Is This “Freedom” or Were We Duped in Grade School?

fairlane1329.jpg

 

Freedom

flag3.jpgAmericans love to talk about “Freedom”. We honestly believe we are “Free,” and we take advantage of any situation in which we are able to enlighten others about the numerous “freedoms” enjoyed exclusively by Americans: air conditioning, nice clothes, indoor plumbing, 24/7 convenience stores, millions of miles of roads, two cars in every driveway, “Free Speech and Expression” on and on ad infinitum.

Personally, I often associate the concept of “American Freedom” with the reality that we have a lot more “Stuff” than any other country on earth. The reason being, is when I hear Americans speak about “Freedom” most end up mentioning all of the “Things” we have that other countries do not.

We are surrounded by our stuff. We almost worship it, and many Americans attribute actual worth, aside from dollar value, to inanimate objects. (This is a very Western concept for sure). I’m sitting in my dad’s living room, my daughter and I are house sitting, and they have tables dedicated to the sole purpose of holding “Stuff”.

Within ten feet of me sit five tables. One is holding a vase with flowers, another has a candle and a little decorative box, in the right corner a vase and a glazed pottery bowl, the center table holds several photo albums and another decorative vase, and then to my immediate left the printer sits on an antique table whose creator I’m sure never imagined the idea of a “Printer/Copy Machine/Scanner”. I won’t even get into the art work and photos on the wall, the six different lamps, one of the three stereo systems in the house, toys for my daughter and niece, the gas fireplace, or the various stuffed chairs, the small sofas, volumes of books, etc etc.

Americans love their Stuff, there is no doubt about it. But does having a lot of “Stuff” mean you are “Free” or does it mean you simply have too much money? “Well, of course fairlane, if we have a lot of disposable income that means we are free.” I see. Money is what makes us “Free”. We do have a lot of money. Even many of our poor wear $150 pairs of shoes. “Money is Freedom”. Sounds like something out of “1984”.

I’m not buying it.

“Come on fairlane, if you didn’t live in a ‘Free’ country you wouldn’t be able to write the crazy shit you do, including a post questioning the idea of ‘Freedom’.” This is true, for the most part.

After all, I get to curse; “fuck”, “shit”, “son of a bitch”. (My soul feels cleansed and “Free”). But am I truly “Free” to say what I want? What if I sent George W. Bush a letter that said:

Dear George Bush,

You sir, are a fuck. Your head is filled with shit, and I can’t wait for you to leave the White House you son of a bitch.

Sincerely,

fairlane

You think the Secret Service or FBI might do a little “Research” on this character known as “fairlane”? And what if they find something “Suspicious”? (Not that they would). And what if they decide to send me to Guantanamo Bay? After all, they currently possess the power to detain American citizens at their discretion. In fact, the Federal Government currently has the same power the Gestapo did in Nazi Germany.

What if instead of just cursing at Bush I said:

Dear George Bush,

I think the terrorists are no different than the “Fundamentalist Christians” you supportjack-and-diane.jpg here in the United States. The only thing that separates you from them is technology. You have smart bombs, stealth fighters, and cruise missiles at your disposal. But in the end you are every bit as much a terrorist as Osama Bin Laden, if not worse.

Of course when you die, there won’t be any “Virgins” waiting for you in Heaven because everyone knows “Fundamentalist” women are all a bunch of sluts, and not one of them makes it past the age of 12 still a virgin. But I imagine that’s fine with you considering you can’t relate to anyone over the age of 12 anyway.

Sincerely,

fairlane

P.S.

I know you are secretly “queer” and that you and Rove hold hands underneath the table during staff meetings. You were also in a Fraternity and a Male Cheerleader which are two of the three characteristics of the “Triad of Gay Dogness”. The other of course is being a Republican.

How long do you think it would take the Gestapo to get to my house?

Agent 7: Code Orange! The Fag is outta the bag. I repeat, the Fag is outta the Bag!! This is not a Drill!

