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Recent political events have gotten me thinking about this word. It's thrown around a lot in the American media, probably because we fancy ourselves to be full of it. But what does it really mean and why would we want it?

If asked whether I wanted the freedom to do whatever I wanted without fear of retribution, I would be inclined to answer yes. In that sense, I think most people really do want to be "free", but political freedom is an entirely different beast. It's usually assumed that when you're talking about freedom, you're talking about it for everybody (or nearly everybody).

So, to be more precise, rather than asking "Do you want the freedom to do x?", you should really ask, "Do you want everybody to have the freedom to do x?". When put that way, the answer becomes much less obvious. If asked whether I wanted the freedom to commit murder whenever I felt it necessary, the answer would be yes (not that I would expect to use that power or anything). However, if I had to choose between nobody having that freedom and everybody having it, I'm gonna have to lean towards nobody.

And so we get to the real purpose of government: control. True freedom is anarchy and I don't think anyone wants that. Rather, we make an unspoken deal with the government that we will sacrifice some of our freedoms so that they'll restrict those of others. Whenever we're talking about freedom, we need to make sure that we understand the question being asked. Do you want everyone to have the freedom in question?

So, given that, let's look again at Iraq. What is one of the biggest questions being asked there?

Do you want the freedom to vote for your government officials?

Yes. It seems so obvious, yet...

Do you want everyone to have the freedom to vote for your government officials?

I'll bet the minorities aren't so sure. In a country so split along ethnic lines, we wonder why the idea of democracy hadn't taken hold long ago. This is it. As a minority in such a country, you understand that democracy equals oppression, so you fight for non-democratic governments that support your cause. This is what the Sunnis did with Saddam Hussein and this is what the Kurds will continue to try to do after the dust settles.

Shiites (the majority) will win the election and control the country, this is a given. People watching the election closely will have noticed that the turnout was quite different amongst the different ethnicities. The Shiites came out in droves (as they're the powerful majority) and the Sunnis didn't. The Kurds also came out in great numbers, presumably hoping to elect a leader that will be friendly to them.

Perhaps I sound a bit overly pessimistic. Not really, I just think we should keep a check on unrealistic optimism. This government will certainly be better for the Iraqis than Saddam was, but it will also be much less stable. I hesitate to interpret the high voter turnout as a "ringing endorsement of freedom". Rather, I suspect it represents genuine fear for the future. It could be argued that voter apathy is actually the sign of a stable, happy country.

This story is far from over.

<P ID="signature">----
"And dreams may come
That are everlasting
Though all just plastic too..." </P>

Fla Flash

Staff (News -- Rom Hacking)
First off, great post SpaceTiger.
And you're right on the mark again.
Indeed we do, and have since the birth of the constitution, given up rights because of fear that others couldn't handle them or would abuse or misuse them. Actually, that was a smart move..
The Iraq situation, even after a certain level of stability is achieved after we leave, is still a potential powderkeg.
But, if you have hope, maybe, just maybe, while the new government is indoctrinated and while we're still there, there could be compromise;sacrifice.
I know that sounds like a lame statement to make, but you never can tell...perhaps there's an Iraqi citizen out there with the oratary powers of a Patrick Henry, or a John F. Kennedy, or unfortunately an Adolph Hitler....
Boys and girls, we need to stay tuned.....

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