There Seems To Be A Lot Of  Confusion About What Freedom Is!

At a recent conference of the evangelical Christian’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, Chairman Ralph Reed, long a hard worker for the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell, had the freedom to proclaim this about our president, the Manhattan Village Idiot: “We have had some great leaders! There has never been anyone who has defended us and fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. We have seen his heart and he is everything he promised he would be, and more!” How could a “good Christian” like Ralph profess love for an illiterate psychopath who only loves himself? When will Ralph and his crowd, who dream of dominating a white Christian nation, realize they have been used by a charlatan who worships only himself, a man who has no guiding principles or morals?

Professor John Fea of Messiah College, the author of “Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump,” also has the freedom to pass this idea along: “They don’t see this at all as hypocrisy. They believe that Trump is appointed by God for a moment such as this. They believe that God uses corrupt people—there are examples of this in the Bible so they’ll call upon these verses. They truly believe that God works in mysterious ways. He uses even someone like Donald Trump to accomplish his will.” Will the average evangelical ever believe that “super genius” Kim Vladimir Trump has used them simply to win a personal victory, that he is completely void of any Biblical principles? Or did they vote for him because they are actually just Southern white racists, KKKs, and supremacists in the end? The worship of Trump by “religious” people is beyond bizarre.

 Freedom was the subject of a recent Fargo Forum column by Anna Enright. She voiced the usual platitudes about freedom in the first couple of paragraphs — but then veered and crashed into right-wing politics. She writes: “Freedom is not a government handout or mandate.” In reality, paupers, the sick, the physically and mentally handicapped all the way to billionaires have received handouts from democratic governments for ages. That’s how we take care of each other in a complex society. Enright has to remember that half the population has an intelligence quotient of 100 or less due to genetics, accident, heredity, and often bad luck. We all need care at certain times in our lives—even the One Percent who have been lucky and have lived on the economic mandates created by themselves because they have a majority share in political power at the federal level. OSHA is an example of a mandate created by a democratic government to protect workers from injury and death on the jobsite. We owe that to each other.

Enright writes: “Freedom is not free college or student loan forgiveness.” Over the last decade legislatures, responsible for funding education in their states, have been actually cutting tax support for K-12 and higher education. Minnesota under Republican Governor Tim “Toolittle” Pawlenty and Republicans have created a situation where parents with a median income cannot send their children to higher education without assuming huge debts. While income for the middle class has stagnated in the country for three decades, over 44 million Americans — including many seniors on Social Security — have a student loan debt that is now well over $1.6 trillion. Tuition goes up every year.

Sixty years ago as a poor farm kid I went to Moorhead State Teachers College without a dime of assistance from my parents and worked my way through four years to a BA in English Literature, my favorite reading and writing hobby. I had a few contacts in landing jobs because I played both football and baseball, but I cleaned dorm bathrooms for my alleged “scholarship.” I remember saving $120 to pay for my first two quarters of college. Now Minnesota students leave college with an average $33,000 student loan debt and often have to live in their parent’s basements to make the monthly payments. The University of Minnesota costs over $20,000 a year. It’s no longer realistic to work your way through anymore, particularly with such low minimum wage patterns. I believe universal freedom will exist only when state taxes pay for the higher education of all students capable of performing at that level. What a tremendous benefit for society! Education determines freedom.

Enright writes: “Freedom is not a one-size-fits-all universal health care system. Instead, it is a less-regulated medical market that results in more doctors, more competition and more independent clinics that give patients options to seek out the best care at affordable prices.” How many accident victims call from the ambulance for the best medical deal in town? The problem today is the unconscionable greed of  any business associated with health care. Unregulated drug prices have allowed drug companies to gouge U.S. insulin users ten times what insulin costs in border and other countries. Insulin inventors 100 years ago sold their complete patent for $3. In 1996 Eli Lilly charged $21 an insulin vial. Today they charge $275! 

Because of intense lobbying a bought Congress has banned the importation of cheaper drugs. Drug companies have run amuck over high prices — with the approval of the Food and drug Administration. The FDA just approved the sale of Zolgensma, a drug to treat spinal muscular atrophy in babies, for the world’s highest drug price of $2.1 million for a single treatment! Novartis claims the treatment is worth between $4-5 million. The claim brings up the question: what is a human being worth? There are other one-treatment drugs that are also priced for other planets: $850,000 for one shot of Luxturna a treatment for blindness; and $475,000 for a single shot of Kymriah, a cell therapy treatment for leukemia. There are other rare-disease drugs that have an annual cost exceeding $1 million.

