Monday, January 07, 2008

In Honor of Fouad: Thoughts on Freedom

So, like Kinzi, I don't know Fouad. I do know that I'm sorry for his troubles and I sympathize with his situation. I suspect all bloggers have some concern that this could happen to them. So, with Fouad on my mind, I'm thinking a bit about freedom today. I figured I'd think aloud (or a-quiet, whichever it is).

During the last 7 or so years (and particularly since 9/11), I've watched with grave concern the erosion of personal freedom in the US. That's actually the reason that I voted against the incumbent - twice. Before he was elected the first time, it became clear to me that he felt he had the right to make important decisions about my life FOR me. Personally, I find that unacceptable. So, I voted for a choice that wasn't good, but wasn't as bad (in my humble estimation). And, since his election, I've watched as freedom after freedom gets pared down, split, redefined, and so on.

When I hear that the US is fighting "to defend freedom" in places like Iraq, I wonder about those sleepy, unaware Americans who haven't noticed their own freedom is disappearing. What do I mean by this, well, let's get more specific...

Free Speech:
When I was growing up, freedom of speech had a few different outcomes.

First, there was varying opinion and that opinion as saved for the Op/Ed page of newspapers. When reporters wrote articles using inflammatory or derogatory terms, it was called "editorializing" and it was a really bad thing. And it got copy-edited right out. Now, reporters seem to take pride in ensuring that everyone can see which side of the conflict or political spectrum they are on. Also, anyone with a differing opinion that the one in power is called "unpatriotic" or the like. Those stations (okay station) that are more fair-minded or balanced and actually strive to show two sides of any given story (yes, NPR, I'm talking about you) are effectively taken over and hamstringed by the government and its agenda. Basically, opinion is becoming a mighty nice word as long as you share the mind-meld with those in power... How did it come to that?

In the 1960s, peaceful protest was raised to an art form. People came together to raise awareness of issues and effect change. When an unpopular candidate or official came to town, you could count on the fact that they would have hecklers in their audience and protesters around their motorcade route. Free speech (and the right of peaceful assembly) ensured that the official saw and heard that some of his/her constituency disagreed with their position. Now, we have free speech zones. Wait, isn't that what we're fighting for in Iraq? Wasn't the free speech zone supposed to be the WHOLE US???!

Poking fun
Another outcome of free speech was the ability of social commentors, comedians, and cartoonists to poke fun at our leaders. It was one more way that Americans could voice their concerns, issues, and complaints. It was, in effect, a way to feel heard. I just have to say, THANK YOU JON STEWART! It seems like the Daily Show is one of the few bastions of people who can spot (and say aloud) the ridiculousness of political life these days. It's good to know that there are a few sane people left out there, ones who can see clearly the silliness of our current administration.

Freedom of Religion
Well, you know, once upon a time that meant freedom for any religion, now it seems to mean freedom FROM any religion. To me, this isn't a good turn of events. While it's good that we've become outwardly more sensitive to the needs of other religions, inwardly there hasn't been a change. Muslim is still equated with terrorist meaning that, clearly, it is some form of lesser religion. I assure you, that ISN'T the freedom that the founders fought for. So, sadly, this one has gone by the wayside as well.

Unreasonable Search and Seizure
One of those lesser known parts of the American Bill of Right is the freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. In other words, the police have to get a search warrant to come into your home and a wiretapping warrant to tap your phones. These must be signed by a judge after reviewing evidence that this step is warranted. But, these days, the federal government is balking at the need to even take a short time to get warrants. So, they just do it illegally. Somehow, this one has gone by the wayside as well.

It definitely troubles me that we've seen so much erosion in such a short period of time. If I owned a home on a hill eroding this quickly, I'd sell and move immediately. And, while I hope for others in the world to achieve some of these freedoms, I believe it is very arrogant of us, as Americans, to think that our system is the answer for others. What works in our case may not work in others, like my adopted home of Jordan. They need a different system that works differently. One that's suited to the historical and regional culture.

But, I sincerely hope, both here and in Saudi Arabia, that this new system will breed greater freedoms. Society must be able to ask questions about its existence in order to improve. Do not, however, mistake my statement about improvement as being a statement about becoming more like the West. I would hate to see that. But there are populations that are overlooked and underaddressed. They need some focus of the sort that comes from asking questions about ourselves and introspection, personally and societally. This will come when the laws are clear and enforcement becomes a matter of policy rather than personality, I think.

Happy Introspection!


At 11:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great food for thought, MB.I like that last sentence especially.

At 1:41 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Thanks, Kinz.


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