What Price Freedom? What Price Security?

Dateline-Somewhere in the East China Sea. Spending the last few weeks cruising from Japan to Korea to China, one must wonder if all the checkpoints, screenings, interrogations and steely gazes are making us safer or chipping away at our freedoms.


I would venture both, but it’s like being a little bit pregnant; either you submit to a system that is totally in your life or you have no hope of any security at all.


And therein lies the challenge.  As an American, I have been asked to show my passport on trains, in shopping centers, in banks. The countries I have visited want to know who is in their country, even their own citizens.


That would never fly in America. We are not so willing to give up freedoms for safety. Israel has gone down that path to mixed results. Stronger security methods will not eliminate those who wish to do harm, but it may help determine who they are, before they cause harm.


Americans gave up a little after 9/11. Our core was shaken and we agreed to stricter airport screenings, submitting vital and private information to get into TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry. We endured two hour waits and getting to the airports three hours ahead but now, many look for ways to ‘beat the system’ and sidestep the precautions put in place to protect us.


I can see it now. If I buy a train ticket in the US and a ticket agent on board asks for my ticket and proof of citizenship, I would be the first to scream: “you want to see my papers?! What is this: Nazi Germany?”


But it’s different. Papers were requested in a country whose goal was racial purity and exclusion. We live in a different world. The practices I’ve encountered are more about identifying threats rather than weeding out the undesirables.


I’m not sure what I’m willing to surrender in the name of security and freedom. Once the horse has left the barn, it’s difficult to rope him back in.  But my grandmother also use to say: “Anyone who’s out at midnight is obviously up to no good.”


She may be right. If guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns. But today’s weapons are laptops, cell phones, explosives disguised as candy and the most macabre, dead babies packed with C4.


What price freedom? What price security? Pretty steep in either case.