So You Think You’re Free?

So you think the U.S. is the shining example of freedom throughout the world, the ‘home of the brave, land of the free’.  Well, we may not be as free as you think.  And if we stay on the path we have been following for the past three months, we may sink even lower on the Human Freedom Index, a ranking of the state of human freedom in the world based on a broad measure that encompasses personal, civil, and economic freedoms, co-published by the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute, and the Liberales Institut at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

“There are currently 123 democracies in the world of all 192 countries. The most basic measure of democracy is electoral efficacy. If a nation has free and fair elections, coupled by competing parties with varied representative interests, it can be classified as a democracy.” – Borgen Magazine, 2013

By the above definition, we have already found a chink in the armour.  The 2016 presidential election contained episodes of voter suppression, interference by another nation (Russia), and claims of voter fraud.  Additionally, due to a flawed electoral college system, the candidate with fewer votes was awarded the office.

The U.S. actually ranked, at the end of 2016, #23rd in the index.

2016 Human Freedom Index and Sub-Indices

Rank Country Personal Freedom Economic Freedom HUMAN FREEDOM INDEX
1  Hong Kong 9.08 9.03 9.06
2  Switzerland 9.41 8.25 8.83
3  New Zealand 9.00 8.35 8.67
4  Ireland 9.31 7.98 8.64
5  Denmark 9.58 7.67 8.62
6  Canada 9.24 7.98 8.61
6  United Kingdom 9.29 7.93 8.61
6  Australia 9.29 7.93 8.61
9  Finland 9.43 7.68 8.55
10  Netherlands 9.45 7.63 8.54
11  Luxembourg 9.41 7.65 8.53
11  Austria 9.50 7.56 8.53
13  Germany 9.44 7.55 8.49
13  Norway 9.47 7.51 8.49
15  Sweden 9.37 7.46 8.42
16  Malta 9.08 7.74 8.41
17  Belgium 9.25 7.51 8.38
18  Czech Republic 9.16 7.53 8.34
19  Portugal 9.15 7.49 8.32
20  Lithuania 8.82 7.81 8.31
21  Poland 9.18 7.42 8.30
21  Estonia 8.89 7.70 8.30
23  United States of America 8.79 7.75 8.27

According to an article in a recent issue of Der Spiegel (29 April 2017), there are three main institutions requisite for a true democracy:

  1. An independent judiciary
  2. A critical press
  3. A healthy opposition

The United States has all of these … or does it?  At the moment it does, but in the last 3 months, all three have been threatened to one extent or another.

Independent Judiciary

scotus-1

Trump has repeatedly rebuked, criticized and even threatened judges who halted his ban on Muslim immigrants and other of his executive orders.  The administration recently announced that it will not ask the American Bar Association (ABA) to evaluate candidates for federal judgeships before formally nominating them, as has been done under most past administrations.  He has referred to judges as ‘political’.  Even Trump’s own nominee for the Supreme Court was ashamed of Trump’s criticism of judges, calling it “demoralizing and disheartening”. I find it frightening that 51% of Trump’s supporters believe he should be able to override judicial rulings he doesn’t agree with. “When both the government and its people are united in their disdain for democratic institutions, it represents a clear danger.” – der Spiegel

Critical Press

free-press

Trump’s vitriol against the mainstream media knows no bounds.  He has resorted to juvenile name-calling on an almost daily basis.  His main nemesis seems to be the stalwart New York Times, in business since 1851, yet Trump refers to them as ‘failing’, ‘fake news’, ‘disgusting’, ‘dishonourable’, ‘a joke’, and worst of all, ‘the enemy of the people’.  This has the effect of creating doubt in the mind of the citizens, who may then turn to non-credible news sources, the variety of which are never-ending, rather than following legitimate press for facts.  Additionally, Trump has threatened numerous times to “tighten libel laws” and make it easier to sue the press, not only over errors in reporting, but simply because they were critical of the administration, particularly Trump himself.  While this move is not expected to gain momentum and would, in fact, be unconstitutional, it is a threat nonetheless.

