Inspection- Yes, “Freedom Isn’t Free”

“Freedom isn’t free?”

No, it isn’t.

But that phrase doesn’t mean only what shallow thinking, sunshine patriots, claim it does.

I dare to publish this edition of Inspection on Memorial Day. And I challenge those who support keeping uncharged prisoners incarcerated; because of what we think they might do, to prove that to be a patriotic concept. Don’t come back at me with “keeping us safe.” Any dictatorship, any sadistic regime, would understand the following concept that too many cower behind: safety is more important than either rule of law or freedom. Saddam would have understood, as would have Stalin. Certainly Winston Smith eventually “understood.”

Too many people’s idea of freedom never goes beyond their Pinocchio nose; translated: “as long as you don’t come after me… ” but that definition of freedom is a lie. True freedom is never at the expense of rights and liberty of the innocent, or those we are merely suspicious of.

For too long our noses have grown. This land of the free and the “brave” decided many years ago, “Here’s land we want; a culture we want to replace: put them in concentration camps!”

Excuse me: “reservations.”

We feared patriotic German and Japanese citizens so much we chose a similar fate for them once upon a time of war.

It’s about damn time we grow up as a nation and start acting a bit more like the ideals and principles we claim to represent.

This edition of Inspection began when I heard a call to The Bill Press Show. The caller demanded that any prisoners released from Gitmo never be released in America. He said, even if it was proven that they had done nothing wrong, they should be held because of what they might do.

What inspired this edition of Inspection? Two odd concepts…

1. That we should hold people indefinitely because of something they might do.

2. The concept that we actually think, if we release such a person that it has to be “nimby:” not in my backyard.

I really haven’t weighed in on that last issue until now because, well, there’s so much to be furious about what is being done in our name regarding those who, in some cases, were sold by neighbors out of revenge… and our leaders deciding that innuendo and suspicion was good enough to deprive any human being of their freedom; maybe forever.

But as to where to release them… if we don’t even have enough information to win a conviction in a military-like trial then they need to be released and…

I’m sorry.

This is not the Saudi’s problem…

…or Sudan’s problem…

…or any other nation’s problem.

This is what we have done. This is our responsibility.

So we should endanger the citizens of other nations because we are too cowardly to step up to the plate and take the risks for those we have imprisoned?

Doesn’t even matter that they’re not citizens. They are humans. The most famous documents our forefather’s wrote certainly don’t state that any non-citizen is less human and less deserving of human rights than our own.

The caller seemed to think that they might be more than a little angry about being held for so long with no due process, not to mention all that may have been done to get them to admit to some lie like… oh, maybe Saddam and bin Laden were drinking buddies who plotted every Wednesday night over a bucket load of Buds while bowling?

“Mad?”

Ya think?

Of course they’re mad, angry and upset. But if this were enough reason to keep people incarcerated indefinitely, some days we wouldn’t have enough calm people left to watch prisoners.

We can’t, I repeat can’t, incarcerate people because of what we think they may do. Never mind what we have done, much to our own shame… like what we did to our own patriotic citizens simply because they happened to be German or Japanese, for example. We are talking about violating the very principles our nation was founded on that I’m sure those who want us to do this think we would be protecting… with rendition, or putting someone away without due process… rephrasing the old Nam “destroy the village” quote into, “We must rape the principle in order to save the principle.” I’m sure they think “a free society” is what our soldiers fight and die for: and they do fight and die for that… when we behave that way as a society.

We haven’t been behaving that way.

I repeat: this is our problem. Not Sudan, not France, not China, not Cuba: our problem. This is what we did; what was done with our money. No other country should have to take whatever risks there may be. We need to stand up for freedom and be responsible for what we have done.

Yes, if one angry detainee decides my wife or I deserve to be targets of his anger over what was done in our names then I won’t like it a bit, just like he didn’t like being waterboarded, locked in a hot box in desert heat… or just being taken away from his own life. But it’s time as Americans we become a responsible, grown up nation, and stop asking others to take chances for us.

There’s a bumper sticker that reads: “freedom isn’t free.” I agree, but I think those who eagerly slap it on their bumpers may not understand what these words really mean. Yes, to keep our freedom, risks must be taken; lives sometimes spent. Dying for freedom is a price that occasionally must be paid… though I would claim it isn’t always appropriate by any means. War isn’t always the answer. But no matter how just any conflict there’s so much more to be paid. We must do our best not to sacrifice the freedoms we fight for, that we think make our nation so wonderful, for a suspicion that someone might, someday, risk our safety. Not even if it’s the freedom of non-citizens. That’s part of the “price.”

Otherwise we might as well just eliminate the last word and admit, in this country, “freedom… isn’t.”

If this means we must take risks that some terrorist suspect; who we can prove little about, might do great damage… well, isn’t that better than becoming just like those who “hate our freedoms?” Isn’t knowing that we are living up to what would otherwise be mere propaganda worth a few risks, like living next to someone who has been treated unfairly, maybe even in a cruel manner? What exactly are we inspiring amongst those who have been treated unfairly when we abuse them, and then pawn them off to some other nation as if they were chattel… or less worthy of compassion than our convicted criminals who have served their sentences?

If that is what you believe, then where does this type of reasoning stop: only when they bang on your door and toss the bag over your head and drag you away in the night?

So on this Memorial Day I am willing to take a chance and fight for freedom: not against it. Unless the government is willing and able to prove their case in some court that’s less than kangaroo in nature, let’s free those who remain uncharged, those we are at best merely suspicious of. And if they choose to live in America, well then, while keeping a watchful eye, that is what they have chosen. I say “no” to continuing to take away the freedom of any human being for “future crime.” I say “yes” to proving to them we can be better and more like who we claim to be.

Who knows.

Maybe once they’re amongst us we’ll find out they are more civilized than we are.

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Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

Copyright 2009
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved