Many of us have grown up with the notion that the USA is a free country which has the distinct privilege of being governed by the people with our human rights forever protected from a tyrannical government through the enactment of the Bill of Rights. I have believed this representation of America to be true more or less for the greater part of my lifetime. This isn't to say that I have always been happy with the outcome of that government or that I am naive to the corruption and outside influences, but I have always believed that there was room for the average person to fill the seats of congress and run our country as the founders intended without anything but the vote at our disposal.
As a child I also believed that part of being an adult was the freedom to make decisions within the your own life and that this was a gift not from Congress, but something more inherent in the human condition. I understood human rights to be inalienable and non-fungible and believed that this fundamental understanding is what ultimately bound these United States. Without some kind of unifying world view, our culture is doomed to continue to decay and break apart. Why did people immigrate to the United States in the last few centuries? Was it not, at least for some, to claim a piece of that freedom to express their fundamental human rights without fear of political retaliation?
As a man, I've had to put away such childish things. As it turns out, many Americans no longer really believe this. Some may still give it lip service, but it seems we are definitely no longer the protectors of freedom we once claimed to be. I am going to take you back to 2003 when a meme was born to try to make France out to be cowardly in the war on terror. Although I typically don't recommend Wikipedia as a source I think for our purposes here they do a fine job illustrating my point.
Freedom fries was a politically motivated renaming for French fries in the United States. The term was created in February 2003 in a North Carolina restaurant, and was widely publicized a month later when the then Republican Chairman of the Committee on House Administration, Bob Ney, renamed the menu item in three Congressional cafeterias. The political renaming occurred in context of France's opposition to the proposed invasion of Iraq. Although some restaurants around the nation followed the renaming, the term became unpopular, in part due to declining support for the Iraq War. Following Ney's resignation as Chairman in 2006, the change in congressional cafeterias was reverted.
Not that this is any real show of our love of freedom, but the point of this propaganda was to shame the French for not being more aggressive to protect freedom around the world. The truth though is that even in 2003, the US was becoming accustom to more tyrannical government policy in the name of safety. The PATRIOT Act was signed just over a year before this meme came out, and many people were completely comfortable with the new powers it granted to the government. People who questioned the events around 9/11 were chastised for being "unpatriotic" and "conspiracy theorists", and any doubt of the efficacy of the war effort was met with hatred by supporters. We allowed the government to completely trample on a number of our human rights without much more than a murmur among friends. The impact has been devastating, not just on our freedom, but on our image throughout the world because the War on Terror has no borders.
Now, 20 years later we have a president who has openly and proudly taken credit for writing the bill that the PATRIOT Act was based on during his time as a Senator, and I'm willing to bet that a good number of the people who voted YEA on the original bill are still in office today. Only one senator voted NAY at the time (1 abstained), and less than 75 representatives voted against it with the vast majority being Democrats. Bernie Sanders voted against it as an independent, and the one senator that voted against has been replaced by Senator Ron Johnson in 2010 using his vote as a campaign point.
Johnson's newest ad says that despite Feingold's call to “combat terrorism and protect America,” he was “the only senator to vote against intelligence tools after 9/11."
Isn't it interesting how at the time we were led to believe that it was Republicans who were pushing for the bill to be pushed through when in fact it seems Democrats sponsored it BEFORE we suffered the loss of 3,000 lives to terrorism. And how odd now that it's the Democrats who ultimately do put an end to the war in Afghanistan. I will be discussing that hot button issue in another article because I don't want to get too far off track here, but I will say what has happened with our exit is an absolute mess.
When you stand back and look at these events not as isolated periods but as a whole timeline, you start to see less distinction between the dominant parties. It almost looks like a magic show where the illusionist is able to distract you with his left hand while he uses the right hand to pull something out of his belt for his next trick. You could argue that we really are a one party state. Of course there are "third parties", but the candidates they bring to the table don't do well under the vicious attacks of partisan media outlets. On top of that there is a forever running campaign to convince everyone that if we want our vote to count we must vote for one of the main parties. Both lines of attack are bolstered by our corporate media.
Now I am going to pivot back to the France. Over the last several years, the French people have been more aggressively vocal about their freedom than what we'll see in any other nation. In late 2017 a popular protest movement known as Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vest) started over fuel prices. Thousands upon thousands of French citizens stood together against carbon taxes which were causing a spike in the cost of energy. They wore their yellow hazard vests which all citizens have in their cars, by law as I understand it, to show their solidarity with the cause.
These protests were ugly, and in a lot of ways on the surface at times it looked like what erupted here in the US last summer after the events surrounding George Floyd's untimely death. However, as far as I am aware, the Yellow Vests focused their ire directly at the state while Antifa and BLM also targeted the population of cities, and while many people were happy to voice support for the message of Black Lives Matter to varying degrees, few people outside of major cities supported the violence they perpetrated on their neighbors. As a result, the media was forced to pretend that Antifa was less of a concern than they were. Even government officials went so far as to claim that Antifa was nothing but an idea or a myth.
