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The balance between our liberty and our security has always raised questions. If we allow citizens to own firearms, how do we protect ourselves from nuts with guns? How free is speech if libel is a crime? May people use religious liberty to commit crimes and call it an article of faith -- crimes that for the rest of us would earn swift punishment? Tough questions, all.
Since the founding of America in 1789, people have sought to limit liberty for the sake of security and peace. This notion has, at times, become popular, and such fickle and emotion-laden trends can wreak havoc upon a democracy.
The most effective way to popularize anti-liberty sentiments is to stir the populace into a panic. "Things have gotten completely out of control," they tell us.
"We must sacrifice some of our liberties for the sake of our safety." More often than not, the problem is imaginary or is blown way out of proportion.
Just as often, the solutions such people offer are unrealistic. In other words, the remedies they propose will not solve the problems they say they fear. Sometimes it is clear that an entire proposal serves only to further someone's agenda.
Let us examine the current panic over school massacres: First, the FBI reports that violent crime is declining, and a new report shows school violence is also down. (Only the news reporting is up.) Secondly, do we hear any proposals even remotely resembling stricter gun availability? No. Do the anti-liberty forces suggest mental health as a possible factor? Humbug!
In the wake of highly publicized high school massacres, we hear very little about the role that mental health (including such drugs as Prozac and Ritalin) has played in the lives of some kids who have taken a gun to their fellow students. I've heard nobody come out and discuss the human phenomenon we call "running amok."
You'd think the very point of discussing these problems would be to put our heads together and work toward a solution.
There have always been people who feel they have lost everything, go off the deep end, and decide to take some of us with them. Studies show this was on the minds of many people who massacre. It is called running amok. If we cannot stop it, at least we should learn to see it coming.
But what did the House do to solve this problem? They voted to post Christian religious injunctions in our public schools.
Never mind a solution! And to hell with our liberties! This is an emergency!
They're shooting themselves in the foot because the Ten Commandments crowd could never retain power in today's world.
Here's what may be happening: In spite of reports that 40 percent of Americans believe Jesus and Satan will duke it out in Armageddon, and despite polls that show 45 percent of Americans think the Genesis myth is reality, Evangelical Christians are not gaining any significant ground. The Genesis believers are mostly the poor and the elderly; the under-30 demographic has the lowest percentage of creationists.
Evangelical leaders know this, but act as if they've just lost everything, have nothing left to lose, and want take us with them.
Copyright ©1999 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon