The Perilous State of Freedom


I grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  Oak Ridge is the site of the X-10 National Laboratory, the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Plant, and the now defunct K-25 Uranium Enrichment Plant. 

Our so called "Secret City' was built in WWII as part of the Manhattan Project.  The fuel for Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, was manufactured here in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  During the Cold War, production of nuclear fuel and warheads relentlessly continued around the clock, twenty four/seven, in our little town hidden in the Tennessee mountains.  

As you can imagine, bombs and nuclear attack were the ever present mental back drop for the children who grew up here.  

As a child, I knew, as did all my friends, that Oak Ridge was very high on the target list of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War years of the  1950s and 60s, we lived with the omnipresent threat of nuclear annihilation.

 Most of our houses had bomb shelters stocked with tanks of water and stacks of Campbells soup cans.  Our schools were equipped similarly and we practiced getting on the bus to flee to Jellico Mountain, in the event of attack.  Every few hundred yards,  the avenues of our neighborhoods were punctuated with air raid sirens, which went off every afternoon at 5:00 p.m.  Our house on Delaware Ave. was right next to the siren and I remember well that deafening and terrifying high pitched wail.  

Many of the children with whom I went to school at Elm Grove Elementary School did not believe that we would ever grow up.  We had a fatal sense of doom hanging figuratively over our heads every moment of the day.  No joy was untainted by the underlying terror.  

So yes,  I know what it is like to live in terror, the terror of innocents being senselessly attacked and annihilated by a merciless enemy from without.   I am not unsympathetic to those who live in terror of another 9/11.  But I will tell you this:  if we are so terrified of foreign enemies that we willingly give up every semblance of privacy and freedom we have historically enjoyed as U.S. citizens, if we cheerfully submit to being photographed, tracked, monitored and spied upon, in every facet of our daily lives, then we have, in my opinion, already lost the War on Terror.

That old saw about freedom not being free is actually true. The cost of freedom is, perhaps, a precarious sense of uncertainty, life without a 100 percent guarantee of physical safety.

 But, on the other hand, it is an uncomfortable truth that life is ultimately not safe for anyone, even under the best of circumstances.  The nature of life is and always has been perilous.  We all die; of that alone, we can be certain.   

As for myself, I prefer the perilous State of Freedom over the cocooned predictability and illusory 'safety' of the Totalitarian State, where Big Brother, the N.S.A., F.B.I. and a host of other government surveillance apparatuses industriously sweep up and pore over my thoughts, speech, actions and movements.

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