, safety or freedom?
This all started when Newt Gingrich, someone I typically agree with, posted the following tweet:
Under DeBlasio rules the Tunisian terrorist from Berlin would not have been stopped by Italian police. Time to back NYC police over DeBlasio.
In that tweet is the heart of my internal argument. Am I willing to give up my personal liberty to prevent a criminal, a terrorist, from escaping? Granted, that Italy is not constrained by the United States Constitution. However, Speaker Gingrich brought it home by saying that in NYC the police would not have been able to stop him and ask for his identification.
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “if you surrender liberty for security, soon you have neither liberty nor security.”
In the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution it says:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Let’s take this one step at a time. I am walking down the street here in Lee’s Summit. It is three in the morning. A police officer observes me walking down the street. I’m safely on the side walk. I am not stumbling – as in perhaps inebriated, or ill. All I’m doing is walking after midnight. Is there a legal reason to stop me?
A strict interpretation of the 4th Amendment says that I have “The right… to be secure in my person…” so can I be stopped?
I make the argument that there is no harm in the police stopping me. Yet, why should they? In the scenario, I painted, there is no “cause” to suspect me in any way. Let me counter my own argument: If I have done nothing wrong, why would I mind?
We charge the police with the responsibility to keep us safe. So, a person out walking at three in the morning should not mind that the police are looking out for their safety, and the safety of others in the neighborhood. Yet, if he stops me for no reason – or a made up reason – he is truly in violation of the 4th Amendment.
Putting it all on the table, the framers of the constitution did not trust the government they were creating. They had horrible experiences with government abuse in their own history, and they did not want to give birth to a nation that would eventually evolve into the same intrusive tyrannical entity they were fighting to disconnect from.
The fundamental question is: Do we want terrorists and criminals to go free, to protect their liberties and ours? Or, do we want to surrender our liberties – what our adversaries think we have too many currently – and protect ourselves from their attacks?
Now the final point. If we sacrifice our liberties, are we not giving them the victory? We fight for women’s rights. We fight for the right to achieve what our own hard work, intelligence, and unstoppable nature will get us. We take the words “Don’t Tread on Me” seriously. We strive to not judge your race, creed, or sexual preference, but to measure your personal achievements and self-worth.
Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, and I would like to paraphrase his statement for today’s society:
“will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin [or anything else], but by the content of their character.”
Yet it places an amazing burden on all of us. We cannot be asking the government to protect us from everything that is bad for us, and to let us have our own liberty at the same time.
I travel often. It is a constant reminder of the liberties we’ve surrendered for the safety of our air travel. I take my shoes off – because there was a guy who tried to take down a flight by putting explosives in his shoes. We cannot carry on shampoo in normal bottles, because a group tried to take down planes by mixing explosives onboard. We take off our belts, because you can hide a knife in your belt. We open our bags for random checks. We are scanned by systems that can see the naked body under the clothes. We have surrendered so many freedoms, guaranteed by the 4th Amendment, for the sake of safety.
I do this without thinking. I consider myself one of the quick security screen passengers. I typically check in my luggage, and make sure all my valuables are in my back pack, and I cruise through airports. I don’t think about how my liberties are not what they used to be.
How far down the slippery slope that Franklin talked about have we traveled to date? How much further are we willing to go? How much further should we go?
I truly don’t have the answers, even for myself, but these are the things we all need to think about so when the time comes we’re not caught off guard as we have been so many times. If we are not prepared to face the events of our lifetime; we are bound to be swept up and carried by them.
The Lee’s Summit Conservative