It is the most misused, most misunderstood word in the American lexicon—“freedom.”
But, what is it? Who has it?
Example: Just as the U.S and South Korea are about the embark on provocative military “exercises” on the divided Korean peninsula, our UN puppets declare the head of North Korea a “war criminal” on the same scale as a “Nazi” war criminal. And, this comes as the young leader was making some effort to lessen tensions in that war-ravaged land.
But, of course, our corporate-NSA media tell us that Kim is “crazy,” “unhinged.”
Here’s the problem: Our media pigeons would never use words like “crazy” or “unhinged” to describe George W. Bush or John McCain.
George W. Bush declared war on Iraq on the basis of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction”—which never existed! Result: one million dead Iraqis and millions more displaced.
Senator McCain was a terrorist who dropped bombs on Vietnamese nationalists who opposed the tyrannical governments the French and American empires had imposed on their nation.
Question: Is a terrorist who drops bombs from jets less of a terrorist than one who straps grenades to himself/herself and blows up self and others? Both kill and maim and torture with pain and agony that can last beyond lifetimes. But, our sick media declares one a “hero” fighting for our side’s “freedom,” and the other a dirty communist/terrorist/coward.
Americans have an incredibly poor sense of history. We do not study it, we do not debate it. Perhaps it has something to do with our media-induced short attention spans. As soon as something bores, or provokes or probes too deeply—change the channel!
We like to say, “move on!” (the unfortunate name of a good progressive organization!). If a relationship becomes difficult—move on! If one can’t really grasp the official narrative line on 9/11—how the towers fell into their footprints, how 19 hijackers from Saudi Arabia eluded the best defensive air-force in the world…, well, let it go—move on!
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We stop the “freedom” to inquire whenever such freedom probes too deeply into the real power structures of Empire! In a decision like “Citizens United,” our less-than Supreme Court declares that money is equivalent to “freedom” of speech! (Which recently led a billionaire to declare that since he pays millions of dollars in taxes, he should be entitled to millions of votes!)
Example: Interminably, whenever I happen to be channel-surfing the malarkey network news, I hear coiffed Scott Pelley talk about that “dictator” Assad of Syria. Then, a recitation of the atrocities committed by the Assad regime. Somehow these shows always neglect to mention the recorded cannibalism of one of our “freedom-fighters” gobbling up the heart of a Syrian soldier. Nor is there ever contextualization. We have heard forever about Israel’s need for nuclear weapons because it lives in such a dangerous neighborhood… but what about the Arab and Muslim countries who have lived in a region of the world ransacked by Western powers and by Johnny-come-lately Israel for centuries?
What is freedom when we have no right to question and to challenge the official party line?
Freedom has always been a double-edged sword. It is hedged in by responsibilities—to Truth, to Justice, to Morality. Freedom without wisdom is a tree without roots. And wisdom is nourished by inquiry, dialogue and dialectic.
Growing up half Sicilian-Catholic and half Ukrainian-Jew in a secular home, as a child, teen and twenty-something, I sought the wisdom of the great books of the East and West. I did not think of Jesus as my personal savior, nor as the son of God, but I did think he was a great teacher who asked: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?” It seemed that one of Christ’s most uttered words of execration was “hypocrite!” Hypocrites would sit in the front of the temple and shout hosannas—just to be seen and heard. But, Christ said, when giving to the needy, “Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
Lao Tzu and Confucius both spoke about the “Middle Way,” the Tao, the balancing act between light and dark, what we know and what we think we know. And all the great books, and all the great teachers—from Solomon’s books to Khalil Gibran’s--have exhorted us to humility in the face of great mysteries.
Decades ago, as one who had taught in Japan, I lamented the fate of Yoshihiro Hattori, a 16-year-old Japanese exchange student shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in October, 1992. It was Halloween, and Yoshi had been out with friends “grinning and skipping” when he was ordered to “freeze” by a nervous white man with a gun. (Yoshi had no idea what “freeze” meant, continued to skip and jump and grin and was shot dead!)
A couple of years ago, it was Travon Martin—a black kid against whom a very unsure-of-himself George Zimmerman needed to test his manhood! Last year, it’s another black kid who is playing his “thug” music too loudly for one middle-aged white thug named Michael Dunn.
The media makes much of these two cases, reaches for easy conclusions about “racism” in America; but makes very little of a more recent case in which a black girl is killed by a black man because she and her friends are “pranking”—throwing a bag of leaves and garbage on the man’s property!
Gun-crazy, violent America preaches “freedom” to the world, but doesn’t begin to understand the word. We worship idiot celebrities and ignore the great teachers—Martin Luther King, Jesus, Mohammed, Lao Tzu, Socrates, et.al. We choke on the polluted air spewing from politicians, corporate criminals and media pimps; freeze in the “polar vectors” of our hearts. In freedom’s name, we kill the freedom to think, to question, to contextualize, to challenge the absurd.