Thursday, October 28, 2010

Four freedoms

“We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want – everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear – anywhere in the world.”
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message to Congress, January 6, 1941

Anyone know what today is the anniversary of? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

On this day, 124 years ago (1886 for those who don’t want to do the math) Liberty Enlightening the World was dedicated on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. The NYT article from that day begins: “The statue of Liberty yesterday was seen through a mist darkly. Piercing winds blew around Bedlow's Island, and the numerous workmen, who were not in any way protected from the weather, worked uncomfortably.”

The description of the weather from Oct. 27, 1886, I think, also describes the political climate we see throughout America today, five days out from the midterm election. Liberty is, indeed, shrouded in a dark mist. At a time when compromise is needed, many Americans are getting set to elect leaders who will do their best to divide us more than ever.

My brother once posed a simple question to me, which I in turn ask you: Does the United States have a two-party system?

Seems like an easy one, but it's not. As much as one side likes to call the other socialists, and they like to respond with fascist (which are indeed two distinct parties), what we have here is a failure to comun’cate. In America we have a one party system. A one-party system divided by ideology since both parties actually believe in democracy. They just have a different way of showing it and different ideas on how it should be implemented.

Contrary to popular beliefs, President Bush was no more a fascist than President Obama is a socialist. If responding to an attack on our country however badly carried out (the response, not the attack) is fascism, and wanting to provide health care to all, however badly conceive, is socialism, well then, sign me up for both newsletters.

I remember being the only guy in my Marine platoon to vote for Bill Clinton. Interestingly enough, even in that supposedly radically conservative environment, it wasn't enough to generate more than a comment or two.

Fast forward to the present day and it seems differing political views are enough to set neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother. Strangely enough, I had one woman tell me she couldn't date me because I wasn't liberal enough, and another a year or so later end a relationship because I was too liberal. To me, that would seem to mean I'm doing it just about right.

Sadly, political tolerance has become the exception rather than the rule in this country. Some recent headlines:

Head Stomp Victim: Paul Supporters Planned It

Violent rhetoric on the trail

Miller security guards handcuff editor

Yes, I know all three of these examples involve Tea Party-backed Republican candidates. However, if I’d heard of a Democratic candidate’s security guards handcuffing a reporter at a public event, you can be sure I’d take note of it.

To me the first article, the one about Rand Paul’s supporters, brings to mind images of Bull Conner’s bull whips, fire hoses and attack dogs. Silencing an opposing political voice through violence is not the American way. Neither is shouting them down, I’d like to point out. I truly thought we’d moved beyond stepping on someone’s head or voice as a political act.

Seems I was wrong.

I seem to remember there being a question on a couple of different forms I filled out for my security clearance asking “Have you ever advocated the violent overthrow of the United States?” Now tell me, how can someone running for a seat in the Senate truthfully answer “no” to that question if they’ve said “Americans might seek Second Amendment remedies to their problems with government”? How can they honestly say “I do” when they are asked to swear or affirm they will support and defend the constitution of the United States as they take the oath of office?

I don’t think they actually understand the Constitution if they feel this way.

One of the most important things I learned at the School of Journalism of Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina is that the First Amendment wasn’t the first amendment. It was actually the third. The real first amendment didn’t pass and the second amendment finally passed in 1992 (202 years after introduction) becoming the 27th Amendment.

However, even if they weren’t first, these words are not a bad basis for governing: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Read those words again carefully. There are candidates out there who believe there should be a state-sponsored religion. They believe in censoring speech and muzzling the press. They believe it’s OK to attack people who gather to ask them questions they don’t want to answer.

We all deserve the four freedoms Roosevelt talked about in 1941, especially freedom from Fear itself. I should not be afraid to express myself in public. I should not be afraid to go to the church, synagogue, mosque or temple of my choice. I should not be afraid to go to a doctor because I’m worried I won’t be able to pay the bill.

For the past 10 or so years I’ve been a firm believer in the need for a third party in this country. Sadly, I thought it would arise from the voters in the middle who’d lost their voices to the fringes of both parties. How could we have known it would explode from the far right?

There are some ugly things happening and being said today in this country. Things I'm sure our founders would cringe at. If they could figure out how to forge this country despite their differences – and they had some doozies – I'd like to think we could rediscover that spirit of compromise. You gotta meet the other guy halfway.

In the end, absolutism never works for anyone.

