If you’re an American, you’ve no doubt heard that you’re living in the “freest nation in the world.” You may have heard it bandied about at an American sporting event during an impromptu rendition of the “backup” national anthem, the “USA!!!” chant. You may have heard (felt) it spit towards you while questioning the wisdom/legality/morality of our preemptive invasion of a sovereign nation. Perhaps you were informed of it that one time you asked your 5th grade teacher why you had to pledge allegiance to your flag/govt every morning before you were permitted to watch “The Never Ending Story” (until lunch, or dodge-ball time). For the sake of my point, it matters not where you’ve heard this affirmation, only that you have. What’s implied by the statement is that the citizens of the United States enjoy a greater amount of freedom than the citizens of other nations. Though this notion has been challenged/refuted by many, and is measured by numerous indices, we’ll assume it’s correct, if only to make my point! “What’s your point,” you ask through a yawn? My point is America IS indeed the “freest nation in the world,” BUT it probably isn’t “free” for you.
When George Zimmerman, a 28 year old insurance underwriter and college student living in Florida, took the life of an unarmed 17 yr old boy named Trayvon Martin, it triggered a maelstrom of outrage across the nation. Inherent, and central, to our claim of residing in the “freest nation in the world” is the understanding (belief) that we’re a nation of laws. The particular case of the death of Trayvon Martin challenged our understanding of long-established freedoms, such as the right to self-defense, the right to walk freely with candy and a drink, in addition to challenging new “freedoms,” like the right to “stand your ground.” It’s not necessary to get in to the specifics of the trial for me to further my point. At this point, saying that the verdict, fueled by extensive, all-encompassing media coverage, has served to polarize the nation seems like the understatement of the year. A very large portion of the nation feels that the justice system has failed them. For some it’s a new realization. For others, who’ve incurred the wrath of a war on drugs that disproportionally targets minorities and the lowest socioeconomic strata, it’s old hat. Whatever the case may be, the perception of injustice has motivated thousands of Americans to file into the streets and voice their displeasure, as is one of their (our) esteemed freedoms. What a majority of those who feel slighted fail to recognize is that they’re pushing back against a system they actively bolster, and relentlessly perpetuate.
The perception that George Zimmerman “got away with murder” has so enlivened outcry in America, that today, July 19th 2013, our Commander-in-Chief, President Barack Obama felt compelled to make a televised address to the nation on the subject. While he spoke passionately, and with conviction, about race relations in America (albeit while failing to address the institutionalized racism that is the War on Drugs) as they pertain to Trayvon’s case, and in particular his personal experience as a black man in America, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps he was the wrong person to deliver a message about letting cooler heads prevail with regards to justice, and slain Americans. Though the mainstream media has been (strangely) reticent to draw much attention to this matter, it seems that most Americans are now familiar with the reality that President Obama’s hands are rather soiled with the blood of innocent victims of his drone war. And while a number of Americans are now aware of the fact that President Obama is conducting a program of targeted assassination against people who MAY be associated with terror groups, very few are aware that his hands are soiled with the blood of 4 Americans, who, as citizens, are guaranteed the protection of the very rights that thousands feel are only (or clearly) now in jeopardy.
On October 14, 2011, a drone strike authorized by Nobel Peace prize recipient, President Barack Obama killed a 16 year old boy from Denver, Colorado named Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Born August 26th, 1995, six months after Trayvon Martin, Abdulrahman was described by friends as a normal American teenager. Like Trayvon, Abdulrahman enjoyed listening to hip-hop music. They had friends, played sports, and had Facebook. Both Trayvon and Abdulrahman were unarmed when they were killed. Trayvon was killed while peacefully carrying a packet of candy, and a drink, to his home. Abdulrahman was killed while eating BBQ at a cafe. It’s hard to imagine just how similiar Trayvon and Abdulrahman might have been. We can assume they enjoyed pizza, and video games. They probably listened to similiar rappers. It’s possible Trayvon and Abdulrahman even shared a celebrity crush! While these and other questions have been forever relegated to the realm of speculation, there are things we know. The boys undoubtedly pondered what the future held for them, were undeserving of being killed, and, as American citizens, shared a common belief that their God-given, inalienable rights were NOT to be infringed upon without an expectation of legal redress.
While America debates whether Trayvon Martin has received his due justice in accordance with the law following a contested verdict, no reasonable American (human) can honestly say that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki has received anything even close to resembling his. The man who authorized Abdulrahman’s killing has not been officially charged with the crime. The administration has continually/repeatedly avoided publicly/officially commenting on the extrajudicial slaying of Abdulrahman. The administration initially lied about Abdulrahman’s age following the slaying, then, as a matter of policy, remained virtually silent going on nearly two years (silence was briefly broken by former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who concluded that the slain, innocent American “should have a far more responsible father” if he’s concerned with not being extrajudicially assassinated by the Executive branch).
So it seems that the very same public which is palpably furious with the perceived miscarriage of justice regarding Trayvon Martin’s case, has permitted the man who authorized Abdulrahman’s death to address them, and opine on the various inequities of the criminal justice system. It feels like at this point, this article can write itself. Sadly, this overwhelming sense of irony never translates into reality. In our anger and confusion, we’ve once again turned to the government for wisdom, solace, and counsel. Why?
On March 23rd, 2012, President Obama told the nation that if he had a son “he’d look like Trayvon.” But, could Abdulrahman al-Awlaki have looked like President Obama’s son? Today, President Obama, expounded on this statement, exclaiming “Trayvon Martin could have been me,” referring to the idea that he too could have been the victim of racial profiling resulting in a violent confrontation. But, could President Obama have been Abdulrahman al-Awlaki? Could you or I, as American citizens, be Abdulrahman al-Awlaki? Obviously!
“America is the freest nation in the world,” for the people who make up the rules as they go.