“A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of communism.”
Thus begins one of the greatest earth-shattering documents ever transcribed onto paper. That little pamphlet, known colloquially as The Communist Manifesto, changed the very course of history. It inspired millions, launched revolutions, and made many rethink how they looked at politics and economics. It is an historical document as well, telling of a time in history, when many things were different, and sadly, many things the same.
Today I want to talk about a different kind of specter, and it is haunting a different place. It is every where you go, everywhere you look, in everything you see. You’ll see it on TV, in magazines, in newspapers, billboards and everywhere else. Yes, there is a modern specter still haunting us, but one that is very old indeed.
A Specter is haunting the United States of America.
The specter of freedom. One can’t go five minutes in the US, without hearing the words freedom, or liberty. “Let freedom ring!” our patriotic songs gush, their upbeat lyrics filled with amber waves of grain and alabaster cities. The Statue of Liberty stands over us, her torch held high above the nation. Just the word freedom, to the average American, brings to mind images of bald eagles, the star spangled banner and apple pie. Ah, freedom, the American ideal.
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
These words were penned by Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of the US. These were the ideals of the fledgling nation, based in revolutionary ideas like republicanism, freedom of religion, and democracy. What did Thomas Jefferson know about freedom? Well, many would say, he only was one of our greatest founding fathers, surely he knew what he was talking about! He helped to create our government after all! But what kind of government was that? It was a government in which only land owning white males could vote. It was a country that had already sustained many slaves for more than a century. It was a country, that was only possible through the disenfranchising of the native people’s; their slaughter, their genocide. It was a country that would not even abolish slavery for almost another 200 years. Even after slavery was outlawed, blacks and poor whites would live in almost slave like conditions, in a neo-feudal practice called share-cropping. With the rise of the industrial revolution, poor immigrant children in the US would work schedules that would make adults today quit their jobs. They worked in horrible conditions, many dying due to exhaustion, illness, accident or otherwise. Not just kids, people of all ages, races and creeds died in horrible working conditions, working long hours for short pay.
Then came the start of the age of unions, strikes, the Hay market riots, eventually, the start of reforms to the system of pure capitalism. The eight hour day, sick days, work place safety etc. Things were looking up for the average American worker. In spite of that, things were still tough. Blacks were treated unfairly, women still had few rights. It was only in 1920 in fact, that women even gained the right to vote. Think about that. Women have been able to vote for less than a century.
We like saying that our military fights for freedom. We defeated the Japanese and the Nazis in WW2 after all. What after that? In Korea we tried to force our way of economics on them, supporting an autocratic S.Korean regime that terrorized its people for decades. We then invaded Vietnam under the guise of “freedom”, ending up with genocide in Cambodia, and three million plus Vietnamese dead, because of us. We overthrew the government of so many countries, pretending it was for “freedom”. A good example of that is Iran, where we imposed the Shah on them, only to act shocked and hurt when the people of Iran got fed up with our meddling and overran our embassy. All throughout US history, we have invaded, attacked, burned and slashed and destroyed all in the name of “freedom”.
Wait, freedom for whom?
That is the question we should be asking. Freedom for the corporate boss to hoard money at his worker’s expense. Freedom for anyone who has enough money to be elected. Freedom for discrimination, misogyny and hate. Freedom for religion to control the country. Freedom for the religious to push their religion as “science” while attacking actual science. Freedom for thousands to die every year from preventable disease while we fully have the capability to stop it. Freedom for defense contractors to make billions on the blood of US military men and women, and hundreds of thousands of dead innocent Iraqis and Afghanis. Freedom for you to sit down, shut up, and keep waving your American flag at the right time, and the right place.
The Specter of Real Freedom
Now there is a specter haunting the US,the specter of freedom. It is the same specter that was haunting Europe in 1848, and the same specter that has been haunting us all along. You see, unless we realize that we are not free, we never can be. As long as we are saying we’re number one, we never will be. As long as we keep saying that everything is fine, it won’t be. You get the picture? We never had freedom to begin with; because until all are free, none are free. I really wish we were free. I wish that all the patriotic tripe about the US being the land of opportunity was true. I wish that we really were a free country. If I was still eight years old, I might still believe that lie. We are not free. We are enslaved as wage slaves, debt slaves, under a government that doesn’t represent us, and doesn’t care. We are a nation enslaved to organized religion. We are a nation enslaved to outdated ideas on government. We are a people enslaved by the myth that we ourselves have woven around ourselves. It’s time to yell from the rooftop that emperor has no clothes, and that the US has no freedom.
A specter is just a shadow. We have the shadow, we have the potential, the essence of what could be. We should take that vision of freedom, and make it a reality. Then maybe one day a lucky writer will get to pen the words:
“No longer does the specter of freedom haunt the US. Freedom now lives in every house, in every school, in every street, and in the heart of every American.” It will only stop being a specter, when it becomes the truth.
Realize the specter; fight for the truth.
“Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”
You know what to do workers of the world. Unite.