Today we mourn the passing of a cherished friend.
His name was Freedom.
Freedom has been dying a slow death since Oct. 26, 2001, when Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act without debate or discussion, thereby administering a lethal dose of poison to Freedom.
Weakened and in pain, Freedom lost the will to live. His health further deteriorated as he came to understand that Americans were indifferent to the threat to his life.
Born July 4, 1776, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Freedom was a motherless child at the start of his life. But he was, by all accounts, the most favored child of his many dads – the Founding Fathers.
He was nurtured throughout his childhood by Americans who valued his existence and relied on his fundamental fairness and protective nature.
Freedom had a major growth spurt on Dec. 15, 1791, when Congress ratified the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, which guaranteed that Freedom could be counted on by all Americans.
Over the years, Freedom was cared for and strengthened by the passage of additional constitutional amendments, court decisions and laws. Every American knew that Freedom could be called upon if their right to speak, their right to privacy or their right to protection from the government was threatened.
Sadly, the USA PATRIOT Act, in one clean sweep, took away Freedom's power to protect those rights. Without a warrant and without probable cause, the government shoved Freedom into a dusty corner. With Freedom out of the way, the government said it could now access Americans' most private medical records, library records, student records and computer activities.
With Freedom in its crippled state, the government also said it could now hold us in solitary confinement without charging us with a crime, without letting us have a lawyer and without allowing us contact with our families. Freedom languished, helpless to defend us.
Freedom was predeceased by his older brother, Common Sense. His death occurred 45 days after the birth of his archenemies, Fear and Hatred, born Sept. 11, 2001, at the Twin Towers in New York City.
It was Americans themselves who administered the final death blow to Freedom. It is likely that Freedom's precarious condition was weakened by a broken heart in the realization that many Americans were either unaware that he was in jeopardy or did not care.
Some said it didn't matter if Freedom died because it was the price they were willing to pay for protection against Terrorism, the Stepfather of Fear and Hatred. Americans forgot what Freedom's Founding Fathers so fervently believed: Without Freedom, there can never be safety.
A small service was held for Freedom Thursday night at the Goshen Library, officiated by civil rights lawyer Michael Sussman and Robert Hubsher, director of the Ramapo Catskill Library System. It was attended by only a handful of mourners.
In his eulogy, Hubsher urged Americans to start acting like Americans again. In the name of Freedom, he said, "It is not disloyal or treasonous to resist a law that encroaches on our rights. Indeed, the opposite is true."
There is a small chance that Freedom can be resurrected. But it will only be accomplished if Americans demand that their elected representatives in Washington come back to life themselves.
If Congress were to repeal the most noxious and poisonous portions of the PATRIOT Act, then and only then will Freedom begin to stir in his grave and rise up again. But no such thing will happen unless Americans demand it.
Meanwhile, on this Memorial Day, we mourn the passing of Freedom just as we mourn our history's courageous soldiers who fought so passionately to protect Freedom. It is tragic that they died in vain.
Freedom's burial will be held at the convenience of the Bush Administration. Arrangements are being made under the direction of Attorney General John Ashcroft.
In lieu of flowers, please send a letter to your congressman.
Beth Quinn's column appears Monday.
Copyright 2003 Orange County Publications