Several years go I was called for jury duty at the Broward County courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The highlight of my service was being selected as a possible juror for a wrongful death suit involving Ford Motor Company. A middle-aged widow was suing Ford over the death of her husband who was killed while driving a Ford vehicle involved in a horrific accident. The basis of the widow’s claim against Ford was that the seatbelt the deceased husband was wearing at the time of the accident was defective in its design and operation.
I was not the first juror to be questioned by the respective legal teams, so I had a chance to sit and listen to the set of questions the lawyers on both sides where putting to the jury candidates. Jurors were asked various questions about their lives, their occupations, education, and familiarity with Ford vehicles. Each juror was also asked by the widow’s lawyers, “What does, ’What’s good for General Motors is good for the country’ mean?”. None of those questioned (until they got to me) could provide any answer. I was kind of surprised by this but the widow’s attorneys definitely wanted those that could not answer on the jury.
A more interesting question was asked though of each potential juror. Again, the widow’s attorneys queried, “What’s more important to you, freedom of movement or safety?” Every juror questioned before me answered in a kneejerk response, “Safety of course!” It was like they were all programmed.
My response to the widow’s question got her attorneys to look up from their briefs and glare straight at me. I responded that I couldn’t answer the question without more data. I responded, “What is the risk that I am restricting my freedom of movement for and how much does my movement have to be restricted to avoid such risk?” At that point, there was no way I was getting on this jury as badly as the Ford legal team wanted me. I was sent back to the jury pool to sit out the rest of the day watching reruns of Bonanza.
This last question though is central to what is happening in this country today. I would restate it this way, “What is more important to you, freedom or security?” Islamic terrorism (yes, I am willing to call it that) starting with the attacks of 9/11 has made this the central question for our society, but we are not really focusing on it with this perspective.
The response of our government to terrorism on our soil has been to turn the United States into a massive surveillance state. Every electronic action you take, every keystroke you make, they’ll be watching you! (Sorry, Sting, I just couldn’t resist.) Every website you visit is stored in vast yottabyte sized data farms in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
Yes, for terrorists to perpetrate their heinous acts they need to use electronic forms of communication and this surveillance technology can be instrumental in thwarting their efforts.
However, there is a cost that also needs to be considered. There’s a cost of losing our right to privacy and being secure in our personal effects. Do you really want to have the government know everything about what you buy, where you go, and what you are discussing with your friends? Is the questionable security you may be receiving against terrorism worth a tremendous intrusion by the government into your personal life?
While the government is building this vast surveillance capability and dictating we give up our freedom for security, look at what they are also doing. As I scan my news sources at the time of this writing, one of the biggest stories is how the president and his goons in Congress are going to come after gun ownership. If the government were really serious about protecting the American people against terrorism on our soil, wouldn’t they promote the Second Amendment instead of working to eradicate it? Everyone recognizes that gun free zones are death chambers waiting to happen and yet our elected leadership wants to disarm us. Washington instead should be handing out ammo stamps so we can feed our hungry firearms!
Washington refuses to protect our border to the south and intends to bring in more unvetted young Muslim men from the Middle East. Clearly this will make us less safe yet Washington is hell bent to proceed. At airports, they frisk Granny and X-ray the rest of us, yet terrorists are being essentially invited into our country.
On the one hand, the government is spending billions of our dollars and building massive capability to surveil us under the premise they are protecting us and on the other, they are obviously increasing the likelihood of a massive attack by providing terrorists easy access to our country.
Does it not seem that our leaders are using the specter of terrorism to further justify the erosion of our freedom? Allowing more terrorists into the country assures more horrific attacks which fuel more expanding government control over we the people. Americans have been programmed to unthinkingly give up their personal freedom for the fiction of safety. And the spiral continues until we either wake up or we are all looking through the wire of a cage. Wake up! We were born to be free at any cost.