Can we really say whatever we want? I don’t think so.

Many years ago Dimstar and I were at a Parade here in Louisville. (The Pegasus Parade which leads up to the Kentucky Derby). At the time, Wallace Wilkinson was our Governor. Wally was cut from the same mold as Bush, a total Fucking criminal. He even had supposed ties to the Mafia.

Well, Dimstar and I, being the “Patriots” we are, booed our Criminal Governor as he passed. We maybe got two or three good boos out before one of our ever so friendly Louisville Police Officers told us, “Shut your mouths or I’ll arrest your asses.”

I thought we had freedom of speech?

The truth is we can’t say whatever we want. We can say whatever we are allowed to say, and once we reach this invisible threshold the Police might “arrest our asses” or worse.

Look at Bush, protesters can’t even get within a mile of the Schmuck. And if you want to see him in person you have to pay several thousand dollars, and then sign an Oath of Loyalty.

Maybe we should say “American Freedom” (*)

(*) The U.S. government reserves the right to limit your Freedom whenever it deems it necessary.

So, are we free?

The Patriot Act granted the Federal Government tremendous power. Reps of course love to say, “Well what Freedoms have you lost because of the Patriot Act? Unless you’re a criminal you have nothing to worry about.” Really?

Recently it was reported that the FBI not only underreported its use of certain powers granted under the Patriot Act, but that also thousands of people had their information gathered illegally or unnecessarily. The FBI is now “fixing” this problem by creating new guidelines to prevent future abuses. (At this point, anyone who still listens to a Republican should have their ears removed Van Gogh style).

Here’s why I worry about the Patriot Act. We are already seeing abuses, and being the cynic I am, I always assume any malfeasance committed by our Government that we become aware of is more than likely just the tip of the iceberg. The FBI was caught, but what else are they doing we should know about? And what about all the other law enforcement agencies, what are they doing with their newly granted powers?

More importantly, it’s not what they are “doing” now; it’s what they “can” do if they so choose. How many Germans imagined what was going to happen after Hitler came into power? I imagine most Germans had no idea the Gestapo would eventually round up Germans by the thousands and send them to prisons and/or death camps. Originally they were only arresting “enemies of the state”, but over time the definition of an “enemy of the state” became broader and broader while simultaneously oversight and regulations loosened. Once this happened it was too late for Germans to say, “Hey wait a minute, we didn’t agree to this. You said………”

That’s the fear of the Patriot Act. If the Government starts rounding up people on a regular basis at that point it’s too late. And we willingly granted them this power.

The Bush Administration has pushed the boundaries farther than any Administration on record. And this creates a potentially ominous future for America because people love to push things don’t we? “So and so got away with such and such, I’m going to see if I can get away with even more.” The average American may not be able to grasp basic Math, but they can grab on with both hands to Paranoia. We love a good scapegoat and/or invisible enemy from which only the Government can save us. The next Knight in shining flannel may take Bush’s lead, and head down the same path he so disdainfully blazed for them.

I just have a hard time buying the idea we are “Free”. As a Cherokee friend of mine once said, “Nothing in America is free. It even costs money to get into a fucking state park. We own those parks that’s why they’re called ‘State Parks’.” He’s right of course nothing in America is free, not even dying.

american-flag-2a.jpg

And what if you’re poor in America?

Freedom in America is directly proportionate to your wallet size. For example, if you are poor you more than likely cannot afford a decent education for yourself or your children, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty. (“Educated” people tend to make more money). I believe this is why so many on the Right poor mouth Education because they know many of their constituents cannot afford to go to College. They convince them they wouldn’t want to go anyway because “Colleges are filled with ‘Commies’ “. And these people are more than willing to buy into it not because they necessarily believe it, but because they resent the educated. (What do many Reps call people in college? “Elitists”. Since when did going to College make you an “Elitist”? I always thought that was part of the “American Dream”).

