It must have been an awfully long time since I looked up the word “free” in the dictionary. Whenever I want to go back to the meaning of a word before political correctness polluted the English language, I go back to my printed copy of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (second edition, 1979). Unlike online dictionaries, when you read from a book published more than four decades ago they can’t cancel a word they don’t like anymore, or change the definition of it overnight. So, I was astonished when I turned to the word “free” and found that Webster’s published 23 separate meanings of the word.
For my purposes in this column, definition number one was a good start: “Not under the control of some other person or some arbitrary power; able to act or think without compulsion or arbitrary restriction; having liberty; independent.” But it was definition number two that hit the nail on the head: “Having, or existing under, a government that does not impose arbitrary restrictions on the right to speak, assemble, petition, vote, etc.; having political liberty; as, a free people.”
Never before in my life has freedom seemed so unpopular to so many people! I read the headlines every day and they scream about the “science” that no responsible person must question – much less challenge – regarding masks, and the science on global warming, and the science on fossil fuels and “green” energy, and the science on vaccinations. It’s about time someone stood up to remind those who use “science” as if it were a political weapon to silent their opponents, that they are leading the country in the wrong direction.
I am certain Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant Jewish physicist quoted in the title above, would call them out if he were alive today. Oppenheimer, more than any other person was the genius behind the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb 75 years ago. Oppenheimer said, “There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.”
Today, if you seek to correct the wrong error or ask the wrong question about energy, health, or the environment you are suspended from Twitter, and Facebook will put a notice over your post that the “fact checkers” say it is out of context. Google may change its algorithm so as to bury your information on the third, or fourth page of someone’s word search. They do it and insist about how they are saving us from misinformation.
You may not have noticed last week that a group of former senior “intelligence” and national security officers said breaking up Facebook, Google, and Amazon would jeopardize national security. They argue that Big Data’s centralized censorship is crucial to advancing U.S. foreign policy. How soon we forget that there were centrists of a generation ago in both parties who didn’t think that was a good idea. President John F. Kennedy was on point to this specific issue of applying the tactics of tyrannical governments (he referred to them as closed societies) to Americans. “Even today,” Kennedy said in 1962, “there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions.” Yet, that’s what Big Media, Big Tech, and Big Data are feeding us every day. And Kennedy was equally on point about why America is a great country. We are great because we recognize that our freedom is more valuable than anything else, and if the flame of freedom dies, there is little left that’s worthwhile. “Even today,” Kennedy continued, “there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it” – the chief tradition being freedom itself.
In his I Have a Dream speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. repeated the phrase “let freedom ring” several times. George Washington warned: “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” We would do well to heed God’s admonition to the ancient Israelites: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants” (Lev. 25:10). I’ll see you on down the trail.
John Avery Emison is the Mayor of Alamo and author of two books.