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Lady Liberty’s Pat-Down


“A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.” – George William Curtis

This month I have gone on two trips by car; one taking me south through Atlanta, across Alabama, and up to Memphis, and the other north through Virginia, to Harrisburg, PA. During these two trips through 10 states, I have seen much of what my girlfriend called “the heart of America.” From the rolling farmlands of Pennsylvania to the land of the Delta Blues, from Talladega Superspeedway to Gettysburg, Antietam, and Shenandoah; I consider myself fortunate for being able to drive through some of the most noted historical locations in our nation. There is something about watching an Amish buggy bounce down the road that seems to put things in perspective, especially in this time of fearful flying, wars, and cultural degeneration. Sunday afternoon I drove eight hours from Harrisburg back to Charlotte, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. If you have never driven up I-81, I highly encourage you to do so. Grab your spouse or friend and take off for a weekend, and discover a little Americana along the way.

So what is America/Americana, anyways? Is it a place? For example, my home…I know where that is. I know the walls, the doors, the messy refrigerator, pictures on the wall—I know what “home” is. No, I do not think that America is a place. Oh, sure, it has borders, land area and such, but borders move and topography changes. Is it the Constitution or our rights and freedoms? Certainly those help define us as a people, but any nation could adopt our Constitution and grant their people the same rights and liberties. Would that make them “American”? No, it would not. How about people? Yes, people are certainly America. A people stitched together with the threads of history; bound to each other through community, shared freedoms, and a sense of “us.” You and I are America. Much like the idea of true freedom, it lies within us, regardless of our surroundings.

What saddens me is that over the years, through apologetic, revisionist history, segregated communities, and stifled freedoms, we have lost a lot of the handiwork that made us American. Sometimes I feel like we are the cheap, synthetic imitation of America. Yes, we believe in free-market economics, but not in times of economic trepidation (in that case, bail ‘em out). Yes, we believe in free speech, but only if it’s PC (and not conservative talk, either, lest we pull your website or take you off the air). We believe in the right to bear arms, but not those arms or those arms (in fact, we’d appreciate it if you’d just stick to a .22 rifle and plink some tin cans).

I fear we have satiated ourselves eating a McDonalds burger, not knowing that we could have a Del Frisco’s ribeye instead. We did not get here overnight; it was not the actions of a single President or administration. It was not one terrorist attack, nor one stock market bubble. It was a constant erosion of America, because we were apathetic. We were in a hurry. We were under attack. We were fearful. And so we wrote a blank check to the government and said, “Please take this responsibility. Make this easier. Make everything the way it used to be.” But there is no going back, and there is no going home again.

“He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.” – Ben Franklin

Reactions to the new TSA policies are an interesting barometer of the perspectives of Americans. There seem to be two main camps:  “This is a dangerous world, and whatever the government needs to do to keep us safe is okay” and “Don’t touch my junk.” I understand the former, but I am a believer in the latter. I understand why people are willing to submit to virtual strip searches and invasive pat-downs. They have become conditioned to: 1) not resist authority, and 2) believe that it’s all in the name of “safety.”

You see, you can get away with a lot in America in the name of safety and security. Just look at hand sanitizer sales, food recalls, child safety features, and a host of other actions we take and devices we use all in the name of safety and security. It is as if we are afraid of life itself. What a lot of people do not understand are the long-term effects of allowing the TSA such broad powers. First they scan and grope at the airports, then subways and mass transit. After all, it’s all in the name of your security, Citizen. But then there is always the threat of car bombs, so tighter restrictions are made for car ownership and road travel.

Think it will not/cannot happen? History is filled with examples: Germany, Italy, Russia, Ireland…and those are just from the last century. So while I understand people’s desire to fly safely, I am concerned about the ramifications of trading a little temporary security for some of our essential liberty. It is a lot easier to draw the line in the sand now, rather than later, when we have to provide papers just to travel along the interstate. Now, I do not think that there is a conclave of old men, shrouded in black robes, wishing to control Americans; however I absolutely believe there are people in government so fearful of another attack, a financial meltdown, or unknown threats that they are willing to do anything to feel protected. They are no different than most Americans—except that they write the laws and set the policies.

“An agreeable village, in a damned rebellious country.” – Lord Cornwallis

Americans have long had a history of resistance to oppression and authoritarian rule; it is in our blood, our history, it is a part of that fabric which binds Americans. We are seeing more of that resistance today. We must take our stands at every opportunity, even at the expense of our own time or resources. It may take longer to “opt-out,” but we must. It may take time to write emails to members of the Senate against Senate Bill 510, but we must. Every policy, every bill, every action must be scrutinized, tested and, if necessary, resisted. Because we as Americans – the very keepers of America – are the only ones who will. If the Great Experiment fails, it will be because we allowed it. We can never go back to 1999, but we can ensure that we do not go forward to 1984. Not on our watch.

As we hustle and bustle over the next few days with Thanksgiving, family, football, and Black Friday shopping, let us think for a moment about our families, our genealogies, and our own stories. The events of the past, and of our lives, have shaped us and molded us to be exactly where we are right now. We live in a troubling time, filled with uncertainty and doubt. Yet you and I are here now, for a purpose, and that is empowering. You are needed right now. Lady Liberty and your countrymen are calling on you to keep America – keep it free, keep it healthy, keep it a beacon of equality, justice, and liberty. Keep it, and you will earn the eternal thanks of a nation.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Matthew Ridenhour is a leader of the local Tea Party, but writes as a private citizen. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Tea Party at-large.

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