The Slippery Slope of Eroded Freedom

The Slippery Slope of Eroded Freedom

by Évangéline Faussié

Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” The context in which Franklin made this statement has been slowly forgotten over time; the main point of his letter concerned taxation. But context aside, perhaps Americans should view this quote at face value and take heed. A society that surrenders personal liberties in the name of collective safety is an America that libertarians and conservatives have increasingly warned against in recent decades.

There are countless examples across the globe of governments revoking the rights of their citizens in the name of “safety”, as vague as that term may be. But what about the U.S. government, the bastion of individual freedom and liberty? One must ask himself: is a government that limits access to weapons of self-defense , issues mandatory wait periods to obtain constitutionally protected firearms, surveils its population under the National Security Agency (NSA), and creates a digital database of major private phone companies truly free or safe?

The answer is that it is neither. But in fairness, how can it be? World governments have proven time and time again that if given an inch, they will take a mile. The U.S. government is no different. One need look no further than Congress’ responses to 9/11, COVID-19, and recent mass shootings to realize that. After each emergency, politicians on both the left (in their utter disregard for freedoms) and the right (disappointingly so – but under the guise of societal order) claimed that sometimes, personal freedoms must be sacrificed in the name of “the common good”, whatever that means.

Politicians argue that they are to be trusted with being the arbiters of such common good; and their citizens, with their limited power, will accept it either voluntarily (begrudgingly or otherwise) or by force, if necessary. Needless to say, the option preferred by the government is the easiest one, where its citizens enthusiastically accept infringements upon their freedoms; hence, an endless barrage of state-funded propaganda to convince them that their actions are best for society.

 Located within public transport vehicles, health departments, and schools, are signs that read: “Please wear your mask over your nose and mouth.” If one does not comply, he is accused of killing innocent grandmothers everywhere, despite a lack of scientific evidence. And what have Americans gained for their loyalty to their government? They were repaid by being forcibly removed from their places of worship, their classrooms, and their jobs.

There are some who were unbothered by such unconstitutional mandates. But with some foresight, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) warned of how these restrictions ran deeper than COVID-19: “[COVID-19 mandates] are about conditioning the American individual to submit to government,” he said in 2021. It was only a matter of time until further submission to the government seeped into areas related to the Second Amendment as well. An official tweet by Brooklyn, NY District Attorney Eric Gonzalez shows pictures of seemingly proud NYPD officers with weapons willingly turned over to them by citizens in exchange for monetary compensation (also commonly referred to as gun buybacks.) Oftentimes, such buybacks are accompanied by statements of encouragement by those working in local governments: “It is perhaps one of the greatest opportunities we give people to do the right thing,” said Glenn Brooks, director of Chicago Police Department’s office of community policing, in regards to a gun buyback held at a Chicago church.

Read between the lines: ‘Thank you for giving up your arms, noble citizen. Your virtuous sacrifice has saved your neighbor’s second-grade daughter from certain destruction. We applaud you.’ Of course, this praise would only be given to a disarmed citizenry unable to defend itself against the very body by which it is oppressed. And yes, the act of surrendering one’s weapons would be labeled by the government as a sacrifice. If voluntarily relinquishing one’s rights is labeled a sacrifice, it increases the likelihood that dutiful citizens, under the misguided guise of morality, will be eager to shill to their government. “Sacrifice” is a word that invokes a feeling of nobleness – a sense of righteousness for giving up oneself for another. It is a word that would be so easily used by a self-deified government to strip away the rights of its citizens.

For those who remain unconvinced, name one unconstitutionally implemented government oversight that was revoked in a timely manner, if at all. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – once allegedly intended to be a short-lived institution – still has not been dissolved, 21 years after its inception. The TSA reserves the authority to search someone entering airport security if they have reason to believe the individual in question may be a danger to themselves or others. In fact, over time the TSA has become more, not less invasive as now individuals are ushered through intrusive body scanners to ensure that they are safe to enter a building with thousands of other people.

This, in and of itself, is spurious. But when it is recognized that the only “probable cause” the TSA needs to conduct these searches on individuals is the fact that they are traveling by commercial aircraft, it becomes downright dystopian. Bare feet, enhanced security screenings, and pat-downs: to those born post-9/11 – or even those old enough to remember pre-TSA airports – the existence of these practices has become a simple fact of life, ingrained and normalized in society. But the truth is, is that they are not normal in any free society, nor should they be tolerated.

Despite this, the apathetic response of the American people each time their rights are systematically eroded proves that they are willing to tolerate even more subjection than what has already been endured. This will be their downfall. Apathy, not COVID-19, is the virus that has infected the bodies and minds of Americans over the past several years; and its consequences are far deadlier.

There are three key questions that loom over the American people in this regard. Will they rise up against the tyrannical seizure of freedoms? If so, when? Will they even be able to recognize that day when it arrives? Yes – ‘when’, not ‘if’, because in the wise words of philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Many still hold out hope that Americans do have a breaking point, but is that possibly misplaced hope enough to wager one’s freedom?

Libertarians, like most conservatives, place a high value on constitutional rights and freedom. It is up to those of us who believe liberty ultimately trumps safety to forge a movement to reeducate our youth and citizens on the dangers and pitfalls of lost liberty. Unfortunately, those who remain complacent will eventually suffer Ben Franklin’s destiny and inherit neither liberty nor safety.

Évangéline is a senior at Grand Valley State University majoring in Advertising and Public Relations. She is the vice president of her campus’ libertarian student organization. She wrote this piece during her summer 2022 internship at the Clare Boothe Luce Center for Conservative Women.

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay