When you think of the words Freedom and Liberty, what does it bring to mind? Do you think of the Founding Fathers and the documents they wrote? What about today? If a person says those words over and over, who do you think they are and what are they for? More than likely you’ll be thinking of the Freedom Caucus or one of the various hard right wing groups that claim to be for Liberty. The right wing has stolen the message of our founders regarding Freedom and Liberty and this 4th of July I aim to try to take some of it back.
Harvey Kaye has said that the language of “Freedom and Liberty” has taken on many shifting meanings and definitions through our history of political discourse. Even today I’ve seen the Freedom and Liberty angle used to defend removing the Civil Rights Act, because it impinges upon the freedom business owners to not serve people they don’t like. Even defense of Citizens United gets framed in that rhetoric.
The problem is it’s a sham. It’s McDonald’s selling you on their healthful beef patties, russet potatoes, and sparkler waving coca-cola. You’re being marketed to. “Freedom and Liberty” are just the buzzwords of the billionaire class who want to you to sign yours away. Because their Freedom, their Liberty is all that matters.
Everytime you go to bat for the ultra-wealthy and claim that taxation harms you, you’re saying that you’ll be able to afford the costs of society on your own. You won’t. Not nearly enough of us make enough. Not in a world where 5 men have as much wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion people.
What no taxes gives the America that doesn’t count in -illions, is a downward spiral of exponentially worsening public services. Your roads are graced with the Freedom of axle wrecking potholes. Your water gives your family the Liberty to get brain damage from lead poisoning. You get the Freedom to transport your children further and further to ever more over-packed schools. Your purchase of Liberty Cabbage or any food becomes a dance to avoid E. Coli and other foodborne pathogens that the FDA test for. You get the Freedom to pay ever increasing medical costs to middle men who do nothing but extract your hard earned cash or you die. Your environment becomes so encrusted with Liberty that you dare not explore the regions beyond your neighborhood. But you got “Freedom and Liberty” right?
All Freedom is for the mass of Americans, is the Liberty to make an extra $200 bucks or so a paycheck while the ultra wealthy use their means to live lives of historic luxury and privilege. I reject that previous sentence. Every single bit of it. Anyone who values living in America should.
During the Great Depression FDR spelled out the 4 Freedoms. One of them being the Freedom from Want. This is the Freedom we must redefine and reclaim from the Right wing. No matter their label, the “Freedom” the Right espouses is simply the McFreedom mentioned previously. It’s the appearance of “Freedom” for the masses but the pure and unaltered Liberty for the wealthy to do as they wish without any oversight from the public. It’s concern trolling. It’s “Freedom” for the Oligarch class to have more than any other humans in history while you get crumbs.
This independence day: Blow stuff up if you want; Drink some beer if you want (Don’t drive); Take Freedom back from those that abuse the word and subvert the meaning. Toss McFreedom in the trash.