Friday, July 04, 2008

Freedom: There's a Concept

The Fourth...the phrase is Independence Day, but like most Americans, I commingle that with freedom, with liberty. It may originally meant independence from the rule of the British crown, but the ensuing war was for the freedoms in our constitution, including its bill of rights.

The 2008 version is not that at all. Our anti-liberty and increasingly oppressive executive branch both in stealth and in sunlight strips us of our freedoms. Our constitutional rights to free speech, free assembly and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure are disregarded at the caprice of administration officials and clandestine agencies.

In our post-9/11 panic and re-panics, too many of us and too many of our judges have permitted this, deafened to reason by the claims that we must obey or fall to terrorists. Many have noted that we willing have ceded our liberties in the aim of keeping our liberties.

Distressingly, the Congress of Capons, including both presumptive major-party nominees, have funded and otherwise supported the spying, a wrong war (while diverting from the effort we should be making in Afghanistan). We count the costs in thousands of American lives, tens of thousands of maimed soldiers, and well over a trillion dollars. Along the way, our dollar and entire economy stank and sank without our gaining any level of security.

I have long held here Americans largely group on opposite sides of a political and emotional canyon. The love-it-or-leave-it types just need to hear clearly what to do and believe. The love-it-and-make-it-better sorts won't contend that losing our liberties is somehow patriotic. For today, I had specific lists of what we've lost under the current administration, plus how the Reagan and then George the Lesser's borrow-and-spend policies have led to staggering debt, stagnant economy, and the largest government per capita ever.

Instead, more focused and clearer analysis appears in Waving the Flag at Slate. Rutgers Prof. David Greenberg has a two parter here. (Toggle the 1 and 2 boxes up top to see both.)

For July 4th, he writes of what the parties and candidates mean by patriotism. Consider:
Since the end of World War II, the conservative version of patriotism that the Republicans have championed has rested upon a steadfast protectiveness of American values in the face of enemies—proven through a muscular, nationalistic military posture. Impatient with critical perspectives, conservative patriotism advocates an unhesitant participation in collective rituals like waving the flag, saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and even public prayer. McCain, who is fluent with words like valor and sacrifice, firmly belongs to this tradition.

Postwar liberalism has defined love of country differently. It calls for candidly identifying what's wrong with America in order to improve it. It tends to regard collective gestures like the Pledge of Allegiance as hollow, tokenistic, and even potentially coercive—and thus antithetical to the individualism that lets free thought flourish. To conservative patriotism's semper fidelis, liberal patriotism counters with e pluribus unum.

He notes that Ronald Reagan called for unambivalent national pride in speeches, including his farewell address as President. To those who want a daddy figure to tell them what to do, that is clear enough. With relief, they do what they're told and give up any freedom, so long as enough sincere panic is in the air. Others state that unambivalent equates to unquestioning and unthinking.

In this election too, John McCain claims we must obey the President and his spook agencies. Otherwise, we'll lose our liberty to terrorists. It would surely be disrespectful of these wise authority figures to point that we are giving up our liberties in the process.

Back to Greenberg, he suggests that unlike the backlashes against unthinking compliance that brought Richard Nixon and the elder George Bush to power, "...patriotism may, finally, help the Democrats." So far, Barack Obama has done Adlai Stevenson one better with a push for national improvement and a call to the American ideal of opportunity, as the first viable black prez candidate. For this, Greenberg concludes, "Obama's strategists have put in place a frame in which voting against him means rejecting a vision of an America where a black man can become president. Once a tough sell, this idea is gaining power as the election draws nearer."

We can't count our Presidents until they take office or at least win the general election. We should likely put off whether Obama would immediately begin to transfer the powers that this administration has stolen from the other branches of government. Yet, we should expect him to reverse the ripping of freedoms from Americans that has accompanied the private power banquet.

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2 comments:

Bill Baar said...

You have any links to back up these assertions?

massmarrier said...

I fear you need to be more specific. If you're going on Greenberg's assertions, see his stuff.

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