Monthly Archives: September 2013

GOP – Strident And Shrill Equals Desperate

aca

There are basically two reasons Republicans are desperately against the Affordable Care Act and neither of them have much to do with the health care needs of the American people.

1)    They hate the way the law was passed with no or almost no Republican votes. This is the party that has perfected the strategy of passing unpopular bills with overwhelmingly Republican votes on Fridays or in the middle of the night. However, Republicans try to convince the American people that Obama and the Dems are the only party which uses this “trick” which was actually borrowed directly from the GOP Playbook. This has irked them to the extreme ever since the law passed Congress and was signed by the President.

2)    They are also looking ahead to the 2014 election. If “Obamacare” does well they may lose the House and not be able to take the Senate. It is not their base that they are afraid of, although they claim that is who is calling the shots. It is the wealthy, the top donors, who are the real power brokers they must kow-tow to. These guys who head all those ultra Conservative think tanks and who are the corporate backers of the Conservative movement; they are the ones who can “primary” them, threatening to replace them with a candidate with a more “pure” adherence to the party platform. These money men may also be responding to the base, however, when their interests coincide with lesser beings. After all the Tea Party spent the summer whipping the base into a frenzy about Obamacare.

Does the fact that the Affordable Care Act is complex necessarily make it bad? Obama left private insurance companies with a role in health care. I wouldn’t have. Yes, he hemmed them in with rules and regulations but they will eventually find the loopholes and weasel around with them. They will find shifty, selfish ways to make a larger profit and they will continue to call this just good creative Capitalism instead of the greed that it will actually be.

The Republicans newest cry is “give this to us; we’ll do it much more simply”. Well simple is not necessarily better. Vouchers and interstate plans sound like a plan that is basically no different from what we already had. The GOP is not known for its love of rules and regulations, at least not when they affect big businesses.

I don’t know if the ACA will revolutionize health care but I don’t think forcing parents to go to the ER every time a child has a fever, exposing them to dangerous germs and adult trauma, is the answer to health care in America. I am willing to wait and see. This is not the life or death crisis it is being shrilly touted to be. The Republicans have put America through this huge drama for selfish reasons and we will not forget it. We know what to do. Elect Democrats in 2014!

 

GOP – Strident and Shrill Equals Desperate

 
 

There are basically two reasons Republicans are desperately against the Affordable Care Act and neither of them have much to do with the health care needs of the American people.

1)    They hate the way the law was passed with no or almost no Republican votes. This is the party that has perfected the strategy of passing unpopular bills with overwhelmingly Republican votes on Fridays or in the middle of the night. However, Republicans try to convince the American people that Obama and the Dems are the only party which uses this “trick” which was actually borrowed directly from the GOP Playbook. This has irked them to the extreme ever since the law passed Congress and was signed by the President.

 

2)    They are also looking ahead to the 2014 election. If “Obamacare” does well they may lose the House and not be able to take the Senate. It is not their base that they are afraid of, although they claim that is who is calling the shots. It is the wealthy, the top donors, who are the real power brokers they must kow-tow to. These guys who head all those ultra Conservative think tanks and who are the corporate backers of the Conservative movement; they are the ones who can “primary” them, threatening to replace them with a candidate with a more “pure” adherence to the party platform. These money men may also be responding to the base, however, when their interests coincide with lesser beings. After all the Tea Party spent the summer whipping the base into a frenzy about Obamacare.

Does the fact that the Affordable Care Act is complex necessarily make it bad? Obama left private insurance companies with a role in health care. I wouldn’t have. Yes, he hemmed them in with rules and regulations but they will eventually find the loopholes and weasel around with them. They will find shifty, selfish ways to make a larger profit and they will continue to call this just good creative Capitalism instead of the greed that it will actually be.

The Republicans newest cry is “give this to us; we’ll do it much more simply”. Well simple is not necessarily better. Vouchers and interstate plans sound like a plan that is basically no different from what we already had. The GOP is not known for its love of rules and regulations, at least not when they affect big businesses.

I don’t know if the ACA will revolutionize health care but I don’t think forcing parents to go to the ER every time a child has a fever, exposing them to dangerous germs and adult trauma, is the answer to health care in America. I am willing to wait and see. This is not the life or death crisis it is being shrilly touted to be. The Republicans have put America through this huge drama for selfish reasons and we will not forget it. We know what to do. Elect Democrats in 2014!

