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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Liberty Over Safety - By Robert Parry

Until now, every generation of Americans has traded safety for liberty. From the Lexington Green to the Normandy beaches, from the Sons of Liberty to the Freedom Riders, it has been part of the American narrative that risks are taken to expand freedom, not freedoms sacrificed to avoid risk.
The Founders challenged the most powerful military on earth, the British army, all the while knowing that defeat would send them to the gallows. The American colonists spurned their relative comfort as British subjects for a chance to be citizens of a Republic dedicated to the vision that some rights are “unalienable” and that no man should be king.
Since then, despite some ups and downs, the course of the American nation has been to advance those ideals and broaden those freedoms.
In the early years of the Republic, African-American slaves resisted their bondage, often aided by white Abolitionists who defied unjust laws on runaways and pressed the government to restrict slave states and ultimately to eliminate slavery.
With the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves, the United States underwent a painful rebirth that reaffirmed the nation’s original commitment to the principle that “all men are created equal.” Again, the cause of freedom trumped safety, a choice for which Lincoln and thousands of brave soldiers gave their lives.
In the latter half of the Nineteenth Century and into the Twentieth, the Suffragettes demanded and fought for extension of basic American rights to female citizens. These women risked their reputations and their personal security to gain the right to vote and other legal guarantees for women.
When fascist totalitarianism threatened the world in the 1930s and 1940s, American soldiers turned back the tide of repression in Europe and Asia, laying down their lives by the tens of thousands in countless battlefields from Normandy to Iwo Jima.
The march of freedom continued in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights fighters – both black and white – risked and sometimes lost their lives to tear down the walls of racial segregation.
For two centuries, this expansion of freedom always came with dangers and sacrifices. Yet, the trade-off was always the same: safety for liberty.


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