I hesitate to take on a subject that has political connotations, but this is something that has been on my mind all day. It started with a question: What is freedom? We hear US politicians and pundits, especially those in the right wing, go on and on about preserving our right to freedom, or about how others are trying to take away freedom. They hold this thing up like a beacon to the world without really knowing what they mean.
Let’s start with a literal definition. Merriam-Webster says that freedom (n) is “the quality or state of being free: as a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action b : from slavery or restraint or from the power of another” so basically to be able to do whatever you want, and to not be a slave.
In a very real way, the US has never been a free country. In the first place the US constitution allowed slavery. That aside, even the most basic law adds necessity or constraint to our choices and actions. So why does the US still feel it is a free country? Because a majority of people can do the things they want to do with relative ease and relatively little input from the government. But it is not truly free according to this definition of freedom.
The reason I think that rethinking freedom is necessary lies in recent slogans of the right wing. I see car and home windows dressed in the Gadsden flag, politicians flooding the airways with messages about a return to freedom. Freedom for whom? These politicians claim that freedom lies in unfettered markets, because that worked so well when the “white man” was capitalizing the west. This kind of freedom is really only freedom for those who have the money to buy power, and forces everyone else to be subservient to those with money. This is not freedom!
The poor who work multiple jobs and cannot feed their families or provide welfare are demonized by the right wing. Written off as moochers, lowlifes, or lazy by those with money, the right wing expects them to fend for themselves, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It’s self preservation by the wealthy, because heaven forbid the rest of us enjoy those things reserved for “the elite.”
True freedom is in equality, we have seen Scandinavian socialism create strong, happy, and safe countries, and yet the right wing decries these policies as evil! These ever so vocal talking heads say what they are paid to say by wealthy self-preservationists. I mean, how grass roots can the Tea Party claim to be if they’re funded by billionaire oil and mining tycoons?!? It’s not that they’re afraid their freedom is being taken away, it’s the fear that others might actually get as much of it as they have. Greed is bad and Ayn Rand was a bitter woman whose philosophy was fatally flawed, and whose vision was permanently skewed by the abuses of a totalitarian regime.