Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Four Freedoms for the Twenty-First Century

I got a mailing from my Congressman today, composed of a column he published in a newspaper somewhere.  The subject line was "America: Worth Fighting For."

It begins with the standard blather about ordinary Americans having cookouts with their families on the Fourth, and how my Congressman hung out with veterans who fought to keep our country free before returning to Washington DC where there are apparently no veterans; and then a Thomas Paine quotation: "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value."  (I wonder if my right-wing Republican Congressman knows what a radical anti-Christian Paine was.)
Our country has always been fought for, and we must ensure it is always worth fighting for. Every generation of Americans has bravely faced threats from abroad and challenges from within. Today, our troops are fighting for peace in the face of terror, and back home we are grappling with how to ensure the next century is an American one. Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day in the name of the very words we celebrate today: “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This boilerplate posing is so familiar that one hardly pays it any attention.  But it's a tissue of pernicious lies.  Notice, for example, "how to ensure the next century is an American one."  Almost certainly that's an anti-immigrant dogwhistle, though it could also be about economic competition with China.  Maybe both.  The real internal "challenge" comes from the racist Right, and the wealthy oligarchs who believe that they should run the country and the world.

It's false that every generation of Americans "has bravely faced threats from abroad."  The United States has been an aggressor at least often as it had to defend itself, and since the end of World War II we have not fought a single war of self-defense.  The same goes for the claim that "our troops are fighting for peace in the face of terror": our endless war is a war for domination of the entire world.

Which doesn't mean that there aren't things about America that are "worth fighting for."  If we were attacked from without, defense would be completely proper.  Defense, even retaliation, was not out of place after the September 11 attacks; the wretched irony is that Bush chose to retaliate against everybody except the attackers.

In that light, we should remember that the American continents were worth fighting for, for the pre-Columbian peoples; Korea was worth fighting for, for Koreans; Vietnam was worth fighting for, for Vietnamese; Cuba was worth fighting for, for Cubans; Palestine is worth fighting for, for Palestinians; Afghanistan is worth fighting for, for Afghans; Iraqis thought that Iraq was worth fighting for; if it comes to that, Iranians and Venezuelans and Koreans once again will hold their countries worth fighting for.  But this can't be admitted by patriots: there is only one country worth fighting for, as far as they can recognize.  They are indignant when the citizens of another country defend it against a US invasion.  If you really want the ratification of Americans' love of country, however, you have to grant the validity of other peoples' love of theirs.

In a broader sense of "fight," many Americans have fought for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: abolitionists, runaway slaves, opponents of US wars of aggression, the Civil Rights Movement, the defenders of civil liberties, working people, women, gay men and lesbians and transgender people -- everyone that people like my Congressman would rather forget about, and certainly have no interest in celebrating on the Fourth.

What followed made my eyes bug out:
That’s why, in Congress, I work every day to ensure our country’s policies reflect the values that our men and women in uniform are fighting for:

    freedom to spend your hard-earned paycheck for your family, not give it all to the government;
    the opportunity to turn an idea into a Fortune 500 company, not be limited by government overreach;
    the freedom to think differently from your neighbor without persecution or stigma;
    a doctor-patient relationship without the government signing your prescription.

Essentially, it is the ability of every American to pursue their American dream.

Today, on the Fourth of July, I’m reminded that our American values, the freedom and independence we declared 243 years ago, are always worth fighting for.
This, I presume, is the right-wing Hoosier version of FDR's Four Freedoms.  Yeah, that's what Tom Paine cared about: his right to pay no taxes on his Fortune 500 company.  That's what the Second World War was about, the freedom to be a Nazi without persecution or stigma.  And that's what our men and women are fighting for today: the right to go bankrupt from medical bills, assuming you can afford a doctor-patient relationship in the first place.... Since solid majorities of Americans, even Republicans, want a government-run healthcare system and higher taxes on the rich, my Congressman has to be delusional.  But he doesn't stand alone: the Democratic Party leadership shares his delusions, no less than the Republican elites.  Joe Biden would be happy to reach across the aisle to him.  There must be something hallucinogenic in the swampy water of Washington, D.C.