CHANTING FOR FREEDOM

28 May

CHANTING FOR FREEDOM

Louise Annarino

May 28, 2012

 

Perhaps it comes from attending Mass every day between the ages of 6 and 18, singing Gregorian Chant as part of the liturgy, which brought me such peace each morning and created my world view. Perhaps it was the chant itself.Chant flows seamlessly, each voice modulated to mingle with those of other chanters rather than lifting one voice above others. If every chanter took a breath at the same time, the fabric of the chant would tear, leaving tiny holes through which the notes would fall away. So, chanters learn to listen closely to nearby chanters, stretching the time to take a breath before or after that of those on left or right, to keep the fabric of communal song strong and vibrant. Chant is complex, rising and falling across chords layered in groups and overlapping phrases. When a soloist  lifts high a clear voice soaring above the whole, that single voice remains supported by the underlying chant of the group.

 

Chant is organic, flowing, ceaselessly seeking release as its power grows then crests and subsides, finally coming to rest in an eternal ohm. Chant leaves one attuned to others, supportive of one another, more alive within the whole than a single voice alone can do. Chant builds strength in cooperation and sharing. Chanters let go of ego, sacrifice personal control and individuality for the greater good.They know the song, the chant, the melody will enrich all who sing and all who listen. It will lift the entire universe in prayerful energy toward light and away from darkness into joy, toward strength and away from fear into freedom. It is ironic that such communal effort should result in joyful, fearless freedom.

 

When I hear presidential candidates talk about being free I listen carefully. Being free is the hallmark of our nation. Not one of us wants anything less than freedom. And, we describe it in many different ways. We talk about freedom from something: from taxes- from want, from dictators-from anarchy, from crime-from oppression.We talk of freedom of something: religion, speech, assembly. We talk of freedom to do something: marry, bear arms, pursue happiness. But, what is the underlying basis of freedom? What is the common thread which allows us to be free rather than puts us in chains?

 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s dramatic opening statement in his treatise “The Social Contract” explains “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are.” the very fact that Rousseau titles his work “The Social Contract” implies an answer.

 

With the first part of his opening sentence, Roussseau distinguishes the common good interests of “the sovereign”, the collective group of all citizens, from the private interests of each individual citizen. Are these competing or complimentary interests? It depends upon which song the nation sings. I prefer chant, in which each individual understands and appreciates his unique contribution to the group; and adjusts tone, cadence, rhythm, and vocal power for the common good. If man has chained himself to others for the common good, he remains free. It is only when others chain a man against his right to be free that he becomes enslaved. So long as man creates and attaches his own  thread to the common good, he can remain free. He is free to participate as an equal, empowered in a way he could not be on his own, and the result is greater freedom and power for the group.

 

The American system of slavery, and its current remnants is illustrative of Rousseau’s second statement. Those who think they are masters over others are more enslaved than those they seek to control. America’s premise that all men are created equal and have equal rights, is enshrined in her constitution and its amendments. Yet, for too long we chained our nation’s wealth and productivity to the system of slavery. Although America abolished slavery, we continue to chain our wealth and productivity to a system recognizing the rights of masters over workers,investors over laborers,the privileged over the 98%. It is not by chance that political operative Grover Norquist insists every Republican candidate take “the Pledge” to not raise any tax; nor close any tax loophole for those who believe themselves rightful masters over laborers. Such a pledge hardly allows a legislator or presidential candidate the freedom to work for the common good. Whom is enslaved by such a pledge?  Those who claim themselves our masters. Why do we allow this?  We allow it because we have yet to address the underlying justification that masters must remain in control: race, sex, and class.

 

E Pluribus Unum, Out of many One, is the fabric of America and the fabric of chant. We are all Americans, and all Americans are equal. But, having a bi-racial president has proven too much for some Americans. Those who seek to make President Obama the other, seek to deny his status as their equal because they do believe all Americans are free and equal. In order to justify denying some Americans freedom and equality, these persons must deny those Americans are as American as themselves. People of color, women, LGBT, new immigrants cannot be allowed to believe themselves equals, nor masters over themselves, nor over anyone else. A Black president cannot be allowed to disprove the construct by which some believe themselves masters over others.

