Since its inception, the US has been celebrated for its guaranteed freedoms: Most notably the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to own a gun, and the freedom to choose our leaders no matter how flawed and unqualified they may be. But those freedoms come with a cost.
Under our Constitution, profiteers and ideologues such as Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and the mysterious Q are free to distribute a torrent of half truths, mistruths, and outrageous lies intended to divide us and to weaken our nation. As a result, there are no shared truths. Not even the need to deal with the horrors of a pandemic has been able to pull us together. Far too many have been willing to take the word of pundits and politicians over that of caregivers and scientists. Even after nearly 350,000 deaths, they continue to believe the pandemic is a hoax. By refusing to wear a mask, they are making a political statement. And they are convinced that vaccines have been created as a way for the government to track them or, worse, poison them.
White supremacists, white nationalists, and other hatemongers hide behind our freedom of religion to discriminate against those of other religions, colors, cultures, and sexual preferences. They even use their religions to deny women the freedom to control their own bodies.
The gun lobby uses the 2nd Amendment and fear tactics to expand gun ownership. Not for hunting. But for “protection.” This is despite the fact that more gun owners are likely to be shot with their own gun than to use it for self-defense. And despite the overwhelming number of gun deaths enabled by easy access to guns. Further, as hate and division have grown, millions of Americans have assembled arsenals with the expectation of using them against their political “enemies” and their own government!
As for our “free” elections, consider the fact that many American citizens are routinely denied the freedom to vote. Especially those Americans of color and those living in poverty. They have not only been victimized by reduced polling places, reduced voting hours, and the purges of voter registrations. Many have been required to take time away from work and drive long distances in order to obtain necessary voter IDs. And one need look no further than the chaos created by Donald J. Trump to see the consequences of electing greedy, unethical, and unqualified government outsiders.
It’s not hyperbole to state that our freedoms may also lead to our nation’s demise.
The question is: How can we address the weaknesses of our system while maintaining our Constitutional freedoms? How can we prevent the liars, the unethical, the profiteers, and our enemies from using our own Constitution against us, especially now that our Supreme Court has been politicized?
We can end division by, once again, demanding that media report the truth. That could be accomplished by a return to some form of the Fairness Doctrine, which required radio and television channels to operate in the public interest by clearly labeling opinions and separating them from the news. The same rules could be applied to all other media.
We could also take the politics out of religion by enforcing current laws that take away tax exemptions for churches that routinely engage in political activities. We should also tax churches that collect millions in donations, permitting their pastors to live in mansions and travel in private jets.
We can address our gun problem by instituting national gun laws, including universal background checks and red flag laws. We should also end the sales of military-style weapons, such as AR-15s, AK-47s, 50 caliber sniper rifles, and large capacity ammunition clips which add to the killing power of mass shooters. And we should conduct buyback programs to recover those already in our citizens’ hands.
Finally, we should reform our electoral system by eliminating the Electoral College, by instituting universal voter registration, and by standardizing elections from state to state. In addition, we should demand that anyone running for national office submit to extensive background checks and release all financial information, including 10 years of tax returns.
Do I think any of this will happen? No. But if we don’t make any changes, it’s pointless to continue to spend trillions on national defense. Before any external enemy can destroy us, we will likely destroy ourselves.