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How does Guantanamo undermine our values?

President Barack Obama speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, to discuss the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Obama administration released its long-awaited plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer remaining detainees to a facility in the United States. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)On Tuesday, President Obama announced his plans to shut down the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Speaking from the White House, underneath a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt, who signed the Guantanamo Bay deal 113 years to the day, Obama offered a four-pronged approach to the shut down.

Of the estimated ninety-one detainees still left, the plan calls for the transfer of thirty-five detainees to foreign countries. Of the approximately fifty-six remaining, the president recommended conducting reviews to see if detention is still necessary. If detention is still necessary, President Obama's plan recommends using preexisting legal tools to deal with the remaining detainees. And the final component, and arguably the most controversial, President Obama said he would work with Congress to establish a location in the U.S. to hold and house those detainees who will not go to foreign countries.

Officials are considering thirteen different locations, with seven in existing prison facilities. Such facilities include Colorado, South Carolina, and Kansas. Another seven facilities exist within military bases. But does moving the detainees solve the problem or just relocate the problem?

Three themes emerged as to why President Obama wants to shut down Guantánamo. First, it is costly. Estimates indicate that it takes $85 million to operate per year. To put this number into perspective, Americans spend $66 million per year on tattoo removal. The proposed governmental budget for the 2017 fiscal year would top $4 trillion.

It is costly both financially and relationally. President Obama cited how terrorist organizations use the facility as a tool for recruiting. Its presence endangers support among our enemies. Some, however, dispute this claim. The Brookings Institute conducted a study of jihadist propaganda in 2015. They found that terrorist groups rarely used it as a propaganda tool, and much less frequently than they used to. More often, the facility was used to "exalt the sacrifices of captured and martyred terrorists more than, say, to critique U.S. detention policy."

Finally, President Obama found that Guantánamo Bay is more an indictment on us than a punishment for them. "It has been clear that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay does not advance our national security; it undermines it," Obama said. "Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values; it undermines our standing in the world."

This raises an interesting question. What are our values? What do we as society hold up as true, good, and beautiful? What do we celebrate when accentuated and mourn when lost?

Vanderbilt University professor Vanessa Beasley found that it depends upon your political party. One side of the aisle tends to emphasize family and faith values when campaigning, while the other side values economic equality and the chance for everyone to get a fair shot.

But these differentiations in values are undergirded by freedom. The freedom to do whatever one wants, whenever one wants, and however one wants it done—whether in the marketplace or at the dinner table. But is that really freedom? Or is that a faux freedom where you appear to do whatever you want, but are really enslaved to your whims and desires?

Freedom tastes like a charred hot dog with chilled mustard. It smells like gunpowder from a recently extinguished firework. It sounds like children screaming as they splash in the water, adults laughing over one another. Rich words appeal to the mind but more  so to the senses. Often times, this is because they are accompanied by a variety of experiences that enrich the concept. However, these experiences have the propensity to cause us to forget what the words actually mean.

Thomas Jefferson valued freedom so highly that he enshrined it within the founding documents, iterating that it is an unalienable right. Abraham Lincoln believed that it was worth pitting brother against brother, dividing a nation. And Martin Luther King Jr. understood freedom as never voluntarily given by the oppressor but demanded by the oppressed. Jefferson risked his life for freedom, Lincoln disrupted the national equilibrium for it, and King gave his life for it.

Their lives testify to the value of freedom and the truth that freedom is never free. However, they also understood like Voltaire that where immense freedom is present, great responsibility is necessary.

Perhaps it's ironic that these stalwart champions of freedom gave up a little of their freedom so that others may enjoy the fullness of it. But why were they willing to go to such lengths for freedom?

Because freedom serves as a type of yellow bricked road, paving the way for a better tomorrow than today. When freedom is present, communities thrive and truth flourishes.

All throughout history, freedom has stoked the embers of community. Eradicating the pernicious disease of loneliness, freedom allows individuals to experience the joys of community and friendship. Freedom gives people the opportunity to express their uniqueness, not just for the exercise of it, but in order to find others that share their affinities and spur them on for the greater good.

But some have sought to use their freedom to harm others, doing a detriment to the greater good. And because of that, certain freedoms have been taken away.

Hence Guantánamo Bay.

These detainees are not being punished because of what they have done, but rather being held for what they know relative to future attacks against the greater good. We value our freedom to such an extent that we are wiling to take away others' for the greater good.

Seven years ago, President Obama signed an executive order to close the detention facility. Years later, the facility remains open with an estimated ninety-one detainees and 2,000 military and civilian personnel. Now, the President is once again asking Congress for their support and the country for their sacrifice. And once again, we are being asked to think about our freedom and the freedom of others. But as always, with great freedom comes great responsibility.

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