“Those who sacrifice freedom for safety deserve neither.”
One of America’s central delusions is that of free speech. And the powers that be, those CEOs who run the mammoth, corporate conglomerates who tell politicians & presidents when to shit & when to get off the pot, silence those who speak a little too freely. In nations like Mexico, they’re not very subtle & they simply murder journalists who inform the public about the corruption that is impoverishing their citizens.
But here in the good old U.S.A. our political/corporate elite hide their dark agendas behind grandiose words like; freedom, democracy, liberty, etc. Take five minutes to skim over the names of the most prominent right-wing or conservative think tanks & you’ll take my point.
You see, here in the land of the free & home of the brave, we’re supposed to just wave our flags on the 4th of July, Memorial Day, etc. and then shut the fuck up rest of the time. If you dare to question or criticize our government, as Thomas Jefferson said was not only our right but our duty, you are told to “Love it or leave it.” How’s that for freedom?
My motivation for writing this essay is the fact that I’m getting so fuckin’ tired of being told to either shut-up or leave when I begin to talk about political matters in bars. And it’s usually some bartender that knows nothing about what’s happening in our country & could give a shit less but has a smug sense of superiority because they have the “power” to 86 me.
I hate this feeling of being in a constant verbal straitjacket and want to scream Fuck you, you little flunky bartender! The older I become, the more I realize just how unfree we are in this fairy tale land we call America. My political awakening began in my late teens when I kept going AWOL from the U.S. Army because I didn’t think going to Vietnam was such a great idea.
And throughout my 20s, whenever I was partying with my friends, they often mocked me for my comments & opinions which seemed so foreign to them. They were mostly good natured though so I kept trying to get through to them. But again, as I grew older & was confronted sometimes with physical threats in bars, I became more disillusioned with this whole farce we call Democracy. You may think me a liar but I don’t give a fuck because I know my truth i.e. conservatively, I have spent at least 50,000 hours over my adult life reading, taking notes, listening, watching, researching, & writing about American politics & foreign policy. So, yeah, I dare to speak with an air of confidence or self-assuredness on many of the issues facing us today. And I welcome anyone who cares to challenge me intellectually because I know I’ve paid my dues & continue to do so.
So, go ahead, make my day as Clint Eastwood is famous for saying. When you consider the pathetic state of awareness of the average American & read the statistics regarding American’s reading habits, etc., I take comfort in knowing that I am light-years ahead of most of my countrymen. And no, I don’t give a shit how elitist that makes me sound & I know how much Trump followers detest elitists like myself because we “make them feel inferior.”
Well, my response is, if the shoe fits? This is a cop-out & these intellectually lazy citizens refuse to accept responsibility for their not being willing to pick up a book on a regular basis & blame those who are intellectually superior to them for acting superior. I came from the poor side of the tracks, raised by a single mother with a brother & two sisters. I was the eldest & began cooking for my siblings when I was 12 years old. Made them do their chores, their homework, be in bed on time, fought their battles, etc. So, don’t give me your sob stories claiming that you couldn’t find the time to go to the library & read and educate yourself.
Returning to the main thesis of this essay, over the years, I have occasionally been in a bar where we were “allowed” to speak freely and a serious political discussion/debate ensued & I absolutely loved it when I saw the spark in people’s eyes or their faces light up. And once in a while after such intense discussions, one or more of the participants would come up to me and say things like; “Wow! That was the best conversation I’ve had in ten years,” or “I learned so much, thank you!” And yeah, I’ve gotten into some heated debates with individuals but realized that their mind was closed & I was just beating my head against the wall. So, I’d end it by saying something like; Well, we’re obviously getting nowhere so can we just agree that we disagree? And we’d either change the subject or go our separate ways peacefully.
Continuing on, I fondly recall an experience I had while waiting in the cell outside the courtroom in Oakland, CA awaiting my appearance before the judge for a D.U.I. There were approximately six young black guys, a couple of older black guys near my age & myself. The young guys were gangbangers & drug dealers (I learned this from overhearing their conversations)
Well, they got into a religious debate and one of them had long, Dred-locks and was in favor of Buddhism while the others were mostly Christian. Their debate went on for about a half hour and I could no longer resist so I raised my hand like a boy in school. They cracked-up and nodded that it was okay for me to join in. I soon found myself serving as a sort of moderator & interjected at times; “Okay, now it’s his turn” and would point to another individual so he could say his piece.
We were let out of jail in the middle of the night & these young gangsters took me under their wings so-to-speak. They walked me to the nearest BART station & accompanied me to the best stop for me to connect & get back to the Berkeley area where my van was. And they hugged me as we parted.
I tell you this not to brag but to show you that even in such harsh conditions as being locked-up in jail, people can behave in a civilized manner even when discussing religion which I believe is the other taboo subject we’re not supposed to talk about in bars?
So, tell me, do you believe the “common wisdom” that if people talk about politics in bars, things are likely to get out of control i.e. fights will break out? I feel that what this taboo is saying is that we can’t be trusted to behave in a civil manner, especially when we’re drinking. I say, Bull-shit!
