More than any other tangible freedom, I value the right to be “secure in my person.” But this phrase from the Bill of Rights’ 4th Amendment, for me, extends further than protection from government. It harkens back to the 1st Amendment guaranteeing my freedom of expression. And by expression, I mean the right to speak my mind and disagree without someone else, who might interpret disagreement as their right to “take offense” and then act upon me in a reactive, punitive, or even violent manner. As a Liberal, I use my ability to think as a way of liberating myself from the fear which comes from ignorance. Not enshrining it as some sacrosanct order to be conformed to and enforced upon others.
So what’s the link for me as I celebrate our Independence Day? It is not government tyranny I most worry about, though on the horizon I see extremism undermining the halls of our democratic republic, instead it is my celebration of the rights of thinking people of conscience to advance our society through the dialogues of constructive disagreement.
To begin with, governments are not always the problem. An accountable government protects the “little guy” against the excesses and caprices of private interests who would otherwise enforce rules or dispense “justice” as they saw fit…i.e. for themselves.
You see, when I am afraid of being beat up by some “free market patriot” or “God fearing” self righteous miscreant, who is certain they have been given sanction from on-high (either a pulpit but certainly their banker) of the necessity to be hostile or combative toward others; then my own imagination and willingness to contemplate troubling issues is stifled by the threat of intimidation. How about you? Real bravery is more than a slogan, isn’t it? Just because a person opens their mouth to say something, there is no requirement that their words be: considered, factual, or even having originated with them. For instance such dubiously noteworthy ideas like: “Obama is like Hitler,” or “evolution is just a theory”, or “America is a Christian nation.” Really, every heard of the Masons?
Usually driving that herd are sloganeers from a well oiled machine of propagandists and muckrakers’ who have combed the annals of social psychology and bled out a tincture for thought control that aims not at thinking, but at emotions. All their statements are fundamentally vague and tend to be subjective aimed right at stimulating one’s reactions, not ones reason. Oh, the advertisements will give you catchy slogans and patriotic images to insert where thinking might once have gone on, but these sound bites go down automatically like the rat getting some cheese after pressing the bar of concurrence. It is this growing mob in America, whose emotions have been fanned into an all consuming flame to believe the idea that “government = bad.” Missing the greater sleight of hand of which they are being manipulated and thus become accomplice to; they undermine the very principles which they perceive they are preserving, they become their own worst enemies. This threat is growing far more vociferous not from government quarters directly, but by those of a mindset which hates anything unlike itself, and would justify tactics of legislative repression if given access to those halls of governance. Does anyone remember the 2000 election?
“I have the right to speak my mind, but you shut up.” Or, another underlying implication is: “Constitutional rights are the same thing as my right to run my business any way I want or buy anything I want.” And of course, the rugged individualist myth underlying the American Dream is “I am free to become rich and powerful; and then I can buy all the political influence I can afford.” These distortions, misconceptions, and outright abominations of democracy have polluted the thoughts of so many, not just in America, but in places in Europe that just last century saw some of the worst totalitarian exploits in human history. Patterns that go unrecognized and unlearned will be repeated.
The class of persons fomenting these deliberate campaigns of misconception have substantial financial and/or political clout. Like a fisherman with a net, they gather large schools of closely knit groups and harvest them into a political body. These political anglers are counting on the fact that most common folk go with the group think; indeed they are banking on it! Look at a recent historic example of how this “plutocracy” carried off a successful embezzlement at the expense of the American treasury with the TARP bailout. It too was sold under an equally offensive slogan: “to big to fail.” Sadly, about half of the investors who lost money or homes in that preventable debacle, actually came away being convinced that that only way that business can proceed is with fewer criminal constraints rather than more. Unfortunately for us all, at that Tea Party, the Mad Hatters were serving Kool Aid. Allot of people partook and now feel righteous that they did.
