“Freedom, Freedom, Freedom.”

When Richie Havens sang those lyrics, a lifetime ago, I thought I knew exactly what they meant.

Freedom is a word like no other in the American lexicon. It elicits an irresistible emotional reaction in the American heart.

I defy you not to choke up at an image of a flyover of the Statue of Liberty or of an American flag waving in the breeze while stirring music plays in the background. Such things grab most of us in spite of ourselves.

Lately, for me though, that reaction has been mixed with revulsion. I even go so far as to mute the sound when, at the beginning of sporting events, they play the national anthem. That’s partly because it’s been cheapened by excessive use and is usually mutilated by the performer, but it’s also because I’m disgusted with myself for experiencing the pavlovian response of patriotic sentimentality we were all indoctrinated with during our early school years. I’m tired of pseudo-patriotic scoundrels, and TV ads for that matter, using it to manipulate and deceive us.

Have you noticed just about every ultra-conservative organization is named the “Freedom” or the “Liberty” something or other while they’re actually dedicated to destroying our truly important freedoms?

Freedoms such as defining ourselves in ways that differ from White Anglo-Saxon Christian stereotypes; from being attacked because we don’t fit into that stereotype. Freedom to walk the streets unafraid of being shot. Freedom to vote. Freedom to control our own bodies. Even our own opinions.

Orwellian double-speak could be defined by Republican usage of the word “freedom.”

And what freedoms do these people stand for? Freedom from government programs that help the poor and disadvantaged. Freedom for the wealthy from paying taxes that would support such programs. Freedom to teach lies in school and to ban books they disapprove of. Freedom to roam about carrying weapons of war and to blow anyone away by “standing your ground” then pleading self defense. Freedom to refuse to obey civil law on the basis of a religious belief system. Freedom of a medically ignorant state lawmaker to decide whether a pregnant person lives or dies. Freedom for big businesses to continue to destroy the environment and to make obscene profits without paying reasonable taxes or compensating employees fairly.

“Freedom” is the word they apply to their machinations to establish an autocracy in the modern day cradle of democracy.

I was gratified to hear that word used several times in President Biden’s 2024 pre-campaign announcement video. He could not have made it more clear that it’s high time we call out “freedom” spewing charlatans for what they really are.

One can only hope a lot of voters are starting to wise up to them.

Kris Kristofferson said, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Unless we restore “freedom” to it’s true meaning, we are going to lose everything on which the nation, we are at least told, was built.

Through it all, “freedom” remains a word that has a real meaning. A word that continues to resonate within all the decent people living in this imperfect, but still great, land.

“Freedom” is America’s most sacred word. It’s high time those who truly believe in and practice it restore it, along with the flag and the anthem, to its true place in our hearts and in our deeds.

1 Comment

  1. Another great one. Thanks Norman. Just to add a bit to the conversation here. The Supreme Court, with its super majority of right-wing justices, has sanctified (pun-sorry) the ‘Freedom of Religion” clause in the first amendment at the expense and total disregard of the “Establishment Prohibition’ clause which is being shredded into the dust bin of history. Thus, only if you practice the ‘right’ kind of religion, do you get to be protected under the first amendment. Sad……


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