|Independence is very important to me. It is the theme of the only book I have written.
I believe it is the basis of freedom and that freedom is an important part of
self-respect. Without self-respect life is meaningless.
Independence Day we celebrate our country's declaration of independence from Great Britain. That declaration lead to the Revolutionary War, several years of turmoil. All we gained was freedom from English rule. We then wrote the Bill of Rights that stated that we, as individuals, would not allow our government to subjugate us. We have taken that to be freedom. It is not. It only limits the government from taking away our freedom and even that is frequently under attack. It is under heavy attack right now with the call to expand the powers of the FBI and making it illegal to burn the flag. If our species gets smart again, as we were 220 years ago, we will regret reactionary infringements to our freedom.
But never mind the government. Our government does little to infringe upon our freedom compared to what we do to ourselves. Several years ago I headed an effort to block the construction of an oil refinery nearby. I still vividly remember a man who came up to me in the street, shook my hand and introduced himself. "I hope you are able to stop the refinery. You are right. It won't help us. It will just make a mess."
"Join us," I said. "We need your support."
"I can't," he said. "My boss is for the refinery. He would fire me."
The government hadn't taken away his freedom of speech. His employer hadn't either. He did it himself because of his perception of what might happen.
I have been writing this column for nearly 25 years. I think that a close reading of them over the years would find that I have been a little tamer in the past ten or thirteen years. I have felt certain constraints because of my job. While my name was closely linked to a project that required we raise a lot of money in contributions I realized that I had to be a little less controversial. In fact, one woman asked for her donation to back because of something I had written. Members of my board received calls about some of my columns saying that I should be muzzled. It is sad that some people would withdraw support for a worthwhile project because they disagreed with my opinions. For my part I can't understand how anyone could link the two. The organization has its mission which is laudable and should be widely supported. I, too, have a mission. My mission is to live my life in a way that maximizes my self-respect. I lose respect for myself when I subjugate myself.
There are several levels of freedom. The Bill of Rights says that our government can't stop us from using the Lord's name in vain. Our religion may restrict us from using the Lord's name in vain. Our family may restrict us or we may restrict ourselves. I think it is important that we recognize those levels. I think we should spend a lot of time investigating what we are doing regarding freedom. I have no trouble with self-imposed restrictions. A restriction imposed through religion is self-imposed as long as you are free to choose you own religion. Walt Landberg loaned me From Freedom to Slavery, the Rebirth of Tyranny in America by Gerry Spence. If you enjoy my columns, I'm sure you will enjoy this book. It is an easy read with lots of good things to think about. The following is a quote from the book.
"When we care for another, when we make room for another's wants and needs, we have lost an equal portion of our freedom, but in the bargain we are freed of loneliness....We can abide by no moral values without being limited by them. We can belong to no clubs without agreeing to their rules, or to a neighborhood without recognizing the rights of our neighbors. When we become residents of a village, a state, or a nation, we must obey its laws. In short, when we join into any relationship our dues are always paid in freedom....
"Every day we spend our freedom like careless children with too many pennies. In exchange for acceptance by our friends we give up the right to say what we think. Being socially proper is more important than possessing a fresh, uncompromised soul. Being acceptable to our neighbors is often more important than being acceptable to ourselves. For nearly two hundred years slavery thrived in America over the silent protestations of decent citizens enslaved themselves by the tyranny of convention. The price of freedom is often rejection, even banishment."
I don't believe that any of us have ever been free to hurt another. Beyond that I believe that we should work hard to retain our freedom. If you wish to be enslaved, it is up to you. I really don't care. No, that's not true. I do care but in a very selfish way. When the nation is predominantly enslaved and hasn't a clue as to their own ability to release themselves they turn on those who are more free than they and try to enslave them. You be the judge of how many people in our country are enslaved in 1995.
The good news is "most of our freedoms lie within. As the poem goes, 'Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.' Most freedoms cannot be given, except as we give them to ourselves." (Gerry Spence, again.)
ŠJuly 7, 1995
Mort is a husband and father. He authored a book, Gardening For Independence and was named Environmentalist of the Year by Down East Magazine in 1987. He is a consultant for organizations. His address is 802 Bald Hill Road, Wells, ME 04090.
Mort retains all rights to his columns. Anyone interested in using them can get the rights at a very reasonable rate. Mortmather@cybertours.com
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