Listening to most RW-ers defend their ideals is starting to sound like a ten year old bully defending himself. “You’re not the boss of me” is what “freedom” sounds like in his ears. That might work as freedom if you live alone on an island. Put one other person there and “you’re not the boss of me” will cause problems almost immediately. Politics begins the instant two people have to negotiate with each other just so they can get through the day. Even two people trying to decide what to have for dinner are engaged in a political conversation. If both those people have “you’re not the boss of me” in their heads? They’ll never make good decisions together. They’ll never be happy. The fact is, they’ll never be free.
Freedom is imaginary to begin with. So is democracy. So are rights.
Each and every one is a human invention. No deity has bestowed any of this upon us. Trust me, if there IS a deity and that deity (with a whole freakin’ cosmos to worry about!) is worrying about piddly stuff like this? This universe needs a new deity with more deity-like priorities. Geez, whose mediocre idea of a god is this anyway? While we’re at it, unless anyone can demonstrably prove otherwise, God or gods are all human creations, too. The proof? That we think a deity with a whole freakin’ cosmos to worry about would worry about whether or a bunch of little, tiny humans “believe” in him. That’s not a deity, that’s a male in need of psychotherapy.
We have rights because we finally realized that we could give them to ourselves — that we didn’t need a god-appointed king to grant them. Like maintaining a republic (as Franklin said “If we can keep it”), maintaining our rights will demand vigilance, grit and resolve. There were forces then that sought to shut down what had just been created. The slavers always hated democracy because democracy and slavery are mutually exclusive propositions. Slavery cannot exist in a democracy. It can’t. That it did wasn’t a reflection on democracy, it’s a reflection on us — and our continuing willingness to compromise with evil.
America is still fighting about slavery. That’s a stone cold fact. Cotton and sugar cane were labor intensive businesses. They were all the south had to run their economy. The most expensive component? Labor — but only if you’re forced to pay for it.
Hey, what if you could get all that expensive labor “for free”? Okay, so the labor costs you nothing, but you’ll have to feed and clothe and house your free labor. Considering as you can feed them garbage, clothe them in rags and house them in squalor, the costs will be negligible compared to the profits. And that’s why slavery exists. Free labor. All the rest — the inhumanity, the families and lives destroyed, the murder and mayhem — those are all ripple effects. Stuff that “happens”.
The slaver sits on his verandah, believing he is living the “dream of democracy”, a free man making money. He’s confused. No, he’s wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. Being a pig or a bully isn’t freedom. It’s being a pig or a bully. Being a slave owner is the opposite of freedom — because everything the slave owner does contradicts other peoples’ freedom. That’s the problem — right there.
We have rights because we gave them to ourselves (well, white men, at first, gave them to other white men. Fortunately, we’ve begun to wise up to the scam the white men have been running. The genius of America is the thing that makes it unique among nations. Aside from Native Americans, America was not formed by tribes that lived here for a thousand years like the countries of Europe were. We are the product of all those European tribes — plus tribes from EVERYWHERE ELSE on the planet. THAT’S what makes America exceptional — we’re the only country that was formed from all the other countries. It is unfortunate (but fixable) that white people commandeered this country for its first 240+ years. White people are very clever — but they’re not the only clever people on earth. Pretty much every other tribe? They’re clever, too. And when you put all that multi-cultural, approach-problems-from-every-conceivable-angle kind of thinking to work — as we have, here in America? The results are like nothing else humans have created. As experiments in human self-government go? We’re worth preserving — but, adjustments are needed, urgently.
Already the idea of “civic education” is finding purchase. Good. America needs that. We need to stop thinking that flag-waving is patriotism. No, knowing and understanding how the Constitution works — THAT’S patriotism. Under Trump, we could have turned into a fascist shithole just like that — without changing our flag. The Constitution would have ceased to be despite the stars n stripes’ endurance. See how that works? The piece of colored cloth is actually quite meaningless whereas the Constitution…
Among the first things we’ll need to teach the generations of Americans to follow is how valuable their rights are — how special. But, we’ll also need to teach them that those rights do NOT come without caveats. Everything costs something. Nothing is truly “free”. Just as rank has its privileges and obligations, so do rights.
The right to vote demands that you exercise it. Voting is every American’s OBLIGATION, not just their right. I kinda like Australia’s approach. You cannot be made to actually vote and Australians don’t have to vote come election day. BUT, Australians do have to show up. Regardless of whether or not they actually vote, Australians are obligated by law to at least go to their polling place.
Americans are equally responsible for paying for our democracy and freedoms. These things do cost money. Living costs money. Unless we all revert to being hunter-gatherers, feeding ourselves costs money. Our problem in America is that we see taxes as a black hole of inefficiency and corruption. It’s money out and virtually nothing back. Of course Americans see the tax man as the enemy!
What if Americans received a yearly statement though — an accurate accounting of exactly how the govt spends every single dollar it collects? What if Americans could see, every year, what their money bought them (bought the country), what it should have bought them and what it could never buy them? What if Americans — instead of seeing their taxes as money lost forever — saw them as a fair, accurate accounting of what their tax dollars are buying for them?
If Americans got something they could point — like guaranteed health CARE (as opposed to health INSURANCE — which is the focus of our debate) that could never bankrupt them or their families, they might look at those tax dollars (plus the out-of-pocket savings) a little differently. If Americans could point at the good public university or skills training education their children could have — again just because they pay taxes here — they might look at those tax dollars a little more open-mindedly. If Americans viewed their government as theirs, as their elected intermediary tasked with getting their collective problems solved, they might not see government as “the enemy”.
Again, this is framing — how we think of things (and how we don’t). This is entirely up to us.
If everyone in a family insisted they had to do things their way, the family would collapse in less than a heartbeat. Even relatively happy families have their issues. Welcome to being human and living at cross purposes with each other. Successful families learn to negotiate with each other. If they want something, they’ll probably have to give something to get it. Hello, politics.
A country like ours is just a giant family with a giant closet filled with giant skeletons. Families that don’t acknowledge their skeletons devolve into chaos. Families that at least try? They can’t do worse than chaos. Just like surviving a family takes work, so, too, does surviving a country. Balancing conflicting needs isn’t easy but the alternative is authoritarianism. For what it’s worth, living in an authoritarian state — provided you follow the rules — is a hell of a lot easier than living in a democracy.
That’s part of fascism’s appeal — you don’t have to think. The state does that for you. All you have to do is march neatly in lock step.
In November 1947, Winston Churchill put it this way: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. Democracy is hard, bloody work. The alternatives may be “easier” but only on the surface.
That is, if your idea of freedom isn’t a ten year old’s.