AS AMERICA CELEBRATES Thanksgiving we must not forget why the Pilgrims came to these shores almost four centuries ago. They came to escape the oppression of an unjust king, who did not allow his citizens to freely worship their God. Those brave souls were followed by countless others who fled Great Britain and Europe to seek refuge in a country where they could live free from fear of an oppressive government.
Sailing into the unknown in the hope of finding freedom, they relinquished all the safety and security they knew. Many, of course, died along the way, but fear did not deter the others that followed. And follow they did. They came and settled along the New England coast, on the island that is now Manhattan, the inlets of the James River in Virginia, and even farther south in the warmer climate of the Carolinas.
Their beliefs differed, although most were Christians. While the settlers experienced hardship and setbacks, most of their settlements grew and flourished. America was settled by living examples of humanity’s desire to live unfettered by governmental decrees.
Their descendants were the people who rebelled against a despotic king three thousand miles away when he unilaterally decided that his citizens those living in the colonies -- owed him more and more taxes. The leaders of the revolution against that king believed so strongly in individual freedom that they created a new nation dedicated on the belief that "all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
On Thanksgiving Day 2001 we should thank God for not only our daring forbearers who sailed into the unknown and settled this land, but also for those valiant revolutionaries who risked their lives, their fortune, and their sacred honor to found a nation, and finally for all the succeeding generations that sent their best and bravest to defend freedom.
Today we are again sending our young men and women into harms way to defend freedom. Yet, at home we must remain vigilant that our response to terrorism does not result in a curtailing of America’s cherished civil liberties. The terrorists win when we succumb to this way of thinking.
We are witnessing the age-old conflict between safety and freedom. Governmental agencies and many politicians are reacting to this tragedy by suggesting more laws and regulations that not only deny terrorists of their civil liberties, but every American’s freedom becomes diminished.
In a speech on September 16, 2001 Kayne Robinson, First Vice-President of the National Rifle Association and a former Des Moines Assistant Police Chief, said, ""All the metal detectors and police and security guards can't protect us from terrorism. Now we can expect a torrent of freedom-robbing laws -- laws to prevent the Sept. 11 tragedy, even though the next one will likely unfold differently. Only by our own actions can we allow the terrorists to damage our freedom. We do this and they've won."
The U. S. Constitution is a document that was written with liberty as its shining beacon. Those men, who had labored long and hard to bring forth a new nation, were so keenly aware of individual rights that they to create the first ten Amendments to that Constitution a Bill of Rights for individual Americans.
The threat of terrorism has led to an abrogation of the Bill of Rights. Congress overwhelmingly passed new terrorism legislation after September 11th that has just begun being implemented. Now it appears that even more schemes have been proposed that would further abrogate civil liberties.
The Washington Post reported on November 16, 2001, "Critics ranging from the solidly liberal People for the American Way Foundation to conservative Rep. Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Ga.) are characterizing recently announced administration plans as ethnic profiling, power grabbing and overzealous law enforcement."
Freedom loving Americans must remain aware of the threat to individual civil liberties. We must understand that when the civil rights of one are undermined, the civil rights of all are in grave peril. We must not allow our liberties to be slowly eroded as we seek the illusive goal of safety and security.
As Benjamin Franklin put it two hundred and forty-two years ago, ""They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Let us give thanks for the bravery and wisdom of our forefathers and vow to resist the temptation to dilute our freedoms in the face of terrorism.