When freedom is lacking, it becomes much more precious

Been thinking at all about freedom lately?
If so, you’re not alone.
I’ve had more conversations about liberty in the last three months than I think I’ve had in 50-plus years.
This Fourth, I especially thought about how, in 1776, a bunch of guys gathered in sweltering heat to sign their names on the dotted line, saying they were done with being told what to do by a government that was more interested in their money than in their needs, and was pretty out of touch with what was happening out in the hinterlands, where they lived.
When things are going well, when we can pretty much do what we want, whenever we want, it’s easy to take our freedoms for granted: the right to assemble, to write or say what we think, to believe what we want and practice that belief (as long as we’re not damaging someone else), the right to be left alone when the police show up without a warrant or probable cause, and many more (the right to vote, own a firearm, own land, marry whom you want, wear what you want, etc.) These are not necessarily things people in other lands can do.
With the arrival of the coronavirus, though, we’ve experienced changes.
Government edicts have closed businesses. Churchgoers have been forced to stay away for months. Schools have been crippled. Kids have been kicked off athletic fields financed by their (taxpaying) parents. In one nearby city, basketball hoops have been removed from the backboards in public parks. We’re told that we shouldn’t – or can’t travel.
The most recent rule from the state is even more stringent: masks for everybody, everywhere we are inside with people we don’t normally spend a lot of time with. Violate this one and you may face a misdemeanor penalty.
Back in high school or college civics class, talk about rights and liberty may have seemed a bit theoretical, stimulus for a nap, maybe.
But now we’re getting a first-hand lesson in what it’s all about, or what it’s like to not have it.
South of the border, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has actually banned singing by church-goers. If you know anything about church, singing is a big part of the experience, as is interpersonal interaction with others. That’s why many have objected, questioned the constitutionality of rules restricting public gatherings and now this – particularly after government officials have done little other than issuing a few feeble admonitions to protesters who have packed public spaces across the nation in recent weeks.
When officials look the other way as violent, angry demonstrations pack streets and loot stores, then put the kibosh on peaceful, religious activities of otherwise law-abiding citizens, a red flag should wave for all of us, no matter which side of the political spectrum we’re on.
There’s a danger here, illustrated by the old Arabian proverb: “If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.”
Rights provided by our Constitution were placed there by people who did so because they, or others they knew, had actually gone to jail for their beliefs, for speaking out, for assembling.
They can be lost. I think back to how, after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, we have permitted increased government intrusion into our lives: dramatic growth of street surveillance, strip searches at the airport, the use of “sneak and peek” warrants, “Magic Lantern” surveillance of one’s computer usage, and more. People can now be arrested for simply associating with possible terrorist organizations, even if they have not committed a crime.
Of course, there’s a justification: terrorism is an evil that is difficult to combat without these measures – just like this virus is a serious, genuine threat to many and these measures are deemed necessary to protect ourselves.
The problem is, what do we lose to get that protection? It’s a hard question that we all must answer.