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

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