I think of freedom in positive, aspirational terms — such as found in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms," or in the uplifting songs of freedom sung by oppressed people everywhere.
But right-wing ideologues have fabricated a negative notion of "freedoms" derived from their twisted concept of individual choice. You're "free" to be poor, to be politically powerless or to be ill and uncared for, they say — it's all a matter of decisions you freely make and our government has no business interfering with your free will.
This is what passes for a philosophical framework guiding today's Republican congressional leaders. For example, they say their plan to eliminate health coverage for millions of Americans and cut such essential benefits as maternity care for millions more is just a matter of good 'ol free-market consumerism. As explained by Jason Chaffetz, a Utah tea party Republican: "Americans have choices. And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care."
Lest you think that Jason must simply be an oddball jerk, here's a similar deep insight from the top House Republican, Speaker Paul Ryan: "Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need." Yes, apparently, you are as free as you can afford to be. As Vice President Mike Pence recently barked at us, Trumpcare's you're-on-your-own philosophy is all about "bringing freedom and individual responsibility back to American health care."
The GOP's austere view is that getting treatment for your spouse's cancer should be like buying a new pair of shoes — a free-market decision by customers who choose their own price point, from Neiman Marcus to Goodwill. And some go barefoot ... but then, that's their choice.
Meanwhile, congressional Democrats have finally gotten a clue. A majority of Dems in the U.S. House are responding to the rising public demand that decent health care be treated as a right for everyone, rather than being rationed by profiteering insurance conglomerates. Nearly six of 10 Dems in the House have now signed on to Rep. John Conyers' "Medicare for All" bill, which is being carried in the Senate by Bernie Sanders. (Minus Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who says "the American people" aren't ready for it, meaning the narrow slice of the public that inhabits her world — health industry executives, lobbyists and campaign donors — aren't ready.)
To help push both the party and the issue forward, go tonationalnursesunited.org.
You can contact Hightower at jimhightower.com.