Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Freedom and Security

David Foster Wallace in the Atlantic, three years ago:
Are some things still worth dying for? Is the American idea one such thing? Are you up for a thought experiment? What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, “sacrifices on the altar of freedom”? In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life—sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort?

In still other words, what if we chose to accept the fact that every few years, despite all reasonable precautions, some hundreds or thousands of us may die in the sort of ghastly terrorist attack that a democratic republic cannot 100-percent protect itself from without subverting the very principles that make it worth protecting?
I want to put myself down here as agreeing with this 100 percent. I have no wish to be kept alive at the price of torture, indefinite imprisonment without charge, unconstitutional wiretapping, the kidnapping of terrorist suspects, or any of the other awful things that are being done in the name of my safety. I oppose all attacks on people who have not attacked us first, no matter what they might be planning.

If it were up to me, I would choose to live in a world with more freedom and less security, even if we had to face a 9-11 every year.