This isn’t your Braveheart moment.
A defining feature of the most oblivious critics of President Obama is that they say that America’s is losing its “freedom.”
Ask them what freedoms we have lost since he became president and your answer will probably start with, “Now I have to buy health insurance!”
True, the insurance mandate—which begins in 2014—will pay charge you a penalty if you don’t have health insurance.
But thanks to Ronald Reagan, we’ve already been paying for each other’s health insurance for decades in the form of inflated health care costs, and this will make it possible for nearly all Americans who can’t afford it to get coverage. And, if you choose not to have coverage -— despite the fact that every American is going to need it at some point — it will cost you about $5 a day, which is likely comparable when averaged out over your lifetime that you’d end up paying for “free riders,” the uninsured who show up in the emergency room with no insurance or means of paying.
You also get Christian fundamentalists saying that Catholics have lost their religious freedom because the organizations they sponsor — not churches, which are exempt — have to offer insurance plans that make free birth control available to women who want it. They no longer have the freedom to deny that basic element of reproductive health care.
That’s it. That’s how they’ve lost their freedom. They have to take responsibility for their own health insurance and/or allow people to get the legal medication they want*.
And they never mention the freedoms we’ve gained since Barack Obama became president.
Gays & lesbians can serve openly in the military, students can borrow money without having being beholden to the big banks, you can tell your doctor you have a pre-existing condition without fear that you won’t be able to get health insurance later in life. Taxes have gone down, as has the deficit -— yes the deficit, which is simply a promise of further taxes, has fallen faster in the last three years than in any stretch since World War II.
And these are just the new freedoms since 2009. David Frum points out that in every possible way we are freer now than we were in 1962. From being able to vote to owning a telephone to living where you can afford to live, America offers more pure freedom than at any time in our history — despite income inequality that creates an economic insecurity that more effectively limits freedom as much as most any law could.
When you hear straight white males lamenting the loss of their “freedom,” what’s more likely is that they’re pissed at all the freedoms being extended to everyone else.
Gays & lesbians, women and minorities get closer to being able to live with the freedoms of straight white males every single day. And that’s where the feeling of “freedom” slipping away comes from. They’re not afraid of losing their freedom; they want the advantages, the privileges they imagine they were afforded before America became a freer more equal place.
We all like to imagine that we’re fighting for something noble.
It’s understandable that you want to put some meaning behind the quest to defend YOUR Medicare, YOUR freedom. But if you can’t understand the irony of accusing America’s first black president of wanting your freedom, you should at least understand that freedom has never meant the right to keep others down.
*If you’ve talking to an actual libertarian, they may list some legitimate bipartisan gripes: TSA, civil liberties, targeted killings of Americans who joined Al Qaeda. These are better points. Yet many these same “libertarians” would still deny gay people the right to marry, women to the right to make their own private health care decisions — issues of liberty that don’t affect you only in theory or in the event you’ve decided to fly in a plane.