American freedom is spiraling out of control, and it needs to be reigned-in. Right?… Wrong!
I don’t know any American who would actually say such a thing – at least not in so many words. But far too many Americans have succumbed to a certain “sickness” these days. It’s the perverse notion that their lives will be improved, and that they will be made to “feel better,” when the freedom of other American individuals and groups is diminished.
This nonsense not only makes for some nasty politics, but is also shaping the ways in which many Americans view the world around them.
Ever since the release of my first book “White House Confidential – The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History,” I frequently get asked if our modern-day politics are the nastiest in American history. The answer is clearly “no.” In terms of nasty behavior among politicians and candidates, things have been far uglier in previous generations.
For example, most Americans would be shocked to learn that a former U.S. Vice President (Aaron Burr) once got in such a heated argument with the former U.S. Treasury Secretary (Alexander Hamilton), that the V.P. ended up shooting and murdering the Treasury Secretary. And it may be “news” to some that while campaigning for re-election in 1828, President John Quincy Adams was so ugly in his attacks on his opponent‘s wife, Rachel Jackson became emotionally debilitated during the campaign, and died from a heart attack days after Andrew Jackson won the election (she was, quite literally, buried in the dress that she intended to wear at her husband’s inauguration).
But those are examples of politicians and candidates beating-up on each other. Today, private American citizens want to do damage to other private American citizens, and politicians are all-too- happy to “play” us for all we’re worth.
Our current President ran an incredibly successful campaign, driven in no small part by his promises of punishing certain groups of Americans. “Rich people,” “overpaid corporate executives,” “the oil companies,” and “pharmaceutical manufacturers” were all targets of Barack Obama’s vicious attacks.
And his message to the rest of us about these select groups of Americans was clear: I’ll make your life better, by constraining their freedom – - making “rich people” less free to create and possess wealth, making companies less free to produce a profit, limiting how much an individual can earn at their job, and so forth. These ideas make for absurd economic policy, in that no President, not even dear leader Barack, can simply re-distribute the nation into prosperity – at some point, somebody has to actually “produce wealth.”
But as political rhetoric, it resonates, which means that at least some Americans really like the idea of taking away other people’s freedom.
In my current hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, there is further evidence of this sickness. After the irrational run-up in Phoenix area real estate prices earlier this decade, followed by the devastating foreclosure crash over the past 18 months, homes in Phoenix are finally starting to sell again. But one of the challenges facing realtors and buyers is what to do with the “damaged” foreclosures.
It’s a bit of an epidemic. Americans, living in Arizona, who, upon losing their otherwise nice, suburban house, on their way out the door go about breaking all the windows, stealing hardware and appliances, and in some instances – - just to “get even,” I suppose – - urinating and defecating on carpets, and burning walls and cabinetry with matches and lighters. Once again, evidence of “the sickness” presents itself – -“I’ll feel better by restricting somebody else’s freedom” – in this case, the next owner’s freedom to enjoy the house.
The sickness also impacts the ways in which some Americans view the world. While hosting talk radio at Phoenix, Arizona’s Newstalk 92-3 KTAR, I spoke last Friday about Recording Artist Tyrese Gibson’s absurd performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA playoff game the night before. Where the lyric reads “the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there..,” Gibson sang “..that our Lakers were still there..” It was disrespectful, it was nonsensical, and I said as much on the show.
But talk show caller Darren, an Army veteran, declared that he fought for “everything that flag represents” – and then explained that Gibson should be “imprisoned for six months” for his stupidity.
“When you were in the Army, were you protecting and upholding the U.S. Constitution?” I asked.
“Of course I was” Darren explained.
“Did that include the First Amendment, or did you leave that one out?” I asked. After a few more seconds of discussion, I thanked Darren for his service in the Army, and assured him that constraining somebody else’s First Amendment rights – - even if that person is “an idiot” – - does NOT make his life any better.
Americans need to become “okay” with freedom again – - not only their own freedom, but that of their fellow Americans. And they better do it quickly!!
by Austin Hill
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