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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 19,988,766  

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Reponses: 69

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Question of the Week: 61 - 10/8/2001

Are You Willing To Give Up Some Civil Liberties To Be Safe?

Increased domestic security is on everyone's minds these days and the U.S. government has already begun implementing more restrictive security screenings than most Americans can ever remember seeing before. As the news continues to report on the likelihood of more terrorist attacks including chemical and/or biological agents, how safe do YOU feel? Would you be willing to undergo searches of your person and/or belongings at airports? How about personal searches at sporting events or when entering a mall? Are you willing to allow the government to read your email, listen in on your telephone conversations, track your web surfing habits, inquire into your membership affiliations or restrict your ability to meet in groups (say at a large Pagan festival or open circle) in order to feel more safe? Is there a point where you would draw the line at surrendering your civil rights? (Did you notice that the media when referring to the idea usually use the word 'liberties' instead of 'rights'?) Are you a little more nervous about being known as a Pagan these days?

 Reponses:   There are 69 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

All Right, I Wasn't Going To Do This, Because I Really Haven't... Oct 4th. at 4:45:27 pm EDT (Cape Canaveral, Florida US) Age: 34 - Email

All right, I wasn't going to do this, because I really haven't quite finished formulating an opinion here. However, sometimes the process of thought can be helpful, so here goes. . .

My husband and I have been debating this fiercely, from opposite sides of the same patriotic coin. If any of you have watched the television show Babylon 5, you might remember an episode in which a young alien boy becomes ill. His species/race/family are extremely religious, and one of their beliefs is that if the body's skin is cut, the soul leaks out, and what's left is a meaningless, soulless shell. The ship's surgeon examines the child, and theorizes that surgery would save his life. The family strictly forbids it. The surgeon asks the ship's captain for permission to operate anyway, and is denied that permission out of respect for the family's beliefs. He operates anyway, and the boy's life is saved. The parents come to collect their son, and promptly kill him, as what's left is in their mind an abomination, disgraceful to the sweet, charming, obedient soul who was their son. My husband believes that if we sacrifice our freedoms, regardless of the terrorist risk, then America is as soulless as those parents believe their son was -- that our freedom makes us great and defines our national identity. In his mind, the risk we must take is not one of sacrificing our freedoms for our country, but of sacrificing our lives for our country.

My position (and I'm not sure I'm wholly at this point any longer) was that freedoms, privileges, and rights given to people unwilling to make sacrifices to protect themselves and each other are wasted. Why give me freedom if I'm not willing to give it back temporarily to protect my world? Why let me assemble with others of like mind or faith if I'm unwilling as an individual to defend my right to do so, or at least support an effort to defend the right to assembly peaceably? What I pray for on this issue is that anyone monitoring my surfing is an enlightened, freedom-loving person tolerant of the many facets of diversity which make our country strong; that anyone searching my bag should be savvy enough to catch those people who actually are trying to slip something by them.

The other thing I find it important to mention here is a comment on the nature of terrorism. In Operation Desert Storm, we made it painfully clear to our opponents that in traditional warfare, we were superior. Groups like Al Quaida (I shudder in disgust and pity just typing the name) saw this, and modified their battle plans. They made absolutely certain that they look, feel and smell individually like nonmilitary targets; and that their network is so disparate that there is no one geographic or national target. What's more, they've placed their figurehead in a country already so war-torn that any strike at him is going to seem a strike at the people he holds before him as shields. Can you imagine your own reaction the first time you see a picture of an American soldier killing an Afghan citizen who happened to be in the line of fire? The terrorists are counting on this reaction, not only from Americans, but worldwide. Combine this with the fact that their unconventional methods seek out our weaknesses and turn our own assets and people into their lethal weapons, and you begin to wonder what security measures are enough. There was a scare shortly after the attack that involved terrorists driving ambulances and fire trucks into public buildings. That warning was quickly revoked by the media -- not because it couldn't happen, but because we as Americans can't live our lives that way, wondering if the heroic people who have rescued us from tragedy time and again are now the enemy. (They aren't, never have been, and never will be, even if some fool terrorist DOES steal their vehicle.)

