Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 7, 2013

Fred Goldenberg: Freedom, Big Brother and public safety

Local columnist

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Freedom isn’t free.

It isn’t cheap either.

The freedoms we live with today were paid for by the blood and sacrifice of almost one and a half million men and women who have served our country with bravery and honor. Since the Revolutionary War, men and women have marched off to do battle to secure our freedom only to never to return to those who loved them. Yet it is through their ultimate sacrifice that we live in a nation where freedom isn’t an allusion, but a reality.

For more than 200 years, we’ve maintained these freedoms through constant vigil against those who seek to shackle us in both mind and body. This vigil is maintained by people who hide in the shadows and keep a careful watch like a shepherd watching over his flock. I’m not talking about our elected officials whose blustering and posturing fill the 24-hour news channels. I’m talking about those who do the job no one else is willing to do. The men and women on the front lines of those governmental agencies with initials we all know- CIA, NSA and FBI, the agencies which have made Robert Ludlum a multimillionaire and each of us an expert in espionage and counterterrorism.

Big brother is watching. Big brother must watch for us to maintain those freedoms granted to us by the Bill of Rights. There are those who disagree with this statement and believe that the government, with a capital “G,” should go away and leave us alone. That governmental oversight is an obstruction to our rights, yet it is because we have government oversight that we’ve maintained our freedom for so long.

I know it’s confusing. How can we be free if there is always someone watching over our shoulder? Is there really freedom when our phone conversations, voice mails and e-mails are being scrutinized by thousands of computers and analysts daily? In a word: yes.

When the next marathon is run through Traverse City, I want to feel secure in the knowledge that no one is going to repeat the horrors of Boston. If that means that someone at the National Security Agency is following up on a voice mail that had the seven or ten key trigger words in it to make sure that doesn’t happen, then I’m all in favor.

I know that there are many of you reading this who can’t believe that my progressive stance would accept such intrusions into my personal freedom. Well, believe it or not, I also think fluoridation of water is good. It has saved hundreds of thousands in dental bills by reducing cavities. I believe that banning smoking in restaurants and bars is fantastic for both health and financial reasons. I believe the Supreme Court in striking down DOMA and Prop 8 truly showed what personal freedom is all about. I believe that the health insurance mandate didn’t go far enough, and I believe that if you know the proclivity of certain people to hate the United States and wish to see our way of life destroyed, then paying close attention to them is mandatory — inside our borders as well as outside.

Edward Snowden is one who didn’t get it. He used the freedoms granted to us to insist we are really not receiving them as promised. In reality, he only stated the obvious. He publicly espoused what we all know and talk about in private. Big Brother is alive and well and that the majority, the vast majority, of us are willing to let Big Brother do its thing so we can catch the bad guys. Mr. Snowden doesn’t get it. Our system works because we understand the limitations of freedom. We know that being willing to sacrifice some aspects of freedom for the “Good of the People” ultimately makes our core freedoms stronger.

And now he sits in a Russian airport, requesting political asylum, in a country where freedom is an illusion. It is a place where neighbor turns on neighbor and voices of dissidents are silenced. Where Big Brother listens just to listen and has been doing so forever. All I can say to Mr. Snowden is that although “Freedom isn’t Free,” I’ll take our brand any day.

Fred L. Goldenberg is a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and the owner of Senior Benefit Solutions, LLC, a patient and consumer advocacy and financial services organization in Traverse City. Questions or comments about this column or other senior issues can be directed to (231) 922-1010 or