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Since we were young, most of us have heard an ever-present mantra that America is “the Land of the Free.”  

The final affirmation in our Pledge of Allegiance is “With Liberty and Justice for All.”  

Each stanza of our National Anthem, the “Star-Spangled Banner,” concludes with “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!” 

Even modern country music, such as Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American,” touts freedom. Greenwood’s song states, “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”  

From these constant reminders that we embrace “liberty” and are “free,” one would gather that free choice is important to Americans.  

Freedom and liberty have two contexts — one outgoing and one incoming, within laws that are carefully crafted to protect one’s rights and at the same time extend these same rights to others.  

By “outgoing” I mean that individual choices do not restrict others from enjoying the same rights as you or I enjoy, of course within the laws that preserve fairness and equal treatment.   

By “incoming” I mean that individual choices are not restricted or diminished by outside opinions and views, again, so long as all are treated within the laws that preserve fairness and equal treatment.   

“Freedom” has unfortunately become a political commodity rather than a virtue toward which we should aspire. 

Two big enemies of freedom are fascism and communism. 

Wikipedia defines fascism as “an authoritarian, ultranationalist political ideology and movement.”   

Fascist ideology promotes nationalistic views and loyalty to one’s country as being supreme over the personal rights and that demonizes populations, such as immigrants, Gypsies, or Jews. Fascists restrict the choice of the people, promote cleansing and purifying social values, and attempt to control media, i.e. “format the message.” 

“Communism” embraces the same inherent dynamics of needing to dominate and control media, like banning internet access, to homogenize populations, like Communist Chinese do with the Uighurs and Tibetans, and to enforce social values (the Cultural Revolution). 

Rather than focusing fascist goals of national supremacy, i.e. “America First,” communism’s goal is to establish “a socioeconomic order centered around common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange…” 

Both fascism and communism effectively function by restricting personal choice, determining social values, and by controlling information and the media. 

Movements against fascism, such as the ideology “Antifa,” short for anti-fascists, promote freedom of choice. Funny how Trumpers depict the Antifa philosophy as the boogie man. Does this means Trumpers are for fascism? 

Recent restrictive enactments have been applied by Republican leaders. And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is the poster child of restricting liberty. 

In 2022, House Bill 5, signed by DeSantis, prevents a woman from undertaking medical options because she may offend the religious views and philosophies held by others.   

DeSantis’ newly enacted Florida law HB1467 restricts certain books in school. A violation of HB1467 is considered a felony for teachers who have, use, or make available books that include LGBTQ or intimacy references. This law determines that the religious and social views held by government officials supersede personal choice. 

DeSantis has made the philosophical discussion of how Black slaves and their descendants were impacted negatively by their subjugation an unlawful subject in Florida schools. Called “Critical Race Theory,” this simple discussion is not permitted in Florida schools because it ostensibly would make some white people feel bad. 

DeSantis last week signed legislation that overrides expert medical recommendations regarding COVID prevention. In other words, it is now unlawful in Florida for medical directives that would save lives from being enforced. 

It is clear DeSantis and other Republican officials are deciding who reads what, what discussions may not take place, and what medical choices may not be made.  

Florida is not the only place where choices and freedoms are being eliminated. Twelve other “red states” have followed suit with placing restrictions to include LGBTQ rights. These are Texas, Idaho, Georgia, Alabama, South Dakota, Arkansas, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana and Mississippi.       

Restricting choice and “controlling the message” according to the personal views of some in political office, despite being locally popular, diminishes freedom and liberty.   

What is “freedom” to you? 

Does your concept of freedom place your values as having primacy over the free choice of others? Are you in the DeSantis camp that endorses the Republican anti-choice authoritarian playbook? 

Or to you is America the land of the free and that you consider liberty as a two-way street, that all are equal under the law?  

Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the CFO of an accredited acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.