Another problem being discussed involves bio/chemical weaponry. In one post I saw over on, a reader referred to (I know, it's all hearsay) a plot in which hundreds of foreign exchange students had smuggled biological agents into the country by hiding them in their body cavities, something which drug traffickers have done for years with their products. He continued to say that on a particular date, these students are supposed to unleash a biological attack on 120 American cities simultaneously. Like Ramzi Youssef's 1995 story about planes crashing into public monuments, my initial reaction was to wonder what he had been smoking -- but then I realized that however improbable, it actually was possible. What am I going to do about it? I'm going to go on living like an American, and understand that I may die today because of it.

The point of these examples is not to make us paranoid, but to illustrate that no matter how many precautions we take, no matter how high the walls we build around our country, we will still be vulnerable -- we were before September 11, and we will continue to be. Terrorists look for weaknesses, chinks in our armour, and exploit them. The only thing that has changed is our awareness/ perception level. This being said, what do we do?

We become alert and aware. One trait that many of us share is the ability to turn a blind eye and move on. After all, it's a free country -- of course that man can sit each day on the streetcorner with a sextant taking measurements of our public building! Well, the truth is that it IS a free country. But if we value it, we really can't gloss over anything anymore. If you see someone "casing" a public building, that really does need to be called in to your local authorities. When you see someone in an overcoat on a hot, sunny day at a stadium, go point it out to a security guard -- and watch to see if he takes any action or not. See someone with a flat tire in the middle of rush-hour traffic? Offer to help. I'm not saying to be suspicious of all your neighbors or to have a hidden agenda behind each good deed you do. What I am saying is that we can see now that community and interaction can serve a higher purpose than just their ostensible ones.

Obviously, I'm still very uncomfortable with this subject, and I thank anyone with the patience to have read this far, and apologize to anyone I have inadvertently offended. May we all have wisdom, foresight, and compassion in the difficult days to come. Blessed Be.

Curbside Check-in And Short Lines At The Airport Are *not* Civil Rights... Oct 4th. at 5:29:08 pm EDT

Blue Coyote (St Paul, Minnesota US) Age: 23

Curbside check-in and short lines at the airport are *not* civil rights. Flying is a privilege, a luxury, and people need to understand that their fellow-travelers' right to be safe on an airplane, bus, train, etc, supercedes their "right" to arrive at the airport 30 minutes before take-off.

Freedom of expression, religion, assembly, and the press *are* civil rights, and I will not give up a single one of those.

I Think One Thing That Is Important To Remember Is That Our... Oct 4th. at 7:07:47 pm EDT

Sprite (St. Ignatius, Montana US) Age: 26

I think one thing that is important to remember is that our rights are not something we can give up. They exist. We are either able to exercise them safely or we are punished for exercising them. They are always ours.

We, somewhere along the line, decided that liberty and security are mutually exclusive ideas. They are if we expect a government body to provide our security. Instead of living with more government involovement in our lives, we need to turn to our communities and ourselves to find more security without compromising liberty.

Please keep in mind that governments are not very good at overturning laws. If we 'give up' some of our rights now, the chance of getting them back when this threat is past is nothing short of a long, arduous, expensive, and nearly impossible task.

I would also like to point out, and this issue goes back before the attacks, that people have the right to do business. I'm all for better security at the airlines, but this ought to be something that the airlines do to win business not something that the government sets up and regulates. The government very seldom does things efficiently and it doesn't usually produce the highest quality. If we allowed the airlines to compete for passengers with security as a selling point, in times like these security would either be top-notch or the airline would go out of business, and maybe, just maybe, security would have been good enough to begin with that this terrible attack could have been prevented.

No I'm Not Nervous... Oct 4th. at 10:08:36 pm EDT

Karen Piazza (Highlands, New Jersey US) Age: 44 - Email

No I'm not nervous......