People start fights or get into fights in bars for any one of thousands of reasons & politics may be a reason they do now & then but that doesn’t mean that we should ban political speech in bars absolutely. If a person becomes belligerent in a bar for whatever reason, yeah, kick them out but don’t censor all of us for what a minority of assholes may do. Because this makes a mockery of our Declaration of Independence, our Bill of Rights, & our supposed freedoms.
Here’s something for you to mull over if you will; Why do we have over 900 military bases around the world with God knows how many “black op sites,” supposedly to protect & promote democracy abroad but we can’t speak about matters that affect our democracy at home when we’re in bars, the most common meeting place for citizens on a regular basis?
And no, I’m not trying to paint some grand Alex Jones conspiracy theory but it sure is interesting to note how this taboo just coincidentally benefits the 1%. What other public location or institutions allows us to speak freely to one another?
I have even been kicked-out of some bars for pointing out to bartenders who commanded me to shut up because I was talking about politics, when other customers were talking about local political matters i.e. city hall, road construction, etc. I’d say, hey, they’re talking about politics & boy would the bartender become flustered & immediately proclaim their authority; “Get out!”
Seems that local politics are basically okay to speak about but not national or international politics? So perhaps we’re getting a bit closer to the truth or the reality of our so-called “freedom of speech” in America? We’re allowed to speak freely within the confines of our own homes but hardly anywhere else? And we’re allowed to speak freely as long as it isn’t about any sensitive subjects that might offend the 1%, you know, the super elite that Trump wishes he were a part of but who won’t allow Little Lord Fauntleroy into their clubs.
We definitely lose all our rights when we walk through the entrance to our workplace because private employers are tyrannies and Walmart is a prime example i.e. if any employee dares to mention forming a union, they are out the door. Our election system is fast becoming a joke & is resembling more & more those “banana Republics” which we have looked down our noses at for decades even though we helped create them—see Major General Smedley F. Butler of the U.S.M.C.
Gerrymandering, voter suppression/intimidation, tampering with voter machines, & Russian hacking which Mitch McConnell won’t allow us to do anything about, etc. has clearly made a mockery of our much-touted free elections. So much for expressing ourselves via the voting booth.
Moreover, if you’ll spend even a modicum of time checking out:
Jaron Lanier; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kc_Jq42Og7Q&t=4s
Tristan Harris; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C74amJRp730&t=117s
Chamath Palihapitiya; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J54k7WrbfMg&t=5s
Shoshana Zuboff; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo6K-bPh39M
Or the recent Netflix documentary; “The Big Hack”
You’ll begin to realize the folly of turning to the “social media,” to save us. It is purposely designed to divide us & promote aggressive & fearful feelings between us because that brings more viewers (eyeballs) which increase their profits. Some of the above played pivotal roles in bringing about the social media so you might pay close attention to what they’re saying.
Perhaps most importantly, the revelations regarding Cambridge Analytica & Trump’s “winning” of the presidency proves just how extensively our “democracy” has been hacked & hence, our gradual slide into mere drones for the powers that be.
Specifically, what do our other supposed freedoms mean if we don’t truly have freedom of speech? Freedom of speech is the bedrock, the cornerstone, the foundation of all our other freedoms in the Bill of Rights, & the Declaration of Independence.
And speaking of The Bill of Rights, are you aware of how the powers that be gutted this so-called sacred document of our Republic shortly after the events of September 11, 2001? Yep! Because the Bush administration had been asleep at the wheel, they scrambled to cover their ignorance, laziness, & ineptitude by ramming through these draconian assaults on our “holy” rights & freedoms as Americans. Not very reassuring in my book i.e. just how firm is the “foundation” of this nation that struts the world stage declaring how powerful we are & that we have the best form of government on Earth. (see https://ccrjustice.org/home/blog/2015/11/17/911-decade-and-decline-us-democracy
If you’d care to inform yourself more on this sad subject)
Last night, in less than ten minutes, I came up with this list of subjects we’re not allowed to talk about in bars because if we do, within a matter of minutes, we’ll be discussing political matters:
- The recent slaughter in El Paso
- The Vietnam War
- The Iraq War
- The social media
- Losing our jobs
- Being homeless
- Student debt
- Global warming
- Nuclear war
- Trump’s tweets
- The coming Recession or Depression?
- Health insurance or the lack thereof
- The future of work
- Christian fundamentalists support of Trump
For the past decade or better, I have tried to be tactful when people tell me that they’re not interested in politics. And my usual response is something like; Oh, I see? So, you’re not interested in whether or not you lose your job, your health insurance, your pension, etc. And believe it or not, it really does sadden me that I have to keep pointing out to people that politics affects every aspect of our lives & we’d better wake the fuck up!
To not do so is to spit on the graves of all those soldiers, sailors, marines, & airmen who sacrificed their lives for these freedoms that we so love to brag about to the world. We are slip-sliding into Trump’s Totalitarian Terrorism (my phrase) here at home & abroad and it’s up to us as individuals & as citizens of America to stand up on our hind legs & yell; “I’m as Mad as Hell & I’m not going to take it anymore!”
I’m so glad that my “coming of age” was in the 1960s because although we were naïve romanticists & idealists, it felt so wonderful to share the same mass delusion with so many brothers & sisters as evidenced in the miracle known as Woodstock and our Flower Power Revolution.
Persevere & Viva la Revolucion!