Freedom's Trail


As Democrats prepare for their convention in Boston, they should ponder the city's catalytic role in American history. If they venture outside their hospitality suites for a walk on the Freedom Trail, they'll see historic places associated with the American Revolution and be reminded that the battle for freedom was begun here. But they might also take a moment to remember that the battle for freedom was not won here.

In seventeenth-century Boston, Roger Williams was banished for standing for religious freedom against the Puritan theocrats, yet he continued to preach that no sect may claim a monopoly on truth and he opposed the merging of church and state. In the eighteenth century, Boston abolitionists challenged slavery, the ultimate in property rights, and in the nineteenth century, textile workers in nearby Lowell launched the long struggle for the rights of labor in America. Women suffragists demanded not only voting and economic rights but also control of their own bodies, paving the way for the modern abortion rights movement. Thoreau practiced civil disobedience against an imperialist war.

Time brought new conflicts: the battle for racial equality in public education in South Boston in the 1970s and, most recently, the state supreme court's ruling in support of gay marriage (prompting the neotheocrats in the Senate to try unsuccessfully to pass a constitutional amendment denying that right).

Everything each of these movements stood for, the Bush Administration stands against. The very term "freedom" has been co-opted into a rationale for unleashing the most venal instincts of private interests as well as a justification for an illegal war and occupation called, in Orwellian fashion, Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Through a series of regressive changes in federal income and corporate taxes, this Administration looted our national treasury of trillions for the benefit of its rich friends, while cutting assistance to state and local governments and withdrawing support from public education. …

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