Clearly those who love America love the freedom they have now or the freedom they find when they come here. No one travels elsewhere to experience what it’s like to live in freedom. For that they come here.
In 1990, before the break-up, I traveled to the Soviet Union just to experience what it was like not to have our freedoms. And I found out. And of course I would never have gone there if I had ever thought I could not come back.
That was much the same situation throughout the world during the Cold War when there were many countries without our freedoms of movement and expression. And if we did travel to these countries, it was only with the confidence we would be free to leave whenever we wanted.
There are those, if only a few, who even today when the Cold War is mostly a distant memory travel to North Korea, although no one would do so if they knew the way out would be closed and locked down after their arrival there.
Things have changed, of course, and for the better. Today there are other liberal democracies with many of our freedoms of movement and expression. And in no small part these peoples have their freedom because of our being there first in “freeland” and setting the example. But there are others yet to go to freeland, their leaders being unwilling to free their people, that alone accounting for many if not most of today’s conflicts.
I believe we were the very first people of modern times, to have realized that nothing was more important than being free, although the work of determining just what that means is still going on.
But when we travel to other liberal democracies we still don’t fully experience freedoms similar to our own. This is probably because of the heavy presence of government in the form of excessive rules, regulations, and of course taxes, all weighing down heavily on the people. It is as if the people were not to be trusted with their freedoms, as if the government, not the people in their independent and individual lives, had somehow to remain in control.
The simple acts of buying and selling, those activities that occupy us on a daily basis, such as trips to a department store or super market, should be enjoyable, if not delightful experiences. But in France, for example, a country I know well, the sales people I encounter are most often in a bad mood, as if they were being oppressed by working conditions over which they had no control.
In France the heavy handed government seems to turn the simplest activities into disagreeable chores, making going on a shopping trip more like going to the dentist than engaging in the delight of open and free commercial exchanges with others.
One feels an all too heavy government presence most everywhere, in a pharmacy, in a gas station, in a train station, and of course in the post office. And I hear often that those who would start a business of their own, say in France, or elsewhere within the (now on life support) Euro zone, learn very quickly that they would do better to head to London, Sydney, or New York where they would be freer to create their own positions, niches, eventually making places of their own in the global markets.
The looming presidential election in America is, and rightly so, turning on different ideas of freedom, freedom that we need both to protect and to grow, if we would have it for long. Furthermore this election will be decided, as are most elections in liberal democracies, by those who are at the center, and most concerned about protecting their freedoms, and holding on to what they have.
Neither the Democrats of the progressive left, nor the Republicans of the conservative right represent what the country is all about, let alone are they at all what the country needs. In fact the two extremes would reduce our freedoms, the one by growing the power of government, the other by imposing its religious and radical ideas on us all.
But happily Left and Right, because of their extreme and opposing viewpoints, pretty much undo one another, as in the recent French presidential election, cancel each other out. And so much the better.
The real campaign for president hinges on the political center, on what the people at the center are thinking. In this regard, and for this reason the two candidates have just recently taken steps that would move them to the center, moves that would probably in their view and the view of their people, attract the support of the independents. And in fact, those at the center, mostly independents, have been waiting and closely watching them, waiting to see how they would move as the election nears.
These particular “moves to the center” were made in two highly charged and controversial areas of our nation’s life, immigration and education. Third rails, both of them. Health care, a third third rail has for the moment been left out of the discussion.
The two moves were alike in that both would grow our country’s image as being the land of the free. Did they see their actions this way themselves? Probably not.
Rather in both instances they were both looking to attract large Latino and school choice voting constituencies. For both intentions if carried out would do away with one or more previously imposed government restrictions, in the one on the children of illegal immigrants and in the other on the parents of mostly minority and disadvantaged children living and attending mostly segregated schools in our inner cities.
The one, Governor Romney’s, would give poor students and those with disabilities the right to attend any public or charter school in their state. His proposal would permit disadvantaged city kids to attend suburban schools of their choice, this being an enormous increase in freedom of movement for kids and their parents, although for all the obvious reasons it probably won’t happen. (Does Romney know this, that it won’t happen? Of course.)
The other, the President’s plan, would allow the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country without fear of deportation and be able to work. This is the President’s own version of the administration’s earlier Dream Act that was blocked by Senate Republicans in 2010. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants to our country would thereby, at long last, be given some of the freedom for which they came here in the first place.
As one at the center I am pleased with both moves. Although at this moment, of the two I would say it’s the President’s proposal that gets my vote. By executive order he is giving life to the Dream Act that was stupidly, mindlessly rejected by the Senate. That this failure to do the right thing could have happened tells us that our freedoms are still threatened, in this instance by our own elected representatives.