Freedom at Any Price

It has been 20 years since 9/11. How have we responded to those attacks over the long term? We should have rebuilt the twin towers—identical to the originals but 10 percent larger. We should have made it clear to the terrorists that no loss of life could ever destroy the American way of life. We should have made it clear that those freedoms which made us the envy of the world are precisely those to which we will cling the most tenaciously, even in the face of violence and death.

And what have we got instead of the Twin Towers? Two big holes in the ground and the Transportation Security Administration. 

You could argue that the TSA and everything else we created has been a huge success, since we haven’t had any more airborne terrorist attacks. That’s a lousy argument. We may have prevented more 9/11s, but at what cost? At what cost to the daily routine, to the ordinary American way of life?

Air travel is ruined. The process of boarding a plane has more in common with visiting a prison than with boarding a plane 30 years ago. I can remember—just barely remember—getting to meet the pilots in the cockpit during a flight, which instilled in me and countless others a love of flying. No one in college today has ever had that experience. The entire process now, from the moment we arrive at the airport, has been made to feel dangerous and miserable.

What is that, if not a major victory for terrorism?

And the air travel situation is chicken feed compared to the real compromises Americans have made with their privacy: The Patriot Act and its offspring gave the state vastly expanded rights of surveillance, all in the name of protecting us. (It also “increased penalties for terrorism,” which I’m sure has had a major deterrent effect on would-be terrorists . . .) The government can read your private email, listen to your phone conversations—and, while they can’t save copies of these things indefinitely, they can pass copies on to private contractors, who can.

If the 9/11 terrorists were alive today to look at the changes they wrought in America with that one act, on that one day, how could they be anything but delighted? If the goal was just to kill Americans, they were successful. If the goal was to warp and distort the fabric of American life, they were successful beyond their wildest dreams. They succeeded in that because we decided that safety was more important than anything else. 

If our founders had valued safety over freedom we’d still be British. And I suspect an increasing number of academics, intellectual elites, and government bureaucrats wouldn’t see the harm in that—one country, they think, is very much like another. Life in Canada isn’t so different from life here, etc., etc.

And that brings us to the coronavirus. This disease is not, as some thoughtless people have claimed, our generation’s “World War II”: For one thing, you can’t have a war without fighting back. It is rather another 9/11—a successful attack on the American way of life. The attack comes from China this time. But the results are similar:

Joe Biden said on September 9, just two days before the 20th anniversary of September 11, that he would force everyone to get the vaccine, and seek to punish those who do not: “This is not about freedom or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you.” That sentence, among the most disgusting ever spoken by an American president, is music to the ears of the Chinese Communist Party. It’s music to the ears of the Taliban. It’s music to the ears of every America-hating bastard everywhere, including those who were born and live here and who are teaching our children in school to hate America.

A few months ago, you were a conspiracy theorist for suggesting that vaccine passports would even be considered. Today, you’re a conspiracy theorist for suggesting there might be something wrong with the idea.

Joe Biden’s America is America in name only, just as he himself is president in name only. You see people driving around alone in their cars wearing masks on their faces—so terrified of getting sick that they have become sickness itself. They wouldn’t have been willing to fight World War II. They’re peace-at-any-pricers: the people who would have been willing to accept a Nazified Europe in exchange for Hitler’s agreement to let Britain continue existing. (There were plenty of those people in Britain at the time; thank God they were not in charge.)

So I’m not going to get the vaccine. I’m not going to wear a mask, anywhere. If someone asks me whether I’ve been vaccinated, I’ll tell him the truth: That it’s none of his business. 

If you prefer safety to freedom, that’s your choice: It’s a free country. You can even tell me “screw your freedom,” as a once-popular actor recently said. But I reserve the right to make my own choices too, and I’m for freedom. Freedom at any price. That is the essence of America.

About Dan Gelernter

Dan Gelernter is a columnist for American Greatness living in Connecticut.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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