mardi, juillet 11, 2006

Freedom Isn't Free

It's usually the same (general) kind of car, and the same kind of driver. There is always a Bush Cheney sticker somewhere else on the sedan or mini-van. Then, there is a sticker of an American flag with the slogan underneath:

Freedom isn't free.

And, I'll admit, I get the sticker, but I don't really get it.

To me, what it means is that freedom comes at a price.

Am I a genius or what? Man, when I commece to decipherin'!

To establish our "democracy" we had to win independence from England. People died in that effort. Therefore, winning our freedom was not free.

But I suppose that what those who apply the sticker mean is that the Civil War, the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm I, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (among others) weren't free either. They had costs associated with them.

People paid a price for freedom for women, for African-Americans. People suffer and die in the effort to win freedom for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender Americans.

Many immigrate to America in search of freedom. Many pay a profound price in the effort, never tasting the freedom they seek.

But what I don't get is why the stickers are coming out now.

It is widely acknowledged that our "freedom" was not under attack from Saddam Hussein's regime. And, in fact, our freedom has been attacked liberally by the Bush administration in the form of the USA Patriot Act, the attacks on prisioner and detainee rights, in the invasions of privacy, in attacks on the press, in the disregard for voting rights, in appeals to patriotism and religion, and in the form of government secrecy.

Freedom isn't free.

Do those who apply the sticker argue that we, as Americans, are obligated to spread freedom around the world much as an evangelical Christian is obligated to proselytize? Is the argument that the costs we pay in the name of Iraqi freedom (and, proponents would argue, freedom in the Middle East) are costs we are obligated to pay?

Behind all that is the assumption that "democracy" in Iraq or the Middle East will result in "freedom" for citizens there.

My argument is - not necessarily. The people will elect officials who will establish a system of government that more closely resembles a theocracy. Once elected the theocratic leaders will set about attacking personal freedoms. In the Middle East, they will dictate dress and hair styles. They will restrict women, both in appearance an in potential; they will limit speech and the press. They will limit expression and the arts. And yes, there is the potential that they will not be subjected to torture and incarceration like they were under the despotic rule of Hussein, but this notion that they will be free is far from guaranteed.

So, when I see those stickers, I always wonder the same things:

Freedom isn't free - it requires diligence and awareness; it requires thoughtfulness, care.

Freedom isn't free - but must it be so expensive?

Freedom isn't free - and what are you doing about the erosion of freedoms here?

Freedom isn't free - but sometimes its pursuit is dumb.

Freedom isn't free - and you can't make people free, they have to want freedom.

Freedom isn't free - and if someone asks you to die in the name of freedom, think twice.

Freedom isn't free... [add your own reply]...