Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Freedom? Are we really?

I'm going to use my "Miles Ahead" venue to discuss something that gave me pause when I read an email from the director of the company I work for today. It was a Thanksgiving message to everyone in the company. I must preface that this person is a white male and I believe he has a military background (although I can't be sure) or he could potentially have children who have served/are serving in the military.

The message started out benign enough, we should be thankful for our health and salute our military who are fighting on the front lines to fight for our freedom. Then it just got...well, I can't say I wasn't incensed by his description of the freedoms we have in the U.S.

"The freedom to live our lives the way we choose is quite possibly the greatest gift this Country has given us.  Thanksgiving is a dedicated time to reflect on our freedom to pursue love, happiness, creature comforts, joy of family, safety and the ability to worship as we please without fear of reprisal or government dictation." 

Is he blind to what is going on in this country? Do we really have these freedoms? In light of recent events in this country I have to ask are these statements true? Are we really and truly free to do these things without persecution or discrimination because of our race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

It is a fact that women in this country still don't get equal pay for equal work.Women in the work force are chastised and experience career detriment when they take time to have babies and tend to them. This country's maternity policies are ridiculous! Women who don't have family close by rarely receive the help and support they need with raising a baby. Especially single moms.

Racial profiling still goes on to where a young black man can't walk the streets for fear he may be shot down for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is no deigning that racism still exists in the U.S. and people confront it every day.

Voter ID laws exist where a person who can prove who he/she is and where he/she lives is still denied the right to vote! Is that freedom? To be prevented from voting in a democratic election? These voter ID laws by the way discriminate most against women, minorities and young people (read university students).

I don't have first hand experience with religious dealings, but I know of stories of Muslims in the U.S. being discriminated against for their beliefs. Where protests and heavy handed redirection have been employed in regards to the location of a Mosque. Other religions face their own forms of persecution should they not fit the Christian standard ubiquitous in this country. Plus, you are expected to have a religion and worship a God. 

A woman is not free to do what she wishes with her own body! I heard of a law passed (I forget the state) where if a woman is raped and becomes pregnant she is forced to keep the pregnancy. Medically necessary abortions where the mother's health is at stake are becoming more and more restrictive. Adoption options for adoptive parents can be limited and extremely expensive. Birth control is a constant fight with insurance companies. According to some laws women must buy additional insurance to be covered for standard health care procedures associated with women's health. Birth control, medically necessary abortion, pregnancy and birth of a baby, mammograms, pap smears. Not having equal access to health care? Is that freedom?

There is a perpetuating rape culture in this country. There is a story from University of Virginia about a woman getting gang rapped at a fraternity. THEY BLAMED ALCOHOL FOR THE ASSAULT! NO! It was the men who rapped her! A woman should be free to wear, act, and socialize however she desires without fear of assault or harassment.

A person is not free to die how they desire.

"...we will thank the Creator that has given us these gifts, pray for those voluntarily in harm’s way so we can continue to enjoy them and ask for help for all those around the world who look at the United States of America as the great beacon of freedom but find themselves oppressed and persecuted by their governments." 

I commend Mr. Director for his praise of our military and their sacrifice, but I have to ask, what is your definition of Freedom? Is it military freedom from the oppression of other governments? Well the U.S. may have that. But as far as these other freedoms you speak of Mr. Director, I think you need to think about that for a while. I am sure that the U.S. is far from the "beacon of freedom" to most other nations. We persecute anyone who tries to come into this country, i.e., immigration. When did that become a dirty word? 

I must also say I am not a religious person, I don't go to church and I don't pray to a God. I consider myself agnostic and put a lot of my faith in science and things that can be proven through evidence. So, that being said, I have never agreed with people who "witness" to me thanking "the Creator" or other deities for the glories and good fortune bestowed upon them.So, sometimes general messages like the one sent by Mr. Director that assume I pray or worship or have a similar faith as the purveyor often turn me off. I am not saying this is severe discrimination, but some consideration would be nice. Throughout life I have just shrugged these messages off and thought that the beliefs that people have are their own and it brings joy to their lives. So if it makes them happy so be it, just as long as they don't force it on me and they can understand (or maybe acknowledge) that my beliefs also make me happy.

Despite my criticism of this message from Mr. Director I must commend one of his final statements.

"Many criticize us because we bear open for all to see our disagreements and debates. But I submit that this openness is our strength and our love for freedom will, with the help of God, always bring us together when it counts the most."

And that is why I feel free to discuss my thoughts and concerns in this open forum. This is one freedom that I know not everyone feels comfortable exercising for fear of repercussions. But here, I do this to vent a little about my current frustrations with this country and to acknowledge there are problems that we must continue to fight to truly be free.

This Thanksgiving, I will be reflecting on the things that I am so fortunate to have and the love I am surrounded with. My health, my family's health, a warm home, loving pets, wonderful friends, a career, there are many. But I will also be reflecting on the oppression in this country and how there are people here who do not know true freedom and who fight against oppressors every day.