Saturday, May 23, 2015

What Did They Die For?

I write this post the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend thinking much more about our freedoms than I have in several years. This weekend we honor the millions of men and women who have died to protect and defend this country over a little more than two centuries even as collectively, we are abandoning our Constitutional freedoms to an increasingly greater degree.

We saw this most recently in the shootings in Garland about two weeks ago, when ISIS followers decided to kill Pamela Geller for sponsoring a cartoon contest depicting Mohammed.  While the only people who died in that attack were the would-be murderers, the media's response was decisive--Geller was the one in the wrong for "inciting the violence" by doing things that would alienate Muslims.  All of the "freedom of speech and expression" arguments evaporated in the face of a potential violent threat by a small minority of our society.

This spring we have also seen arguments at the Supreme Court to nationally legalize gay marriage.  Under the current laws, if same-sex marriage is federally legalized, then same sex marriage becomes a civil rights issue.  Under the precedent set by past SCOTUS rulings, any church or church school or non profit who discriminates against a same sex couple--by refusing to perform marriage ceremonies or admit children from these households into schools or even by teaching that this lifestyle is morally wrong--risks losing their tax exempt status.  So the granting of new rights to a small minority of the U.S. population (according to a new survey less than 3% of Americans still identify themselves as "gay") can lead to the loss of rights for those who criticize them for their lifestyles. The right to marry of the few trumps the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech and expression of others.  SCOTUS could leave this alone and say that marriage is a states' rights issue and that each state needs to decide this matter for themselves--but they probably won't.  Regardless, though, of any particular federal or state laws permitting or denying same-sex marriage, no state or institution or government should have the right to bully, fine, imprison or destroy any person for speaking out against same-sex marriage or refusing to provide services connected to same-sex marriages. Our country has always made provisions for "conscientious objectors" for all situations, including going to war, because as a country we have recognized that the strongly held religious beliefs and values of a few must be respected and protected, even if the majority of Americans does not share those beliefs.  We do not compel people to behave in a way that violates their conscience and we cannot begin to do so now, or we will destroy what America has been and turn instead down a road to real tyranny.

Last, but certainly not least, we saw this week Rand Paul's filibuster against the NSA surveillance program and "metadata" collection.  Paul stood for thirteen hours and argued compellingly that information that can be used to kill people is not just neutral data being stored by the government.  The Patriot Act has given the federal government broad powers to surveille the American people in clear violation of the spirit of the fourth amendment to the bill of rights  And the NDAA gives the government broad powers to detain, indefinitely, Americans accused of terrorism without trial, in clear violation of the spirit of the fifth and sixth amendments.

This year, over this holiday weekend as many of us contemplate cookouts and barbeques and gatherings with family and friends and sales at the malls, we need to also remember the cemeteries where our soldiers are buried.  Our country has lost millions who died in the prime of their lives fighting to defend this nation. They fought for our freedoms of speech, religion, expression, freedom from unlawful search and seizure, and freedom from imprisonment without due process.  They were willing to die to defend the freedoms of people they would never meet, so that we and our children could live in peace and safety.  Now is the time to look the mirror and to ask ourselves, "What Did They Die For?"  When we refuse to defend those freedoms, we dishonor their sacrifices. 

We have a moral obligation and duty to protect the Constitution in this country and to defend it against all enemies--foreign and domestic.  We owe that to the ones who have gone before us.  Happy Memorial Day.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Thursday, May 7, 2015

I May Disagree with What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say it....

Growing up in the 1970s and 1980's I saw a lot of envelope-pushing, outrageous behavior as our society redefined itself in the post Christian, post hippie final quarter of the 20th century.  Shows like All in the Family depicted those who were uncomfortable with the liberalization of society as ignorant redneck bigots.  "Archie Bunker" was not merely a character on a TV show--he was the embodiment of small minded, white Protestant Americans who could not face the new realities of a multicultural, pluralistic America.

The resounding theme of all liberal progressives in those days was the defense of free speech, freedom of expression and freedom of or from religion, which was embodied in the popular phrase, "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."  We were told that pornography, no matter how offensive to some, had to be permitted under the freedom of expression clause of the U.S. Constitution.  All speech, no matter how sordid, insulting, blasphemous, profane or obscene, had to be protected also.  If we draw the line against one set of behaviors, where does it stop?  The same Constitutional protections applied to Hustler's Larry Flynt as to the pastor who prepared his church bulletin every week.  If we stood against Flynt and his magazine, we were really extinguishing our own freedoms.

