The Cost of Freedom
By Jack Kinsella
I wasted a couple of hours one night recently doing a little late-night channel surfing. It was one of those strange, insomniac nights where it’s impossible to stay away sitting up, and impossible to sleep lying down.
So I settled into a chair, turned on the History Channel and drifted in and out of sleep.
The mind is a funny thing. In that strange place somewhere between half-asleep and fully awake, you never know where it will decide to focus itself…
At one point, one of those Craftmatic Adjustable Bed commercials came on. I bet I’ve seen that commercial a thousand times in the past thirty years.
Happy people sitting up in beds contorted to resemble mountain roads, reading, chatting, eating…(everything but sleeping) and all, it would seem, for free.
I lost count after the tenth time the announcer uttered the word ‘free’ but I counted fourteen times the word ‘free’ either flashed on the screen or appeared in the text message at the end.
If there is any cost to the consumer for this amazing Bed of the Future, you can’t tell from Craftmatic’s commercial, but if you call right now, they’ll give you a FREE TV — as a 5,000 word disclaimer in 6 point font explains that the ‘free’ offer is “subject to the consumer…blah, blah, blah.”
(That’s as far as I’ve ever gotten before the scene switches back to the announcer telling me to ‘act now to get the ‘free’ offer.’)
There is no word among the language of human beings that carries more meaning that the word free.
Offer something — ‘for free!’– and you can evidently convince large numbers of people that they’d sleep more comfortably folded like a taco. (That Craftmatic commercial has been on TV for more than thirty years for a reason).
Nothing sells a product or an idea like attaching the word ‘free’ to it. The Founding Fathers ‘sold’ the colonists on going to war with what was at the time, the world’s greatest superpower, by sprinkling their documents, pamphlets and speeches liberally with the word, ‘free’ and its derivative, ‘freedom.’
Christians often ‘close the sale’ to the lost sinner on his need for salvation by explaining the wonderful sense of freedom in Christ.
American foreign policy abroad is dedicated to the mission of advancing freedom on the theory that truly free societies are peaceful societies.
To a native-born American, freedom is like the air we breathe. (If you were to ask a person what is the most important ingredient to long life, you’d get a million answers before anybody thought of mentioning ‘air’.)
America sells itself to the world as a ‘bastion of freedom’ — ask any naturalized American what is the secret to America’s greatness and he’ll answer with hesitation, “freedom.”
Indeed, freedom is so indelibly part of being an American that ‘freedom’ would probably not even make the top five on the list for a native-born son of Uncle Sam. Americans seldom even think of freedom unless one of those freedoms are threatened.
You can use the concept of freedom to sell a lot of things, and a lot of ideas. Tack ‘free’ onto anything and you can sell it, from hydraulic beds that come with a ‘free’ TV for those inevitable sleepless nights you’ll have — thanks to your Craftmatic bed’s 10,000 positions — to selling the murder of the unborn as a matter of ‘free’ conscience or ‘freedom of choice.’
Like I said, there is no other word quite like ‘free’ among the languages of men. It means something different to everyone, depending on the context, and it is a word that can be attached to any other word — except itself.
Because there is nothing on this earth more expensive than ‘freedom’.
In an exercise of ‘free speech’, the city of Berkeley, California (which prides itself on being America’s bastion of ‘free speech’) passed a city ordinance denouncing the US Marines manning the US Marine Recruiting Center in downtown Berkeley as “uninvited and unwelcome intruders.”
To add insult to injury, the City Council voted to impose the same zoning restrictions on Marine recruitment stations as are imposed on pornographic movie theaters.
To make certain nobody missed the message, the Council also voted to grant special parking privileges directly in front of the recruiting center to the militant granny group, “Code Pink“.
Code Pink has been picketing the center for months, defacing the building with graffiti calling the Marines “assassins” (and worse) and the City Council thought it might be nice if all those grannies didn’t have to walk so far to the recruiting office carrying those big heavy signs.
Video of the Council meeting showed city officials trashing the Marines, calling them “the President’s own gangsters” and “trained killers” who are known for “death and destruction and maiming.”
(I’m sure that Berkely’s City Council meant that last crack as an insult. But since Marines greet each other as “Devil Dogs” and pride themselves on “heartbreakers and life-takers” — it was an accidental compliment. Allow me to acknowledge it on behalf of my Corps brethren. “Ummm, thanks!” )
But, as I said, I don’t think they meant the ‘trained killers’ with a reputation for ‘death and destruction’ crack, as a compliment.
