"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." - from "Me and Bobby McGee," written by Kris Kristofferson
Mitt Romney, in his address on "freedom" to the National Rifle Association on Friday, April 13, 2012 used the term "freedom" a total of 30 times and "free" another four times, all in the span of his few minutes behind the podium. His major thesis throughout his speech was, declared Romeny, was the Obama "administration's assault on our freedoms -- our economic freedom, our religious freedom, and our personal freedom."
Throughout the nominating process, Romney and other Republican candidates have advocated for the political philosophy that has come to be known as "neoliberalism," which centers on a market-driven approach to economic and social policy, including such tenets as reducing the size of the national government and granting more control to state and local governments; severely reducing or ending governmental regulation over the private sector; privatization of governmental services, industries, and institutions including education, health care and social welfare; permanent incorporation of across-the-board non-progressive marginal federal and state tax rates; and possibly most importantly, market driven and unfettered "free market" economics.
These precepts, taken together, claim those who favor neoliberalist ideals, will ensure the individual's autonomy, liberty, and, or course, freedom. "The American economy," asserted Romney to the NRA, "is fueled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality."
I am, quite frankly, very concerned by Romney and other advocates of neoliberalist principles because they are based on individualistic, self-centered "freedoms," while opposing general responsibility for others and for a collective cooperative society.
So, I would ask, under this version of "freedom," how "free" are we really as individuals and as a collective nation when the upper 10 percent of our population controls approximately 75 percent of the accumulated wealth, and the political right's agenda will only increase this enormous imbalance?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when many corporate executives currently pay lower tax rates than their secretaries as the political right fights to maintain these advantages for the super-rich?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when 50 million people in our country go uninsured and their only form of health care is the hospital emergency room that the remainder of the population must pay for because our government will not provide a single-payer health care system, but instead, we all must accept the exorbitant profit-motive insurance premium rates of private health care insurers?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation as college and university tuition increases and governmental student assistance programs dry up, pushing out deserving students from middle- and working-class backgrounds?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when governmental entitlement programs are cut or privatized, thereby eliminating the safety net support systems from our elders, our young people, people with disabilities, people who have suffered hard times, and others struggling to provide life's basics?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when the political right passes legislation restricting immigration and social and educational services to young people?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when the rights of women to control their bodies are under attack, and when doctors and others are intimidated, and even shot and killed at family planning clinics?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are denied their basic human and civil rights accorded to heterosexual people on a daily basis, and when they are vilified and scapegoated?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when affirmative action programs to improve the chances of people of color and women are branded as nothing more than "reverse discrimination," and steps are taken to abolish these strategies without replacing them with acceptable alternatives?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when the U.S. Congress threatens to privatize our national parks, and loosens environmental and consumer protections of all kinds, and when mining, petroleum, natural gas, and lumber companies lobby to exploit the land, and when they are granted enormous tax breaks and subsidies?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when residents of the U.S., who represent approximately 5 percent of the world's population, consume about 25 percent of the world's resources, contribute about 25 percent of worldwide pollution, and in spite of this, some on the political right are calling for deregulation of environmental standards and termination of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Protection Agency?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation really when the political and theocratic right push for school vouchers to funnel money into their parochial institutions at the expense of public education, when forces are gathering to reintroduce prayer into the public schools, and when the lines between religion and government are increasingly blurred?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when the political and theocratic right tear down the wall separating religion from entering into the affairs of government and push legislation based on their notions of "morality"?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when the political right abolishes multicultural education, and specifically, successful and productive Latina/o Studies programs in the state of Arizona, a program that increased graduation rates of students from less than 50 percent to 93 percent before politicians axed them?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when the so-called "No Child Left Behind" act and other educational "reform" proposals are designed and operated with its "one-size-fits-all" standards in such a way as to actually leave more students and schools behind?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when states like Iowa pass laws declaring English as the "official" language, thereby threatening bilingual education and stigmatizing non-English language speakers?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when politicians and business owners attempt to co-opt and decertify labor unions and eliminate collective bargaining?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when organizations and committees set the standards for acceptable art and literature and attempt to censor and ban all else?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when we deny the youth of our nation their basic civil rights to make many of their own decisions in the guise of "protecting them"?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when we follow a former president into an unjustified and illegal war into Iraq, thereby resulting in the massive and horrific loss of life and the draining of the U.S. treasury?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when the so-called "Patriot Act" profiles individuals on their appearance, and when people are detained and their constitutional rights are denied?
How "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation when people can own and use assault rifles, and carry concealed guns into bars, political rallies, and college and university campuses, and how "free" are we as individuals and as a collective nation as the National Rifle Association claims in its literature that "GUNS SAVE LIVES," as it fights to dismantle governmental regulations on gun ownership and use?
How "free" are we really as individuals and as a collective nation in an unrestricted "free" market system that increases the size of depth of mega global corporations that gobble up small and emerging entrepreneurs?
And I could go on in this way virtually forever.
The neoliberal battle cry of "liberty" and "freedom" through "personal responsibility" sounds wonderful on the surface, but we have to ask ourselves as individuals and as a collective nation, what are the costs of this alleged "liberty" and "freedom"?
Do we as individuals and as a nation have any responsibility and obligation to protect and to support people from falling off the ledge of circumstance to their harm or death because they simply cannot "pull themselves up by their boot straps." Have you actually ever tried to pull yourself up by your boot straps? If you have, you will know that by doing this, you literally fall on your face!
Can we begin, for example, to view health care not as a privilege for those who can afford it, but rather, see it as a human right? Can we begin to perceive the actual crack in this beautiful notion but unmet reality of meritocracy, and respond in common purpose and sense of community to help lift those who are in need of support?
I was extremely encouraged a few months back as I witnessed news reports of a horrendous traffic accident between an automobile driver and a motor cyclist, which resulted in the cyclist being thrust under the burning car. A group of stunned bystanders immediately and without hesitation turned into courageous upstanders by joining in unison, with flames raging around them, to turn the car on its end ensuring that others could pull the young cyclist to safety, thereby saving his life.
I hope that as residents of our country we will use this incident as an analogy to come together in unity to work as hard as we can to pull our country and its people to safety according to their needs and abilities.
I argue that government has a vital role in this.
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