The Unanswered Question of the Boston Bombings: Liberty or Security?

In post-9/11 America our citizens have grown accustomed to lawless government.

It gives no joy to make such a claim, but it seems, in the name of security, there is no level of tyranny we won’t bend the knee to; no amount of liberty we won’t surrender. This came as a shocking reminder after the Boston Marathon bombings and the manhunt for Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

In the aftermath of 9/11, for example, and in the name of security we simply succumbed to the inconvenience of air travel—virtually undressing before passing through metal detectors, limiting the size of shampoo we carried in our luggage, and placing our prescription medication in clear plastic bags.

Today, more than a decade later, we allow blue-shirted strangers to touch our bodies in places that if they did so at another time or in another location would lead to fisticuffs or a call to 911.

But in the name of security we’ll surrender our liberty.

In the aftermath of 4/15 the unanswered question is: Will the Boston bombings change the way we live, in the same way 9/11 did? In other words, will we lose more liberty for the sake of more security.

What happened in the greater Boston metropolitan area after the marathon bombings struck a note of historic irony that was lost on many. In the place where British citizens bristled under the fact that British soldiers could freely enter a private citizen’s home, how ironic that in that same place American citizens blithely submitted to warrantless searches of their homes by armed American policemen in riot gear.

What British soldiers did, prior to the army’s departure in 1776, was the historical background to the Third and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. What American officials did in instituting virtual martial law—the ordering of forced home incarceration—and armed searches for nineteen year old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may have been in violation of one of those Amendments.

And few have questioned it. After all, they were the good guys, the police, trying to find a terrorist who killed and maimed innocent men, women, and children. Who could object? Why would they object? When Dzhakhar was discovered in a tarp-covered boat and taken into custody, the citizens of Watertown, Massachusetts took to the streets and applauded the police.

And why shouldn’t they, they were safe and secure?

The good folks of Watertown were safe and secure, and were right to applaud. The police work in apprehending the terrorists was masterful. But this shouldn’t keep us from thinking deeply about the issue of liberty and security and ask the question a Facebook friend asked: “Where is the line?”

Where does the good of security tread on the good of liberty?


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