Election years in America (and probably everywhere else, come to think of it) are drowned in a mad rush for the most aggravating sound-byte and astonishing campaign gimmick. Does it really surprise us when Candidate Kerry drops the f-bomb? Are we surprised by Wesley Clark’s latest antics in trying to top Howard Dean?
Because we are inundated with the networks’ excessive coverage of these loud, shallow events, it seems wise to step out of the day-to-day mud of a presidential race and check the immediate “issues” against a firmer measure. I suggest that one such bedrock principle is the preservation of our liberties, and further note that this idea seems far away from the inane details that crowd the political stage this year.
I use the word liberty carefully — it isn’t common to hear angry protesters demand “liberty” anymore (perhaps it once was, but sadly, we’ve come a long way from those days). Rather, we are assailed daily by some shout or another for “freedom”: freedom to abort babies, freedom to contribute to campaigns, freedom to strut nude on television.
Is there a difference between freedom and liberty? Yes, but it is subtle. I think that a person’s freedom to act is nearly impossible to constrict, except by physical constraint. One might say that I am free to be as disruptive and violent as I like — I can shoot people and rage against my surroundings anytime, unless I am locked up. But who would suggest that I have liberty to act this way? My liberties come with responsibilities to behave civilly and respect the liberties of other people; I am free to ignore them, but that freedom would (and should) then be curtailed.
It seems to me that our liberties are in danger, and that much of the political debate today ignores this unsettling situation. It is our liberty that offends the belligerent Islamic radicals, and these evil men seek every means to restrict them. Until Sept. 11, 2001, this movement seemed distant and ineffective, but the irrational rage that motivates the extremists has not calmed. Any political calculation that ignores this threat is delusional and dangerous.
What do we hear about liberty from the leading Democrats seeking their party’s nomination? Very little. In New Hampshire, Wesley Clark pronounces every day that President Bush is an unpatriotic boob who wages an unpatriotic war in place of entrusting our freedoms to the United Nations, while promising that no Sept. 11 attacks would be “allowed” in his proposed administration. Howard Dean can hardly top this rhetoric, but yells for voters to sit down and let him try. Dick Gephardt bored his audiences so badly that we never knew what he stood for. Where can one find a spirited defense of our liberty? Who has plans and guts enough to confront the radical Islamist threat to Western freedoms?
For my money (and I wish he would spend less of it on bloated social experiments) I see no viable candidate except President Bush who is willing to see the evil that confronts us for what it is, and fight against it. If he stays the course and doesn’t water down our war against terrorists, George Bush will have my vote in November.
Ezra Hood is a junior music composition major from Fort Worth.