Copyright © 2004 Henrietta W. Hay
Freedom on the Fourth
July 16, 2004
The fourth of July celebrations, the flags and the parade and the
fireworks were as exciting and colorful as ever this year. But there
was something missing. What was missing was the feeling of complete
freedom which our constitution promised us over 200 years ago.
Through the years we have taken our freedoms for granted but today they
are under attack from several directions.
Last week Congress bowed to Administration pressure and defeated an
effort to remove one section of the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act is
perhaps the most dangerous threat to our freedoms that we have ever
had. An effort in the House to amend a section of the act which would
ban the government from demanding records from libraries and book stores
ended with a 210-210 deadlock. A late burst of lobbying caused eight
Republicans to switch votes and the amendment was defeated. Two of the
switched votes came from our own state, Marilyn Musgrave and Tom
Tancredo. Considering their records, I haven't figured out why they
voted for it in the first place, but I am sure they were happy to
switch. So libraries and book stores continue to be subject to a demand
for their records whenever the government chooses and complete freedom
to read and buy whatever we choose is still gone.
Although the constitution is designed to give freedoms, the
conservatives are busy trying to remove them. A vote is scheduled this
week (as I write this) in the Senate on a proposed Constitutional
amendment banning gay marriage. Called the Federal Marriage Amendment
it would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It goes
on to say that "Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any
state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that
marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon
unmarried couples or groups."
Whatever your opinion may be on gay marriage, something so personal and
intimate is none of the government's business. It is a social issue
which needs to be solved somewhere outside the constitution. Julie
Nice, who teaches constitutuional law at the University of Denver School
of Law writes, "In the end, today's debate is about whether the nation
-- one way or the other -- will uphold its constitutional commitment to
liberty and equality for all."
Several times over the years attempts have been made to pass a Flag
Burning Amendment to the constitution. They have been consistently
defeated. Two highly respected Americans, war heroes Secretary of State
Colin Powell and former Senator John Glenn strongly oppose this
amendment. Sen. Glenn has warned that, "it would be a hollow victory
indeed if we preserved the symbol of freedoms by chopping away at those
fundamental freedoms themselves."
And to the man who said he would never go to a show at the Avalon again
because they showed "Fahrenheit 9/11" I would quote the Post columnist
Gail Schottler, "While the movie itself is Moore's personal agenda, it
certainly provides the other side of the Bush war rhetoric. Whether you
love it or hate it, it is a "must see" movie for Americans trying to
make sense of our current mess."
Ben Franklin said in 1759, in another period when we were fighting for
freedom, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little
temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety.
Let's wave the flags and have parades, but all of us have to be involved
in the continuing fight for freedom.