Land of the Free? Home of the Brave? Only When It’s Convenient

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Common Dreams

Land of the Free? Home of the Brave? Only When It’s Convenient

These days, it’s almost mandatory for public figures to laud our men and women in the military with praise and gratitude.  “Thank you for your service,” rolls off the tongues of Republicans and Democrats alike.

Certainly that’s the storyline fed us by politicians: our veterans are heroes – a thin green line between existential threats to our country and our freedom.

Odd then, that the principles these men and women ostensibly fought and died defending are being traded away like so much second hand junk at a garage sale.  Let’s examine how.

Republican Hypocrisy of the Highest Order

Don’t look now, but Republicans are engaged in a systematic effort to disenfranchise voters.  Yeah, that’s right—the Party that has sanctimoniously and aggressively wrapped itself in the flag for some 30 years now, is undercutting the one person, one vote principle that is the cornerstone of democracy.

See, as their attempts to use faux patriotism, fear, hate, greed and anger to forge a winning coalition began to unravel in the face of changing demographics, they started trying to prevent people who disagreed with them from voting. 

For Republicans, one person, one vote has given way to our people vote, yours don’t. 

It started in 2000 in Florida with a systematic attempt to exclude voters who were likely to vote for Democrats.  It continued to 2004, where Ohio’s Secretary of State rigged distribution of voting machines so that Democratic leaning precincts were plagued with long lines and even longer delays in voting. 

In 2012, they tried to use trumped up fears about voter fraud to put voter ID laws in place that made it more difficult for seniors, minorities, and students to vote.  Of course, these groups tend to vote for Democrats.  How much voter fraud was there to justify this assault on freedom?  Almost none.

Yet Republicans were ready to exclude tens of thousands – perhaps hundreds of thousands – of voters to fix a problem that barely existed.  Land of the free?  Not so much.

And now we have the latest Republican assault on democracy – tying the electoral college to gerrymandered districts.  Gerrymandering has already disenfranchised voters.  In 2012, 1,156,550 more people voted for Democratic candidates in House races than for Republicans, yet Republicans won the House. 

This latest scheme – endorsed by RNC Chair Reince Priebus would apply this anti-democratic strategy to presidential elections as well.  If states with Republican governors and legislatures such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia, and Ohio had adopted this tactic, Mitt Romney would be President, despite losing the popular vote by nearly 5 million.

Yup, Republicans sure love freedom and democracy – unless of course, it interferes with their attempts to gain power.

And what about those heroes everyone loves to point to – the millions of men and women who, over the course of our history have been wounded, maimed, and killed defending freedom?  Screw ‘em. 

Democrats, Cowards or Conspirators?

Of course, Democrats are doing their own bit to eviscerate our freedoms. 

Remember the Patriot Act, with all its illegal and immoral provisions violating the spirit or letter of the Bill of Rights?  Well, four years after winning the election, it’s still in effect.  Warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention of citizens, the whole panoply of horrors hatched by Bush.  In fact, recently these abuses have been expanded.

In 1759, Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Home of the brave?  Hardly.  When a rag-tag group of stateless terrorists armed only with scavenged weapons and improvised explosives can frighten us into relinquishing essential freedoms, then we have become the home of the terrified. 

So here we are.  Since the founding of our nation, nearly 750,000 people have died in battles, most defending the principles embedded in the Constitution.  Yes, this document has not always been inclusive, and yes, many of these wars were more about aggression and expansion than defense of freedom. 

But until lately, our history has been marked by an expansion of rights to more and more people over the years. 

But no more.  Republicans are trying to rig the system so the majority no longer wins, and Democrats are thumbing their noses at the Bill of Rights.

And where is the mainstream media on all this?  If not quite silent, certainly herded into incoherence with cries of “balance” and fear of being accused of being “partisan.”

Here’s the deal.  Tyranny more often comes silently from within than it does from heralded assaults from without.  And a coup can be executed with money and fear as readily as it can be with arms and aggression.

So it is that a nation that once served as a beacon of freedom slips inexorably toward  a third rate banana republic in which power, ambition, wealth, greed, fear and ignorance trump the Enlightenment principles upon which it was founded.

RIP, heroes.

John Atcheson

John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.

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