Thursday, September 02, 2004

"Let Freedom Reign"(?)

I watched Dick Cheney's speech last night. While, I wasn't surprised by anything he said, I was surprised by some of the signs in crowd reading "Let Freedom Reign". Reign? Even Sean Hannity's book is titled, Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism. After a google search, I found that "let freedom reign" was the phrase penned by Bush after the "transfer of power"* in Iraq occured. This occurred around a time when I could viscerally take only so much of the Bush rhetoric, so it makes sense that I missed it.

So I'm going to deconstruct this phrase a bit now. I'll just use dictionary definitions to make my points.

\Reign\ (r[=a]n), n. [OE. regne, OF. reigne, regne, F. r[`e]gne, fr. L. regnum, fr. rex, regis, a king, fr. regere to guide, rule. See Regal, Regimen.] 1. Royal authority; supreme power; sovereignty; rule; dominion...

2. The territory or sphere which is reigned over; kingdom; empire; realm; dominion. [Obs.] --Spenser...

3. The time during which a king, queen, or emperor possesses the supreme authority; as, it happened in the reign of Elizabeth...

[Free Trial - Merriam-Webster Unabridged.


\Reign\ (r?n), v. i. [imp. & p. p. Reigned (r?nd); p. pr. & vb. n. Reigning.] [OE. regnen, reinen, OF. regner, F. r['e]gner, fr. L. regnare, fr. regnum. See Reign, n.] 1. To possess or exercise sovereign power or authority; to exercise government, as a king or emperor;; to hold supreme power; to rule. --Chaucer...

2. Hence, to be predominant; to prevail. ``Pestilent diseases which commonly reign in summer.'' --Bacon.

3. To have superior or uncontrolled dominion; to rule.

Syn: To rule; govern; direct; control; prevail.

[Free Trial - Merriam-Webster Unabridged.]


n 1: a period during which something or somebody is dominant or powerful; "he was helpless under the reign of his egotism" 2: the period during which a monarch is sovereign; "during the reign of Henry VIII" 3: royal authority; the dominion of a monarch [syn: sovereignty] v 1: have sovereign power; "Henry VIII reigned for a long time" 2: be larger in number, quantity, power, status or importance; "Money reigns supreme here"; "Hispanics predominate in this neighborhood" [syn: predominate, dominate, rule, prevail]

O.k. now for freedom:

\Free"dom\ (fr[=e]"d[u^]m), n. [AS. fre['o]d[=o]m; fre['o]free + -dom. See Free, and -dom.] 1. The state of being free; exemption from the power and control of another; liberty; independence...

2. Privileges; franchises; immunities...

3. Exemption from necessity, in choise and action; as, the freedom of the will.

4. Ease; facility; as, he speaks or acts with freedom.

5. Frankness; openness; unreservedness...

6. Improper familiarity; violation of the rules of decorum; license.

7. Generosity; liberality. [Obs.] --Chaucer...

Syn: See Liberty.

[Free Trial - Merriam-Webster Unabridged.]


n 1: the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints 2: immunity from an obligation or duty [syn: exemption]

Clearly, these terms are diametrically opposed. Freedom does not reign by definition, and any reign defies freedom. So what is reigning if not freedom? Well, this question opens a huge can of worms, but one word could encapsulate most of it, imperialism. And while I'm at it,

n 1: a policy of extending your rule over foreign countries 2: a political orientation that advocates imperial interests 3: any instance of aggressive extension of authority

Even Sean Hannity didn't conflate freedom with some sort of reign directly. He inserted a colon. So Bush decided, no colons necessary; let freedom reign. I try to stay away from Orwellian comparisons, but come on? Doublespeak?

And the most disturbing part of it all was that there were many people holding these signs and cheering the empty rhetoric and attacks spouted by Cheney. For about a half hour last night, I wished I'd never read 1984.

*yes, these are scare quotes.


At 4:11 PM, Blogger heather said...

I agree with Erin. I wish that I had the ability to watch Cheney's speech but considering I almost "laid an egg" at one of the ASA presentations I attended, I decided that it was better to abstain from watching the RNC. Sadly, the only form of "coverage" (and I use that term very loosely) that I can stand to watch of the RNC is the Daily Show. Last night they presented a comic piece on Bush's ridiculous rhetoric. It has always been obvious to me that Bush was creating an ideological war to justify his "war on terror" but I'm not sure that this is quite as obvious to other Americans. Erin points out an example of how far Republicans are trying to stretch and justify notions of freedom and authority. The delegates of the RNC seem to buy into this wholeheartedly. I guess I'm fascinated with how the "common person" ingests this rhetorical material and whether they understand the intent of his messages.


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