For Increased Security, I'll Show Up Early At The Airport. Give Up... Oct 4th. at 11:57:16 pm EDT

Brett Cloud (Denver, Colorado US) Age: 40 - Email

For increased security, I'll show up early at the airport. Give up Civil Liberties to feel 'safe'? **NO**!! Let the US turn EVEN more into a POLICE state? **NO**!! I hope whatever expedited procedures are approved have built in SUNSETS! Ol' Ben said it best: A people that value safety over freedom shall soon have neither--and deservedly so.

Look at what happened to the Arab medical student. After being held for almost 2 weeks w/o charges, he was released--without his glasses, without an apology, without assurances that this wouldn't happen again to him! Such groups are NOW screaming for MORE power, when they've shown themselves to be unworthy of the power they DO have!

People are human. Humans have made and will make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the human condition. What makes my blood run COLD, is SEEING the ARROGANCE of those in power.

I'm PROUD to be a Witch! I LOVE my country! I FEAR the government! I DO NOT want a national registry holding all the facts in one place for BIG BROTHER'S convenience! The social security number already comes WAY too close!

I Think There Is An Objective Fact To Recall: The Rights Truly... Oct 5th. at 3:01:14 am EDT

Raven Prince (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida US) Age: 19

I think there is an objective fact to recall: the rights truly guaranteed us in this nation are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and so only a thing which violates one of those three can be taken as a violation of liberty. In WWII no one thought of rationing, and black outs, and things like that to be a violation of their 'liberties', after all, if the bombers had come to the US back then, I have no doubt that people would prefer to have turned their lights out to keep the bombers from easily hitting any target, and what good would it have been to drive one's car if our machines of warefare had had no fuel? So we have a clear and present difference between 'liberties' and 'conveniences'. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence say nothing about inconvenient airport security procedures or anything of the like, those things are 'conveniences', not 'liberties', because going through stringent airport security and not being allowed to fly with certain types of objects in your luggage or carry-on does not interfere with your ability to live, laugh, love, learn, and achieve. Would I be willing to give up a Civil Liberty? Heck no, but a thing does not violate my liberty simply because it is 'inconvenient', so I think we need to be careful about where we draw the lines on those things in our minds.

I Think That More Restrictive Security Measures At Airports Are Acceptable And... Oct 5th. at 10:37:05 am EDT

Sara (San Angelo, Texas US) Age: 21 - Email

I think that more restrictive security measures at airports are acceptable and necessary-- I mean, obviously the ones that were in place weren't enough, and we DO need to make flying safe. Beyond that, giving up one's civil liberties for increased security is a horrible and un-American idea. The whole POINT of the United States is that we are a free nation, that we are able to excersize our rights, and if that changes, then we have preserved our security and lost everything else. What's that quote from Benjamin Franklin, something about how if you're willing to give up your liberty for safety, you don't deserve to be free OR safe? He was right.

It All Depends On What Liberties You're Talking About. I Don't Mind... Oct 5th. at 10:49:04 am EDT

Sunfell (Little Rock, Arkansas US) Age: 41 - Email

It all depends on WHAT liberties you're talking about. I don't mind being grilled at airports- flying is a risky thing even on good days. But I would mind it at the mall, the arena, or the park.

I see it like this: any surrender of civil rights/liberties beyond common sense security is a victory for the terrorists. Our country is unique because of these internal and eternal acknowledgements of human freedoms. But at gateways like borders, airports, and docks, yes, put the squeeze on people. Most terrorism is opportunistic, done after close observation of laxes in security and studies of habits. We should never become complacent.

But if the tightening of security begins to silence voices that should be heard, or increases the pressure of 'political correctness' (like not protesting public Christian prayer and the assumption of a 'christian nation'), then that is wrong. If my right to write, think, associate, speak, or have a dissenting opinion gets restricted, then we are no longer Americans, but just a ghost of what we once were. And the terrorists will win- both the foriegn and the domestic ones.

