My Turn: Freedom's deep and sacred price

Posted: Monday, November 11, 2002

America was founded over 200 years ago on the concept of freedom and all it embraces. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This pursuit and founding of freedom, however fraught with normal human foibles and problems as it may be, is the highest human political ideal, the most life giving and truest reflection of humanity's best and most caring political vision of itself as a responsible community.

But the pursuit of this political ideal has certainly never been without a deep and sacred price and has certainly never been secure. Our culture may have at times perceived it as having been freely given and as being secure and taken it for granted, but reality has been very different.

Even though it may not be a normal part of our consciousness, our survival as an independent nation is not guaranteed or cast in stone. America has never been less secure than it is at this very moment.

Although a politically correct perception may be to view the danger to our country as coming from abroad, that reality is also very different. This country, this experiment in freedom and democracy, is threatened just as much by apathy and indifference in some Americans' hearts and souls as it is by any outside enemy. Many great civilizations have vanished as a result this same dynamic, this same lack of balance in their vision of the true state of affairs of the value and of the security of their nation.

A political position within our country has emerged that a preemption to protect our freedom and security is both unnecessary and would reflect a future American strategy of incorrectness and misplaced intentions.

I respectfully disagree with both concepts. In my opinion both of these ideas presume a luxury of choice that in fact may not realistically exist.

Very simply, having lived through the last decade of tyranny and very ill intentions toward the West from the Iraqi leadership, combined with their indisputable pursuit of means to apply this ill will tells me very logically that we need to defend ourselves and our allies. At this particular point in time and history preventing them from having and using these means is just common sense. It's sort of Defense and Security 101. Nothing whatsoever about this very obvious need to disarm Iraq at this particular point in time and history implies to me any reflection on any future American political philosophy. I would be at a loss to understand how our administrations' decision at the culmination of Desert Storm to leave the regime in place in Iraq, or any defense and security need since would imply a strategy of America's inappropriateness. Certainly a very reasonable argument could be made, then and now, that a regime change in Iraq would have been the best call. We chose to leave the regime in place. You be the judge!

Having said all this, I suppose I must also say that I do have a very personal stake in world events of the past 14 months. I waited over six hours on the morning of Sept. 11 to receive the call from New York City that my daughter who is a student and works there was alive and well. It wasn't easy, especially as I have, and as I'm sure many, many of you have also, received less joyous calls.

For thousands and thousands of people that call never came.

I think it's reasonable to ask those folks who seem to be embracing such a negative political version of what America is and what it means to the world, "What would that phone call have meant to you that morning?" or perhaps more importantly "What would not getting that call have meant?" As a 50-year-old Vietnam veteran, I choose to believe that those thousands who died that morning, and the horrible anguish suffered by their many more thousands of survivors wasn't in vain. I choose to believe they died enjoying and embracing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And I choose to believe they died free.

Jody Liliedahl is a citizen of Juneau concerned for true peace, justice and freedom.

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