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What price freedom?

Congress's recent deliberations on the Coast Guard and its role in Homeland Security illustrate the very fine line we must now tread between safety, common sense, and being held hostage by our ears. We believe increasing the Coast Guard's involvement in Homeland Security is not only a good idea, but necessary and inevitable. But the proponents of the plan seemed a little too vague when they tried to estimate how much time the Coast Guard would redistribute from its former duties to its new ones, and exactly which old duties would be curtailed. Is the time spent on non-defense activities 60 or 80 percent?

It depends on whom you ask.

Living close to the Gulf, we are all too aware of those jobs the Coast Guard does that do not immediately involve homeland defense – assisting in law enforcement, rescuing wayward sailors, helping out in times of hurricanes or other emergencies. While we understand the essential value of the Coast Guard in monitoring traffic in and out of US waters, we sincerely hope they will be there when needed for non-military emergencies, as they always have been.

September 11 proved that our security was too lax and we have made heroic efforts to overcome that oversight. For the first time in our generation, we were attacked on home soil and the casualties were everyday people, our sense of security, and our pride. We need to become more vigilant - but not at the cost of the very freedom we are trying to protect. We have had our closest encounter with the terrorism wolves of war, and with the White House crying wolf on a weekly basis,

we see tooth and fang in every shadow. This constant, on-edge vigilance can save us - or destroy us by creating a trigger-happy nation, or a complacent one that no longer hears the warnings after they have been cried too often.

We can live in our new, and terribly changed world without living in constant fear, but to do so, we must know that some of those ordinary safety measures are there, the ones we had in place before September 11 - like the Coast Guard.