Thursday, December 6, 2007

The conservative's "F word"

During an attempt to convince his evangelical Christian base that he’s not a member of an insidious devil cult after all, Mitt Romney today put forth the proposition that freedom requires religion.

"Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the
windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and
commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone,"
GOP contender said.

This speech, while making Thomas Jefferson spin in his grave, alienated millions of nonreligious Americans, and with good reason. Romney is saying that anybody who is not religious is an enemy of freedom.

My attitude toward Romney’s speech is…eh. I’m not going to vote for him anyway, but I have to wonder just how he defines freedom.

Freedom, once the defining concept behind America, has become the ultimate conservative buzzword. You will not find a conservative who doesn’t throw the word around more often than Mel Gibson did in Braveheart. But what does it mean to them?

Freedom of speech? As long as you agree with them. Go to Free (there’s that word again) Republic or a similar conservative website and tell them, for example, that you think gay people should be left alone. I guarantee you that someone will respond calling you a “rump ranger.”

Freedom of religion? As long as you’re a Christian—preferably an evangelical Protestant. Of course, they’ll let in mainline Protestants, Catholics, Mormons—and even Jews!—but only when it serves their purpose. But the rest of you heathens are SOL.

The freedom of association? As long as it's not with anyone swarthy. Then you could be shipped off on a plane bound for Gitmo.

The freedom to marry whomever you choose? The freedom to have an abortion? You gotta be kiddin’!

I’ve listed the many possible freedoms and crossed each one off that these supposed freedom-mongers do not actually support, and I’ve narrowed down their definition of freedom to one thing.

The freedom to own an assault rifle.

That’s it. That’s what freedom means to a conservative. The right to own a weapon that’s capable of tearing your neighbor’s internal organs to shreds.

Then again, given the Bush administration’s policies toward civil liberties, maybe the conservative concept of freedom is the one defined many years ago by Kris Kristofferson—just another word for nothing left to lose.

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