As Americans, we hold the self-evident truth that we all have the unalienable human right to pursue a life of liberty and happiness. To be free is what we all want. Liberty, which is directly related to the freedom of choice, is a most highly valued societal right. The more choices we have available to improve our health, education, employment and happiness, the greater is our freedom to live a good life. Our government was designed to help us increase our personal and collective choices to live a happy life with protected freedoms. According to the Declaration of Independence, as dutiful US citizens, if we find that our government is tyrannically reducing our right to be free, then we are responsible “to alter or to abolish it.” So, on this July 4, 2016 in the United States of America, the “land of the free”, truthfully, how free are we?
How much ‘free time’ do you have each week?
What is the total amount of your financial debt?
How much savings do you have to take a vacation from your job?
How many years will it take you to accumulate enough money to retire?
What are the chances of your upward mobility to a much higher annual income level?
How free are you from eating GMO, sugar and processed food each week?
How much choice do you have in not drinking or bathing in water that is without fluoride, chlorine, pharmaceutical drugs, heavy metals, and even radioactive contaminants?
How free are you from being influenced from the propaganda from corporate news, 90% of which is now owned by only 6 media companies in the US?
How much choice do you have in not using oil, gas, coal, or nuclear energy for your source of electricity and transportation?
How free are you to talk on your phone or send an email or surf the Internet without being recorded by the NSA or other?
How free are you to move around your town without being recorded by a video camera?
How much choice do you feel you have in electing our political representatives?
How much choice do you have in the global expansion of our US military-industrial complex?
Financially speaking, the majority of Americans are strapped. As the income inequality gap in the US continues to widen, more and more people are struggling paycheck to paycheck to have enough money to make ends meet every month. Most Americans are loaded with personal debt that far surpasses their meager total savings of a few thousand dollars. In fact, the average American household with debt owes approximately $130K, while nearly half of American families have no retirement account savings at all. With little savings, a single medical emergency often leads to bankruptcy for many Americans.
Of the 47 million Americans (1 out of every 6 US citizens), who live below the poverty line, the freedom to choose the quality of their housing, food, health services, or higher education is terribly limited. Today the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or less than $1200 per month is disgracefully far below the minimum necessary to cover basic living costs for an individual in any US town.
Other segments of our citizenry who certainly know that their freedom to choose is nearly non-existent include our 2.3M burgeoning prison population (US has the highest incarceration rate in the world), and our 500,000 homeless. If you are African American or Latino, then your degree of freedom is much more limited than a white US citizen. Blacks and Hispanics make up 60% of the inmates in our prison system, and also they represent the largest segment of our poor. According to the NAACP, “if current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime.”
Our middle class, stuck sitting in front of a screen every day in corporate offices, is effectively making the same amount of income that it did almost 20 years ago while the cost of living has risen significantly. A recent poll showed that over 70% of Americans believe that the system is rigged against them economically. They feel that their freedom to pursue a good life is being restricted by an elite group, a “favored few”. With the realization that the choices and opportunities to move upward to a higher socio-economic status are severely limited for most US citizens, the American dream becomes more myth than reality. Tens of millions of Americans despairingly feel that they don’t have much of a choice for a future life of vibrant health and happiness.
Among the masses in the US, there is a rising disfavor and discontent with the two central political parties and their chosen Presidential candidates – Trump and Clinton. There is a growing awakening among the populace that the ideologies of those in charge of the US military-industrial-media complex are driven in their greed for trillions of dollars and global power. Both major political parties now represent the interests of the elite who follow neoliberal economic policies and neoconservative military policies. So, whether Trump or Clinton wins, the USA will not reverse its path to imminent climate change catastrophe, its expanding global military force or the likelihood of nuclear war, its interventionist foreign policy, or its widening gap of income and racial inequality. Although, an independent third party like the Green party is an option, most Americans believe that they only have a legitimate choice between electing a Republican or Democrat. The choice is illusionary.
Since 9/11/01, the power elite who run our government have spent $7.6 trillion on military and homeland security. Our total annual military budget is around $600B, which is over half of all federal discretionary spending. About $20B each year goes to nuclear weapons. The US is the largest exporter of weapons and military equipment in the world. By supporting a doctrine of expanding global economic power through perpetual war, our government falsely legitimizes its military dominance.
As the US government expanded its military presence throughout the world since 9/11, its control over its own citizens expanded to an unprecedented level. Using terrorism as the fearful motivation, the government passed despotic laws like The Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act which have turned the US into an Orwellian nightmare. The president can now order warrantless surveillance or the indefinite imprisonment of any citizen thought to be terrorist related. Furthermore, by law the president can now order the assassination of any citizen whom he judges to be connected to terrorists. Beyond these laws the US government, through its NSA department, records and stores as much of our online and phone data as they can get. They want increasing access to our communications, purchases, credit card transactions, our location, our travels, and our purchasing preferences.As Glenn Greenwood astutely notes, “You can acculturate people to believing that tyranny is freedom, and that as a consequence their limits are actually liberties. That is what this surveillance state does, by training people to accept their own conformity so they no longer even realize the ways in which they’re being limited.” Although most Americans are adamantly against this colossal expansion of the military and the security state, th