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Hullabaloo


Monday, November 13, 2017

 

Does this feel like freedom?

by Tom Sullivan


"Madness. Madness."

The Memorial Day service in front of city hall a few years ago blared Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." over loudspeakers at the end of the program. As the song played in the plaza, a woman came out of the crowd holding an American flag and began dancing with it. It was a dervishy, solo flag-team kind of performance. She twirled and dipped and waved around the stars and stripes, gazing upon it as if in religious ecstasy.

"... where at least I know I'm free."

Yeah, it was a little creepy. It was a preview of what has since become the alternative universe where the coal mines are coming back and everyone packs a pistol to celebrate freedom. We've seen over the last few days what else is alternative about that America. Sadly, that's not the whole of it.

More Americans were displaced by the financial crisis than by the 1930s Dust Bowl. Fewer than one-third may ever own homes again.

Does this feel like freedom?

A generation of young people are unemployed or underemployed at double the national average. Employers pay them disporoportionally less when they do land jobs.

Does this feel like freedom?

"The basic problem," writes David Leonhardt, "is that most families used to receive something approaching their fair share of economic growth, and they don’t anymore." Yet few question the economic system they serve that no longer serves them.

Does this feel like freedom?

A gunman murders 59 and wounds over 500 at a country music concert.

Does this feel like freedom?

Innocent black women and men must worry when police approach that even if they comply with requests they might be gunned down, point-blank. Even when they called the police for help.

Does this feel like freedom?

Hate crimes have jumped by nearly 20 percent in major U.S. cities through much of this year, after increasing nationally by 5 percent last year.

Does this feel like freedom?

Police who once carried revolvers acquire grenade launchers, bayonets and large-caliber weapons. They deploy chemical weapons ("the new firehose") against protesters, wear body armor, and carry military rifles in our streets. Many Americans approve.

Does this feel like freedom?

Bribe world soccer officials and they'll face arrest for racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud. But Wall Street bankers can cheat millions out of billions, crash the world economy, commit systematic securities and foreclosure fraud, throw millions of families into the streets, and they draw a bailout from Uncle Sam and eight-figure bonuses. American justice cannot or will not hold them accountable.

Does this feel like freedom?

Yet authorities will jail you for being too poor to pay a fine, then charge you for your public defender and your upkeep in jail.

Does this feel like freedom?

A climate of fear haunts immigrants, both legal and undocumented, who fear to leave the house, to seek medical care, or to seek American justice for fear of arrest and detention.

Does this feel like freedom?

Blue collar jobs are gone and promises unkept in communities devastated by economic decline and hopelessness.

Does this feel like freedom?

As opioids devastated heartland communities, as "a drug distribution industry ... shipped, almost unchecked, hundreds of millions of pills to rogue pharmacies and pain clinics," and as 200,000 died over the last decade, Congress and lobbyists covered the industry's backside.

Does this feel like freedom?

Twenty-six are gunned down in rural Texas — men, women, children — because, we're told, they didn't go to church armed for a gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Americans respond by packing heat when they go to pray.

At least they know they're free.

We just celebrated Veterans Day when, as on Memorial Day, we celebrate common citizens who once put themselves on the line in defense of the Constitution and our supposed freedoms.

But what are we prepared to do now about all this?

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