“Freedom!” scream the Tea Party people when they gather to fly their confederate flags, shout epithets at gay people, mock the elected leader of the Free World for his color and co-opt a Constitution that few of them have ever taken the time to read - if indeed they know how to read at all. “Freedom!” they cry as they and their neocon fringe groups plan an armed insurrection in Washington, DC this upcoming May after their “success” in Nevada against those Evil Federal People in the Bureau of Land Management who were attempting to - wait for it - here it comes: ENFORCE THE LAW.
At times I’ve wondered about the very definition of “freedom” anymore, given the latest supreme court opinions, the nature of this country’s corporate oligarchy and the apparent indifference of Average America to the slow, anaconda-like suffocation of our country with voting rights roll-backs, legalized corporate tax evasion schemes and the financial elite becoming exempt from criminal prosecution for their blatant rape of the Middle Class. Now we have the bottom feeders armed with weapons of mass destruction planning to oust a legitimately elected President via mob uprising, fanned by right wing media and the Koch reich.
Among the gifts my father in law left me after his passing was the complete works of Winston Churchill. Now there was a “conservative” for you….about as right-wing as any politician could get… or so we were led to believe. After considering the context of the times, I find it amusing to recall that in 1939 and 1940, the United States Republican Party openly hated Churchill with a fierce, rabid passion: they called him a “war monger” for requesting assistance from the United States while Germany was bombing the hell out of London - and nearly succeeded in destroying England as a nation. “Don’t get involved in foreign wars!” they screamed - as if ignoring the Nazi juggernaut was as simple as treating the Gestapo like impertinent children by ignoring them in order to make them go away. The simple fact is that had the Republican Party been running this country back then, the Third Reich would still be with us today in an expanded role of world dominion, Imperial Japan would control all of Asia and the Pacific Rim under the brutal heel of a Bushido military dictatorship and the Jewish religion would have become a tragic, bloody memory consigned to the dustbin of history.
Read on as the disparity between an oligarch and a statesman is laid bare.
In the process of looking for some answers for that elusive modern definition of "freedom", I came across a somewhat remarkable part of a speech which Churchill had intended for a visit to Italy after its capitulation in August of 1944. After having read it, I marveled at its simple content - elegantly phrased and easily understood with no spins, historical reinterpretations or vulgar revisionist fact-twisting. Was THIS what conservatives USED to believe?
Consider this passage from Churchill’s “The Second World War” taken from the volume entitled “Triumph and Tragedy” published in 1953:
:. . . It has been said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The question arises, "What is freedom?" There are one or two quite simple, practical tests by which it can be known in the modern world in peace conditions, namely:I took in those words slowly and savored them…. and then it occurred to me that maybe conservatism and its modern offshoots like the Tea Party and The Third Way have nothing whatsoever to do with a person’s allegiance to one’s country in spite of their protestations to the contrary. Given Churchill’s definition above, and taken in today’s context, it simply is a label to easily identify someone who cannot abide by change, progress or a difference of opinion; whose ability to realize the value and genius of the common man is stunted by greed and short-term gain; and that the only two reasons for having any government at all is to support a military-based economy and legislate morality.
• Is there the right to free expression of opinion and of opposition and criticism of the Government of the day?
• Have the people the right to turn out a Government of which they disapprove, and are constitutional means provided by which they can make their will apparent?
• Are their courts of justice free from violence by the Executive and from threats of mob violence, and free of all association with particular political parties?
• Will these courts administer open and well-established laws which are associated in the human mind with the broad principles of decency and justice?
• Will there be fair play for poor as well as for rich, for private persons as well as Government officials?
• Will the rights of the individual, subject to his duties to the state, be maintained and asserted and exalted?
• Is the ordinary peasant or workman who is earning a living by daily toil and striving to bring up a family free from the fear that some grim police organization under the control of a single party, like the Gestapo, started by the Nazi and Fascist parties, will tap him on the shoulder and pack him off without fair or open trial to bondage or ill-treatment?”
And so what is to be done with that definition of “freedom”? Has Churchill’s version become archaic and possibly even too altruistic to hope for? I wonder … and I can only speculate why my parents generation of 30 years ago - of all people - the children of the Great Depression, whose fathers bled and died fighting fascism, oligarchy, imperialism and genocide - gave Ronald Wilson Reagan the authority to turn America into a corporate fiefdom of indentured servitude to corporate masters.