July 23, 2024

What It Means to be Free

Freedom isn’t an easy thing to handle.  That’s a fact lost on many westerners and most of the rest of the world.  Freedom brings with it responsibility and difficult choices, many of which – if made using proper moral and/or ethical filters – constrain the array of possible actions down to a bare few, if that many. 

Such was the case for President Bush 7+ years ago, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist killings in New York and Washington D.C. and in the skies above Pennsylvania.  Good options were few and far between, as the informed – and honest – will remember.  America’s strike into Afghanistan was one positive action the administration took.  Another was to look deeply into the darkness that is the deranged mind of radical Islamic terrorists and make the decision to learn what other massacres they might have planned for Americans, Spaniards, and our British friends, no matter the cost.

President Bush and his administration were far, far from perfect.  But the fact remains that American has remained free from terrorist attacks during his time in office.  God willing, Barack Obama will be able to say the same thing 4 years from now.

The Bush legacy will not be a good one, I believe.  The bloodbath in Iraq circa 2006 will not be quickly forgotten, enabled as it was by our policies on the ground in that country.  In 2009 Iraq looks to be on the way to becoming a functioning member of the world community for the first time in decades.  That too is a result of the Bush administration’s actions and something that should be remembered longer and more clearly than its failure to police Baghdad while an Islamic civil war raged outside the Green Zone.

Nor will W’s fiscal policies be looked upon favorably by history.  There is no excuse for an unbalanced federal budget during a Republican administration short of a rebellious, liberal Congress.  Yet the national debt has skyrocketed during the last 8 years due to Republicans’ poor stewardship and Bush’s failure to reign his party in.  Moreover, the new MediCare drug plan has as much potential to bankrupt America as any legislation in recent memory.  Fiscal conservative rightly feel betrayed by the man they helped elect.

The home mortgage crisis of 2008 cannot be blamed on the Bush administration, not if the truth is to be observed.  It’s roots go far deeper, back to policies drawn up during the Clinton administration that were designed to help Americans own their own home, whether they could pay for it or not.  These policies put lenders at risk by forcing them to choose between compliance and sound investment strategy and Americans took advantage by taking out loans that they were doomed to default on.  This after years of abusing personal credit cards and racking up vast sums of “negative equity”, as one financially inept friend once put it.

When viewed from a distance, the current economic malaise is entirely symptomatic of misused freedoms, the watchword of the Bush administration’s time in office.

I am occasionally challenged about my policy views, most often on the question of legalizing drugs for semi-regulated consumption.  It’s not an easy position for a Christian to take, it should be understood.  But ultimately that question, like so many others, comes down to personal freedom, responsibility, and the right to make one’s own choices.

Or it ought to come down to that.  Modern liberalism has projected the government into too many areas of private life.  While not in the top 50 concerns of mine, one such area is that of casual drug use.  A promise I can keep is that I will never use any kind of drug, legal or otherwise, without medical necessity.  Still, it is none of my business – or the government’s – if another adult chooses a different path.

The classic counter-argument is that it’s for the good of the people that certain activities are made unlawful.  That is no argument at all but rather a resort to a platitude that, whether correct or incorrect in its implementation, has no force of reason behind it.  Drug laws may well save lives.  But I feel that they are still wrong in that they violate personal rights in an overly intrusive, unnecessary way.

The point is that decisions made by leadership are often difficult ones with good arguments on either side. 

President Bush was not afraid to make tough decisions, even when they were unpopular, as in the decision to send more troops to Iraq to finish the job there.  That was a correct decision, as it turns out, one that I did not support in print as I should have, and one that drew on our nation’s experience with the weak-willed war effort in Vietnam. 

Lest we forget, our early abandonment of that country lead directly to more than 1 million deaths in Vietnam, Cambodia, and surrounding countries.  President Bush did not make that mistake, thankfully, despite the strident hue and cry of those who will take over administration of our country in 5 short days. 

Hopefully the heavy burden of leadership will weigh appropriately on the shoulders of Barack Obama and the Democrats.  I suspect that it will, not because their fundamental ideals are correct – they are not – but because the acceptance and execution of the duty of leadership is simply what American presidents and congress people ought to do.

That’s perhaps the best definition of what it means to be free – the acceptance of our personal responsibilities and obligations, no questions asked.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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