It’s A Free Country… Right?
I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard the phrase before from your average American citizen: “I’m an American and this is a free country. I can do whatever I want.” REALLY NOW? Are you sure about that? For the uninitiated, let’s take a step back and define what a ‘right’ really is.
– qualities (as adherence to duty or obedience to lawful authority) that together constitute the ideal of moral propriety or merit moral approval
– something that one may properly claim as due
– the cause of truth or justice
The pure dictionary definition itself isn’t enough. The Bill of Rights provides for a number of rights, among them being freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. However, there are some more fundamental rights, those for just being a human being on this bright blue planet called Earth. The United Nations and its humanitarian efforts attempt to enforce these human rights around the world, unfortunately often meeting with much opposition. You would think that these utterly basic rights wouldn’t be subject to much questioning:
- Right to life
- Freedom from torture
- Right to a fair trial
- Freedom of speech
Just taking this short list as an example (there are more), it’s very clear to me that the United States isn’t particularly ‘free’.
Right to life: We should expect that we shouldn’t have to fear being killed by another human being. SHOULD. And yet, it happens every single day, many times perpetrated en masse by the governments that are supposed to protect its citizens. Individual citizens do it to each other under unprovoked circumstances. This particular right makes me question humanity’s ability to consider themselves civilised. Civilised creatures do not outright disrespect your right to exist. They certainly don’t go to other countries and make outright war killing tens of thousands to secure oil interests (folks, this is NOT a secret anymore). I’m not even going to touch the abortion debate when it comes to this particular one. You know how hot that topic is.
Freedom from torture: Remember, the United States’ official policy is that they don’t torture anyone. Also remember, waterboarding is not torture. Give me a break. I respect the military and what these guys go out there and do, but to deny that they don’t put pressure on captives and employe a number of “techniques” is sheer foolishness. Torture is not exclusive to overseas activity — it can and does happen right in our own backyards. If legislation like the Patriot Act and NDAA strip away rights provided for in the Bill of Rights, what makes anyone think that torture wouldn’t be employed to get desired information? Don’t swim in denial. (By the way, just because Federal government passes it, doesn’t mean the States like it.)
Right to a fair trial: Refer to my comments above regarding NDAA allowing the government to not only indefinitely detain anyone – including US citizens – without due process. The fact that it was overwhelmingly agreed to is a clear sign that our representatives are not serving their constituents or their rights. We take this particular one for granted thinking that if, for instance, we were to be wrongfully arrested, we would receive our chance to prove that we didn’t do it. You know, innocent before proven guilty and all that. Forget the fair trial… the government doesn’t even need probable cause to detain you! Scary.
Freedom of speech: Clearly by all the trash that’s on TV these days — bogus news media entertainment and all — people say any number of things out in the world. But if you’re an activist or anyone that attempts to buck the trend, immediately you end up on someone’s watch list because you’re a “person of interest”. Add to the mix the legislation that they attempted to pass that would blacklist Internet sites (read more about SOPA and PIPA here). They didn’t succeed in passing the latest incarnation of it here in the USA, but don’t worry. They’ll try again.
Americans live with the persistent delusion that we are free. Perhaps when our country was first founded, that was the most free we’d ever been (except for black slaves, that is). And yes, we ARE freer in comparison to other countries around the world. Still, we have become a nation entrenched with continual limitations being made on our existing liberties under the guise of keeping us safe. We are slaves to the almighty dollar and the instant gratification consumerism demands we participate in; to our various entertainment outlets that bleed us dry intellectually and emotionally leaving us with naught but blind compliance and the inability to think for ourselves; and to our government that keeps us blind in the worst way possible by not allowing us to be “We, The People” and directly influence the path this country takes.
I hear people sometimes say that they have a love/hate relationship with the USA. The country itself is amazing, its diversity the thing of envy in some ways — this I totally agree with. On the flip side, it is painful and sad to see the country weighed down by its own arrogance and inability (or unwillingness) to do things differently, to make things better for not only the USA, but the world community. When selfish interests are at heart, there can only be the inevitable downfall. How can we say we are free when a good majority of us are slaves in a number of ways? Wage slaves, entertainment slaves, self-entitlement slaves… this is not how we were meant to be. We were meant to have a voice, a unique voice that gives all of us a real opportunity to succeed and to be happy. Our humanity demands more from us than this mediocrity.
Let’s ask ourselves a very real question. If we ripped off the false mask of all the things that placate us, what would be left? Who really pulls the strings of our lives? That, my friends, is the antithesis of freedom. Think twice before you make that “I’m free” statement.