Sunday, November 27, 2011

Solus Vocem

I've had seven great loves in my life, and I'd like to introduce you to two: Language and Liberty.

When it comes to the former, I'm a bull in a china shop. Like a kid with a crayon standing before a freshly painted wall, the inspiration is usually greater than the end result. Regardless, I'll always stop and marvel at my being allowed to do so. I am no one, and I've nothing more important to say than anyone else. But a few pecks here, a couple clicks there, and voila -- my thoughts are out there for anyone to see. I take it for granted, to the point that I can't comprehend how this most basic of rights is not available to all.

The Curiosity probe is on its way to Mars. The Monarch butterfly has been deciphered at the molecular level. How is it that we still live in a world where one human being cannot speak freely, particularly of a different kind of monarch?

Much like the Amazin's, notions such as these were roundly defeated and rightly disgraced by a gathering of men in Philadelphia. What better combination of language and liberty than the Declaration of Independence?

Jefferson, a successful lawyer and Virginia state representative, didn't even want the job. He sped through it in just over two weeks, and had his words fuddled with by men who'd deemed his beliefs too radical the first time around.

Not too shabby for a rush job, eh? Also, it's encouraging to know that Jefferson endeavored to address slavery. It's always vexed me that such brilliant minds could somehow condone such an offense, but his attempt to include it in the document is laudable. South Carolina and Georgia objected, and the bitter seeds were sown.

Alas, one of his words which thankfully remained intact from draft to Declaration was "inalienable". This may be the most powerful stroke in that entire not-sacred, but self-evident document.

It's the fulcrum from which all else swings, in my opinion. Stating that mankind is inherently free was the chisel, but declaring it something intrinsically impossible to surrender was the hammer. Why even bother with the undertaking, in effect signing your own death warrant, if the tenets therein are fleeting? 

Now think of the world in which this document was written. Freedom of thought was inexplicably a relatively new phenomenon.  Outward freedoms, such as those of speech, movement and self-determination, were in direct conflict with the crown. There were no shades of grey -- these men were either going to forge a Republic or die trying. Can you imagine having such purpose? I'd like to think I can, and yet I spit in their faces each and every day. I've come to accept the erosion of rights almost blithely, as if it's a long line at the market or an annoying commercial. Grit your teeth, get it over with and go about your day.

When I leave Walmart, a fellow citizen stands posted at the door. Not to thank me for my time and money, but to ask for proof that I'm not a thief. When traveling, other boors in blue operate checkpoints that would make the Stasi proud. They question my motives and take pictures of my body, they root through my luggage, swab my hands and scan the results. I stand there shoeless throughout, wondering why. Not so much why they're doing it, but why I allow it. I'm just a man, a single citizen among many. What recourse could I possibly have?

I can tell the Walmart secret police to go pound sand, but what about the TSA? If I submit, I reject the service and sacrifices of those who bled to fend off such intrusions. I'll feed my family, but as a summer soldier. If I pronounce my refusal to submit to any and all inquisitions, I'll be detained and fined. It is precisely this juncture which vexes me: I could eventually lose my job, my home, every last thing. But isn't that precisely the predicament faced by those who allowed me to breathe freely in the first place?

A mentor once told me in my early 20's that a man has to look himself in the mirror every morning. If he doesn't like the man staring back, it'll make for a horrible life. But which is worse, consigning your charges to destitution for your beliefs, or fattening them up on the absence of them? Frankly, I'm tired of having to make this decision.

So, once more, what can I do? Well, you're looking at it. I can blather on at will here, and no one can do a thing to stop me (legally). I can question authority and call out tyranny. I can posit that any encroachment on liberty, no matter how seemingly benign, is an advance upon them all. I can spit instead on the morass of American toddlers and elderly women getting felt-up in the name of combating radical Islam. In James Madison's prophetic words:
“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
I can also honor the efforts of patriots like Rep. Ron Paul, whose views are a beacon of liberty. I am proud to say that the good doctor inspired me to finally register in 2008, and I will once again cast my vote for him. It's not about a party or a personality, it's about principles.

It may make me unpopular, even unwise, but I refuse to consider liberty an aberration. Jefferson wrote that it is precisely the opposite, and that it is not only my right as an American to protect it, it is also my duty.

Sadly, our America is hardly his. It's become a confusing, conflicting calliope. We give away cherished rights, we give away our jobs, we give away our high ground. We have become a fiat empire whose greatest exports are high fructose corn syrup and war.

It gives me pause to write such things. I look around and see people entirely unfazed, more concerned with the annual Rite of Unbridled Avarice than the foundations crumbling around them. Many know nothing of the seditious "Patriot Act", and I'd wager most could not find the Earth on a globe. All I can do is wonder if they're either uninformed or uncaring, and I can't decide which is more distasteful.
There was once an America that minded her own business. An America whose breadbasket turned to bullets only when called upon. We drew up a compact with the divine, sealed it in blood and in sublime irony left it entirely up to you to choose the nature of that holy spark. Or even not at all. End of story. We had a Great White Fleet, we flew over barricades built for starvation, and Colin Powell said it best about our designs on dirt. I don't think it's a stretch to say that someday people will study us as we do now Rome and Athens.

Our soldiers were farmers and tinkers and heaven knows what else. Hell, it's was probably everything else imaginable at the time. Printer, painter, pauper, men firing right alongside their son's sons. At Concord, there were African men standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their European countrymen, all free men. What would any of these citizen-soldiers say about me? Would I be able to look them in the eye?

One man, one voice, and it's the only one I'll ever have. This mortal coil is a one-shot deal and I'd rather die free than draw a single breath oppressed.

In closing, Osama bin Laden's benefactors are fanning the flames, Iran is getting close, Israel is getting closer and that rejected bridge from "Mysterious Ways" turned into one heckuva song. As Bono says, you have to reject one expression first, before you get to the next, and in between you have nothing. You have to risk it all. As I gradually emerge from the darkest period of my life, I find that inspiring. Like Ted Danson's Don Quixote, if you're going to dream, DREAM BIG!

1 comment:

  1. Thought-provoking entry, as always. And thank you for that U2 clip!