Healthy Opposition

resist

This may be the one area that Trump has not figured out how to curtail.  The opposition, or resistance, is robust and healthy as of today, with recent marches for women’s rights, human rights, and environmental protections garnering crowds that far exceed that of Trump’s inauguration!  Many who are appalled by the essence of Trump have become more politically aware and involved than ever before.  This is encouraging, though I am certain Trump lies awake nights trying to figure ways to stop the momentum.

In 1787 the U.S. Constitution was ratified, defining and protecting our democratic institutions.  However, the U.S. is not immune to abuse of power.  The framers of the Constitution made certain assumptions, mainly that leaders and citizenry alike would act in the best interest of the nation as a whole, and would do so with at least a degree of intellect, maturity and compassion.  For 230 years, the Constitution has served our democracy well.  Can it survive the Trump era?  I am not certain.  Your thoughts?

27 thoughts on “So You Think You’re Free?

  1. Another well written article Jill.

    Here is my take on the content:

    (1) Department of Justice — Department of Justification.( for the president)

    (2) Critical Press.—The ineptness and farcical nature of Fox News and it affiliates.

    (3) Healthy Opposition — Bipartisan lack of spine and political flaccidity.

    (4) Informed electorate —- Voters bamboozled by a master con artist.

    It’s interesting to note that a political candidate who is labelled as being “unorthodox” is allowed free reign to do whatever the hell he feels like doing and to quote Trump ” nobody knows…nobody cares.”

    As we have all witnessed over the past number of months Mr T. is taking full advantage of this mass inertia and momentary hysteria to have his way in the White House, promote the needs of his family and friends first and foremost and stick the taxpayer with the bills for his shenanigans.

    Even speaker of the house Paul Ryan has lost his voice and his spine in effectively criticizing the antics of this clown prince to the throne of power.

    Impeachment is a process afforded to somewhat honorable men.

    Tarring and feathering this buffoon and running him and his in laws out of town on a rail is the more christian way to rid the government and country of this social blight. .

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 I always enjoy your take on things!!! And you are spot on … I especially like the tarring and feathering idea! It just goes from bad to worse, and just when you think it cannot possibly get any worse … it does. I keep wondering where it all ends. The divisiveness in our nation cannot take many more blows, I fear.

      Thanks for giving me a laugh this afternoon! I needed that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jill, the American dream has become more of an illusion to far too many. Where you are born and to whom you were born matters more in success than it used to. We have fallen in the ranks of socio-economic mobility and education while soaring in the ranks of incarceration.

    Now, we have a President who says any news source that disagrees with him is fake news and protestors need to be hindered. Since he has a 70% rate of untruths per fact checkers, I don’t take much of what he says to the bank.

    A question in a comment was asked about how one determines the ranks of credible news sources. You answered it well. I use multiple sources and avoid the ones that tend to scream the loudest. We have to guard against shallow, conflicted and biased news sources.

    So, I watch and read several sources (PBS Newshour, Reuters, BBC World News America, NPR, The Guardian and other sources in my browser). I also still read the local paper in my hands. I avoid those networks who have screaming faces side by side who you cannot hear over each other. What is worse is they aren’t even listening to each other, so why should I listen?

    The sad truth is it is hard work to stay truly informed. And, it should not be so. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Keith! You are so right … it IS hard work to get the facts and valid, valuable information. I sometimes spend 4-5 hours reading and researching for a single post … it is exhausting. And you’re right … it should not be so. Even with every effort to get it right, I still sometimes make an error.

