Give Me Liberty or Give Me Security?

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The extremely affable Benjamin Franklin is said to have said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety.”  Like the Constitution and its Amendments, his sage words should still echo in the ears of every American, despite their political views. In other words, all Americans should be very concerned about the erosion of our abilities to have the liberty to provide for our own safety.

There is a strange debate going on in our hometown, and likely in yours as well; whereas non-taxpaying youth are demanding the extreme liberty to do, say, recreationally smoke and otherwise ingest pharmaceuticals, to dress and identify themselves in any manner that they please, while at the same time wanting to be safely protected at any cost in so doing.  To secure that safety, they protest in the streets using the 1st Amendment while demanding abatements to the 2nd Amendment rights of others.  If in, Franklin’s time, the British hadn’t allowed the colonist to have weapons, then there would be no constitutional 1st or any subsequent amendments at all.

On the other side of the spectrum are the senior citizens who don’t feel safe in their own homes. 

These seniors, both liberals and conservatives, are asking for more police protection through cops and cameras. However, there’s the problem: those same reduced-taxed seniors want a continuation of the municipal services of which they have grown accustomed but desire lower taxes at the same time.

And then there’s a 3rd factor. In the colony-like parts of any city, including this one, unregistered weaponry abounds and reported crime levels run higher than in other parts of the city. The residents there who want police at all, wants more kind and gentle policing; whereas many others want no policing at all.  Community policing is likely the answer, and while the numbers are growing, there still isn’t enough of those residents who want to be a part of the solution by becoming cops.

But are more cops, even the kinder and gentler ones the solution, the answer for cash-strapped towns?

Some years ago, I did an informal survey of first responders, both police officers and firemen, asking both groups if they preferred more money for what they do on their perspective jobs, or less to do on those perspective jobs.  The results surprised me – at first.

Each police officer said that they would want less crime instead of more money, and each fireman said that they would prefer more money instead of less calls. They respond to some very dangerous situations where there are usually strong and angry emotions between disputing parties. The degree of subsequent paperwork afterwards and the extreme scrutiny is overwhelming.  Like all of us, they too would like less crime, but they get more overtime instead.

On the other hand, given the choice, firemen preferred more money than having less calls. 

“We became firefighters because we like fighting fires,” one told me.  Another said that there’s great satisfaction in saving people’s lives, the daily bulk of firefighters’ calls.  And firefighters are overwhelmingly welcomed upon arrival, whereas one or more parties at a crime scene are less than affable to the police officer.

So then, where does that leave us in the debate of ol’ Ben Franklin’s wise words?

The answer is clear. In as much possible, citizens must have the liberty to secure their own safety; and that includes far more than just the procurement of weapons equal to those held by those who are intent upon harming you.  

While we may have the extreme liberty to do, say, smoke and otherwise ingest what we want, to dress and identify ourselves in any manner that we please, we also have the responsibility to moderate the exercise of those freedoms and to allow others their 1st Amendment right to protest our actions, as we have the right to protest theirs.  If we don’t have equal rights for all, then we have equal rights for none.  

Franklin is still right.  If we are willing to give up freedoms for a deteriorating safety, not only would we deserve neither, it is clear that we will eventually and likewise have neither.

If given liberty, we can create our own safety. If given complete safety, then freedom is aborted.

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