Now let's fast forward to current events. All around the world we are looking at varying degrees of tyranny being applied by supposedly democratic governments. We see corporations working along side of the government to perpetuate a narrative, and decisions are being made that violate human rights all over the world. Are the antifascists out pushing back against government overreach? No. In fact news reached my desk over the weekend that a Proud Boy affiliate was shot during an anti-vaccine mandate protest where Antifa showed up in support of the state having control over your medical freedom. Think what you will about the Proud Boys, but they were there to support Americans in their exercise of free speech. I don't have the space to get into this here, but the reason the Proud Boys ever created any kind of formal organization in the first place was to protect citizens from Antifa who were meeting protests with violence. The fact that they've been demonized the way they have speaks volumes to how sick our country has become.
We expect to see videos of people being welded into their homes in China because it's China. We don't expect to see people in Australia being driven to the brink of insanity in quarantine or hear about how the government of a five-eyes government is openly working to deanonymize the internet by gaining access to every citizen's social media accounts and tying them directly to their real identities. They are also deploying an Orwellian app that "volunteers" will have to download in order to prove to the government that they are staying home by utilizing facial recognition and geolocation data. I guess when you see what people are going through at hotel quarantine, maybe this is a step up in the short term because people can stay at home, but it sounds like non-criminals being placed on a form of high tech parole or house arrest to me.
Canada is also enforcing some pretty strong lock down measures. What's interesting is these lock downs are actually against WHO recommendations. But it also seems like the populations in these areas are more or less supine with very little resistance. In addition to lock down woes, we are seeing the idea of vaccine passports being deployed at a fairly concerning rate. And this is where we come back to France again. In July, the French government instituted a policy that made their Covid passport required for most "leisure" including things like restaurants and shopping malls which took effect in August. The people of France nobly chose to stand in solidarity against this draconian infringement on freedom of commerce. How you ask? Many people decided that even if they had this passport, they would not shop at any establishment that enforced the national government's measures. They had picnics in the street to protest. The latest news shows a group of protesters actually forcing the police to back down when they stormed a mall without their green pass.
Here in America things seem a bit calmer. Maybe we're suffering from protest fatigue, but it seems like most of the things people are willing to protest over either aren't a problem or deserve a lot more discussion and nuance than people like to give credit. There is a lot of activity online, but I don't really see many people who are vaccinated standing up for their fellow citizens the way we do in France. In both France and Australia the truckers are even going so far as to create blockades to impede the flow of traffic and supplies in an effort to pressure the state to reconsider their lock down and vaccine card policies. Instead here I see hatred for one another from both those who have chosen to take the jab and those who have not. On both sides it seems more people are interested in being right than figuring out what the best course of action might be.
Our roll out of government overreach has largely been much slower than the rest of the countries in the world. This leads us to be able to say things like "well at least it's not Australia". The problem is that this line of thinking is keeping people sedated in our creature comforts. How does something as stupid as the milk crate challenge grab our attention when our own federal government is discussing implementing similar passport measures to restrict movement between the states. We are told we need to be concerned about overrun hospitals, but they are in the midst of creating a staff shortage by forcing people who've worked in the medical field for years to choose between a career they've invested their lives into and getting a vaccine that they may not need or don't in good conscience feel they should risk. Last year's heros are this year's lepers as far as the health system is concerned.
I want to point out that while I have used the Covid restrictions as something many feel are worth protesting outside of the United States, I am really speaking about a much more broad issue that the past 2 years have brought into much better perspective. In almost every facet of public life today we are expected to accept a particular narrative or become an outcast. Our school systems are not teaching our children things that we need them to learn in order to be ready to produce a good life for themselves. Instead an awful lot of attention is being put on class struggle. Except in America we avoid calling it class struggle and opt to frame it as "racial inequity", ignoring the poor who don't happen to have enough pigment to qualify for a bumper sticker slogan. Our election process is a sham whether or not you believe the outcome from the 2020 elections. We are never really given a choice to begin with specifically so that situations like what happened last election cycle don't take place.
Our government officials believe the people are too stupid to actually make decisions on our own. They believe it's their duty to constrain the decisions available so that we are never given the opportunity to make a wrong one. I think we all have a tendency to think that people we disagree with are stupid or being obstinate, and I think it's a worthwhile task to try and remain humble. When this mentality is driving the decision making process of the people who've been entrusted with public authority, terrible things can happen. I hope more people start to see what's happening and we can avoid what could otherwise become a very dark stain on our future history. I know we hear a lot of references to WWII whenever we start getting into discussions about oppression of particular groups of people, but if we stop and just look at the progression of events over the past year I think it's easy to see why alarm bells might be going off in some people's heads. Maybe we should heed those warnings and look for a way to divert our course if we want to be able to continue to claim our Nation offers liberty and justice for all.