It is perhaps unsurprising that the 4th of July has long been an occasion for ideological awkwardness on the part of the modern American Left. Having celebrated the idea of an intrusive, quasi-dictatorial state that chastises its commercial sector for refusing to pay its supposed “fair share” of taxes for the privilege of being governed by a far-away government that is purposefully structured not to understand that sector’s concerns, the idea of celebrating a successful rebellion against such a government is no doubt awkward.
While this ideological problem no doubt causes agony to any number of liberal and/or Left-wing commentators, it can also bring its share of amusement, as those commentators will invariably attempt to find some way, however tenuous, to claim that their ideological predispositions secretly align with the noble revolutionaries who overthrew the British monarchy. This annual exercise produces some of the most entertaining creative writing ever conceived.
…Except, that is, when the writer in question skips the idea of tying his ideas back to the Founders entirely, and instead uses the occasion of a holiday celebrating freedom (including freedom of speech) to attack anyone who holds a differing conception of freedom from him. This is what happened this year, as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, in an article in the Huffington Post, has claimed that conservatives not only don’t believe in freedom, but use the word as a cynical con job to dupe voters out of voting for their own interests. Highlights from Trumka’s op ed follow:
I do believe that freedom isn’t free — but today the corporate and political right wing is trying to cheapen this truly American value. They’ve been cynically using the word “freedom” to rally the American public against its own best interests.[…]
When politicians on the right talk about the “freedom” to replace Social Security with vouchers, what they really mean is freedom from a secure retirement income. The “freedom” to get vouchers for retraining is actually freedom from unemployment compensation’s safety net when your job is shipped overseas.
The “freedom” of cutting local government translates into the freedom from having the help of a cop or a firefighter or EMS tech in your time of greatest need.
Let’s call this right-wing “freedom” catch phrase what it really is: a grossly political strategy to dupe the public, which holds the word “freedom” as something sacred.
This Independence Day, I say let’s go back to a truer use of the word “freedom.” Let’s start with President Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. I would add the freedom to bargain collectively.
Now, for those who actually want to skip going over to the Post’s site and reading Trumka’s screed, let us assuage your worries on one point – we did not deliberately cut out any references to the Founding Fathers, to the Constitution, to the Bill of Rights, to the Declaration of Independence, or to the Revolutionary War. Trumka does not mention any of these items once. Moreover, he only uses the phrase “Independence Day” twice, once in his opening sentence, and once in the passage quoted above. This is important, because it means that Trumka’s only historical reference to a shared American tradition of freedom is to hearken back to FDR in the 30’s. He doesn’t take inspiration for his argument from George Washington, nor Thomas Jefferson, nor John or Samuel Adams, nor Thomas Paine, nor even Abraham Lincoln. No, apparently as far as Trumka’s concerned, the struggle for independence starts with FDR.
This should not be at all surprising, coming from a man who works with international socialist organizations to try to foist global taxes on everyone. Apparently Trumka skipped the “no taxation without representation” part of the whole Independence Day narrative.
However, for the sake of argument, we’re prepared to take Trumka up on his idea of pushing for “freedom from fear,” which is why we are calling on Richard Trumka to stop scaring people by talking about a vast right-wing conspiracy that dupes Americans into accepting false definitions of the word “freedom.” We don’t blame Trumka for his misunderstanding – if we spent time with the people he spends time with, we’d believe every American could be duped into thinking words don’t mean what they actually mean, too. But really, this is the wrong time of year.