Freedom is the soup du jour. Even before “Operation Enduring Freedom” replaced the less apt moniker of “Operation Infinite Justice” as the name of the U.S. offensive in Afghanistan, it was clear that freedom was experiencing a renaissance in American discourse.

On Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush said, “Freedom has been attacked and freedom will respond.” On Sept. 20, he reiterated, “We are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom.” In the four months since, “freedom,” a term that resided low-profile among frightening and subversive groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International, has been adopted by virtually every news network and town board member in America.

This has left me downright inspired. It’s a new semester, my workload is light and I am ready to stand up for freedom!

In case you didn’t guess, I am not in the military, so I fear that I will have to leave the grenade-launching sort of freedom fighting to those who are. With Microsoft Word as my only weapon, I am standing up to defend the freedoms that live or die by acts of Congress and Executive orders ? this is where the reader is overpowered by the tremendous sound of God Bless America, Rage Against the Machine version playing in the background.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ? an undeniable champion of freedom ? and the one-year anniversary of the presidency of George W. Bush ? an undeniable champion at using the word freedom ? I submit to you, dear Uncle Sam, my 2002 freedom wish list.

First, I believe that people should have the freedom to put whatever they wish into their own bodies. It is a logical tenet of limited government not to ban actions that hurt only the people who chose to undertake them, yet adults in our country are treated as criminals for choosing to smoke marijuana or use other drugs.

The case for restricting a freedom is often based on protecting the freedoms of others from potential harm. Yet, in a country where we preserve the freedom to possess semiautomatic firearms at a cost of the freedom to live in a world without fear of gun violence, what can we possibly be afraid of from pot smokers? Refrigerator raiding? Please.

Secondly, I believe that people should have the freedom to travel wherever they damn well please, without a permission slip from the Treasury Department. The ban on civilian travel to Cuba is a testament to the power of the anti-Castro lobby and the determination

of right-wingers of the Jesse Helms variety to use the military and

economic power of the United States to punish weaker nations that dare to think differently. It is also runs around the Constitution and international laws protecting the freedom to travel.

Student groups and humanitarian organizations that have had the courage to travel to Cuba in defiance of the ban have faced threats of up to 10 years in jail and $250,000 fines. Canadians and Europeans call it a holiday. We call it a crime.

Thirdly, I believe that all Americans should enjoy the freedom to be who they are without having to face discrimination that is still etched into the laws of our country. If you think that we have moved past government-sponsored bigotry in the 35 years since the death of Jim Crow, try talking to a gay person.

The laws and policies of the federal government prevent open homosexuals from serving in the military and they create special rights for groups, such as the Boy Scouts, that discriminate against homosexuals. In a circumvention of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, the federal Defense of Marriage Act denies the transmissibility of homosexual marriages across state lines. The record on gay rights in the states is, for the most part, also dismal.

In considering whether any other subgroup of citizens has their rights specifically limited by law, all I could come up with was criminals. But homosexuals are not criminals.They are simply doing what every all-American kindergarten teacher recommends ? just being themselves.

Finally, it is vital that we defend the freedoms we already have, many of which are constantly imperiled. Reproductive freedom, for example, hangs on the vote of one Supreme Court justice.

Other freedoms, including the freedom from unwarranted searches and the right to attorney-client confidentiality, are ironically being attacked today in the name of protecting freedom.

Freedom is more than just a word used to rally the troops. It means not taking our rights for granted. Sometimes it means admitting we were wrong.

Today, our leaders face unique opportunities to demonstrate a serious commitment to freedom. They can choose to bring American policies in line with American ideals or they can wrap a flag around freedom and send her to the retirement home for admirable notions.

Maybe the ACLU would take her for walks on the weekends.

Brach is a senior and can be reached at jbrach@campustimes.org.



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