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com
 

Surprises of Globalization

cheese-making-kazakhstan_71803_990x742

Photo Credit: Shamil Zhumatov, Reuters shared on Google+ by Fadhel Hawramany, Cheese-making in Kazahkstan

The admonition of our forefathers that “all men (and women) are created equal” does guide a lot our decisions as Americans and lately seems to keep leading us back to another old adage, that one that says “no good deed goes unpunished”. The fact that it seemed wrong to many Americans to enjoy relative prosperity while many others around the world seemed to languish in poverty led to a belief that, although Americans lost all of their jobs, the jobs that were created in places where no boom has gone before (in recent memory) convinced us that this was, in some twisted self-effacing way, a good thing for the whole world in the long run. Allowing others to make puny wages doing jobs that provided Americans with great incomes could be justified because it would eventually lift up workers around the world, assuage our national guilt, and usher in a future that guaranteed human rights for all. Not that we necessarily had a choice. Globalization happened. Actually, of course, average Americans did not send their jobs to other nations; their jobs were yanked away and bestowed elsewhere. Still it is somewhat comforting to believe that losing our jobs makes us better Americans, adhering to the ideals that formed the basis of our nation and the ideals that people around the world have found admirable and desirable.

I don’t think we have been quite as happy with the realities of the road to globalization. It will take many generations, probably, for global economics to raise the standard of living for everyone. In the meantime, Americans are left in a sort of economic backwater, a zone where all but the wealthiest Americans are stuck treading water, and rather brackish water at that. We don’t really want to be in this financial limbo and we may not stay here for long. Hopefully we will find a way up and out, a way back to the prosperity that makes America hum, that calms twitchy Republican plutocrats, and gives us back our optimistic spirit. What we can’t know is how long it will take for this to happen, and whether we will be able to pull another rabbit out of our magic hat and find the next thing or things that will take us to a new prosperity. Perhaps on our enforced hiatus from prosperity we will learn to enjoy a bit of languishing, to slow down a bit and embrace a simpler lifestyle that values intangibles like family and friends and leisure and that does not so much rely on collecting more and more stuff, things, objects we never have any time to appreciate.

Must everyone in America have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances? I just saw a photo taken by someone on Google+ that shows a Central Asian mother and daughter making cheese. They are squatting in a hut with a straw floor forming perfect mounds of fresh cheese on a wooden board probably getting ready to sell their cheeses at the local market. Obviously the contrast between these two “kitchen” scenarios exposes the distance the world must travel before there is any real economic global equality of opportunity. If we find a way to restore the upward trajectory of our economy the distance among nations will continue to widen or at least maintain its current proportions. However, I don’t expect that we will lag behind on purpose waiting for people in other nations to catch up.

In addition, economics is not the only sphere of human activity that has been stirred by globalization. An absolute torrent of hostility has been released, most of it religious in nature between people who adhere to a set of stern religious laws and have practiced this demanding religion since antiquity.  So we find ourselves in the midst of a religious firestorm, a maelstrom that was unforeseen by most of us. If you read science fiction, especially Frank Herbert’s Dune books, the idea of jihad probably did not come as a total surprise, but still, who knew; not us “ugly” Americans. We did not know that modern communication devices like computers and especially cell phones, and the penchant for tourism that arose with transportation advances and increased prosperity would, just like disturbing a hive of hornets, produce culture shock after culture shock, foment anger and violent reactionary responses that would lead to the threat of terrorism that has arrived on America’s (and the rest of the industrialized world’s) doorstep and which has become a new fact of life.

Who knew that there are many people who would want to resist globalization, who treasured their traditional lifestyle, their religious isolation and who, once change began to rock their world, awoke to a passion of missionary zeal that Allah requires once the infidel is right in your backyard. Christians ought to understand the often unintentional cruelties of the call to carry a foreign religious mission to “pagans” and “nonbelievers”. Many of us did not foresee that what seemed like just simple economic change would resonate through every level of the diverse cultures around the world and make diversity one of the largest issues involved in globalization. Untangling these belief issues and lifestyle issues requires delicacy and time, not strong weapons in the American arsenal. We are spontaneous, well-meaning, earnest, clueless; bulls in the china shop of global human interactions. We are not known for either patience or delicacy.