Poverty inhibits your “Freedom” on so many levels. Poor people tend to eat unhealthy diets because they are cheaper. (Why are 10 Twinkies cheaper than 10 quality Apples?). They have less access to health care because most have no insurance, and as a result their lives are filled with health problems and their life spans tend to be shorter. (Not to mention that stress accelerates the aging process). The poor have higher infant mortality rates, and childhood illnesses. And what about the toll the stress of poverty takes on a person?

The poor are more likely to be victims of violence in and outside their homes. They are more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system and to have criminal records. The poor have higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse in their families. Poor people are at a higher risk to be murdered. All of these factors impact one’s personal “Freedom” do they not?

The poor also have less access to culture and art. I know the Right claims these things are “unnecessary” and just another part of the “elitist” world, but once again I believe this is a way to mollify their constituency, many of whom cannot afford to go to the Ballet or Symphony etc. Culture adds so much depth to a person’s life. And Art? Without Art we are not human. If nothing else it exposes people to different worlds, different ideas and expressions of the human experience. So what do Reps do? They try to limit the Arts by cutting funding and trying to censor it.

“Human Beings are dangerous!”

Maybe we should say “American Freedom (*) (**)”

(*) The US Government reserves the right to limit your freedom whenever it deems it necessary.
(**) Freedom is directly linked to the amount of money you have.

If we are going to have a discussion about “Freedom” we have to mention race. Race is a definite factor in the amount of “Freedom” you enjoy in America. Minorities are more likely to live in poverty, so right off the bat their freedom is limited by the consequences of poverty. Now throw in the fact they are a minority, and their “Freedom” is even more limited. Poor minorities have even shorter life spans. The average Native American lives to be 65 almost 7 years less than any other minority, and over a decade less than whites. To contrast even the poor whites in Appalachia live longer than Native Americans. (71.4 yrs)

All the risks associated with poverty increase when you are a minority. Minorities haveamerican-flag-2a.jpg even higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse. Higher probability to be involved with the Criminal Justice System. Higher drop out rates. Fewer minorities have insurance and access to adequate health care etc etc.

So we have to add another asterisk, “American Freedom (*) (**) (***)”

(*) The US Government reserves the right to limit your freedom whenever it deems it necessary
(**) Freedom is directly linked to the amount of money you have
(***) Freedom is also linked to the color of your skin

What if you’re not a minority and you’re not poor, then you’re “Free” right? I don’t know about that either. Currently myself and two of my closest friends are doing everything we can to never go back to work for others again. Why?

The average American spends 47 hours per week at their job. There are 168 hours in a week. If the average person sleeps 7 hours per night that leaves 119 hours a week we are awake. Forty percent of our waking hours are spent at our jobs. But this is deceiving.

How many people come home from work and just slough off their day at the office? Well, if you work in Social Services, as I once did, you know the answer is zero. Some days lingered for weeks depending on what happened. But what I hear from friends is this problem is not unique to Social Services. Stress from our job lingers for hours after we get home and this reality has many negative consequences on our lives and subsequently our “Freedom”.

Stress can lead to sleep disorders, and sleep deprivation is a killer, literally. Sleep deprivation increases a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke, migraines, a weakened immune system, and it greatly affects our ability to function in our lives. It affects our ability to concentrate, to perform at work (Which often leads to even longer hours to make up for our inefficiency), our ability to drive, to remember, to THINK. Sleep deprivation also affects our relationships with other people. If we are exhausted and stressed we have a hard time listening to those we love, or even caring about what they’re saying. We are less patient, less understanding, less loving. It can also lead to drug and alcohol abuse as a way to cope or compensate. Just like poverty, stress/sleep loss is a self-perpetuating cycle.

