Nobody Said It Was Easy

American_Bald_EagleWith dual decisions looming over allowing Syrian refugees to enter the United States, and our role in the fight against ISIS, America has an opportunity to reassert itself as the Land Of The Free, Home Of The Brave.  Until we embrace our proper role as the latter, our status as the former will continue its descent from proud mantra to obvious fiction.  

As it pertains to the positions our government makes, the manner by which public officials and candidates build support for those positions, and the public’s willingness to abet this process without debate, we are not brave.  We have become a nation that runs first, and thinks later.  

Slogans don’t define a nation.  Actions determine status.   The reason our enemies routinely play us is because it’s laughably easy to do. We choose panic over bravery at every turn.  Those who wish to become the Leader of the Free World react to adversity by – reflexively surrendering American freedoms.  In the wake of the attacks in Paris, candidates for president have suggested religious registries, establishing a new government agency to promote “Judeo-Christian Values”, and increased government access to American’s phone calls.    

For their part, two dozen governors have pumped oxygen into the fire by “announcing” that they “will not allow” refugees into their states.  This accomplishes two things.  First, it sets a new standard for weakness.  Unfettered by the absolute lack of authority to effectuate any such policy, they propose a policy that will require zero effort – because it’s impossible.  And when these empty pledges inevitably fail to materialize, the tireless defenders of nothing will say “I tried”.

Second, by holding out the hollow promise of excluding Syrians from their states, these submissives reinforce the very impression that our enemies rely on to recruit.  Namely, that the United States hates Muslims.  A week after the attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande announced that France will accept 30,000 Syrian refugees over next two years.  

Where’s the American bravery?  The principle of freedom is gauged by the durability of your commitment to it when tested.  And time after time, our public officials’ first reaction to adversity is to run from freedom.  And they convince the public to go along – without a single public debate.   

Bravery requires the willingness to do hard things in frightening times.  It’s easy to promote yourself as the beacon of freedom during peacetime.  It’s the decisions during uncertain times, and the process by which those decisions are made, that define a truly free – brave – society.  Before we sign on to measures that roll back the very freedoms for which our enemies despise us, we are entitled to a serious debate on the best way to defeat ISIS.

There are those who believe that the way to prevail is with overwhelming military force, including ground troops.  There will be those who say that the countries in the Middle East that are most affected by the war should ante up.  There will be those who say that it’s necessary to refund liberties at home in order to defeat an enemy abroad.  Who is right?  Whoever has the best argument.  But that cannot be determined without a serious, public debate.  Let the public hear the arguments and weigh in.  Americans may ultimately decide that giving back certain freedoms is a fair price to pay to defeat the bloodthirsty, mass homicide machine known as ISIS. Americans may decide that ISIS can be defeated without United States citizens giving up rights.  Either way, Americans will have arrived at their respective positions in a manner worthy of the seriousness of the issues, and worthy of the ideals to which we aspire.

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Rob Kilmer, the President of You Defend It, Inc. is a lawyer with a litigation practice in upstate New York.  He hosted the “You Defend It with Rob Kilmer” radio show until 2009 and since then has produced You Defend It debates..  He worked as a guest commentator for CBS4 in Miami during the 2012 Presidential debates, and Pulitzer Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote a piece on him called: “A Solution for Loud, Empty Talk”.

Mr. Kilmer’s initiative focuses on current, divisive issues, and provides members of the public with an opportunity to witness a dignified debate, the purpose of which is to identify how people’s lives will actually be affected by the outcome of the issue being debate.  Towards that end, You Defend It debates are governed by two, simple rules: 1) each debater must directly answer the question asked; and 2) each must do so without a single reference to his or her opponent’s argument, party or (presumed) political philosophy.  In other words, each debater is expected to show up at the debate with his or her own solution – and defend it.


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