Now that globalization has begun, it probably can’t be stopped unless we go into another “dark” age which seems unlikely. But the globalizations we are experiencing will probably not do away with nations, nor will it probably do away with religions, at least not in any of our lifetimes. Can we wend our ways through the minefields of culture shock and religious intolerance and economic rises and falls to form a more perfect union of the world’s nations that could bring to our little planet health and peace? That is the challenge of this particular era of human history. Will environmental forces trump all of it and drown us in global environmental crisis? We live with that challenge right now. Yikes. I wish I believed that this all arose from our belief that all men are created equal (and perhaps some of it did) but most of this nexus of change arose from greed. Oh well, we are what we are. Surprise! The key words in all this are delicacy and time.

 

Surprises of Globalization

Photo credits: taken by Shamil Zhumatov, Reuters; shared by Fadhel Hawramany on Google+; Cheese-making in Kazakhstan
 
 
The admonition of our forefathers that “all men (and women) are created equal” does guide a lot our decisions as Americans and lately seems to keep leading us back to another old adage, that one that says “no good deed goes unpunished”. The fact that it seemed wrong to many Americans to enjoy relative prosperity while many others around the world seemed to languish in poverty led to a belief that, although Americans lost all of their jobs, the jobs that were created in places where no boom has gone before (in recent memory) convinced us that this was, in some twisted self-effacing way, a good thing for the whole world in the long run. Allowing others to make puny wages doing jobs that provided Americans with great incomes could be justified because it would eventually lift up workers around the world, assuage our national guilt, and usher in a future that guaranteed human rights for all. Not that we necessarily had a choice. Globalization happened. Actually, of course, average Americans did not send their jobs to other nations; their jobs were yanked away and bestowed elsewhere. Still it is somewhat comforting to believe that losing our jobs makes us better Americans, adhering to the ideals that formed the basis of our nation and the ideals that people around the world have found admirable and desirable.

I don’t think we have been quite as happy with the realities of the road to globalization. It will take many generations, probably, for global economics to raise the standard of living for everyone. In the meantime, Americans are left in a sort of economic backwater, a zone where all but the wealthiest Americans are stuck treading water, and rather brackish water at that. We don’t really want to be in this financial limbo and we may not stay here for long. Hopefully we will find a way up and out, a way back to the prosperity that makes America hum, that calms twitchy Republican plutocrats, and gives us back our optimistic spirit. What we can’t know is how long it will take for this to happen, and whether we will be able to pull another rabbit out of our magic hat and find the next thing or things that will take us to a new prosperity. Perhaps on our enforced hiatus from prosperity we will learn to enjoy a bit of languishing, to slow down a bit and embrace a simpler lifestyle that values intangibles like family and friends and leisure and that does not so much rely on collecting more and more stuff, things, objects we never have any time to appreciate.

Must everyone in America have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances? I just saw that photo that you see at the top of this post, taken by someone at Reuters and shared on Google+ that shows a Central Asian mother and daughter making cheese. They are squatting in a hut with a straw floor forming perfect mounds of fresh cheese on a wooden board probably getting ready to sell their cheeses at the local market. Obviously the contrast between these two “kitchen” scenarios exposes the distance the world must travel before there is any real economic global equality of opportunity. If we find a way to restore the upward trajectory of our economy the distance among nations will continue to widen or at least maintain its current proportions. However, I don’t expect that we will lag behind on purpose waiting for people in other nations to catch up.

In addition, economics is not the only sphere of human activity that has been stirred by globalization. An absolute torrent of hostility has been released, most of it religious in nature between people who adhere to a set of stern religious laws and have practiced this demanding religion since antiquity.  So we find ourselves in the midst of a religious firestorm, a maelstrom that was unforeseen by most of us. If you read science fiction, especially Frank Herbert’s Dune books, the idea of jihad probably did not come as a total surprise, but still, who knew; not us “ugly” Americans. We did not know that modern communication devices like computers and especially cell phones, and the penchant for tourism that arose with transportation advances and increased prosperity would, just like disturbing a hive of hornets, produce culture shock after culture shock, foment anger and violent reactionary responses that would lead to the threat of terrorism that has arrived on America’s (and the rest of the industrialized world’s) doorstep and which has become a new fact of life.

