The Current Occupant of the White House (I refuse to call this man president) and his advisors continue to claim that we live in the freest country on the planet. Is that true? And what would our ancestors think of the freedom we do have?
We do accept certain limitations on our actions. Most of us obey the speed limit (most of the time), keep most of our clothes on (most of the time and this time of year it’s a necessity) keep certain “recreational activities” indoors where they won’t upset the neighbors and scare the livestock and most of us accept that walking down the middle of a busy freeway at high noon in our birthday suits is probably Not A Good Idea.
But, what of the freedoms that we do seem to have?
The freedom to what the current administration attempt to politicize justice in this country. Claims of voter fraud seem to translate as try to make sure the other party doesn’t win. Competent US attorneys are forced out and replaced with yes men and party hacks.
Voter lists in key states have been purged of minority voters under the guise of making sure that voters with felony records can’t cast a vote.
Precincts in at least one key state, Iowa, had more voting machines in suburban precincts than they needed and not enough in inner city precincts that were expected to vote democratic. And enough of the machines didn’t work that potential voters stood in line for hours only to be told to “go home, we’re closing the polls.”
The freedom to be a minority voter in rural Texas and find a sheriffs’ cruiser parked near the polls on election day. That little tit bit was in one of Molly Ivins last columns. A hundred and forty years since the end of the Civil War and more than a generation since civil rights and voting rights bills were passed by Congress and signed by earlier presidents and there are still parts of the country where it isn’t safe for minority voters to exercise the most basic right of citizenship. Oregon’s vote by mail looks better all the time. And I just had a really nasty thought. There’s been talk of privatizing mail delivery. You can’t tell the race of a voter from the envelope the mail in ballot is in, but there are parts of the country where you can infer it from the mailing address. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
The freedom to watch contamination spread from the meat supply to farm produce. Those of us who have switched to a largely vegetable diet to avoid contaminated meat and fish get caught in a double bind. Just treat everything as if you’re in a third world country and either cook it or wash it very well. But what happens when one of our freedoms comes to include paying increasingly high prices for clean water?
The freedom to pay low prices for products so poorly made you have to replace them twice as often.
The freedom to watch the contractors that produce these shoddy products move from country to country in search of increasingly cheaper workers while American workers who produced products you’d be proud to own lose their jobs.
The freedom to discover that certain corporations deliberately steer their low paid help to emergency rooms and Medicaid for their care while either offering no insurance or pricing it so high that their employees can’t afford. In other words, we’re subsidizing part of their labor costs with our taxes and insurance premiums while they reap the profit.
The freedom to be herded into “free speech” zones in the name of security whenever our elected hired help comes to town
The freedom to vote for whichever candidate the moneychangers figure they can get the best deal from.
The freedom to attend the church of your choice but discover that only certain groups appear to have a pipeline to the elected hired help.
The freedom to watch the religious right tail wag the political dog.
The freedom to vote for the Democrat or Republican of your choice. There wasn’t much the 2005 session of Oregon legislature could agree on, but they did agree on this, by the time they were done is was much harder for a third party or independent candidate to get on the ballot.
I guess I could go on until I ran out of room but I think I’ve drawn a pretty clear picture. I’m not feeling very free right now, is anyone else?