Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility. – Sigmund Freud
I mostly stay away from writing about politics, especially these days. But what happened yesterday in America was an infuriating tragedy which was incited by great ignorance and intolerance. A myriad of questions fill the sky like flocks of scavengers – WHY? HOW? There were scores of unheeded warnings from every direction, but even after the craven mob retreated like an out-flowing tide of sewage, the foul stain remains. But, even so, the supporters of this madness were desperate to scrub away their RESPONSIBILITY. Watching these agitating insurrectionists, I was reminded of George Orwell’s double-speak – War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
History has been a lifelong passion of mine. Many people see history as “set in stone” but that is not so. In every generation, there are sinister multitudes who wish to rewrite history. My father is the one who told me history is written by the winners. Because of that, on days like yesterday, I watch multiple sources of information and do not just settle for others interpretations of live unfolding events. And yesterday, I was reminded of words of wisdom from my father again when I saw so many idiots draped in red white and blue. He warned me against people who are constantly wrapping themselves in the flag. You would never meet more truly patriotic people than my parents, or my aunts and uncles. The warriors in my family did not fight for a flag. The flag is a symbol. In the words of my Uncle Sam (yes I have an uncle named Sam), who was a medic in the Battle of Iwo Jima – “We didn’t fight for the flag. We fought for the guys on each side of us.”
Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. – George Washington
And so today I am seeing so many craven cowards dashing behind flag lined backdrops, desperate to cleanse themselves of the muck they have stirred up. Real America does not exist for these fakes. The real America is still here. The heartbeat of America, as it always has been, pounds away in the chest of everyday people going about their lives trying their best to make the world just a little better. The land that I love will always be found in the kind and generous souls of the so-called working class. That is the blessed land I love. In the words of my dear working class mom, You are no better than anybody and they are no better than you. That is real America.
My parents were not frightened by responsibility. My sweet mother had to quit school at 12 years old to go to work and support her family. She freely gave her love to all of us. Every damn day for over three decades, at 3:30 PM, my beloved father walked out of the house and clocked in at the factory for the 4-12 shift. On Friday nights, I would stay up late so I could tell him goodnight as he came in smelling of diesel, sweat, and grime. I will never forget the smell of real America – his boots and work clothes, drying in front of the secondhand heater – filling the house with a nobility beyond the understanding of most politicians.
I learned responsibility from real Americans. I taught my children the lessons of freedom and responsibility. They in turn teach me now about the better world they are trying to shape from the raw clay of the world to come. On these days that try our souls, I turn to poets to sum up the responsibility and promise of those of us who live freely. Freedom lies in being bold – Robert Frost. Remember these days, but do not let them bind you to cold-hearted shadows. Move boldly ahead and remember Freedom grants us the chance to be better.