Although many Americans are worried about the idea that we might lose our liberties because of the war on terror, it does not seem likely that this will happen. We have faced dangers that seemed to be graver in the past without having lost our freedoms and so there is no reason to believe that we will lose them today.
In the 1950s, we faced a threat that was at least as great (at least in people’s minds) as the threat posed by terrorism. At that time, there was a strong fear of communism and this fear was even more widespread than the fear of terrorism is today. Rightly or wrongly, we in the US today only real fear terrorism from a relatively small group of Muslim extremists. In the 1950s, by contrast, people felt that anyone could potentially be a communist. This is why there was the desire to have teachers sign loyalty oaths and to blacklist Hollywood types who might be communists.
Today, we are more suspicious of the government than we were in the 1950s. Many people would be much more reluctant to give up their rights than people were in the ‘50s. This combination should reassure us. We are more resistant to government taking our rights away and the threat of terrorism does not require the same sort of domestic vigilance that the threat of communism did. Therefore, it seems unlikely that we will lose our democratic freedoms now when we did not lose them 60 years ago under worse circumstances.