America: Leader of the Free World,
Or Simply Most Obnoxious?

(January 2002)

Now that patriotism and mindless flag-waiving are cool again, it's not hard to find someone somewhere boldly proclaiming that the United States is the beacon of freedom around the world...the best country...the country whose citizens enjoy the happiest, most profitable, and--best of all--most freedom-filled lives in the entire world. Well, pardon me for pointing out the obvious here people, but freedom is entirely subjective.

For example, a Taliban member in Afganistan in 2000 might well have maintained that he was "FREE" to walk down the street without seeing women dressed like whores..."free" to live without the horrors of alcohol abuse going on around him. Yet, to most people, the Taliban regime was the very antithesis of freedom.

Such an example is quite a stretch for our minds, I know, but it does illustrate that the concept of freedom IS subjective. Perhaps a better example would be the Western European countries that are often grouped into "the civilized world" by those of us in "the civilized world". In Germany, for example, you can be fined a substantial amount of money for giving someone the finger while driving. A rah-rah American would say "well, they don't have freedom of speech! See." But we do not have absolute freedom of speech either. I cannot go on TV and say "I'm going to kill so-and-so". As for the finger while driving, to me that isn't a lack of freedom, it's a safety plus. I say, "sure, they can't flip people off whenever they want, but they also enjoy one of the safest road systems in the WORLD...FAR safer than the USA highways". There are pluses and minuses to everything. (No, I'm not saying German roads are safer simplly because they can't give each other the bird; that would be ridiculous. But, that law is just part of a whole set of laws and regulations that show the Germans respect driving as a very serious and dangerous privledge rather than a right.)

Another example. An American might say "they don't have the right to bear arms in England." To me, it's "they have the right to send their kids to school and NOT worry about them being shot to death". Gun murders are still an aberration in most of Western Europe. That is a freedom of which I am truly envious.

America is NOT the ultimate in freedom. I do NOT have the right to go to a restaurant and enjoy a smoke-free meal...drug addicts can sit at the table next to me and blow their toxins in my face. Yet I do NOT have the right to enjoy MY drug of choice (marijuana), even though in the manner I consume it (eating, not smoking) it causes NO ONE any harm. You can drink yourselves silly and make an ass of yourself with alcohol, but I can't enjoy a hash brownie peacefully in my living room. Women can be kicked out of stores for breastfeeding their babies. I can be charged with public indecency if I'm naked in my own home with the windows open so that someone out on the street can see in. The list goes on...

Germany, the USA, the Netherlands...ALL these countries operate on the idea of upholding basic freedom for everyone, while hindering certain individual freedoms for the safety/good of the masses. In my opinion, the Netherlands and Germany are much more efficacious. US laws are far more arbitrary. If your habits or desires or disease is one that's accepted by our society--even if it's for incredibly antiquated and unjust reasons, as the prohibition of marijuana is--then you have FAR more freedom than someone else.

And don't even get me STARTED on the US's incredibly arbitrary and counter-productive prison system. That's food for a whole other rant. As is the fact that we have over 120 THOUSAND children waiting to be adopted, and hundreds of thousands more living in homes where they are abused and neglected. What about those children's rights?

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