Preserving our civil rights

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 8, 2002

NAACP President Kweisi Mfume is in good company.

On Monday, at the NAACP’s 93rd annual convention, Mfume said that Americans must work to preserve their civil rights in the post-Sept. 11 world because fear of terrorism can lead to individual liberties being trampled.

&uot;Now is the time for us to be eternally vigilant in protecting the republic, but also in protecting the democratic principles on which it stands.&uot; Mfume said in his keynote address.

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On Independence Day, this newspaper ran some famous quotations about liberty in this space, one of which, by Benjamin Franklin, echoed Mfume.

&uot;They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. &uot;

While Mfume was referring specifically to blacks, for whom he noted both war and recession have correlated with periods of &uot;diminished civil rights&uot; in the nation’s history, his words – and Franklin’s – ring true for all Americans.

A free society is going to have pollution, gun violence, financial shenanigans by unscrupulous corporate CEOs, opportunities for crazed individuals to perpetrate heinous acts, as well as a variety of other ills. That we are able to tolerate those things so that we can have our individual privacy, worship as we please and speak out against our government without fear of retribution, is testimony to just how precious our freedom is.

So while the temptation is great to surrender our privacy under the guise of keeping things like the World Trade Center attack from happening again, we should bear in mind when we do so, there’s a chance or even the likelihood that we won’t get it back, and without our individual rights and freedom there is little to protect.