      As for the American Dream … it seems to me that the American Dream has become a bit greedy. It was once defined as being able to own a home, pay the bills, put food on the table, and take a vacation once a year. But now, that seems not to be enough. Now it’s about owning the most luxurious vehicle, owning a million-dollar home, traveling often, buying an article of clothing that costs more than my entire wardrobe, sending children to elite private schools, etc. Somewhere along the line, it would seem that greed overtook good sense. And you know what? All those things I just mentioned will not make a person any happier than they were without them. They will only set their sites ever higher. And then they want to blame the government because their dreams are pie in the sky? Forgive me … I am just feeling tired and cynical about human nature today. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This man simply does not understand the nature of constitutional democracy. He thinks the country ought to be run like a business (into the ground in his case) and not with a healthy exchange of ideas. He is without a doubt the complete antithesis of what the founders had in mind for a chief executive. And the opposition needs to come from within the government where at present it is relatively quiet and even cooperative.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. I think that the money he spent on the campaign trail he viewed as an investment, as if he were simply buying another company, one in which he could make … more money! Plus have the power and recognition he has always strved (strove?) for. The opposition DOES need to come from within government, but that will happen only when/if we force it to happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Truthfully, I’ve been concerned, quite concerned since the night of the elections. I haven’t had a moment of peace since then. When I wake up, he’s the first thing that comes into my head … and I don’t like that. He’s there everywhere … news, TV, magazines …. Arrgh!! I’m quite concerned … 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • As am I, but I also believe that Congress will at some point, have no choice but to initiate impeachment proceedings. The only question in my mind is … how much damage will he do in the interim? Sigh. I fear it is turning me into a person who no longer remembers how to play, to have fun, to feel as if there is not a great weight on my shoulders. Sigh. Hugs, dear friend … I am so glad I got to know you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Jill,
    The conservative republicans are attempting to target protesters to curtail the right of protest. Nothing is sacred anymore. I plan to be part of every major future protest and some which may not be so bigly.

    Since the election of President Trump, Republican lawmakers in at about 18 states have introduced or voted on laws to curb mass protests. Civil liberty experts are calling this “an attack on protest rights.”

    He is taking the USA backwards where the US could be the equivalent of a third world country.
    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Once again you have enlightened me! Thank you, my friend! They are not likely to have much luck curbing the protests, because there are so many people, like yourself, who are not going to stop or be stopped! I admire you, my friend! I shall have to stick to making my voice heard through my writing, as I have neither the money nor the wherewithal to attend marches and rallies, but I support those who can. I just wish it didn’t have to be this way. 😥

      Hugs, dear friend! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Jill,

        I am far from well off and I live on a tight budget.And I am always praying for a financial miracle. Fortunately because I retired from the airlines, I get free travel on UA. And I either stay for free at someone’s place like in Washington DC or Chicago or I figure out how to split the costs with others.

        I wish there was someone that I knew in NYC where I could stay for free, then I’d really be set to protest to my heart’s content.

        Hugs, Gronda

        Like

        • I know … I didn’t mean at all to imply you are wealthy … just that I admire your stamina and perseverance! Even more than money being the major obstacle for me are that I don’t have a car, and am losing my vision, so driving is difficult. So, I stay home and write and support you with my heart!

          Hugs!!!!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. how do you determine a news source to be “non-credible”? I have heard this argument from the regressive left on various occasions, especially on Facebook when I post thoughts and opinions that are contrary to the mainstream populism of the day. Does ideological difference constitute non-credibility?

    In terms of this unsubstantiated claim about Russian interference into the 2016 election, I seem to remember an incident with Hillary Clinton where she sold 20% of our uranium to the Russians so why no outcry over that? Does that qualify as “fake news”?

    Like

    • Dear The Reluctant Parent,
      Please check out this source as to the Clinton/ Uranium myth:
      Hillary Clinton Gave 20 Percent of United States’ Uranium to Russia in …
      http://www.snopes.com/hillary-clinton-uranium-russia-deal/
      Claim: Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s approval of a deal to transfer control of 20% of U.S. uranium deposits to a Russian company was a quid pro quo exchange for…
      Claimed by: Internet
      Fact check by Snopes.com: FALSE

      Liked by 1 person

    • How do you determine it? You do your homework … check the facts … consider the source. I was, at one point, maintaining a list of less-than-credible sources, but they became so numerous that I finally gave up. I stick to tried and true sources, outlets that have been around for decades, or are highly respected by the academic community, and I use Snopes and Fact Checker. If it still seems dubious, I sit on it until I get confirmation.

      Liked by 1 person

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