Reading the latest Leonard Pitts, jr column in the Spokesman-Review this morning, I had something of a chuckle. He was addressing the latest video game to come out A Black Ops fantasy game where the players can pretend they are ridding the world of Fidel Castro. Of course the Cuban government had a fit of pique over the matter but Mr. Pitts duly reminded his readers about what the first amendment permits. Which leads me to the following commentary about exactly why a percentage of Americans voted GOP in the last election.
Mr. Pitts is correct that the American government actually can not prohibit the sale of such a game. Not only that, but neither can it throw in prison the people who produce such a game. Unlike Cuba, that can toss a street vendor in prison for selling lobster to the wrong people among other victims of totalitarianism. Which is why anyone with a bit of common sense would have to ask exactly why people waxed hysterical over health care reform or for that matter new regulations on how financial institutions can do business? People aren’t being tossed in the gulag if they don’t get “federal approved” health care or health insurance. Nor are they going to go to jail for issuing credit cards under new regulations to prohibit predatory lending. No, you’d have to be a Bernard Madoff to spend a lengthy time in prison for fraud and worse that cost your customers in the millions of dollars of personal wealth when it came to funding various investment schemes. Literally, a business like that mugger in the back alley some where had to have caused material harm before the corporate head would see the inside of a prison. Whether that “material harm” was financial (white collar crime) or of any other type, only a criminal act brings about punishment and the loss of freedom through due process of law.
Which says a lot about the particular leniency of this democratic society. You can say anything you want; you can even sell just about anything you want, without fear of reprisal. The exception being what are classified as illegal narcotics.
Mr. Pitts speaks of a society found in Cuba where even poets can find themselves imprisoned. I’m assuming that they can be imprisoned for offering some kind of challenge to the ruling dictatorial government, of having something unkind to say about Fidel, for writing their rhymes against the desire of the state. However, read any newspaper, news magazine, magazine of some specialized interest here in this country; and come across the various political cartoons. Whether Signe Wilkenson, Michael Ramirez, Joe Heller, etc.; what they have to say can be obnoxious, truly offensive, downright “dangerous,” utterly “crossing the line,” and yet; they don’t face a midnight knock at the door for the cartoons they submit for publication. Nor is the newspaper, news magazine or specialized magazine they work for abruptly shut down just because of the nasty cartoons that do indeed get published. As much as the Republican party “claimed to fear” the Obama administration, there has been no development of a “gulag system” to take out of society all of its dissidents. In a democracy, dissidents simply don’t exist.
So it begs the question, what “freedom” was threatened the moment Obama became president of the United States? I have never been to Cuba, but I also have no doubt that in a totalitarian society where human rights abuses are rampant, that the Cuban government could indeed put people in jail for thinking the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, or trying to put a videogame on the market where people can fantasize assassinating Fidel. After all, when I was in Germany as a member of the U.S. Army during the latter years of the Cold War, there once was a 1K zone that was the artificial border between the communist east Germany and the democratic west Germany. The border in which border guards had the orders to shoot to kill anyone trying to cross the border that was also laden with mine fields. So yes, the Cuban government could indeed jail a street vendor for selling lobsters to anyone on the streets of Havana. People who “feared” a “totalitarian government” under President Obama, and expressed their “fear” publicly, rallied their “fear” in nation-wide “TEA Party” movements, did not find themselves in a sudden battle with cops ready to beat them to death or shoot them to death for speaking out against the government. Nor did they get dragged off suddenly to “disappear” for expressing their hostility to the government in a public place. For being so “afraid” of the Obama administration and the ending of their “freedoms,” because of his 2008 victory, they could express that “fear” and “hatred” in such open forums as Face Book, Twitter, blogs, etc. They were not tracked down, nor faced some kind of “extraordinary rendition” inclusive of torture, for their publicly expressed opinion. So, what were they legitimately supposed to be “afraid of?” Even further, they were never “under the gun” to vote for a single party. Opposition candidates were never suddenly imprisoned on “trumped up charges” for not being a member of a party actually approved of by the state. How about that. And yes, they are also free to believe what ever they choose, the state by way of the first amendment can not prohibit it.
But if people “fear” an over-arching government because it produced health care reform and regulations on how financial institutions can engage in the business of lending, it is because certain rules must exist to prevent people from becoming victims of unscrupulous behavior. And to have the legal recourse when unscrupulous behavior occurs. Bernie Madoff was only made possible because of the refusal of the appropriate government agencies to regulate and pay close attention to his activities. He became the poster child of the Republican party’s idea of “freedom,” and the cost of anarchy in the marketplace. Yes, because a lot of people were burned by Madoff, the rules had to change.
So, what is the definition of “freedom” and whether it is in opposition to what it would take to produce a civil society? Not really does the one have to be in opposition to the other. What needs to be realized, is that “freedom” and “liberty” is the exercise of choice. The free will to walk into a corner grocery store that is run by mom and pop instead of WalMart. Or to visit a Safeway retail giant instead of Fred Meyers. Or to shop on-line at Amazon for a variety of books and etc. or go to the local Hastings in the mall for pretty much the same thing. The only thing that each business faces is the necessary rules, regulations, and taxes to operate. Nothing in these rules, regulations or taxes actually prevents them from selling something to the public at large. In short, there really is a limit to what government can do in a democratic society that is further buttressed by a free enterprise system.
Leftist radicals like the “TEA Party” have absolutely no appreciation for what they have. No, this isn’t Cuba, and Mr. Pitts editorial is recommended.