Who knew that there are many people who would want to resist globalization, who treasure their traditional lifestyle, their religious isolation and who, once change began to rock their world, awoke to a passion of missionary zeal that Allah requires once the infidel is right in your backyard. Christians ought to understand the often unintentional cruelties of the call to carry a foreign religious mission to “pagans” and “nonbelievers”. Many of us did not foresee that what seemed like just simple economic change would resonate through every level of the diverse cultures around the world and make diversity one of the largest issues involved in globalization. Untangling these belief issues and lifestyle issues requires delicacy and time, not strong weapons in the American arsenal. We are spontaneous, well-meaning, earnest, clueless; bulls in the china shop of global human interactions. We are not known for either patience or delicacy.

Now that globalization has begun, it probably can’t be stopped unless we go into another “dark” age which seems unlikely. But the globalizations we are experiencing will probably not do away with nations, nor will it probably do away with religions, at least not in any of our lifetimes. Can we wend our ways through the minefields of culture shock and religious intolerance and economic rises and falls to form a more perfect union of the world’s nations that could bring to our little planet health and peace? That is the challenge of this particular era of human history. Will environmental forces trump all of it and drown us in global environmental crisis? We live with that challenge right now. Yikes. I wish I believed that this all arose from our belief that all men are created equal (and perhaps some of it did) but most of this nexus of change arose from greed. Oh well, we are what we are. Surprise! The key words here are delicacy and time.

 

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey – Book

the flight of gemma hardy

Gemma Hardy, the main character in The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey is not a lucky child. Her young life is full of tragedy and loss and she is saved from loneliness and orphaned state only to have stability and a sense of belonging yanked away from her once again. Gemma had a happy family in Iceland until her parents died. Her uncle came to take her to Scotland to live with his family and her uncle is good to her.  She feels she is home again until he dies when she is still a girl, at which point she becomes the “Cinderella” to her aunt and her cousins. She thinks she will land on her feet when she receives a scholarship to a private school but it turns out that “scholarship” equals poor and although she does attend classes, she is also a servant, a maid who has an unpaid job keeping the rooms in Claypoole School clean. This is not like a simple work-study position like we might have today. Class distinctions were clear cut and a working student was treated like a servant. This school does not become an answer to her isolation; it is not a home for Gemma.

However, times changed and private schools no longer thrived so Gemma is freed from servitude. She applies to be an au pair in the Orkney Islands, a companion to a small child, Nell, who lives in a posh but lonely house, while the mysterious uncle who took her in when her parents died is mostly required in stay in Edinburgh to earn a living. There are secrets all over these Orkney Islands. Gemma and Mr. Sinclair begin to have feelings for each other but Gemma flies away from the promise of a real home on her wedding night as some of the secrets that have been lurking are revealed.

As Gemma travels she sees some of the things that she will resort to when she thinks her life or her safety is threatened. But Gemma, I’m afraid, does not really ever take hold of my heartstrings. I care a little about what happens to her, enough to read to the end of the story, but I don’t feel that she is a sympathetic enough character to really carry this story. The places where the book takes place (the settings) are quite appealing and although the book is compared by some to Jane Eyre,  and although the Orkney’s have some of that same atmospheric darkness that we see in Jane Eyre, the characters do not really hold up. The characters are too modern with all their human flaws to capture the gothic sensibilities which the book aspires to.  I liked the story; I just didn’t love it.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey – Book

 

Gemma Hardy, the main character in The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey is not a lucky child. Her young life is full of tragedy and loss and she is saved from loneliness and orphaned state only to have stability and any sense of belonging yanked away from her once again. Gemma had a happy family in Iceland until her parents died. Her uncle came to take her to Scotland to live with his family and her uncle is good to her.  She feels she is home again until he dies when she is still a girl, at which point she becomes the “Cinderella” to her aunt and her cousins. She thinks she will land on her feet when she receives a scholarship to a private school but it turns out that “scholarship” equals “poor” and although she does attend classes, she is also a servant, a maid who has an unpaid job keeping the rooms in Claypoole School clean. This is not like a simple work-study position like we might have today. Class distinctions were clear cut and a working student was treated like a servant. This school does not become an answer to her isolation; it is not a home for Gemma.

However, times changed and private schools no longer thrived so Gemma is freed from servitude. She applies to be an au pair in the Orkney Islands, a companion to a small child, Nell, who lives in a posh but lonely house, while the mysterious uncle who took her in when her parents died is mostly required in stay in Edinburgh to earn a living. There are secrets all over these Orkney Islands. Gemma and Mr. Sinclair begin to have feelings for each other but Gemma flies away from the promise of a real home on her wedding night as some of the secrets that have been lurking are revealed.