Americans often confuse quantity with quality. We think if we have “a lot” that means things are going well. “I may be exhausted, but look at my house, my car, my bank account. I’ve made it, this is Shangri-La”. In a worldwide “Quality of Life Survey” the United States ranked 13th. When I read that I was surprised. I assumed we’d be in the top 5, but we’re not even in the top 10. Yet, we’re the wealthiest most powerful nation in history. And, I thought we were the most “Free” society on Earth? Shouldn’t rich, powerful, “Free” people have the highest Quality of Life? But we don’t, and it’s obvious we don’t.

American society is a tribute to excess, and unhappiness. During the commercial breaks of “Hannity and Colmes”, America’s favorite shouting match, are ads for antacids, aspirin and Anti-depressants. Our most famous celebrities are famous for nothing. They have zero talent, zero skills, and they add nothing to the quality of our lives. Yet, we love them, we worship them out of disdain, “Thank God I’m not that dumbass.” or out of envy “God I wish my life was like that dumbass’.” Popular shows are often based on humiliating people, making them suffer and then laughing at them through the entire process. We love demagogues such as Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly et al who make a living off derision, and being divisive. We embrace unhappiness, and pay it the Big Bucks.

Is this “Freedom”? Are “Free” people miserable? I guess we have to add another asterisk.

“American Freedom (*) (**) (***) (***)

(*) The US Government reserves the right to limit you freedom whenever it deems it necessary
(**) Freedom is directly linked to the amount of money you have
(***) Freedom is also linked to the color of your skin
(****) Freedom may lead to heart disease, stroke, sleep deprivation, divorce, drug and alcohol abuse, imprisonment, unemployment, finding pleasure in other’s misery, and complete and utter unhappiness

It’s no wonder the Iraqis are resisting our attempts to “Bless” them with “American Freedom”. Look at this woman, she’s holding the flag upside down, is she celebrating “Freedom” or is she thinking, “Mama Mia’, what in the Hell did we get ourselves into?” (Sorry I don’t speak Arabic).

project1.jpg

Advertisements

~ by fairlane on September 29, 2007.

18 Responses to “Is This “Freedom” or Were We Duped in Grade School?”

  1. great post

    if you rearrange two letters in freedom (and hold back on spelling) you have — feerdom — exactly the mantra of the bush administration and where their PR campaign has been so brilliant —

    “if you are not with us, you are against us”
    “we will fight them there so they dont fight them here”

    you said:
    American society is a tribute to excess, and unhappiness.

    one thing we fear MORE than losing any of that is death — we will trade ANYTHING, including freedom, rational thought and tolerance so we can continue living to put down/idolize people like Coulter, Rush and Paris. and throw on top of all this is that we are the most fucking judgmental society ever created — who the fuck are we to tell the Iraqis (or any other nation) that they have to have a democracy? Our democracy (which includes 50,000,000 uninsured people and a huge swath of society that demonizes anyone that doesnt kiss the feet of their god) is SO great that we have to force it down the throats of everyone else.

    but in the end it comes down to things, getting things and getting things EASY —- i think it was 476 AD when the Roman Empire finally collapsed on its own weight.

    fear and arrogance — two charming attributes. If there is a higher being looking down on this planet he has to be saying — “what have I done on the Western side of the Atlantic” (this being has a map Miss South Carolina)

  2. Have you read Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom? He talks about different types of freedom.. Some being freedom from government, others freedom from want, etc., and looking at economic development (domestic or abroad) as not just money (ie ability to buy stuff) as enhanvement of those freedoms… Cheers!

  3. Money is a cruel task master. The more stuff you come to possess the more you need to possess. It’s a vicious cycle.
    There is an old saying that, “The more you earn, the more you spend”. Unfortunately it is true and as Americans we have become dependent upon a lavish and luxurious lifestyle. Even the poor in America, compared to the lifestyle of poor in other Countries around the world.
    Yet when we speak of freedom we need to peel back this misconception of freedom being the things we have. Our freedoms originate from the things the Government does not have. Things like the ability to imprison people with out trial, the ability to limit movement between states.
    Our rights as Americans have been under attack for several generations now and we have done nothing to prevent it. We need to stand as a people or we won’t be allowed to. Think a smoking ban is good for everyone in your hometown? I don’t smoke and never have but it is a weakening of our individual freedoms to allow the government to ban smoking. Even if it is in the best interest of the individual citizen, banning his/her right to choose weather or not to smoke and where is a weakening of all our rights.
    Shit, I started to ramble.

