Freedom Tastes of Reality

I know what you’re driving, what you pay every month, and when your lease expires.  I know what bank you got a loan from and the interest rate.

I know your house payment and if you like red shoes.  When you go online I can have a banner appear that shows your favorite brand of coffee.

If you’re over 40 I can be sure that you get Viagra ads and I know if you’ve surfed porn sites.

And I’m just in marketing.

Imagine what the government can know.

The 4th Amendment is under fire and so is the 5th and the 1st and they have been for a long time, but, here’s the really troubling part:  We have been all too happy to let government and every marketer know what they want to know.

About everyone else, that is.

Invasion of PrivacyA hot topic has been Warrantless Wiretaps and people are up in arms about invasion of privacy and the threat to our individual liberties. The NSA eavesdrops on our conversations when their software reveals that we have been using suspicious language or communicating with nefarious people, and our texts, emails, Tweets and calls can be targeted.

So what are we going to do about it?  I’ll bet….very little.

Perhaps, Col. Jessep sums up our self-imposed ignorance best in “A Few Good Men”:  “You have the luxury of not knowing what I know… And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives…You don’t want the truth.  Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall.  You need me on that wall!”

Because 9/11 scared the heck out of us we‘ve allowed, if not downright begged, the government to analyze all the information that is available regarding terror networks and suspect operatives, whether known Al Qaeda or as pedestrian as the guys in the apartment next door, because, who knows….?

And when law enforcement misses; when a bomb goes off because not enough secret information was processed – we tear them down for not protecting us enough.  If every other nation, every terrorist cell, marketer, and hacker has access to Big Data, with information about our individual habits and preferences, can we limit our own government from collecting and processing as much data as they can in the interest of our protection?

We can and we must.  Freedom isn’t free and it isn’t necessarily safe.   We can choose freedom or we can choose security, but we cannot necessarily have both.  The laws which protect our freedoms can also leave us vulnerable and anything that offends the 4th amendment or suspends habeas corpus for cause of security can quickly lead to abuse of power.

The 4th Amendment protects us from illegal searches and seizures by law enforcement officers:  “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

That can logically be extended to technology that didn’t exist at the time; cell phones and computers.

We must allow for the risks that come with adherence to the Bill of Rights so that we can protect what truly keeps us free:  Freedom of Thought and Freedom of Speech.

50 years before the Revolution began Benjamin Franklin proffered:  Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.

Many of us are appalled by the infringements upon our personal liberty, whether by the administrations of President Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, Johnson, or Lincoln, but, nearly everyone also chooses to be safe rather than sorry.  It’s a cliché that resonates to our core, and it leaves us with a paradoxical contemplation:  Living without freedom or freedom without living.

You make the call.

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Gary KroegerAuthor: Gary Kroeger is a creative director for a Midwestern advertising agency. He’s a former actor (in the cast of Saturday Night Live in the mid ‘80s) and producer.