Whenever I hear 'they hate us because of our freedom' or "because they hate our way of life" or some other such drivel, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. If real people didn't suffer the consequences of it, such ignorance would be amusing. But another annoying thing about statements like these is that they perpetuate the myth that we live in a land of freedom. The sad fact is, we are not free, and haven't been for a long, long time.
In They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 , Milton Mayer wrote about how the German people kept believing they were still free while the Nazis were tightening their control and extending their power over every facet of life. At first people refused to see the obvious, because the infringements on their freedom were coming in small steps. Each of those small steps, on its own, seemed to be no big deal, nothing to rebel against. But by the time you could no longer ignore the big picture, it was too late. 'Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven't done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing) . . . You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.' Remember, all the people had to do for all that to happen was--nothing. The same phenomenon is happening right here, right now, in the U.S. of A. It had been proceeding at a slower rate than 70 years ago in Germany , but now the pace quickens.
I know there are some who will say, 'Wait a minute, fella. You're going too far. The U.S. of A. is still a free country.' O.K., then. If you're free, you should have no trouble doing something that people have done for time immemorial. Buy a cow, shelter and feed and care for it, milk it, and sell the milk. Go ahead, try it and see what happens. Come back and let us know how free you are to do such a simple thing, which has been done since the dawn of civilization.
Freedom is a state of being where an individual does not have to get permission in order to do something that harms no one else's person or property. How many things can you do without getting some form of government permission? Can you build your house on your own property without obtaining government approval? Can you put a new room on your house? Or a new porch? Put in a new toilet? Or even put a shed in your backyard? If you are not free to make your home on your own property, you are not free.
Once you have that home, can you refuse to sell it to the government if they want to use your land for some other purpose? Can you make them go away simply by telling them, 'I will not sell you my property, at any price!' If you are not free to choose if, when, how, to whom, and for how much you will sell your property, you are not free.
Can you drive a motor vehicle across this 'free' country without someone in government approving of you as a driver? Or without getting government permission to use that vehicle on the roads? If you are not free to travel without permission, you are not free.
Can you buy a pistol without government permission? Can you drive across the country with it on your person, even if you have permission to drive a properly permitted vehicle? There's a man, a good man from what I've heard, who got in trouble in Ohio for doing just that. And I'll bet there are many more good people that I haven't heard of who wound up in similar trouble. Let's remind them how free they are. Could anyone even ride a horse cross-country, with an old Winchester rifle in a scabbard, without being hassled? If you are not free to have a firearm at hand for self-defense, no matter where you go, you are not free.
Are you free to say to the government, 'I don't like your retirement plan; therefore, I will no longer pay for it?' Can you, without penalty, tell the government that you will no longer pay for subsidies, for regulations, for wars, for empire, or for any activities that you disapprove? If you are not free to refuse to pay for things that you do not want, you are not free.
If the government decides it needs more troops to build and maintain its empire, can you refuse to go if it calls for you? Will they leave you alone if you tell them you won't kill and die for them? Can you simply ignore the draft, without consequence? Can you refuse to be a conscripted slave? If you are not free to tell the government 'Hell no, I won't go!' you are not free.
Can you open a business, like a simple barbershop, without government permission? Or how about a bakery? A diner? A hot dog stand? A gun shop? It's been said that before we invaded Iraq , there were more gun shops in Baghdad than in Washington D.C. Can you wire or plumb or fix TVs or cars without a government license? If you're not free to make a living without getting permission, you are not free.
And once you have government approval to open a restaurant or bar, are you free to decide what people may do within your business? Can you choose whether or not they may smoke on the premises? Are you free to invite them to light up and enjoy a cigarette, a cigar, or a pipe with their drink, or after their meal? If you are not free to decide what people may or may not do on your property or within your business, you are not free.
Are you free to smoke a joint? Are you free to hire someone to help you satisfy a physical urge? You can do both in the same afternoon in Amsterdam . I haven't heard of anybody attacking the Dutch because of their freedom. If you are not free to entertain your mind and body in any way that does not harm another, with anyone who is willing, you are not free.
Can you undergo any medical treatment you think is in your best interest? Can you use whatever drug you deem appropriate for your condition? Can you even get some marijuana to help you avoid nausea so you can keep your meds from coming back up? Can you get it just to feel a little better for a little while? If you are not free to pursue any treatment or use any substance you think might help you obtain, regain, or retain your health, you are not free.
Are you able to criticize political candidates by name? A week before the next election or primary, place a newspaper or TV or magazine or radio ad criticizing a candidate. Let us know how you fare. The Supreme Court says it's okay to make that a crime. If you are not free to talk about politicians at any time, at any place, by any means, in any form, you are not free.
Can you take your children out of a government or conventional private school setting, without explaining to some bureaucrat how you plan to educate them? Can you homeschool them without getting government approval of your lesson plans? Can you tell everyone to buzz off, that it's none of their business how or if you educate your kids? If you are not free to teach your children what you want, where you want, when you want, and how you want, you are not free.
So, let's reiterate. You need government permission to make your home, travel, earn a living, defend yourself, obtain medical treatment, and educate your children. You will never get government approval for many of those things in many places. You will never get government permission to entertain your mind and body in unapproved ways. At certain times, you cannot criticize those who decide who and what gets approved. You must sell your property to the government if they want it, and you must kill and die for them if they tell you to. And you have no choice but to pay for it all anyway, whether you like it or not.
And still, we think we are free.