To actually think deeply about an issue, it takes focused attention on the specific subject. America’s fascination with excitement and its addiction to entertainment keeps it thoroughly disengaged and distracted from doing so. Like a dog fixated upon a squirrel they are not seeing the oncoming car about to run them over. It also takes time to contemplate. But in spite of one BIG lie, which is repeatedly made by these same propagandists, about the lazy American needing to “work harder”, most of the lower and middle income classes are working far more hours and for relatively less pay (i.e. actual purchasing power), and under greater burdens of debt, than ever before. When not under yoke at increasingly more cutthroat or menial jobs, or encouraged to numb themselves at the udder of addictive diversions, people strive to stay one-desperate-step-ahead of exhaustion, if not outright depression. In such cases, ones motivation or willingness to question the substance of any assertion is virtually dissolved in the bath of continuous financial stress. And in a society where everything has been monetized, this effectively translates, for many, into survival itself. But to make sure that vast number of consumers (formerly citizens) are properly anesthetized and hence herded, they (our privileged power class) continue to fill any remaining cervices where thinking might happen by overwhelming us with hyperbole and installing images of vague sentiment one should be having…about whatever they say. And now, the freedom they heartily advance is their freedom to advertise. Had any spam lately? How about a robocall? But that “freedom of expression” is not based upon conscience, but upon profits. And subsequently, it is not about the right to tell your truth and participate in democracy with others; but the privilege to indulge ones greed and gather more power over others.
Today, I am grateful to have the time (which I have largely given up wealth to preserve) that I can deeply contemplate the issues of our day. My own conscience, combined with skills rigorously taught me in an era when it was more important to think critically than to think up a criticism; coax from the surface appearances of our times the deeper patterns which tie all human folly together across the centuries.
Being liberally minded does not make every utterance or decision thereof sound brilliant or be the end-all-be-all solution to every problem. No more than being conservative, has any remaining resemblance to a person who actually “conserves” anything. No, for me, to live in the United States, under the egis of a document called the Bill of Rights is to be liberated from fear. Its brilliance was its categorical recognition of the tyrannies, vices, errors, and willful stupidies of human beings. And not some Sunday school primer of a one-size-fits-all set of rules as handed down by a deity, whose versions and interpretations vary with every individual.
Today, on this Independence Day, I celebrate my good fortune to have been born a citizen of the United States of America. My religious freedom to express my “New Age” views exists, not only because of my constitutional rights, but also because my government still actually protects my assertion to have them. I also cherish this beautiful land on the central continent of North America. Its bountiful resources with its uncompromised beauty have been the source or our great expansion; but whose bounty we have often ravaged to the point of toxicity or destruction. Still and fortunately, many places like Yosemite National Park, near where I live, still exist because of the occasional enlightened foresight on the part of some governmental leader, in that case Teddy Roosevelt; and a citizen exercising their right to redress government, like John Muir; have preserved and protected a great many places for all of us to enjoy.
The fact that I risk expressing myself freely originates with a calm that descends around me knowing that in the history of our government and with the majority of her citizens, neither being perfect by any stretch; have ultimately defended the right of their peers to speak their conscience, even when it was distasteful to hear. Yet with every right we are privileged to call our own, there is a parallel and equally weighted responsibility. It is a citizens’ duty to be vigilant in the preservation and defense of those rights. And let us hope that our thinking has liberated us enough from the age old reduction to violence, that we may continue to use the ballot instead of the bullet, to initiate change. As I am open to accepting criticism I still feel relieved, at least for now, because most of our governmental bodies, with their public or private goon squads, or mobs of the self-righteous, are for the most part, restrained by custom, sanity, morality and law. Let us hope that these constraints continue to prevent any of these forces from going beyond their rightful places, and then acting upon those of conscience, with violence and impunity.
This task we undertake both independently as individuals, but also collectively as a society, as well. No one person makes a democracy. It is a joint effort: of the people, by the people, for the people.
I wish you therefore a very sovereign Inter-dependence Day!
With Love and Blessings,