The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.

– P.J. O’Rourke, Parliament of Whores


Shannon said...

I think we should bring back a retro party. Should we be Whigs or Know-Nothings?

FoggyDew said...

Shannon - How about the Democratic-Republican party? Although founded by Jefferson, we could also lump in a heaping helping of Hamilton.

Brando said...

Ugh, me hates FDR! That bastard! He rots in hell! Ok, on to read the rest of the post.

FoggyDew said...

Brando - Yeah, but I did end it with P.J. so does that balance it out?

Brando said...

OK, finished reading.

1) Yes, the Tea Party is producing some real thuggery and ultimately that'll backfire on the GOP that doesn't stand up to it. The minute someone suggests violence to change things in this country they should be ineligible for federal office of any kind. Should be a straightforward rule--violent overthrow? No Senate seat for you.

2) The only freedoms that the Constitution guarantees are freedoms from the government doing certain things--such as the right to free speech doesn't mean that your First Amendment rights protect you from being fired for saying something your boss doesn't like, or from a person punching you for saying such things (although in the latter case that's assault, but not a Constitutional deprivation). So this FDR "freedom from want" thing may be a worthwhile policy goal, but there is no natural freedom from want. Otherwise, you have a right to demand food from any of society's "haves" (and who the "haves" are, is up to you). Likewise, it'll be nice to ensure health coverage for all, but that is not a Constitutional right and frankly shouldn't be. It's just a matter of policy.

3) If we start a new political party I vote for Whigs, or Roundheads.

Brando said...

Yep, PJ is still good!

magnolia said...

it's a really unnerving time to be a sentient human being. i really can't stand the anti-intellectual bent of the tea party people. when they had their rally here a couple of months ago, i was accosted on the street - twice - and called an elitist by these people for carrying a georgetown law water bottle. seriously? come ON.

FoggyDew said...

Brando - Not a bad concept on your first point. On your second, I never said it was a constitutional right. The constitution, as you know, also never said anything about how to regulate airline traffic and food purity and a host of other things. These, like health care, are well-intentioned policy goals and all fall into the "nice to have" category. To me they all naturally fall into the concept of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

magnolia - It pisses me off too. I worked my ass off for six years in the Marines to afford four years in college. I will never, ever apologize to anyone for being smart enough to go to college. Apologizing for that is like apologizing for being tall and extraordinarily good looking. Which I am, and for which I'm not apologizing either.

Brando said...

Foggy, I'm tired of having to apologize for you being so good looking all the time!

FoggyDew said...

Brando - Just as long as I don't have to do it, I don't care who does. But you know what would help? If you bought a tux. Then we could get someone to apologize for the both of us.

Shannon said...

Watch it, boys, or I'll buy a tux, too!

I also find the anti-smart contingent of the Tea Party very distressing. I mean, I thought beating up on nerds went out of style after high school. The Tea Partiers just remind me of those kids I went to my high school who sat in their trucks, lighting farts and drinking, and making fun of me for studying and being in the gifted program. Then again, they're all still in Woodbridge. And they probably still light farts.

Brando said...

The sad thing is studies have shown the Tea Partiers having higher incomes and education levels than the average Americans, so this is more like the kid in class acting tough and cool and pretending they got worse grades than they did to preserve "street cred". Of course, they seem to rally around actual dullards (cough cough O'Donnell).

And if they did actual fart-lighting at their rallies I would totally be there, with camera in hand!

C_Girl said...

It's kind of the whole "what's the matter with Kansas" argument again--the Republicans, backed by big industries and oil money, are whipping up the base over social issues that they don't intend to actually solve. They just want the votes.

Telling the TPers that logical refutation of their crazy-ass ideas is elitist is kind of a stroke of genius though. Now they get to be dumb and feel morally superior about it.

This amused me this morning: A Robot Explains the Tea Party

Titania said...

As Magnolia, Shannon, and Brando (and you, Foggy), what I find more disheartening and down right terrifying is this trend to not let intellectualism, or even worse, science rule the government and future of the country. I find it extremely self-destructive. I feel like we are going back to medieval times.

Jenny said...

Excellent post. And hey, I have it on good authority that you're tall, dark and handsome.

Anonymous said...

food for thought: $733 million was raised for congressional candidates this year. that's just the house of representatives.

imagine what that money could accomplish if it went to fix problems rather than elect people to talk in circles.