- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

What now, my fellow Americans? What do we do now that America is at war? I don't mean what does official Washington do. Official Washington is doing what it must do, and that is trying to figure out who carried out those attacks on Tuesday and what, precisely, will be the consequences.

The question to you is, what do we ordinary Americans do?

I know we are praying, giving thanks for those blessings we have received, are receiving and hope to receive. I know we are expressing our patriotism in letters to the editor and on C-Span and the Internet. And I know we are volunteering and donating food, blood and money as New York City sifts through the incredible rubble following Tuesday's orchestrated atrocities — acts of war that have forever changed lower Manhattan's world-famous skyline.

But what else are we doing? What else should we be doing?

Don't you think that, after such an alarming wake-up call, we should be doing something a little closer to home? Something on the local front that is as important as nabbing those hijackers? Something to ensure the preservation of our fundamental rights and civil liberties?

After all, freedom is a fragile thing. We should be permitted to pray and come and go as we please in America. But we cannot. And, as local governments institute more and more laws and policies that threaten such freedoms, our own cities and towns are looking more and more as if martial law has been declared — as if we are cowards.

Did you know, for example, that National Guard troops were patrolling the streets of Georgetown, that camouflaged Humvees carting military police were posted on downtown street corners, and that police have set up nab-as-nab-can roadblocks? I didn't think so.

We say we value freedom, privacy and individual rights, and we say the Bill of Rights reflects our profound principles. But are we really and truly paying attention to the fact that, while we are fighting terrorism on one front, little by little, old-fashioned liberal politics are taking away our own freedoms? Large and small?

You did know that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, for instance, stipulates that the "right of the people to keep and bears [a]rms, shall not be infringed"?

And that the Fourth Amendment says that "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated"?

But did you know that government security officers, who each and every day peer into briefcases and into women's purses (but not men's wallets), are now rummaging through the trunks of employees' cars?

Seems the same — how shall I say — paranoia that had my parents' generation building bomb shelters in the basement and my generation participating in air-raid drills in grade school, now has Big Brother looking over his own shoulder. In the 1950s, however, America's No. 1 enemy was the Soviet Union. Today, America's enemies are …

And that is precisely my point. America's enemies today are literally everywhere. They're in India and Israel. Peru and Portugal. Heaven and Hell. And their hatred doesn't fit inside any particular box, either — all the more reasons why we must, as President Bush said, "stay focused."

After all, when Americans create stupid laws and institute policies that threaten the aforementioned liberties, terrorists who live and breathe un-American thoughts are snickering in the shadows.

"Better arm yourself," a co-worker said to me on Tuesday as American fighter jets pierced the sky. He can arm himself, because he lives in Maryland. I cannot, because I live in Washington, which enforces one of the toughest handgun laws in all America. I could buy a gun in Maryland, but face arrest as soon as I cross the D.C. border. So much for the Second Amendment.

There are other rights that are infringed upon, rights hurled to the wind not by Congress but by D.C. politicians.

D.C. residents can't walk into the building that houses the Department of Motor Vehicles without being searched, teens can't walk into their high schools without being searched and my mother can't visit the D.C. offices that help senior citizens without being searched. So much for our Fourth Amendment right against "unreasonable searches."

And, if D.C. politicians have their say, parents might soon hang ID tags on their children — like Fido's dog tags or apartheid's passcards (a proposal that stinks to the heavens). Also, in D.C. and cities elsewhere, money-grubbing politicians have scrapped our privacy rights and replaced them with anti-red-light-running cameras that peer at us we stroll across the street.

All this — this easy willingness to sit by while liberal politics devour our civil liberties — is, frankly, as frightening as the riots of 1968 that spawned curfews and 24-7 National Guard patrols.

Then, unlike now though, the patrols were there to enforce curfews and stem the looting and criminal unrest. There is no unrest now — just laws that need to be overturned, and proposals that need to be shot down.

Indeed, our men and women in the armed forces will take care of the bad guys, and we need to keep praying that America's commander in chief moves them in the right directions.

Meanwhile, closer to home, there are threats to our freedom that need tending to. So come on, folks, let's get busy.

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