 

To justify the determined ruination of the Obama presidency, he must become something (not someone) people can hate. He is described as a Muslim terrorist, a N*****, or Black liberation theologist ala Rev. Wright. He is a socialist, communist, fascist; some misguided souls say all three at the same time! They see no inconsistency in describing him simultaneously as a  strong and overpowering despot, and a weak and overwhelmed failure. The message is simple, “He is not like us”. Therefore, he is not entitled to equality, nor freedom. We use this ploy to train soldiers to kill the other: Japs,rag heads,gooks. 

 

In dehumanizing others so we can find a way to justify killing them, we dehumanize ourselves. We chain ourselves to lies. We give up our freedom to be fully, painfully human. No apologies needed.Our apologies are lies themselves, “IF (but of course only the other would say so) my words (not my SELF) or my actions (which I cannot remember) hurt anyone, I apologize. Man is born free, and is everywhere chained to self-deception.

 

Obama haters want to take back their, not his, country. They cut holes in the fabric we weaves to make America strong, productive, and a beautiful “one out of many” nation. It is easy to lie about the other, when we are lying to ourselves about ourselves. Once we start lying, it is difficult to stop. Until we honestly face what we are recovering racists, we feel more comfortable with lies than with truth. We remain enslaved, while attempting to enslave others. If only President Obama had stayed in his place, this country would be fine. We would all be wealthy. We would all be free to serve our own interest at the expense of the environment, mortgage security, the middle class, public education, equal pay, immigration reform,finding Bin Laden and hobbling Al Qaeda,commodities oversight,Wall Street regulation,closing Guatanamo,speeding up economic recovery through government investment in our communities etc. The boy needs to be taught a lesson. You think this is hyperbole?

 

Think back to the George W. Bush re-election to his second term. He had created the largest deficit and waged  two wars without raising taxes to pay them for the first time in our history; instead,funding them from loans from China. He lied and used others to unwittingly lie to justify invading Iraq; then joked about not finding weapons of mass destruction when he spoke at the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner, pretending to look for them under the table. He declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq as his unwarranted war escalated out of control at the cost of thousands of American and Iraqi lives. He announced he was not interested in finding Bin Laden, it was really not that important, and he took his eye off Afghanistan to invade Iraq making it more difficult for President Obama to wind up operations and end the Afghan war.

 

Under George W. Bush, Wall Street’s investment bankers and commodities traders were unregulated and out of control, creating unsafe investment packages with little to no real value other than to hedge fund investors’ huge profits,and a housing bubble based on unregulated and predatory mortgage lending practices. Banks were primed for failure, failing at such a rate that the FDIC was underfunded to handle the losses it guaranteed. President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, even though it was less stringent than he had hoped for.1 Republicans still block his efforts to implement rules to enforce Dodd-Frank, and have refused to approve “anyone” Director of the newly created Consumer Protection Agency, forcing President obama to make a recess appointment. 2

 

President Bush spent 35% of his presidency vacationing at his Crawford Ranch, his parents home in Kennebunkport, Maine and Camp David.3 All presidents need time away from the White House, their vacation homes and Air Force One are equipped for business as usual. But the sheer percentage of time away must have left an impression on second-term voters. When president Obama used a much smaller jet to take his wife out for an anniversary dinner in Chicago one evening, it was considered an assault on U.S. taxpayers.

 

Energy prices skyrocketed under George W. Bush. He is on record stating that cheap energy was bad for America. U.S. oil production was low, refinery capacity at an all-time low. 4 Under President Obama, U.S. Oil production is at an all-time high, storage is at full capacity. Yet, he is attacked for being anti-oil production, while V.P. Cheney made secret deals to increase profits for energy companies behind closed doors of the Bush White House.  Oil is traded on the global market. No president is able to control oil prices. But regulatory oversight of commodities futures’ trades, increased production and legislative plans to make use of U.S. production at home, as proposed by Democrats, can influence the costs at home. President Obama’s plan does just that, despite unwarranted and distorted attacks by candidate Mitt Romney.5

 

When George W. Bush was re-elected despite what all agreed was a somewhat less than stellar performance during his first term, common knowledge affirmed that he carried the benefit accrued by any incumbent. Why does this reasoning not apply to President Obama? Gas prices were higher during George W. Bush, yet current gas prices are offered as a reason to vote out this incumbent.

