What to Consider in Wake Of Boston, Newtown, and Other Tragedies

Our world appears to be changing, or at least the way in which we perceive it is.

Boston has seen a bombing, shooting, and high profile search for the perpetrators of the recent atrocity. When reports came in announcing that shots had been fired at MIT, my first thought, probably along with many others was, “oh no, another mass shooting.” What was more frightening is the fact that my mind jumped immediately to that and that I wasn’t exactly shocked. Our nation has seen some horrible violence in the past two decades.

I’m no expert on this topic, I did study philosophy, so naturally, I began to reflect about this situation.

I believe that we are moving deeper into a time at which we need to think about our concept of liberty. I believe that we need to genuinely consider a very tough, multifaceted question:

What liberties or freedoms are we willing to lose or restrict in the interest of safety?

We have a Bill of Rights for a reason, but as many have pointed out in relation to the Second Amendment debate; there are some reasonable limitations on these rights. While we may not agree on what imposed limitations may be permissible, we certainly must continue this discussion, and bring it up now, before further legislation occurs.

We faced similar issues during the Bush administration — so these issues are by no means partisan. Presidents and politicians, out of duty to protect their citizens, sometimes must make very difficult and less-than-ideal choices.

In respect to Newtown, the discussion about gun control appeared more prominently among our nation’s news outlets. People began to question and think about the limitations of the second amendment due to a realistic fear than more Adam Lanzas would continue to gun down innocents. With the noble intent to reduce violence, many have proposed very specific restrictions upon our second amendment right.

In respect to Boston, a manhunt occurred for the two suspected bombers. Police began searching streets, houses, and neighborhoods. I doubt that very many people questioned this method, as we have a nation that is eager to capture and imprison the perpetrators of this heinous act.

Terrorism, be that in the form of bombers or shooters, are now clearly on the minds of Americans. I may not be using that term correctly, but I believe that our country fears the two in a similar way.

National security will continue to be focused upon by our leaders. Previously, much of this discussion has pertained to our interests and actions abroad. We now have the very strong possibility that further violence will occur within our own borders. It is easier to allow our government to carry out drone strikes abroad than it is at home. Most of us did not have to live with the reality that our nation created in countries like Iraq or Afghanistan.

We need to begin to consider what we are willing to exchange for safety. Security checks at airports are one thing, but are we willing to hand over our firearms to try and prevent another Newtown? I’m not suggesting that would do anything, I’m simply asking the question.

Are we willing to allow police searches of our homes in the event that a bomber might be hiding in our attic? Are we willing to restrict our free press as to prevent false information from being released?

Charles Fried, in his book Modern Liberty: And the Limits of Government claims that limitations placed upon liberty in democratic societies are “always things done for the sake of advancing or protecting some order or other, some conception of the good society.”

I agree. I wouldn’t necessarily believe that any national security agents are purposely seeking to limit our individual liberties. Many leaders, other than mad men, as he claims, do this with a supposed good in mind and not for the simple pleasure or restricting the freedoms of others.

These questions are obviously not new, but I believe that they are becoming increasingly more relevant for all of us. I think that it is time that reflect upon our own views regarding the restrictions of our liberty and decide whether or not we will allow it. 

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