I am not nervous about being known as a Pagan. In fact, I see my Paganism as the Voice and Mind of Reason, since I don't have a stake in these religious bromides that are being lobbed back and forth. I am not one of the Book People, so I am not spiritually or culturally entangled in the unholy messes the Christians, Muslims, and to a lesser extent, the Jews have created. As a Pagan, I see an opportunity to be a neutral voice of reason- a conduit of Ancient Wisdom- a third party not involved in the biblical hair splitting and dogmatic fundamentalism that ravages both sides. I am not beholden to any mad desert gods- or their mouthpieces- Christian or otherwise. Perhaps we Pagans, instead of hiding in our broom closets, can emerge and take our places as true spiritual stewards of both the planet and our way of life as Americans, since America permitted us to flourish.

As American Pagans, we can begin to usher in a new time of peace and prosperity, unfettered by religious dogma and political correctness. We can become students of all faiths, proctors of peace, and mentors of mature civilization. This is our big chance, people- think about this- this is our opportunity to be the Light Anchors that we were called to be, and show the world that freedom is a force of creation and good.

I dare you to act. Listen to your Guidance- they're daring you, too. In this month of reflection, attention and power, we need to make ourselves heard. Get out of that closet and be a real citizen.


Civl Liberties In Order To Be Safe? How Safe Are We Anyways... Oct 5th. at 11:10:13 am EDT

Drakon (Ruckersville, Virginia US) Age: 18 - Email

civl liberties in order to be safe? how safe are we anyways. simply walking outside your hose can get you killed. and what about carbon monoxide poisening? we are a frail people humans are easily killed and death of any kind is a reason to morn. We have created an illusion of being safe and it was only a matter of time before that illusion was shattered. The only thing left to do is to get up dust ourselves off and keep going. if we give up of freedom just to get back an illusion what kind of a trade is that? horrible things happen they always will. we have it pretty good compaired to some other couintries who are less free than we are. freedom isn't free we pay for it by opening ourselves up to some horrible things but closing down woln't change anything people would find a way to get past the safety checks.

I Have No Problem With Searches At Airports And Such Places. I... Oct 5th. at 5:04:26 pm EDT

David (Forest Grove, Oregon US) Age: 52

I have no problem with searches at airports and such places. I do have problems with ID checks (a terrorist can get false ID almost as easily as a normal person can get valid ID). I am scared to death at the formation of an Office of Homeland Safety, or whatever the President wants to call it. It brings to mind images of internal passports required for travel, restrictions on travel more than a certain distance from home, police checking emails, tapping telephones, knocks on the door in the middle of the night - all in the name of National Security. Maybe I am paranoid, but that does not mean that someone isn't out to get me *smile*. Besides, Government has a habit of expanding itself as much as it can, and where power is given, it will eventually be abused.

I Believe That Increased Security At Airports Is Needed, But I Don't... Oct 5th. at 9:03:05 pm EDT

Mythrannia (Erie, Pennsylvania US) Age: 47 - Email

I believe that increased security at airports is needed, but I don't believe that we should give up any of our freedoms to be safe. Our ancesters sacrifices have allowed us to enjoy our freedom, can we do any less to preserve our freedom.

Since I Was A Kid, I Assumed That The Goverment Could And... Oct 6th. at 9:18:32 am EDT

Irebera (none, California US) Age: 47

Since I was a kid, I assumed that the goverment could and did tap into private lives.
When I started using the internet, I assumed that everything I said or did on the web could be tapped into by the goverment.
There may be laws protecting a person's right to a private life.
But the goverment will across the line, if they feel there is a reason.
Weither we like it or not, all the laws we make are used only when it suits a propose.
As for myself, it would be nice if we really did have a private life that was truely our own. In reality, everything we say and do is on file somewhere in a goverment department.
Hopefully gathering dust and never to be used.

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