People across the planet don’t believe their respective governments are doing enough to combat violent extremism, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of a Washington-based think tank called the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Thus, most of the 1,000 survey respondents spread across eight nations showed that they are consumed with fear, fueled by an anxiety that they might be the targets of an imminent terrorist attack.

The survey’s results, reported in The Washington Post, point to at least four conclusions: (1) The old bromide still holds water, that bad guys in the world triumph only when good guys in the world sit back and do nothing; (2) government cannot and will not solve all problems; (3) a definite need exists for worldwide Neighborhood Watch programs and commensurate education to enhance the success of such programs, and (4) some people are so afraid that they’re willing to give up their First Amendment rights in the battle against extremism. But that is not necessary.

On that last point, why should we belligerently safeguard free speech, our right to pursue our respective religious beliefs, the expectation of our news media never to be censored, our freedom to peacefully gather for whatever reason, and our right to petition our government officials to fix what’s broke? Well, here’s why … 

Free speech exposes the bad guys. We simply have to know how to listen. We certainly don’t want to scare them out of speaking freely. Meanwhile, if you as a private citizen see something or hear something that appears to be threatening, say something to your local authorities. Don’t pound the desk to abridge free speech. And here is the key point to comprehend: If you are a law-abiding citizen and have done nothing wrong, you don’t have anything to fear.

Exercising your religious beliefs works the same way, so long as your “faith” does not involve trying to earn 29 virgins in heaven or otherwise compromising the lives and welfare of others. No harm, no foul. 

A free press goes back to the “free speech” clause. If the news media are wrong, they can be sued. Same applies for the social media. But blatant censorship is a social debit, not a coveted credit.

The freedom to peaceably assemble should remain intact, no matter what. Consider that a mass protest involving thousands of people carrying only demeaning placards is a whole lot different from an angry street mob carrying weapons and destroying property along the way.

Moreover, these days social media constitutes a new form of assembly. Like-minded people can “gather” through the Ethernet, chat rooms and Skype communication without physically assembling in one place. All types of assembly must be protected, unless its goal is the pursuit of diabolical causes that include assassination or various conspiracies aimed at disrupting the peaceful lives and welfare of others.

The bottom line goes back to something uttered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the face of what became World War II: We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Otherwise, we have the means to conquer our fears. All we need to provide is the will.

Advertisements