As Gemma travels she sees some of the things that she will resort to when she thinks her life or her safety is threatened. But Gemma, I’m afraid, does not really ever take hold of my heartstrings. I care a little about what happens to her, enough to read to the end of the story, but I don’t feel that she is a sympathetic enough character to really carry this story. The places where the book takes place (the settings) are quite appealing and although the book is compared by some to Jane Eyre,  and although the Orkney’s have some of that same atmospheric darkness that we see in Jane Eyre, the characters do not really hold up. The characters are too modern with all their human flaws to capture the gothic sensibilities which the book aspires to.  I liked the story; I just didn’t love it.

The Republican Lies About the ACA (Obamacare)

obamacare

Everyday each Republican who is on tap for any interview on any TV show tells America that Americans do not want the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). They have been quoting this exact same bogus fact for years now and have geared up the repetitions exponentially in recent days. Just saying something again and again does not make it so. Honest.

Why would Americans hate this bill? It makes no sense. Americans like so many things about this bill.

Your children can be covered by your health insurance until they are 26 years old, if necessary. (What is hateful about this?)

We won’t have to continue to pay higher fees because some people use the emergency room as their doctor. (Perhaps you don’t mind paying higher fees.)

The private for-profit health insurance providers will have some competition from the public part of the plan and from the exchanges which will lower costs and stop these companies from riding roughshod over their customers. (Are you sure that you want to be a purist about stopping all public programs?)

You will be covered even if you have a pre-existing condition. (You have to be crazy to not want that, and you will never get this concession in a totally private for-profit world.)

I will not have to go bankrupt if I get really sick. (Oh did you want to go bankrupt?)

The health insurance industry has agreed not to put a cap on expenditures over a lifetime. (They only agreed to this because so many new customers will be buying insurance.)

Why would we want to defund this law, to starve it out? It does not make sense. It makes sense that the health care insurance people and others in the health care industry might want to undo this law, but not the average citizen. This might make some sense if you are a hard line Republican who wants to defund everything, but do you want the everything that is defunded to include Social Security? Do you want to include that disability money for your disabled child or young adult? Republicans somehow think they are being asked to pay for more poor people when actually they have already been paying more for poor people’s medical care and under the ACA will pay less.

We will probably find many flaws with “Obamacare” and once we find out what they are we will be able to fix these flaws. Maybe there will be doctors who will refuse to see Medicare or Medicaid patients because the payments are set to low. We will have to see what happens to drug costs. We will have to see how the taxes on those who manufacture medical devices will affect costs. Can they pass the fees on to the consumer? Will treatment choices be too limited? Will it destroy the 40 hour work week? (We’ll see.)

This is a very complicated law, thousands of pages, but most of those pages contain technical information about how to implement the law. We probably don’t really need to understand all these instructional pages. It would be nice if someone boiled the whole thing down to just the points that affect the insured (us) but this type of summary is available on the web and I got my information from listening to presentations in the media. Forget the thousand pages, just focus on what affects you.

If we no longer are able to get good and timely health care because of the ACA I believe that we will then make a big stink and we can then try to write a new plan, perhaps the single payer plan that seems to work so well in other nations and that seems so appealing to some of us.

As for the Republican plan which now calls for subsidies paid by the government (how is this different from vouchers) and the same private for-profit insurance plans for our health care that we are trying to get away from, except they will be able to offer insurance across state lines (how much will that improve cost cuts from competition when insurance companies in the past all have colluded to offer the same choices at nearly the same prices.) While this (Republican) plan will get our employers out of our healthcare, in every other way it will represent a return to what we had, except for those subsidies (vouchers) that may or may not cover the newly skyrocketing health care costs we will probably encounter.

Why didn’t we just fix health insurance for those who didn’t have it and leave the rest of us alone? I think that the answer to this is statistical; since the insurance industry runs on calculating risks, they could not offer the advantages built into the ACA without large numbers of insured so that meant the whole system had to change. I believe they tried to change as little as possible for people who were happy with their insurance (was anyone really happy), and, once again, if the product we get is unsatisfactory I don’t think we will be silent about it. It’s the law; we’re trying it. If you are one of those people trying to defund it or delay it then please stop. Just cut it out!