  4. Great post. One of the reasons that I feel more “free” than a lot of people is that I have “freed” myself from materialism. I simply do not want more “stuff” (well, except rafting gear), and I’m quite content to only have what I need. Such a minimalist approach to life leaves me free to enjoy the simple gift of being alive on such a beautiful planet (great sunrise this morning).
    As to speech, I continue to say the things I believe, and if they want to try to lock me up for it, so be it. I know that they can, but I am not afraid. Since I will only be on this planet for a lifetime, I plan to take advantage of it. Besides, if they lock up all of us who speak out, who’d buy all that crap from Wal-Mart?

  5. Good essay and great build on the asterisks!

    Yes, freedom in some northern countries, even Canada (though our current dickweeds in power are ruining it), means some sense of social justice. Our boring slogan is ‘peace, order and good government’.

    Somehow in America, people are buying the ‘we are the best’ and ‘everyone envies us’ mythology. I think that the fairlanes of the country are awake and making some noise. Too bad not many journalists are…I don’t know what’s happening in schools.

    Keep it up.

  6. Wow, Fairlane, where to begin? You make so many good points.

    I remember my Comparative Government professor (we called him the Mad Ukrainian because he was from the Ukraine and, by American standards, quite “mad,” which most of us recognized as a good thing) used to say: “Virtually every country in the world guarantees freedom OF speech. It’s freedom AFTER speech that’s a problem.”

    We are slaves to material things. People judge you by the amount of material things you possess. Do you wear the right clothes? Drive the right car? Are you sufficiently superficial? Do you hate yourself enough to be one of us?

    Just this week, a student announced loudly and proudly in my class that he didn’t feel a bit sorry for “poor people” who don’t have enough food. “They made their choices,” he said. “And the children?” I prompted. “Well, that’s the parents’ responsibility,” was the answer. “Not mine.” I was on the verge of point out that it’s easy to make that kind of judgment sitting in a chair in a private university that costs $25,000 year to attend. But, then I remembered where my paycheck comes from, and not wishing to join the ranks of those sans food, I thought better of it. Instead, I asked him if he’d heard of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” and asked what he thought about eating the babies of the poor, a real win-win situation…. (Note to self: take Xanax and a shot of Disaronno before leaving house. Drink an ale in the car on the way….) I did say to the class that I thought people who would let other humans, including children, starve are creepy.

  7. Fantastic Post ! Those who believe we are free are deeply truly deluded and woefully unformed about the facts of life here in corrupt greedy , war mongering empire known as america. Its downhill from here, before it will ever get any better..and its not gonna be pretty at all.

  8. Excellent rant, Fairlane. In the years before he died Carl Jung was very concerned about the dark side of our consciousness manifesting to a greater degree in consensus reality – something we’ve been witnessing all our adult lives and with increasing trepidation.

  9. See Fairlane, this is why you blog. That was just one of the best posts I have read in a long time.

    A totally free society would lead to anarchy. What society generally accepts as freedom is actually mutually accepted restrictions.

  10. Great post, Fairlane. You know, when the Supreme Court said that money = speech, they were setting up the proposition that the more money you have, the more (protected) speech you have. That and giving corporations personhood are the two major fuck yous to our Constitution that the Supreme Court has delivered in the last hundred years. Oh, and Bush v. Gore, can’t forget that. Thank you for this post.

  11. Very nice!

  12. Wow!!

  13. Excellent post. As the song goes, “Freedom is another word for nothing left to lose” — so it stands to reason the more “things” we have, the less free we are. And your other asterisks are very true. I think you’re right that our freedoms are gradually slipping away without us noticing it, because many of the things Bush & Co. do don’t even get noticed by the population, since most Americans are too busy paying attention to the latest thing Britney Spears or Paris Hilton did to notice.