The Federico Cavatore family’s experience with health care and insurance is a very common microcosm of what is happening to families around the country under our current medical “system,” if  one dare call it that. The insured Houston, Texas couple had twins early, so they had to be placed in an intensive care neonatal unit. One twin thrived, the other did not. After a dozen operations, one died in the hospital when seven months old. Even with pretty good health insurance, the family received one bill that totaled over $1.1 million. After three years they are still receiving bills for medical supplies, co-payments and deductibles, and hundreds of calls from bill collectors. The family has spent thousands of hours arguing with the insurance company over the bills. If we had a single-payer universal care plan and charged each person in the United States 25 cents we would raise $82.5 million to cover rare diseases. Every developed, industrialized country in the world has some kind of universal care except us. We have a large portion of people in this nation who say they follow Christian teachings. Health care evidently is not covered in the Bible.

Enright repeats the Republican stand on abortion: “Freedom for a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy is not abortion.” First, who is going to provide the women with the $286,000 it is going to take to raise that child to age 18? Enright writes: “Community, family, and friends can provide her with the encouragement and practical help she needs to joyfully give birth to her little boy or girl.” Gee, isn’t that sweet? The Republican Party has passed over 200 laws in the last three years seeking to criminalize personal decisions around abortion. These laws create untenable choices for poor women, crime victims, those who have failures with contraceptives, and those with fetuses who have medical complications such as no brain development. At least nine states have passed laws that will greatly impact the health of women with a dangerous pregnancy. Georgia just passed HB 481 which criminalizes anyone who performs or assists with an abortion, anyone seeking an abortion, and anyone who might even assist driving the patient to an abortion clinic. Some states have no exceptions for victims of rape, incest, or domestic violence. Doctors performing an abortion in Georgia will go to prison. Freedom in the case of abortion means that an ob-gyn doctor and the pregnant woman have the absolute choice. Alabama law holds that life begins at conception. Does a fertilized cell on a uterus wall equal a Michelangelo? One in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. Four out of eight babies born have IQs below 100. Think about the odds. A question to fundamentalists: why didn’t a perfect God make perfect babies?

Enright continues her right-wing rant in the Forum: “Freedom is not ‘taking a knee’ during the National Anthem.” I spent eight years on active and reserve duty in the United States Marine Corps so Americans could take a knee during the National Anthem any damn time they feel the government is doing something to restrict their freedom. North Koreans and Chinese who take a knee end up in reconstruction camps or dead.

Her reference is to Colin Kaepernick, the black football player who is protesting the treatment of minority races in the U.S., particularly the blacks who have been here since the 17th Century. Certainly relationships between whites, reds, yellows, browns, and blacks have changed over the four centuries, but equal treatment has never been reached at this point.

I’m going to use a few stanzas of “Let America Be America Again, a poem written by my favorite black poet Langston Hughes in 1936, to illustrate why Kaepernick is still protesting the treatment of minorities in 2019—and why racial discrimination has lasted over 400 years. Colin needs a lot of freedom to take a knee.

“There’s never been equality for me, 
nor freedom in this ‘homeland of the
I am the poor white, fooled and 
pushed apart, I am the Negro bearing
 slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the 
land, I am the immigrant clutching 
the hope I seek.
    And finding only the same old 
stupid plan of dog eat dog, of mighty
 crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength 
and hope, tangled in that endless 
chain of profit, power, of grab the 
land! Of grab the gold! Of grab the 
ways of satisfying need!
   Of work the men! Of take the pay! 
Of owning everything for one’s own 

I am the farmer, bondsman to the 
soil, I am the worker sold to the 
I am the Negro, servant to you all. 
I am the people, humble, hungry, 
mean- Hungry yet today despite the 
dream. Beaten yet today-O Pioneers!

I am the man who never got ahead, 
the poorest worker bartered through 
the years.

And torn from Black Africa’s strand 
I came to build a ‘homeland of the 
O, let America be America again-the 
land that never has been yet-
And yet must be-the land where 
every man is free.”