A nickname for the United States of America, a line in its national anthem, and supposedly a statement about how free the country actually is.

Unfortunately, this freedom is more the product of the imagination of the majority then anything else. America, even though it has been, for most of its lifetime, the country with the most freedoms, they have often been restricted to certain groups, and the others have had to fight for them. Women, African-Americans, Catholics, and Jews are some of the groups that have managed to gain most of the freedoms which they were initially denied. Gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transgendered people have recently started fighting for their own freedoms.

So whether it's really the "land of the free" depends on if you're one of the free. And what you consider free.

Land of the Free

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's one of the phrases that the people of the United States of America like to use to describe their country. It occupies the penultimate line in our national anthem. We brag about our freedom; we revel in it. Why, every Fourth of July we set off fireworks (if we're allowed to) to have a party remind us of our War for Independence.

Relatively speaking, it's even true. There is no shortage of places in the world where the common man needs to keep his mouth shut and toe the line, or face dire consequences. But we Americans are not strutting on our stage because we're somewhat less oppressed than the other peoples of the world: we are the free!.

For the benefit of those Everythingians who are to come, here are some examples of our vaunted freedom. (I realize that you might think this is just primitive early 21st century humor, but it's all true!)

I am free to sell you a casket; if I obtain a license and charge you at least the prescribed minimum amount.
In the city of Los Angeles, I am free to offer to sell you a used hat (really!); if the hat bears a clear warning that it is used or secondhand, and identifies the manufacturer, and I've posted a conspicuous sign that warns all and sundry that I am, in fact, offering used hats for sale.
I am free to offer to braid your hair for a fee; unless the state licensing board requires that I have a cosmetologist's license, which I can get by spending a year of my life and about $5,000 on a program of education that doesn't include hair braiding.
In some places, a woman is free to kiss a man's penis, if he wants her to. Even without a license! (Actually, that particular service is not allowed to be rendered in exchange for money.) In only some of the places may a man do so, however.
I am free to educate my children; unless the State disapproves of the manner in which I do so.
I am free to insult the President of the United States; though I may find myself in jail for it, as Patricia Mendoza and others have.
Safeway is free to dangle before me the reward of a free gallon of milk, if I buy 8 gallons before the end of the year; except that California says that two-gallon packs cannot be counted.

All right, I know you've been
waiting for the drug reference....

I am free to smoke the dried leaves of a particular plant which is known to cause death, though I am not free to smoke the leaves of a different plant which has never killed anyone (though deaths have been attributed to its being withheld). And large corporations are free to sell it to me, provided they can cough up hundreds of billions of dollars in extortion money so that the government will allow them to continue. Then we're all free to watch as the states put their hands out for this free money so they can "pay for tobacco-related health care" and "fund programs to prevent the kids from smoking" by, for example, filling potholes in Los Angeles streets.

Ahh, freedom. Let's breathe deep of it.

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