Sunday, July 5, 2009

A bit of reminiscing on the idea of freedom...

So yesterday marked 233 years since the people in this nation declared its sovereignty from the British crown. Excessive taxation with no representation, suspension of essential civil liberties that had been guaranteed to British subjects since the Magna Carta, and having soldiers "standing guard to ensure peace and safety" on our street corners, were the reason we became fed up with the British crown.

You see, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, it wasn't signed as an intention to become a separate nation. It was a renunciation of the tyranny we suffered under the British crown. Had they pulled back their troops, stopped taxing the colonists into oblivion, and given us adequate representation within the government, we probably wouldn't have started a war.

But they didn' we did.

233 years later, the reason most Americans celebrate "Independence Day" has been largely forgotten. Just like the way Christmas has become a corporate holiday with Santa Claus at the mall, our independence day has become about "celebrating America" as opposed to celebrating freedom. It's almost as if Americans, as a whole, are celebrating the very thing our founders fought against and died to stop.

Take, for example, the small plot of riverfront land my father and uncle purchased together several decades ago. It wasn't much, just our own little slice of Heaven...our very own Temporary Autonomous Zone. As a child, we would go there on Independence Day, New Year's Eve, and other random times to enjoy certain freedoms that could not be had a mere ten miles away at our homes inside the city limits.

It's where we shot our Roman Candles and bottle rockets, tried to blow our fingers off by holding firecrackers as long as we could before throwing them, and engaging in all manner of other reckless fireworks-related activities that would get us arrested if we did them at home.

It's where I first shot the rifle my uncle bought me for Christmas one year when I was a kid, as well as the pistol my father bought me for my 16th birthday. Between those two firearms alone, there was a recyclists' dream with the amount of brass we left piled on the ground. In addition to the many lessons in general manhood that my father taught me, I also learned to become an excellent marksman. Years before I was old enough to hold a driver's license, I could handle a rifle in a manner that would leave a few Marines feeling inadequate, no doubt due to the countless thousands of rounds' worth of shooting instruction provided by my father.

A few years later, after my uncle had moved out of the little one-room shack, "the river" became a place where one could go to spend some "alone time", drinking a few cold ones and contemplating life in general. It was a place I'd take one of my former girlfriends, if we knew there would be a good thunderstorm worth watching...something about the way crashing lightning would light up that dark little shack was just great. From September of '01 through the spring of '02, when the height of my depression hit the lowest of its lows, I could go there and have a "mad minute" with my Mossberg and a box of shells, contemplate the benefits of saving that last one for a contingency plan, and everything would be alright for another week or so.

All in all, the river was something that represented, in a word, freedom. Freedom to do what I felt like doing, how I felt like doing it, with whom I felt like doing it with.

Over the past several years, the encroachment of "permanent resident" neighbors that prevent me from truly reaching my Temporary Autonomous Zone have increasingly reminded me of our government's encroachment upon our essential liberties...

Perhaps if everyone had their own little place on the river to go to once in a blue moon, they might understand the importance of freedom.

Instead, they celebrate "America", instead of freedom. Don't get me wrong, this nation is unlike any other in the world, as far as freedoms are concerned. I love the ideas this nation was built upon, no matter how much I may disagree with the manner in which my government is attempting to destroy and dismantle them.

Like so many others in my family before me, I swore an oath to defend my constitution "against all enemies, foreign and domestic". Unlike the majority of those before me, I didn't do it because I was conscripted into our military or merely looking for a job with a decent insurance plan.

I did it because I held this crazy notion that freedom was important for everyone. How silly of me...

Ever notice how you never hear anyone say "Well, it IS a free country!" anymore? Yeah...that's because it really isn't.

With respect to the colonists who wanted freedom from excessive taxation, intrusion upon our civil liberties, and armed "enforcers" around every corner, I was actually saddened last night.

You see, I didn't go out and enjoy a mass gathering of friends last night. I didn't go hit up any of the local bars that were having any celebration of July 4th. As a matter of fact, I didn't really do anything, other than have dinner and watch a movie with a lady friend of mine, mainly because I was scared shitless of being one of the many who were randomly arrested last night...and I can assure you, there were plenty.

It really doesn't take much to get yourself arrested in this day and age, especially on a "holiday weekend crackdown". Our government thrives on arrests, because those arrests are what determines what next year's budgets are going to be.

I was afraid to go set off some fireworks with my friends last night, because I wasn't completely sure what was considered a "prohibited firework" according to the local burn ban...and furthermore, didn't want to subject myself to having my fireworks inspected by the local police, so they could ensure my compliance (for "the sake of public safety").

I was afraid to go out and have a few beers at one of the many bars in the area, because they happen to be located on major thoroughfares in the area, and were crawling with police.

Instead, I found myself traveling out of the county in order to see a movie. While I did have a few beers at the theater (Alamo Drafthouse, they bring you beer to your seat, it's awesome!), my date drove home so as to avoid any complications if we were randomly stopped. I limited myself to three beers for the evening, as to ensure that I wouldn't be hassled by the police as I drove home from my date's residence 30 miles away from my own.

I actually was able to find my "temporary autonomous zone" last night, and ironically, managed to find it on SH288 between Freeport and Angleton. By the time I got back into my vehicle, two hours after the last of my three beers, I was beyond sober and it was past midnight, on the Saturday of a holiday I cranked up the stereo, and purposely drove 5mph over the speed limit, just so I might have the ability to tell a policeman "FUCK OFF, AND GIVE ME A BLOOD TEST IF YOU THINK I'M DRUNK!", knowing full well that I was completely sober.

Sadly, that was my celebration of freedom last night. I couldn't shoot off some bottle rockets, because I was prohibited by law from doing so. I couldn't drink a few beers and still have it on my breath when I got ready to go home, because I might be one of the completely random people I saw getting hauled away in the "holiday crackdown". I wasn't able to properly celebrate the freedom that our Independence Day holiday is supposed to represent...because quite honestly, it just simply isn't there.

I yearn for the day when the people of this nation are able to have a good time on what is supposed to be a national holiday celebrating freedom, and hearing people telling others to be safe on the drive home instead of telling them to "Be looking out for the cops, I can't afford bail money!".

When I see that happening in this nation again, I'll celebrate freedom. Until then, I'll continue to mourn its loss...

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