XLVIII – Land of the Free?

The publishing date for this post is 07 July 2019. Independence Day for the United States just passed. You hear a lot of talk of patriotism and freedom around this time of year. But are we truly free?

During the time of the American Revolution in the 18th century, the Colonists wanted their freedom from oppressive English rule and law. They wanted to govern their own, not be controlled by another country. So, they fought the British and won their independence. Every year on 04 July, we celebrate that event that happened 243 years ago. But what have we turned into during those 243 years?

You hear the slogan “land of the free, home of the brave”. But are we really free? How are we “free”? You might say “freedom of speech”, but that is mocked daily. People in 2019 seem to be offended by virtually anything anyone can say. Hell, you can’t even refer to some people by their gender without causing some kind of row (brings to mind the “how dare you assume my gender” meme). You can’t call a black person black anymore (“people of color”). You can’t use the word “midget” anymore (“little person”). Cripple is gone (“deficient”). Hell, old people aren’t even called that anymore (“senior citizen”). There’s a politically correct way of saying everything now. If you don’t speak in political correctness, you’re ostracized. Freedom of speech, huh🤔?

And what about traveling? You can’t go to the gate anymore, unless you’re subjected to your luggage being examined, your naked body being scanned by a machine that looks under your clothes, you have to remove your shoes, and you could possibly be accosted, groped and molested by TSA screeners in “advanced screening”. All of this being legal because of 9/11. Let’s also contemplate the NSA spying on US citizens by way of storing billions of phone conversations. Why don’t we trade some of our freedoms for the illusion of security?

While still in the First Amendment, since when did freedom of religion (worshipping who and how you want) become freedom from religion? Granted, you can be atheist if you so desire, or even worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as far as I’m concerned, but why is religion being removed from every aspect of life in this country? I’m surprised some group out there hasn’t tried to sue the government to rewrite the Constitution to remove the words “We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights…” Perhaps I shouldn’t speak too loudly.

There’s been a big brouhaha about the Ten Commandments on courthouse walls in some places. Opponents claim separation of church and state. The exact meaning of that phrase has been blown way out of context to fit certain modern agendas. Few people know the origin of that expression. It came from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. In that letter, he was describing how the First Amendment prevents the formation of a national church, and that government would not interfere with their worshipping. His exact words are as follows: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” (emphasis added)
Granted that there should be no national church (à la the Church of England that the Colonists fought against), most people in this country are religious in some form, many of them being Christian and following the Ten Commandments. Why then are a select few people allowed to overrule the desires of many people who don’t really give a fuck if a plaque of the Ten Commandments sits idly on a wall? Are we truly free to worship as we please?

Life in 2019 is resemblant of a surveillance state. Cameras are ubiquitous. You see them left and right in stores for security, on traffic lights and along highways, hell, even in everyone’s pockets. There are few places you can go where you’re not being recorded on a camera somewhere. This is scary to think about, but maybe when George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four, perhaps he was being prophetic about the 21st century? We wrote that book in 1949, talking about how the government in the book (the “Party”) was watching everyone (“Big Brother”) and was quashing individuality. As mentioned, today we’re on camera at nearly all times—about the only time we’re not is in the bathroom and in department store changing rooms. With the advent of smart TVs and smart speakers, we’re being listened to all the time, even though Google, Amazon and the government will never admit it. How many stories have you read or heard about “don’t say sensitive information near your smart TV”, or how recently, Amazon admitted that its Alexa records everything, someone is listening to that audio, and those recordings are transcribed to text and saved in their cloud. You can delete the audio recorded on the device, but you have to know where to look, and there is no option to make it stop recording. On your iPhone, you can set Siri to “wake up” when you say Hey Siri, but it’s always listening for that phrase. Who’s to say that the phone isn’t recording everything it hears, waiting for the “wake phrase”? Once again, with all the recording and surveillance happening, are we truly free?

Some cameras can be a good thing. Police body cameras and vehicle dashcams have been invaluable to provide an unbiased, unblinking additional angle to police incidents and car accidents, where you might be faced with a “he said, she said” type of case, where it’s one person’s word against another. Store security cameras have been a deterrent to some theft, and an assistant in apprehension of many thieves. Something else I’ve wondered: where are all these recordings being stored? There are literally millions of terabytes of video/audio recordings being made. Where is it all stored? And, who has access to it? Is there some nefarious purpose behind it all? Perhaps these are Orwellian questions, but unfortunately, Big Brother seems to really be watching us all.

The United States may have gained independence from England in 1776, but in 2019, we are far from a totally free people. We are granted freedoms in the Constitution, and we might have more freedom than some countries, but that list of “freedoms” we do have is being reduced and cut shorter as time goes on, in the name of security. The people of this country must decide what their future holds. I am but one person, along for the ride. I have no control over this country’s future and destination.

Enter the ride, strap yourselves in, keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Also, smile! You’re on Candid Camera! Put on your silly face; someone is probably looking at you as we speak😱! So far, so good. Another week has commenced. We’ve survived yet another seven days. Here’s to another seven🥂🍻. Until next Sunday, be safe and be well.

One thought on “XLVIII – Land of the Free?

  1. ‘The Great Hack’ on Netflix is a documentary pertaining to this topic. And oh, how I agree with the questioning of “real freedom”. This country is a real mess and we have our heads in our phones so much we miss it all going by. But, I feel that at the end of each day, with how our next generations are being/will be raised– we’re all going to be fucked and in a poor way, here in the U.S. But that’s another whole fat ass branch off this topic.

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