Goodbye, Freedom

April 24, 1995|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGON — Washington. -- The mad-dog murderers who snuffed out the lives of scores of children and other human beings in the Oklahoma City bombing have also darkened the horizons of freedom as we have known it.

We now know that the political zealots and the sickly aggrieved can and will strike anywhere at any time; and our response will be to lay on more ''intelligence'' efforts, to buy more metal detectors, to put up more barricades that keep us farther from the places where our government officials do our business, or where we work, or where we watch a football game. Our diminished privacy rights will vanish more, and those of us who look ''suspicious'' or ''different'' will face more challenges to our right to someplace . . . or just be.

We will now tolerate new curbs on liberty because fear always dominates where peril is great. But we will still ask why Japan is suffering poison-gas attacks, why we are experiencing bombings, and why the level of terrorism is escalating everywhere on earth.

Has the nature of mankind changed, embracing a greater level of bestiality? I doubt that. History shows that from the beginning of man we have had myriad butchers and murderers who killed singly and en masse.

I do believe, though, that conflicts and changes are such now that the world, the U.S. included, is populated by more deranged people, more individuals and sects and groups that are insanely alienated from the rest of society. And the insane find it easier to secure or build the weapons that make life a potential horror for everyone else.

Think of how many stories you have read recently of a disgruntled former worker taking a pistol or an assault weapon into a post office, a corporate office or a schoolroom and shooting down former associates.

New technology has delivered to us not just the technology of atomic bombs and scud missiles. It has made it possible for a maniac to go to a gardening center and buy fertilizer, a gasoline station for flammable liquid, and a military base or a commercial supplier to get an explosive device. That madman can then build a car bomb capable of causing the level of death and destruction that we have seen in Oklahoma City.

It is horrifying to think that fanatic amateurs can easily make a deadly gas such as sarin, which was used on a subway in Japan.

People trying to protect themselves from modern mass killers are not much inclined to let a Bill of Rights or a Constitution stand in their way.

So the priority in most American minds now is to find and punish the Oklahoma City killers, and then to restructure our way of life to ensure that such a deadly act of horror cannot again be perpetrated. A concomitant tragedy is that we will find that we can wipe out most personal liberties and impose a thousand draconian restrictions and never make ourselves totally invulnerable to the terrorists around us.

So we must move without panic, stepping delicately around the tender flowers of freedom, as we try to stamp out the noxious weeds of insane violence and callous terrorism. Can we negotiate that steady a walk?

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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