Dolan: Enemies of freedom are within

Mike Furno

While the nation reaffirmed its values this week and the president recommitted to his war on terror, it seems that the American public has lost sight of some of the greatest threats to our freedom here at home. Sept. 11 showed us that we were vulnerable to outside attack, but there are many in the United States who suffer from a different vulnerability everyday. The enemies of freedom reside on our shores and lurk in our cities. They appear in the form of run-down public schools in poor communities, dangerous streets and community parks, little or no medical coverage and wages below the poverty line. Our country is under attack by enemies of freedom just as Bush has been telling us, but inequality and apathy threaten more lives than any future terrorist attack and are more dangerous than any Osama bin Laden.

There has been a renewed fervor in stating the pledge of allegiance or singing patriotic songs claiming we are the land of the free with justice for all.

Some of us may be free, but others who share the same land with us are not so free. On $5.15/hr, cashiers at Shoprites are not as free to buy the new Lexus SUV nor are they free to earn a fairer wage in a society that has long since forgotten how much it takes to maintain a normal life as an American citizen. There are not many freebies in the land of the free and most things here require that you make a decent wage to enjoy the perks Osama Bin Laden would rather you not have. Dare I say that ignoring the poverty of others is just as un-American as plotting the demise of American values and culture.

Poverty kills people. Poverty kills Americans everyday. Gang and drug-related violence may only take one life at a time, but over the course of a few years, the death toll is staggering. According to the 2001 Vital Statistics Report, there were about 10,972 gun related murders in the United States in 1999. That’s a rate of 30 deaths per day, and half of those are children. Why concentrate all our efforts on terrorists who only hurt us when they “get lucky” with a successful hijacking or bombing? There is a more real and dangerous threat to freedom in our midst. Surely we should fight the war on gun violence, an enemy which has been consistently killing more American citizens per year than any terrorists have been able to thus far.

A more effective policy to defend and enrich the freedom in America would be one that protects its citizens with equality and poverty initiatives. A better patriotic act would be one designed to raise new patriots in renovated and well funded public schools. Our government could inspire the American spirit within all of its people by demonstrating compassion at home rather than releasing reactionary and vengeful hostility upon the world’s have-nots. If there is one lesson to be learned from Sept. 11, it is that violence is wrong and ineffective and often a harmful solution to problems. Terrorist violence only led to our retaliation against their way of life, and our violent war effort has only led to prisoners and casualties without ever finding bin Laden or any other masterminds. If we are to reaffirm our values as Americans, then we should cease our apathy towards physical and economic violence both here and abroad and make a pledge of compassion and justice for all people.