The Cost of Freedom

It was a US citizen, Thomas Jefferson, their third President no less, who said that, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

That may be the price, but what is the cost?

Looking at the shooting of US Congresswomann Gabrielle Giffords (and 23 others, six of whom died) then it might be said that the cost of freedom is the loss of human life.

US citizens have a remarkable range of freedoms, not the least of which is that of free speech. They also have the freedom to own and use weapons. Both of these are, I understand, constitutionally guaranteed (or at least people believe they are.)

The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords may, however, suggest that these two freedoms might be incompatible.

In June 2010 a website associated with prominent Republican Sarah Palin published a set of targets of Democrats who had voted for President Obama’s health-care reforms and highlighted each of their districts with the cross-hairs of a rifle.

Giffords’s Republican opponent in the recent elections, Jesse Kelly, went further, publishing as a campaign message, “Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” (The punctuation is his.)

Now this may have been a simple invitation to some “harmless” target practice with the candidate on a Saturday afternoon….. but it reads like incitement to murder. And Mr Kelly should have seen that possibility and therefore avoided the phraseology. On the other hand, perhaps he didn’t care.

Taken along with the crosshairs poster (see link above) his invitation becomes more of a (sorry about the pun) smoking gun.

There has been an unfortunate coarsening of political discourse in the US over my lifetime, to the extent that now the levels of vitriol are insane.

I mean that last word literally. (People have taken leave of their senses if they believe their present President is not a US citizen; or come to that, that he is a Muslim.)

I have mentioned this before when I predicted prior to his election that Barack Obama would be subject to non-stop hounding, and worse, if he were to be elected. What has occurred subsequently has, incredibly, surpassed those expectations of mine.

I repeat here that the problem seems to be that Republicans do not seem to accept the legitimacy of Democrats elected to office.

Democrats are somehow or other deemed to be un-American. (The echoes of McCarthy are not coincidental) and consequently demonised.

I realise that the problem of freedom and guns is not altogether new. And in my lifetime in the US political arena it has been Democrats, or those who could be thought not to be Republican, who have been the victims of assassination (the two Kennedys, Martin Luther King.)

President Reagan was shot, yes, but that did not seem to be a political act. Plus he survived.

Amazingly the same President Reagan seems to be the source of another quote about freedom:-

“Freedom is the recognition that no single person, no single authority or government has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put in this world has been put there for a reason and has something to offer.”

Note that.

Every individual life is precious.

It follows that you should not go around shooting people.

No matter what your disagreement with them.

The price of freedom is not only eternal vigilance, it is also restraint.

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