 

The Iraq War has ended and Afghanistan War continues, scheduled to end by 2014. In the past, common knowledge held we not change presidents in the midst of war. This was one reason given for the re-election of incumbent Bush,despite his misguided Iraqi invasion. Why does this reasoning not apply to President Obama, who is responsibly ending these wars, while continuing to attack global terrorist networks?

 

Incumbent Obama meets every criteria used in the past to support re-election of an incumbent. Yet, he is not treated as an incumbent. The one way to avoid this discussion is to simply lie about his accomplishments and his challenges. The media, the public, supporters and non-supporters are too readily willing to overlook his record of accomplishment, to degrade, demean and distort it. Why, when they were willing and able to do so for former incumbents such as George W. Bush?

 

Racism. He is not one of us, not entitled to the same consideration. This is our dirty little secret. Racism plays the discordant notes of American history. It grates on our ears. It disturbs our souls. It holds back our future. We prefer to avoid it, like avoiding the scrape of chalk across a blackboard. We cringe when we hear it. We become angry with the kid holding the chalk. But it continues.How do we stop it? How do we drown out the noise of racism?

 

How we can make music together without listening to one another, without breathing an unbroken melody of continuity and completion, without learning the complexity of the governance process as part of the chant, without supporting each soloist in his diverse skills and needs, without putting aside our own ego to become part of a larger whole? …Well, it stuns me. It does not surprise me, but it wounds me. Worse, it hurts our nation. Take up the chant for freedom, and against slavery. Make music with one another as equals, where none is master over another.

 

There is a chant I hope you will join. To do so you must commit to seek the common good, knowing the individual needs of each of us will be sought to support the whole. You must set aside ego and accept the imperfections of other chanters. The chant itself is easy enough to remember: “Obama-Obama-Obama-Obama-Obama…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, Summary by Kimberly Amadeo, About.Com, Economy, http://useconomy.about.com/od/criticalssues/p/Dodd-Frank-Wall-Street-Reform-Act.htm

2.  “Putting Mr. Cordray in place grants the agency the standing to move ahead with new regulation of varied financial entities, authority it has lacked in the absence of a director since its creation in July 2010.With the three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, Mr. Obama moved to ensure that the board, which has five seats, would not become paralyzed. The board shrank to two members when the term of a previous Democratic recess appointee expired on Tuesday, and under a Supreme Court ruling, it is not allowed to make decisions with fewer than three members. Helen cooper and Jennifer Steinhauer, New York Times, January 4,2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/05/us/politics/richard-cordray-named-consumer-chief-in-recess-appointment.html?pagewanted=all

3. ”As it turns out, Bush easily eclipsed Ronald Reagan’s previous record for presidential sloth.  By March 2008, Bush had spent all or part of 879 days at his Crawford, Texas ranch or at Camp David, surpassing Reagan’s mark of 866.  By the time he left office, George W. Bush had made 149 trips to and spent 487 days at Camp David, with another 77 getaways to (and 490 days at) Crawford.  Toss in 11 visits and 43 days at his folks’ compound in Kennebunkport, Maine and President Bush spent 1020 days – 35% of his presidency – getting away from the White House.” Obama NYC Date Night Highlights Bush Vacation Record , Avenging Angel, May,31,2009, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/05/31/737229/-Obama-NYC-Date-Night-Highlights-Bush-Vacation-Record

4. “Why the price spike now?[under George W. Bush] We are talking about an oil price that is higher (again, in nominal terms) than at the height of the Nixon-Ford inflation, when we all found prices intolerably high. Prices fell all during the Reagan years, thanks to the effects of Carter’s deregulation, and during most of the Clinton years as well. In fact, prices reached good-old-days levels at the very end of the Clinton era: $11 per barrel. Gas hovered at $1 a gallon, an historic low in real terms. Pure heaven!” High Prices As Policy,Llewellyn H. Rockwell,Jr., http://www.lewrockwell.com/rockwell/high-prices.html

5. ”In a television interview on Sunday and a Web video released on Monday, Mitt Romney said that President Obama has sought higher gasoline and energy prices and called on the president to dismiss three cabinet officers Mr. Romney claims have abetted him.But the assertion, which echoes charges from other Republicans, is largely unsubstantiated or misleading.”Romney Misleads on Obama and Energy Prices, JOHN M. BRODER,NYT blog, The Caucus,  http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/romney-misleads-on-obama-and-energy-prices/

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