Today, the world has changed.  It is no less blasphemous, or profane, or obscene, or permissive--in fact, it is more so.  But perhaps because we have allowed all of this bad behavior in the name of free speech, we no longer seem to value the true freedoms given to us by the First Amendment.

I now live in the DFW area and last Sunday night I watched live updates on the local news as the media reported the attack on the cartoonists' contest in Garland, Texas.  I watched as the unmanned robot was sent to investigate the car left behind by the terrorists after they were shot to death by the local police.  I was proud to live in a state--and a city--that clearly knows how to deal with attacks on its citizenry and does so without apology.

To me it seemed so simple--Muslim terrorists attack a free speech event in Garland.  Muslims are killed by local law enforcement.  No civilian casualties (the injured security guard was taken to the hospital and released a few hours later).  Texas One -- Terrorists Zero.  Game over.

That is why I have been so extremely disappointed this week to see so many across the nation, and even across the state, blame last Sunday night's events on Pamela Geller and her organization rather than the two men who traveled here from Phoenix hoping to kill innocent civilians.  Pamela Geller organized an event with a prize for the best cartoon depiction of the prophet Mohammad.  Because this makes Muslims uncomfortable, she invited this attack.  In the wake of the intense groveling by the American media, ISIS has taken credit for this attack and promised many more.  One Muslim cleric suggested that Geller should be tried under Sharia law and executed for disrespecting Mohammad.  Even Franklin Graham, whom I respect and who is normally a staunch defender of freedom, said Geller was in the wrong for being disrespectful about Islam.

Conspicuously missing from this dialog were the voices that used to tell us, "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."  If there were ever a case where this phrase applied
it is this situation. I personally don't think that drawing caricatures of Mohammad would be the best use of  my time, but I do not have the right to criticize those who choose to do so.  Over the past forty years we have seen vile depictions of Jesus Christ.  No one has stormed any of these art events with automatic weapons threatening to kill the artists or the other participants.  If any professing Christian had done such a thing, they would have been denounced by the secular media and the Christian community. This is America--we may not agree with what you say, but you do have the right to say it.  But now, as Muslims flood this country we are giving up that right to cower to people who practice ancient acts of brutality such as beheading and crucifixion, who believe that their religious laws trump our Constitution and who insist on living in the West while despising Western culture and civilization.    The new mantra seems to be, "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it unless you offend a Muslim who might actually kill me."  It is the same attitude my then eighty-two year old grandmother showed after 9/11 when she said that she did not want the U.S. to go to war in Afghanistan because "if we make them (the terrorists) mad they might really do something to hurt us."

In focusing on Pamela Geller's cartoon contest this week, what was totally lost is that men and women HAVE died to protect her right to put on an event in Garland mocking Mohammad.  From the founding of our country, many men and women have died, first to extend, and then to preserve and protect our First Amendment freedoms.  My grandmother's generation lost an estimated half a million people to stop Hitler and Fascism.  Over 50,000 Americans died in Vietnam.  Most recently in the last ten years we have seen thousands die and many wounded, returning with life-altering injuries, from a war in the Middle East to stop terrorism and protect our rights.  This year Dancing with the Stars features Noah, a young veteran of the Iraq war who returned missing an arm and a leg but who has overcome his injuries to become a motivational speaker, popular personality and now a semifinalist on the ballroom dancing competition.  These stories of loss and death to defend our freedoms are not far in the past in my grandmother's generation--they are part of our generation and our story.  How then can we be so eager to throw away the freedoms that these people have sacrificed so much to protect.

As we look to the future of our country, we need to look to the past.  Our freedoms were bought and paid for in the blood of our soldiers and citizens, and they are more important than the feelings of beliefs of any group.  The disrespect shown in Garland this past week was not to Mohammad, who has been dead and buried for over 1400 years.  It is not to Islam.  Every time that any person says that we need to alter statements or our expressions or our events or our way of life to cater to Muslims, or any other group bent on silencing us, they disrespect the memory of every man and woman who has suffered and died for this country, every father and mother who lost their child to war,  and every brother and sister and husband and wife and fiance who grieved a loved one they would never see again because that person fell defending freedom.  If we allow the terrorists to silence our speech and destroy those freedoms we defame our nation, and our soldiers as we announce through our new found collective cowardice that all of those people died in vain.  That is inexcusable.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at