Category Archives: Freedom

Bye-bye.

More of our freedoms evaporated this week (courtesy our servant government, our elected officials who took the oath of office to uphold the Constitution).

Did you kiss them?

Will you miss them?

(Your freedoms, not your congresspeople.)

From Freedom Works:

Hidden deep in Senator Christopher Dodd’s 630-page Senate housing legislation is a sweeping provision that affects the privacy and operation of nearly all of America’s small businesses. The provision, which was added by the bill’s managers without debate this week, would require the nation’s payment systems to track, aggregate, and report information on nearly every electronic transaction to the federal government.


This Senate bill requires eBay, Amazon, Google, all credit card companies and other businesses to report transactions to the government.

As part of a HOUSING BILL, for cripes sake.

Not only does it strip us of another civil liberty (maybe we should try to get our liberties on the Endangered Species list), but the bill is expected to transfer $8.0 billion over the 2009-2018 period from the private (wealth-creating) sector of our economy to the public (wealth-consuming) sector.

Whether or not you have a small business, this means YOUR information will be reported to the government every time you transact. And small businesses will collect this $8 billion dollars from their customers — YOU. And anyone who has transactions involving these companies will be vulnerable to identity theft.

From The Hill’s Congress Blog:

The bipartisan housing bill currently being debated in the Senate contains an unrelated amendment that will burden innovative Internet companies and threaten the civil liberties of every American.


…These companies would be required to construct vast databases of personal information from merchants, including names, addresses, social security numbers, and detailed information about every electronic transaction. Not only would these requirements trigger higher fees for merchants and higher prices for consumers, but they will also needlessly subject millions of small businesses to the risk of identity theft.

This bill passed the Senate committee on Thursday morning. If the House and the Senate can work out the differences in their bills, this will go to the President to be signed into law (what are the odds that our President would veto?).

Good news? There is still time for your voice to be heard.

Call to action: Contact your Senators (you have two of them) today. Simply say one sentence in your own words: “I urge you to vote NO on HR 3221 because I value my civil liberties and you took an oath to protect and preserve them.” You can see how your Senators voted here, and you can also find their contact information.

Also contact your Representative (you have one) today and say the same thing. Here is information on how each Representative voted, and how to reach him/her. You’ll need to know who your Representative is or what congressional district you are in.

More good news: Believe it or not, Senators and Representatives actually do listen. I was once told that each letter or call carries the weight of 10,000 constituents. The People have turned the tide before. So please, send off a quick email or two right now.

The last resort will be to contact President Bush. We don’t really want to leave our civil liberties in his hands, do we?

Send your three emails (2 Senators and 1 Representative). Freedom is so much easier to keep than to regain.

And spread the word.

How I came to be a NAL (the L part)

I am part of a very, VERY small group, the New Age Libertarans. My husband jokes that I and my two sisters are the only members of this oxymoronic covey. I think that explaining how this came to be so is worth a post or two.

First came the political persuasion.

***

When I teach high school Government & Economics, I start one lesson by writing the following on the board:

For most people, choosing a favorite sports team is more a matter of geography than a reasoned choice.

The students debate the merits of this statement. Sure, the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox have had a good run in the last decade, and sure, if you’re growing up during this time in Boston or environs, you will be likely to enculturate their colors, their logo, their fans’ fervor. But what if you are growing up in Montana? What if Lacrosse is what lights your town on fire? What if you just don’t catch the glow of the Patriots or the Sox? Does that mean you are wrong?

Students usually come to the conclusion the statement is is true. One team is not inherently better than another (unless we’re talking about the Broncos, of course).

I then erase the sports reference and replace with the word religion.

For most people, choosing a religion is more a matter of geography than a reasoned choice.

Again, students debate whether or not they believe the statement is true. If you grow up in a Lutheran family in Minnesota, you are predisposed to holding Christian views and lifestyles. If you are born into a Jewish family in Tel Aviv, you are likely to espouse Judaism by osmosis, if not by choice. If your family is of the Vaishya caste, living in in Calcutta, Hinduism is probably your default setting.

People rarely choose a religion because it its True; they choose it because it is There.

Usually the class that ends up agreeing that one tends to be born into a religion, either by family or by culture.

Finally, I replace religion with one’s political leanings.

For most people, choosing a political party is more a matter of geography than a reasoned choice.

And they inevitably decide that that statement is also true.

***

Each democratic society chooses several principles to honor and construct laws around, but only one can be The Guiding Principle.

Justice is good. Freedom is good. Equality is good. Harmony is good. And there are others in the mix…but which is best?

I grew up with a father who thinks Freedom is the epitome of human values.

And freedom, he says, is really three words: Freedom With Responsibility.

