There were times in America when the word “freedom” meant something very different.
One of those times was during the 60's and 70's. Back then; freethinkers, whom we called “hippies,” believed in a personal laissez-faire – you know, real freedom. They felt free to “find themselves” and “do your own thing.” Hippies didn't quite fit in with the rest of America, because they saw no point in not living free.
Hippies didn't trust the government (the “Man”). But they realized that the true corruption of government lie with those who had the power and money to influence government. Many hippies consequently wanted “power to the people” – which often meant they wanted government to limit the influence of potential modern day robber barons.
The peak of the “hippie” influence was during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. Not that President Jimmy Carter was a hippie, or that hippies ever really had that much power. This was more of a time when people actually listened to hippies and freethinkers (for a change).
Though right-wingers may condemn the Carter years, I remember them as open, happy, and hopeful. This was a time when America was more-or-less at peace. This was a time when we all thought there would never be another Viet Nam “War.” This was a time when our government (prompted by Nader's Raiders and others), worked to protect Americans from pollution, oppression, and greedy corporations. This was a time when we actually started to become free from the big fossil fuel corporations. This was a time when we believed we might overcome the perfect storm of population, pollution, and politics. We even thought marijuana would be legal within a few years.
...This was a time when many put down their protest signs – thinking we had won.
This was before the Reagan counter-revolution.
This was before right-wing “family values” carried more weight than personal freedom.
This was before laissez-faire “economics” and government deregulation.
This was before the oil wars and the Patriot Act.
This was before “freedom” meant a never ending war with “terrorists” (who ironically must also perceive themselves as “freedom fighters”).
We all want freedom. But there are powerful people who want to be above the law – and they see freedom from regulation (corporate anarchy) as their ultimate form of “freedom.” Throughout most of history, inconsiderate people with the power to write laws to benefit themselves have striven for “freedom” to oppress. They may seem like nice people. They are rarely evil to the people they know. But it is always easier to be evil when you're removed from the suffering.
And its also easier to be blatantly ignorant of the other side's opinion when you can characterize your opponent as a “freak”.
If you are old enough, you may remember Tiny Tim. I was just a kid during the late 60's. But I remember this tall, effeminate, guy with really long hair essentially making a total fool out of himself to be famous. He's a guy who would have been “gonged” on the Gong Show (a later amateur talent show of poor talent that got people to shut up with a gong). Tiny Tim didn't seem like anyone I knew. And this is very important. He looked like a hippie, but I never met a hippie that acted like him. So, why was he important?
As one might have guessed, there were a lot of people during the 60's who never associated with hippies. The separation was so complete that even today, 40 years later; I recently saw a bumper sticker that said “Shut Up Hippie.”
There were people who neither knew, wanted to know, or most importantly; wanted to hear the opinions of “hippies.” These were the people who must have believed that Tiny Tim represented some portion of the hippie movement. These were the people who wanted to believe that hippies were “pinkos.” These were the people who believed hippies were somehow weakening America – by having an independent opinion.
Since a big part of the youth movement of the 60's and 70's was a “do your own thing” live and let live attitude, the hippies didn't reject Tiny Tim as a pinko stereotype meant to demean their anti-Viet Nam War opinions. As a kid, I just saw Tiny Tim as weird – which is just what they wanted us to think... Using guilt by association – a form of ignorance logic: If Tiny Tim is weird, and Tiny Tim looks like a hippie; then hey, hippies must be weird to.
Because of Tiny Tim's image, it became easier ignore the personal freedom movement. And because those who embraced the personal freedom movement also embraced the freaks, those in established power apparently agreed that this had to be stopped – by any means necessary.
For decades now, many people have purported that the war on drugs is really a culture war on political opposition. President Richard Nixon, who started the drug war, obviously wanted to put every pot smoking hippie he could find in prison. It was the hippies who opposed Richard Nixon's war policies. It was the hippies who opposed the bleeding dry of our economy by the military/industrial complex. It was the hippies who wanted to live in peace – with real, personal freedom. Looking back, it only seems inevitable that not just a public relations campaign, but also a virtual war would be declared on hippies. But it had to be a covert war... So they called it the “drug war.”
The law enforcement policies of the drug war have been oppressive, hideously expensive, and have ruined millions of lives. Presently the United States has the highest rate of incarceration per capita in the world. Approximately half of American prisoners are (or have been) in prison for non-violent drug related “crimes.” And why? To lock away the freaks, of course. To take away their right to vote. Sure, some of them should be locked away. But other countries have shown us that there are more rational ways to deal with recreational drug use, and we've ignored them. Why? Some people still want to lock away the pot smoking hippies because they are just too dangerous to the status quo. You see; not all people believe hippies are “pinkos.” And sometimes the “silent majority” agrees with the “freak” minority. This has threatened a lot of peoples' income...
Some of you may also remember the Rainbow Coalition. It was a political group, started in 1984 by Rev. Jesse Jackson, that pursued social justice, civil rights, and political activism. The Rainbow Coalition desired to include everyone on the fringes of political power. It's symbol was the rainbow – representing all of the diverse colors and types of people welcome. But somehow now, in the minds of most Americans; this rainbow symbol represents homosexuals. How did that happen? It definitely didn't just happen. Evidently, the corporate media must have used their Tiny Tim experience to marginalize a mass movement for political participation and personal freedom. (If you know more about this, please leave a comment.)
There are people who don't want us to know the truth. And they will go to extraordinary lengths to keep some people marginalized.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a cover story about Barack Obama on one of the tabloids at the supermarket. I guess I should have been prepared for the same old smear tactics. But the article shocked me anyway. It claimed our President is secretly bisexual. Here we go again. If you don't support the status quo, if you try to stop a war, and if you support the personal freedom that is implied in our constitution; you must be some kind of “pinko.”
Oh by the way, just in case you might have doubts, this accuser FAILED his lie detector test.
There are zealots willing to use any means necessary to win. They will lie every chance they get. They will call us every name they can conjure. They will imprison us for minor offenses. They will steal elections. They will even give trillions of dollars to the very banks that have been ruining our economy - so they we won't be able to provide for those truly in need. Apparently, they believe that they are so right that its OK for them to do wrong... And they will be back, no matter how many times we prevail.
For some; “freedom” is the freedom for them to tell you how to live.
Of course, that would be more accurately defined as oppression.