 

The Republican Lies About the ACA (Obamacare)

 
 
Everyday each Republican who is on tap for any interview on any TV show tells America that Americans do not want the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). They have been quoting this exact same bogus fact for years now and have geared up the repetitions exponentially in recent days. Just saying something again and again does not make it so. Honest.

Why would Americans hate this bill? It makes no sense. Americans like so many things about this bill.

Your children can be covered by your health insurance until they are 26 years old, if necessary. (What is hateful about this?)

We won’t have to continue to pay higher fees because some people use the emergency room as their doctor. (Perhaps you don’t mind paying higher fees.)

The private for-profit health insurance providers will have some competition from the public part of the plan and from the exchanges which will lower costs and stop these companies from riding roughshod over their customers. (Are you sure that you want to be a purist about stopping all public programs?)

You will be covered even if you have a pre-existing condition. (You have to be crazy to not want that, and you will never get this concession in a totally private for-profit world.)

I will not have to go bankrupt if I get really sick. (Oh did you want to go bankrupt?)

The health insurance industry has agreed not to put a cap on expenditures over a lifetime. (They only agreed to this because so many new customers will be buying insurance.)

Why would we want to defund this law, to starve it out? It does not make sense. It makes sense that the health care insurance people and others in the health care industry might want to undo this law, but not the average citizen. This might make some sense if you are a hard line Republican who wants to defund everything, but do you want the everything that is defunded to include Social Security? Do you want to include that disability money for your disabled child or young adult? Republicans somehow think they are being asked to pay for more poor people when actually they have already been paying more for poor people’s medical care and under the ACA will pay less.

We will probably find many flaws with “Obamacare” and once we find out what they are we will be able to fix these flaws. Maybe there will be doctors who will refuse to see Medicare or Medicaid patients because the payments are set to low. We will have to see what happens to drug costs. We will have to see how the taxes on those who manufacture medical devices will affect costs. Can they pass the fees on to the consumer? Will treatment choices be too limited? Will it destroy the 40 hour work week? (We’ll see.)

This is a very complicated law, thousands of pages, but most of those pages contain technical information about how to implement the law. We probably don’t really need to understand all these instructional pages. It would be nice if someone boiled the whole thing down to just the points that affect the insured (us) but this type of summary is available on the web and I got my information from listening to presentations in the media. Forget the thousand pages, just focus on what affects you.

If we no longer are able to get good and timely health care because of the ACA I believe that we will then make a big stink and we can then try to write a new plan, perhaps the single payer plan that seems to work so well in other nations and that seems so appealing to some of us.

As for the Republican plan which now calls for subsidies paid by the government (how is this different from vouchers) and the same private for-profit insurance plans for our health care that we are trying to get away from, except they will be able to offer insurance across state lines (how much will that improve cost cuts from competition when insurance companies in the past all have colluded to offer the same choices at nearly the same prices.) While this (Republican) plan will get our employers out of our healthcare, in every other way it will represent a return to what we had, except for those subsidies (vouchers) that may or may not cover the newly skyrocketing health care costs we will probably encounter.

Why didn’t we just fix health insurance for those who didn’t have it and leave the rest of us alone? I think that the answer to this is statistical; since the insurance industry runs on calculating risks, they could not offer the advantages built into the ACA without large numbers of insured so that meant the whole system had to change. I believe they tried to change as little as possible for people who were happy with their insurance (was anyone really happy), and, once again, if the product we get is unsatisfactory I don’t think we will be silent about it. It’s the law; we’re trying it. If you are one of those people trying to defund it or delay it then please stop. Just cut it out!

 This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com


 

Trivializing Freedom

freedom5

I spend quality time thinking about freedom. I wake up in the middle of the night, 2 am or 3 am, and I am trying to grasp what freedom means. Freedom is a word that contains so much sweetness. It is an ideal to strive for, never to be reached, but it is also real, real because it has relative reality. We know what freedom is when we see those who are not free.

I believe our forefathers had it right when they put freedom of speech at the top of the list. The mind is what must have freedom. Of course, it is true that even when the body is shackled the mind may be able to roam free, but obviously, although freedom of the mind may come first in the hierarchy, freedom of the physical self, our corporeal person must be present as well. Our American freedom, I believe, is where our true “exceptionalism” lies; it is the heart of our democracy.

