Freedom seems to exist more in our minds than in reality.
January 28, 2013 |
If asked why we live in a great country, an American is likely to respond: “Because we are free.” Fortunately for the respondent, explanation is rarely required. Freedom is difficult to define, and today it seems to exist more in our minds than in reality.
The first is freedom of speech and expression.
The second is freedom of every person to worship.
The third is freedom from want.
The fourth is freedom from fear.
The 2013 version shows how our freedoms have been diminished, or corrupted into totally different forms.
Freedom from want? Poverty keeps getting worse.
For every three people in poverty in the year 2000, there are now four. Almost 50 million people were impoverished in 2011. Over 20 percent of our children live in poverty, including almost half of young black children. Among industrialized countries only Romania has a higher child poverty rate than the United States.
It goes well beyond economics. Not long after the FDR era, in 1960, the U.S. ranked near the top among 34 OECD countries in life expectancy and infant mortality. By 2008 we were close to the bottom. A 2007 UNICEF report ranked us last among 21 OECD nations in an assessment of child health and safety.
Freedom from want has been least attainable for people of color. For every $100 a white family has, a black family has $2. For every $100 a single white woman has, a single black or Hispanic woman has 25 cents.
Freedom from fear? The new Jim Crow.
In the decades before FDR, young black men were under constant threat of arrest for “vagrancy,” and the resulting slave-like conditions of forced labor. Today vagrancy has been replaced by petty drug offenses. In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander documents the explosion of the prison population for drug offenses, with blacks and Hispanics the main targets even though they use drugs at about the same, or lesser rate as white Americans. In Colorado and Washington and New York City and Seattle the patterns are disturbingly similar: minority arrests are vastly out of proportion to their percentages of the population.
Freedom of worship? Distorted by visions of the Rapture.
In 2005 Bill Moyers wrote about the far-right evangelical beliefs that dominate much of conservative American thinking and which impact social and environmental policies. He repeats a theology professor’s summary of the Rapture credo: “The world cannot be saved.” Believers are not responsible for the environment, and should focus only on personal salvation. Droughts and floods, which have been occurring with greater regularity as the earth warms, are simply signs of the apocalypse as foretold in the Bible, and thus should be welcomed.
With this attitude, freedom of worship is twisted into a radical dogma that threatens the health and safety of our entire population. …
Print This Post