Limited government is the best way to keep individual freedoms for people and have society reap the benefits of human achievement. This includes our freedom to wonder, to work, to own the fruits of one’s labor and one’s risk-taking and one’s calculated efforts. And with these freedoms goes the responsibility to behave honorably and respectfully toward others.

To drive home his points with his three daughters, he did his own oxymoronic thang. When I was in high school (and my sisters in junior high and elementary school), a documentary was produced based on economist Milton Friedman’s personal statement Free to Choose.

We were made to watch this PBS series for 10 weeks. (Ten weeks! To a teenager!) When we complained about the irony — that we had no choice in the matter — Dad replied, “Sure you do. You can watch it either on Friday night or on Saturday morning.”

(Haha, Dad. You probably think I forgot. Or that I’ve forgiven you.)

###

I grew up and married a Democrat. Roger’s father, a good man like mine, holds justice as his Guiding Principle (although he, too values freedom just as my dad also values justice.)

So we all have our default settings regarding politics. Mine was Republican, which at one time meant to me (correctly or not) the party of freedom and personal responsibility.

But no longer. Increasingly, the Republican party devalues both personal and economic freedoms. GOP lawmakers tax and spend just like their Democratic counterparts, and in addition they want to meddle with our freedoms in our private lives by telling consenting adults what is and it not OK for them to do behind closed doors.

So I will eventually switch my party affiliation.

But “New Age Libertarian” doesn’t quite have the same ring.

See part 2 of this series, for how my spiritual beliefs emerged.

The Handmaid’s Tale Book Tour

I first read The Handmaid’s Tale in the mid-1990s, the summer I met the man who would become my husband. Roger was getting ready to teach it to his high school students, but he never got the opportunity. The book was challenged by a parent, and though Roger won the case, the chance to teach it passed.

On first reading, I thought my life path would be: court, marry, procreate, live happily ever after. On second reading — more than a decade and a well-worn map-to-parenthood later — the book struck very different chords.

In the beginning of the book, the Aunts discuss two facets of freedom: “freedom from” and “freedom to”. While the old government’s laws provided both types of freedom, the new government limited women’s freedom to “freedom from”. Do you think that “freedom from” is truly a freedom, or is it just the government’s way of subtly taking away rights?

Definitely the latter. This sentiment is commonly credited to Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” For more of my thoughts on the coming dystopia and the prescience of Margaret Atwood, see my post from a few days ago.

One thing that struck me was how easily the Gileadean government robbed women of their economic power and, ultimately, freedom. All it took was a few keystrokes and threats to employers to throw women back into chattel status. Where was the opposition? And what about the men? Even Offred’s partner was unbothered by what was happening. How might the citizens in Offred’s culture have fought against the Gileadians’ plans? Or was the takeover inevitable once it began?

When people value more the “freedom from” than the “freedom to,” taking away freedoms will be as easy as the proverbial taking candy from a baby (which, in reality, is a strange simile, if you’ve ever tried doing so).

Life carries risk. The more we want to shift our risk onto others, the more we are willing to let others control us. We trade freedom for security (or the illusion of security, since risk is still there in some form or another). We’re like that doomed frog that is put in a pot of cool water with the heat turned on: because change happens gradually, we don’t jump out of the pot or yell “stop!” Gradualism takes patience if you’re the perpetrator, and vigilance and courage if you’re the frog.

We in the US hail our Constitution as the protector and guarantor of our rights. But without our awareness and willingness to fight to protect our rights, the Constitution is just an old piece of paper.

The Declaration of Independence says, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.”

Thomas Jefferson and the Second Continental Congress were so committed to self-governance that they even declared the right/duty to “throw off” a government that’s become despotic! What citizenry in human history has ever been given by its founders permission — even the imperative — to overthrow a wayward government? (And whether Eyes are reading or not, I must point out I am not suggesting the overthrow of anything.)

When was the last time you read the Constitution? Do you think your elected officials have? How can you (and they) safeguard your freedoms if you don’t know what they are?

**stepping down from soap box**

I
t was at one time hard for me to put myself in the Wife’s shoes, but having dealt with infertility on a more personal sense, I find that I can sympathize with her and her role in this society. If you had to be in this society, how could you cope with your role in it? Would you be a Wife or a Handmaid? Could you sympathize with your counterpart?

Absolutely. I sympathize with both. If I had my choice (which, of course, I wouldn’t in Gilead), I think I’d be a Wife (as the lessor of two horrors). But I would also sympathize with the Handmaids. Both groups were stripped of the power of self-determination.

I know logically that one needs only food, shelter, air and water for survival. But to live without freedom seems so pathetically bleak, for both Blue and Red.

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Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/. You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Fowler (with author participation!)