Is This “Freedom” or Were We Duped in Grade School?
Americans 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.
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 support 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.
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.
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 have 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).