But many philosophers have written about how difficult freedom can be; to define it, to hold it, to keep it, to live it. Where do the limits of our freedom lie? What if having our freedom serves to curtail someone else’s freedom? Are we free to be bad, evil, immoral? Apparently we don’t believe we are and that’s why we form a government and become a nation of laws.

In real estate they say that ownership of property allows the freedom for the “peaceful enjoyment” of that property. Suppose you have a neighbor who likes to party, who has vehicles parked all over his lawn, who blasts loud music day and night. He is always nice to his neighbors, always helpful. He is a happy man enjoying his freedom. Are his neighbors free? Are they happy? Free to move perhaps; happy when winter comes perhaps – but if the quiet people ask their neighbor to enjoy his freedom a little less so that they can enjoy their peace a little more and if he agrees, then no one has the same degree of freedom or of the deprivation of freedom as they previously did. One neighbor has gained freedom; one has lost some freedom.

I don’t think freedom means absolute freedom. It looks like freedom is always a relative construct. Perhaps we should not be free in some of the ways Americans have come to interpret freedom. We may not be entitled to the longer and longer childhoods some people in America experience. We are not really free to swallow as many alcoholic beverages as we do or spend as much time as we do getting high, or partying. An addiction is not freedom – it is another way to be chained. It interferes with the freedom of others. It costs others money and time and anguish and it sucks other people down with it. What you are free to do is take care of your body, feed it properly, i.e. exercise it, feed your brain, i.e. educate it. Otherwise you are actually restricting your freedom and that of others. There is no freedom in wasting or being wasted, but in a free society these decisions, in spite of the weight they place on others, are freely made (although illegal). If you take a moral approach to freedom you cannot choose these things because freedom should lift you up and these things keep you (and your culture) down.

In America these days we are like children who just discovered their freedom and want to be as naughty as possible. We are wasting freedom, mistaking freedom for hedonism. With freedom there is responsibility; there is gravitas. Look what our obsession with mindless stimulation is doing. We end up having a group of people who are in the virtual mosh pit, just throwing themselves onto the arms of the rest of us to float above life’s realities (realities like the need to eat, to earn a living, to contribute of your free will to the society in which you float). How naïve and self-destructive is it to get so wasted that you throw yourself on the trust (mercy) of your fellow peeps, who are often as wasted as you, or who have often declared that they will express their freedom as predators? You are perhaps assuming that you will be rescued by someone who mixes some values in with their freedom, who uses some of their precious freedom to rescue drunks and druggies, extreme partiers, and gang bangers.

The very freedom to be a criminal that is exercised so often these days in America is actually freedom to become extinct. It is not the freedom that soars and that is worth fighting for and that sets us apart. We need you imbibers, and ingest-ers, and indulgers to stop. You’re killing our buzz. Our America is becoming sleazy, disgusting, adolescent, mentally unbalanced, wasted and unsafe. We already did the tune out and drop out thing; now we ought to try the tune in and stay with it thing to see if it’s better. I have a feeling it will be.

I don’t think we are free to stop being our brother’s keeper and I don’t long for the freedom of anarchy. I grew up in a family with eight children. Mom was anarchy; Dad was order; we benefitted from the mix. I don’t want to stop all programs for the least fortunate among us. I would rather see us create a strategy to gradually nudge those hedonists among us to find satisfaction in a deeper form of freedom, as opposed to that mindless interpretation of freedom so many seem stuck on now.

The very drugs that were supposed to deliver our citizens from mental illness are, when taken for recreation, destroying us. We can’t afford to give Americans the freedom to be self-destructive because it ends up ruining us all. We are certainly not making freedom look as appealing to the rest of the globe as we should be. People must just shake their heads and decide that if this is where freedom takes a nation, then perhaps they don’t want to drink that Kool-Aid. In fact, this is not where freedom should take us. What good does it do us to be free to puke in an alley? Freedom is a lot more wonderful than that.

Trivializing Freedom

 
I spend quality time thinking about freedom. I wake up in the middle of the night, 2 am or 3 am, and I am trying to grasp what freedom means. Freedom is a word that contains so much sweetness. It is an ideal to strive for, never to be reached, but it is also real, real because it has relative reality. We know what freedom is when we see those who are not free.

