I had to make a quick stop into the office this morning. Unfortunately, part of the Metro system I would have taken was closed. Fear not dear readers - this was due to weekend track work, not a lesser-reported government shutdown!
Instead of taking the shuttle that was on offer, I decided instead to walk the rest of my trip as it was nice out and as it was less than two miles (if I am being honest, I could probably use the exercise as well). On the way, and on a piece of granite in front of the National Archives I have probably passed dozens of times in a cab or else otherwise too preoccupied to notice, was a quote: "Vigilance is the price of liberty".
While it is a nice quote, and probably wouldn't look out of place on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker on a pick-up truck, I began to wonder something very simple; on whose pick-up truck?
Indeed, the quote could mean very different things to different people. To a Supreme Court justice, it could mean being vigilant in the face of unconstitutional laws. To a border patrol agent or DEA agent, it might mean being vigilant at our borders. It would have obvious implications for a Senator on an oversight committee, or a Secret Service agent or a soldier or any number of people who pass through Washington, DC on a regular basis.
However, to me it holds a special resonance simply as a citizen. In the face of NSA surveillance, drone activity, Google data collection, internet scams and everything else that could put our liberty at risk, it is particularly important that citizens remain vigilant. While there have been some signs of this in recent times, it is clear that not enough of a tax is being paid for the benefit of liberty in America today. Maybe laziness or apathy is to blame. Perhaps it is a ratings and agenda-driven media.
In any case, if the quote is to ring true, it must start, as a baseline, with the people. Otherwise its intended meaning (there are many variations and many attributions; I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that most who are presumed to have uttered the words have something in line with my meaning in mind) will become so bastardized as to be rendered irrelevant.