Especially after one of the council members complained that the Marine’s presence was responsible for “horrible karma.” Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates offered to “help” the Marines evacuate.
Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin and her troop of militant grannies gloated over the vote and turned up at the recruitment center to rub salt in the wound:
“We are the defenders of democracy, the upholders of the Constitution. If it weren’t for people like the people in Berkeley, standing up for what they believe, we’d be living under Hitler.”
To demonstrate their willingness to fiercely defend democracy against the likes of the US Marines, Code Pink’s warriors then publicly defaced the Marine recruitment center again, stretching a banner covered with bloody handprints across the window — while the Marine recruiters attempted to do their duty to their country inside.
It’s a free country, and Code Pink was simply exercising their freedom of speech, explained Berkeley police.
So instead of arresting them for defacing US government property, Berkley gave them preferred parking — and a free sound permit in the event their demonstrations violated local noise ordinances.
Berkeley’s ‘defenders of free speech’ were immediately blasted on Youtube, the internet and talk radio. The San Francisco-based Move America Forward, led by talk show host/conservative activist Melanie Morgan, launched an online petition protesting the city council measures.
The American Legion’s National Commander issued a statement on behalf of America’s veterans blasting the Council decision, saying,
“Without recruiters we have no military. And I don’t think we can count on the flower children from Berkeley to protect this nation when it comes under attack. They have to remember that Marines are not the enemy; the terrorists are.”
The’ horrible karma’ Berkeley feared the Marine’s presence in their city might bring turned out to be nothing compared to karmic peril of trying to kick them out. Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina moved to strip Berkeley of pork barrel spending worth $2.3 million.
“Berkeley needs to learn that their actions have consequences,” DeMint said in a statement. “Patriotic American taxpayers won’t sit quietly while Berkeley insults our brave Marines and tries to run them out of town. Berkeley City Council members have shown complete ingratitude to our military and their families, and the city doesn’t deserve a single dime of special pet project handouts.”
The City of Free Speech was stunned. San Jose’s KNTV interviewed perplexed (and woefully uninformed) Berkeley Code Pink member Xanne Joi.
“I was under the impression that we have the right of free speech,” she protested. “To me, I thought free speech meant you get to say what you want without recrimination.”
In other words, “my freedom of speech is more important than your freedom of speech.” Being ‘free of recrimination’ assures Code Pink’s right to free speech is supreme. You have a right to free speech, provided you don’t disagree with Code Pink.
The ones who pay for those rights with their blood and sweat and suffering, well, they have no rights whatever.
That’s the thing about freedom. If you get it for free, that’s all its worth to you. Need proof? Attach a price tag to that ‘freedom’. Doesn’t have to be blood or death. Money will do.
That’s what separates the Marines from the ‘free speech freeloaders’ like Berkeley’s flower children. Marines willingly pay the cost of freedom, so that morons like Code Pink don’t (usually) have to.
Berkeley stood up to the criticism, picking up the smouldering American flag from the dirt, draping themselves in it and the Constitution, bravely enduring the scorn of a nation to uphold their lofty principles…did you say $2.3 million?
Oh yeah, the $2.3 million in federal pork that was earmarked for school lunches, Bay ferry service, disability organizations, UC Berkeley and public safety.
Representative Jim DeMint introduced a companion bill called the “Semper Fi Act of 2008” to reallocate that federal money earmarked for Berkeley to the US Marines instead.
Suddenly, Berkeley’s ‘freedom of speech rights’ DID come with a price tag. (Talk about ‘karmic horror’!)
But not as high a price tag as that paid by the Marines who stand between Code Pink and the terrorists who would as gladly kill militant antiwar grannies as they would steely-eyed “trained killers with a reputation for death and destruction.”
(They’d prefer it, in fact. Militant antiwar grannies are annoying, but as a fighting force, not that formidable).
In any case, shocked at the prospect of having to endure any kind of sacrifice (who knew?) to uphold their principles, Berkeley’s City Council folded like a lawn chair.
Freedom is never free. The price paid in blood to secure our freedom by Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen is incalculable.
Berkeley claims it exercised that freedom, purchased for them by others, “on principle.”
Until the city’s fathers realized that this time, freedom was going to call on them to pay their share — in this case, $2.3 million.
Two of the Council members immediately introduced measures to rescind the previous vote, including Code Pink’s parking privileges. The Mayor issued a public apology.
Evidently, free speech doesn’t actually mean you get ‘the right to speak without recrimination,’ after all.
Because if freedom really was free, there wouldn’t be so little of it in the world.
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on March 1, 2008.