  14. How much does all that stuff cost?

  15. “What if you’re not a minority and you’re not poor, then you’re “Free” right? I don’t know about that either.”
    That may be the only place the government isn’t color blind and prejudiced. That group gets no more freedoms than do the poor minorities. They just think they do, as you said, because of the accumulation of “stuff.”

    “But in the end you are every bit as much a terrorist as Osama Bin Laden, if not worse.”
    Realizing that much, at least gives you the freedom, if only mentally, to fight for more freedom.

  16. You said it all so I can add nothing to it. But I will say, that I’ve never had a job in my life and my last business was very successful until Hurricane Katrina. I am currently trying to find like minded people that want out of this matrix. there is a way. and if we work together, we can have “more with less”.

    Khazeem
    prpamerica.blogspot.com

  17. The “stuff” you collect begins to own you anyway. That would be true even if Bernie Sanders was President. Better to save what you can. The simpler you live the fewer problems you have.

    But speaking as someone who left, there are a few things everybody should be aware of. These folks are very much NOT fooling around. You must understand that. The chances are that of, let’s say, 30 of Fairlane’s regular readers, 2 will at some point have to made a radical choice about their lives because something about that life is unpalatable to your government. It won’t be blogging; that’s something to enjoy not worry about. It’ll be your work, or what you choose to do with your body, or the people you choose as your friends, something like that. The more left-wing ranting on blogs there is the more money the companies that own the rights to WordPress and Blogger make.

    Here’s a myth that needs shredding right now. There is no cabla of Straight Rich White Men who are oppressing you. THEY DON’T KNOW YOU EXIST AND THEY DON’T CARE. It’s a fun little fantasy that such a viewpoint of this conspiracy is keeping you down. I’m glad I was disabused of the notion at age 10 or so. These SRWM villains have all the same problems you do except with better means to take care of needs. Who’s freer now? Any of you or Duke Cunningham? And he WAS kind of an oppressor. Ordinary businesspeople and financiers don’t want to enslave you or tell you what you can and can’t do! And they are just as afraid of the government as you are. Oh I suppose some worry from time to time that some coalition of do-gooder liberals and Black church types will join forces with the Religious Right on some issue that will impede their livelihood. Maybe. That myth is as toxic as this one….

    …that you have to be scared of young Black men. Again, THEY DON’T FUCKING THINK ABOUT YOU OR CARE ABOUT YOU OR KNOW YOU EXIST. You are an irrelevancy. Just think it over for a second, unless you think Black people are inherently stupid and can’t reason through things, what sense would it make for any young Black man to cause a middle-class White person problems? That’s certain prison time and for what? A wallet. A watch. Your daughter. Please. You have so much more to fear from getting caught up in the system. Or getting into a car accident. Or getting sick.

    I’d say the most reasonable approach to take is to figure that you live in about the 30-40th freeest country on earth. You are not LIKELY to have problems with you government, but you are a lot MORE likely today then you were 10 years ago.

    Get a passport. Save some money. Oh, this whole hating Mexicans thing is also a total sleight of hand. Don’t buy into it. Mexicans don’t think so highly of you either but they do what needs must.

    I’m happy to be looking at America from the outside but even with money, making big life changes in a hurry is at its mellowest a monster pain in the ass.

    Just keep reminding yourself every day that Bill Clinton was President not so long ago and since that time a truly scary government entity call THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY came into existence and will never go away.

  18. To contrast even the poor whites in Appalachia live longer than Native Americans. (71.4 yrs)

    Poor white Appalachian here. I’m looking for the WWW clampdown anyday. I think they’re just too busy with their staffing problems and killing people right now.

    Man. That was the best blog entry I’ve read in a long time! Well done.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: