Former Soviet political prisoner Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in the Gulag, says his fellow dissidents had wide ranging views on many subjects—except one: freedom.
The prisoners all believed that a free society could only exist where individuals have the right to express their views without fear of arrest, imprisonment or physical abuse.
That experience led Sharansky to the conclusion, which he outlines in his book “The Case for Democracy,” that the world is divided into two kinds of societies: free and fear.
Societies based on fear are rooted in tyranny—the unrestrained abuse of authority that oppresses individuals and divergent ideas and forces people to cower before their government, yet rely on that same government for security.
America is perhaps the best example in the world today of a free society, where individual liberty exists by Providence and, as such, cannot be removed by man, except by rule of law.
Terrorism, like we witnessed Monday afternoon in Boston, strikes at the heart of a free society. The seeming randomness of an attack on innocent citizens (as opposed to battlefield soldiers) is meant to cause every American to worry, “if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.”
Theoretically it can, adding to the fear.
We look at the picture of eight-year-old Martin Richard, one of three people killed in the bombings, and see our own son or daughter, grandchild or neighborhood kid. The evil behind the act that would kill, maim or wound nearly 180 people is difficult for most of us to imagine.
In response to an attack, it’s natural to demand more protection. What is the country doing to make sure madmen can’t wreak bloody havoc? The truth is that there’s only so much that can be done without infringing significantly on freedom.
While security forces remain aggressive in rooting out potential attacks, the charge to the American people is to remain steadfast and vigilant. We move forward, exercising our blessed freedom while rejecting fear.
“The American people refuse to be terrorized,” President Obama said following the bombings.
In one sense, the terrorists have already scored victories. Americans now must queue up and go through security checks to get on an airplane or enter a courthouse.
But terrorists cannot prevail where people value freedom. Our enemies will continue their perverse fight in hopes our country becomes so paranoid that we begin to abandon our principles.
That can’t happen, not after 9/11, not after Boston.
As Natan Sharansky said, it’s only freedom that has the power to overcome tyranny and terror.