I believe our forefathers had it right when they put freedom of speech at the top of the list. The mind is what must have freedom. Of course, it is true that even when the body is shackled the mind may be able to roam free, but obviously, although freedom of the mind may come first in the hierarchy, freedom of the physical self, our corporeal person must be present as well. Our American freedom, I believe, is where our true “exceptionalism” lies; it is the heart of our democracy.

But many philosophers have written about how difficult freedom can be; to define it, to hold it, to keep it, to live it. Where do the limits of our freedom lie? What if having our freedom serves to curtail someone else’s freedom? Are we free to be bad, evil, immoral? Apparently we don’t believe we are and that’s why we form a government and become a nation of laws.

In real estate they say that ownership of property allows the freedom for the “peaceful enjoyment” of that property. Suppose you have a neighbor who likes to party, who has vehicles parked all over his lawn, who blasts loud music day and night. He is always nice to his neighbors, always helpful. He is a happy man enjoying his freedom. Are his neighbors free? Are they happy? Free to move perhaps; happy when winter comes perhaps – but if the quiet people ask their neighbor to enjoy his freedom a little less so that they can enjoy their peace a little more and if he agrees, then no one has the same degree of freedom or of the deprivation of freedom as they previously did. One neighbor has gained freedom; one has lost some freedom.

I don’t think freedom means absolute freedom. It looks like freedom is always a relative construct. Perhaps we should not be free in some of the ways Americans have come to interpret freedom. We may not be entitled to the longer and longer childhoods some people in America experience. We are not really free to swallow as many alcoholic beverages as we do or spend as much time as we do getting high, or partying. An addiction is not freedom – it is another way to be chained. It interferes with the freedom of others. It costs others money and time and anguish and it sucks other people down with it. What you are free to do is take care of your body, feed it properly, i.e. exercise it, feed your brain, i.e. educate it. Otherwise you are actually restricting your freedom and that of others. There is no freedom in wasting or being wasted, but in a free society these decisions, in spite of the weight they place on others, are freely made (although illegal). If you take a moral approach to freedom you cannot choose these things because freedom should lift you up and these things keep you (and your culture) down.

In America these days we are like children who just discovered their freedom and want to be as naughty as possible. We are wasting freedom, mistaking freedom for hedonism. With freedom there is responsibility; there is gravitas. Look what our obsession with mindless stimulation is doing. We end up having a group of people who are in the virtual mosh pit, just throwing themselves onto the arms of the rest of us to float above life’s realities (realities like the need to eat, to earn a living, to contribute of your free will to the society in which you float). How naïve and self-destructive is it to get so wasted that you throw yourself on the trust (mercy) of your fellow peeps, who are often as wasted as you, or who have often declared that they will express their freedom as predators? You are perhaps assuming that you will be rescued by someone who mixes some values in with their freedom, who uses some of their precious freedom to rescue drunks and druggies, extreme partiers, and gang bangers.

The very freedom to be a criminal that is exercised so often these days in America is actually freedom to become extinct. It is not the freedom that soars and that is worth fighting for and that sets us apart. We need you imbibers, and ingest-ers, and indulgers to stop. You’re killing our buzz. Our America is becoming sleazy, disgusting, adolescent, mentally unbalanced, wasted and unsafe. We already did the tune out and drop out thing; now we ought to try the tune in and stay with it thing to see if it’s better. I have a feeling it will be.

I don’t think we are free to stop being our brother’s keeper and I don’t long for the freedom of anarchy. I grew up in a family with eight children. Mom was anarchy; Dad was order; we benefitted from the mix. I don’t want to stop all programs for the least fortunate among us. I would rather see us create a strategy to gradually nudge those hedonists among us to find satisfaction in a deeper form of freedom, as opposed to that mindless interpretation of freedom so many seem stuck on now. Some need is real; some is self-inflicted.

The very drugs that were supposed to deliver our citizens from mental illness are, when taken for recreation, destroying us. We can’t afford to give Americans the freedom to be self-destructive because it ends up ruining us all. We are certainly not making freedom look as appealing to the rest of the globe as we should be. People must just shake their heads and decide that if this is where freedom takes a nation, then perhaps they don’t want to drink that Kool-Aid. In fact, this is not where freedom should take us. What good does it do us to be free to puke in an alley? Freedom is a lot, and I really mean a lot, more wonderful than that.
 
This is the view from the cheap seats.
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