Actually, it can be said more clearly -- by Patrick Henry.
But at no time in present memory has that declaration been more applicable.
You, me and every human being who calls him- or herself an American ought to be willing to sacrifice ourselves before acquiescing to the tyranny of those who advocate such unconstitutional laws as the USA Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act and other yet-to-be-proposed ideas put forth by reactionary Republican cowards.
And "reactionary Republican cowards" includes Newt Gingrich who said, according to the Union Leader, we need to "reexamine freedom of speech" in order to "get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade." The irony is that he said this at an event honoring the First Amendment. The scary side of this statement isn't the idea of losing a city but rather the notion that Mr. Gingrich wants to be our next president.
For several years, we've debated the various sides to the terrorist situation as it relates to our Constitution. This is not a new discussion. But the Republican cowardice has always remained half-hidden beneath its agitprop and slogans painting progressives and Democrats as weak on terrorism. If preserving our Constitution is defined as weak while destroying it is defined as patriotic, the most despicable fraud in the history of this nation has been successfully thrust upon all Americans of every political stripe.
Safety at all costs has become a nonchalantly repeated mantra in all circles and the childishly illogical slogan "You can't have a Constitution if you're dead" is actually taken seriously. Now, more than five years after the terrorist attacks in New York and Virginia, we can safely take a look at men like Newt Gingrich and see them for who they really are: fearful would-be tyrants caught in the act of subverting American democracy; their apologists and followers enabling them to tear off long strips of the Constitution -- haphazardly fashioning the pieces into some kind of pathetic safety cocoon.
Think about that for a minute. It's not just Republican politicians, pundits and voters. Millions of Americans have become so hysterically blinded by the toe monsters lurking under their beds that their liberties have been willingly offered up as a legitimate sacrifice for the sake of -- what? -- making sure we're still sucking down rancid air and high fructose corn syrup while shopping at Wal-Mart? Losing a city, along with every Wal-Mart therein, should be an acceptable consequence of our founding principles.
In financial circles, it's called "the price of doing business." The price of liberty is that it inherently leaves us somewhat vulnerable to attack. The Framers knew this and so, for example, the Second Amendment was written to address one of several forms of national defense. But for men like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the restriction of liberty was never even remotely considered to be a viable option for shoring up American national security and defense. The sad fact that it has been, via the various Sedition Acts or the Patriot Act or the Military Commissions Act, is only made more ridiculous by the fact that the restriction of liberty is so widely embraced by Americans who wear flags on their lapels and who laughably call themselves patriots. Mr. Gingrich, to name one.
Men like Mr. Gingrich aren't simply afraid of terrorists, they're afraid of you. An historical goal of conservatism has always been to restrict individual liberty out of fear of the "mob." You and I. If we're muzzled -- if liberty is squelched -- then right-wing leaders are allowed to further consolidate their corporate and political power.
However, if free speech is allowed to flourish, then you and I can hold accountable men like Mr. Gingrich. They freakin' hate being held accountable by that meddling Bill of Rights. So we're told by our leaders and their parrots in the traditional media that it's okay; that it's only natural to give up little bits of our liberty. And it's not just okay and acceptable -- it's goddamn patriotic! Give me liberty or give me... wait... give me liberty... unless I'm too scared, which case, I'll just donate my liberty to Newt Gingrich and President Bush. They seem nice.
Sure, America (and liberty with it) was never meant to roll over and allow itself to be invaded and destroyed by foreign nations. Liberty doesn't mean weakness in the face of legitimate threats. We've always been expected to defend ourselves using every lawful and constitutional means at our disposal. But let's face it, the terrorists, whatever delusions of grandeur they might be suffering from, do not have the means to take over America and overturn our Constitution. Nazi Germany might have. Great Britain, in the War of 1812, almost succeeded when its army marched into Washington and burned the White House to the ground. The jihadists by themselves, meanwhile, don't have a chance in hell. Sorry, jihadists.
However, those smiling white faces on television who wear their patriotism on their lapels are certainly up to the task. They've already started. And that's the sort of reaction the terrorists have always counted on, but, until this decade, were never indulged. It's become easier for the terrorists now.
They can't take over, but they can facilitate the end of American democracy simply by laying up their shots with acts like 9/11, and allowing men like Newt Gingrich to finish the job. One little bit at a time. With the support of frightened citizens and thousands of tiny soundbites calling for the "reexamining" of free speech.