Sunday, May 04, 2008

How free is FREE?

I have been mulling over the latest political brouhaha in the US primary race. I think it's symbolic of how shallow the US's purported commitment to freedom really is.

Senators Obama and Clinton are locked in a 'fight to the death' in the democratic primaries. Into the midst of this melee springs a surprise (Obama machine) monkey wrench, the Wright Wrench. Now, suddenly, Obama turns tail and runs for cover, rebuking his overzealous ex-pastor and in the final analysis losing (in my unAmerican opinion) his perceived moral edge over his eagerly expectant rival.

The politics of the situation is rather comic. Whoever wins will be a 'historic' candidate in remarkable ways. So, I am not overly exercised by the potential outcome. Past experience has taught me never to be overly optimistic in these matters, for Americans generally seem more enamoured of the more caddish candidate and have always voted these known bad apples in for a second term and with their eyes wide open too.

What does interest me is the shallowness of the meaning of 'freedom' for Americans. One is welcome to be free, it seems, as long as that freedom does not extend to criticizing anything American. America is always good. America is always right. American foreign policy is always eminently fair... Any dissent is unAmerican. Any dissenter is a traitor. You are free only to believe and espouse one American truth.

One need not agree with a Wright, or for that matter with a Ward Churchill ("little Eichmanns" title link), or even a Farrakhan, or with anyone who refuses to wear a flag lapel pin... But, if one believes in freedom, if one really believes in freedom, one has to respect the dissenter and the dissenter's right to dissent.

At one time it was traitorous and unBritish for the erstwhile colonists to speak out against their God-appointed king. The dissent on which a potentially great democracy was founded was enshrined in the American Constitution's main text and then specifically spelled out in the very justly famous "First Amendment". It is a fundamental human right to be free to disagree!

One would think that being a member of a church where a pastor dares to speak what he sees as the truth, should be a big plus point for a presidential candidate. Here is someone who says that they admire the person and agree with some of what that person stands for and yet recognises that person's fundamental right to hold views that are unpopular.

Ask yourself: Is agreement necessary for acceptance? Does unpopular = unAmerican? I also wonder, does criticism of America mean less love for America, or even less patriotism?

If I were a psychoanalyst, I might even wonder whether such obvious displays of hypersensitivity may not be symptomatic of some under-the-surface feelings of GUILT?


john doyle said...

I agree with your analysis, Sam. Obama's change mantra strikes me as more a marketing slogan than a political position. I'm reminded of an old Consumer Reports review of vacuum cleaners, which observed that the brands that included some reference to "quiet" in the name tested louder than the other brands.

There is no legitimate party of the left in America. I read the platform of the the other day and realized that I agreed with it more than with the Democrats. But who is their candidate for president? No idea. In 2004 the socialist candidate received something like 5,000 votes nationwide. There is no local affiliate of the party in the state of Colorado where I live. It's a 2-party system, which might as well be 2 branches of the same party.

Unknown said...

"a radical democracy that places people's lives under their own control - a non-racist, classless, feminist socialist society..."

John, I guess they just don't believe in running for president. Brave souls indeed in the land of McCarthy!

It's actually rather funny that the 'land of the free' is so suspiciously monolithic. The concept is that choice is actually being wonderfully exercised in selecting between such shades of gray as the Dems and the GOP.

Certainly the church and its popularisation of a 'Protestant ethic' - work hard, ask no questions, tithe, and pray regularly - is a big culprit for this ethic fits hand in glove with what the business world wants in both their workers and their consumers. What happened to the PROTEST part is the mystery.

So, in theory one has the absolute freedom to hold ones own beliefs. But in practice, if your beliefs are not comfortably within the mainstream, one had better keep those beliefs to oneself.

It's also interesting that there is actually more synergy between the the Libertarians and SPUSA than either o these have in common with the two biggies.

Perhaps globalisation and the loss of jobs will make the unions think twice about where they will fit in in the new economy?

Unknown said...

Small correction, in a little box further down the SPUSA site they actually say that they "nominated Brian Moore... for president and Stewart Alexander... for vice-president at our 2007 National Convention."


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