Current Comedy, 12.22.09: Live Free or Die? Yeah, Right.
Though seasons greetings might suggest I write something even more warm and cozy than last week's Yule Log, I dedicate this week's holiday column to the presumed patriot I recently saw downtown with the titular slogan emblazoned on the passenger side crew cab window of his pickup. "Live Free Or Die." It was a large display. There was the whole "Don't Tread on Me" snake twined around a Liberty Tree of sorts, presumably watered by the blood of patriots, as Jefferson suggested.
There were other rightwing redneck bumper stickers on the vehicle. As a person whose own tailgate is held together by bumper stickers, I understand the compulsion, and so I scanned the other slogans eagerly, but nothing stood out to me with the power of the simple Revolutionary era slogan/New Hampshire state motto that has been recently re-appropriated by the Tea Partiers.
And I thought: "Live Free or Die"? Dude, please do. I mean go ahead and die, because ain't no one, at all, anywhere, "livin' free." If you really are the kind of person who would live and die by such simplistic propagandistic hokum, then you are the kind of person the Darwin Awards were invented for. I have not been convinced that people of your ilk are actually benefiting our society, and while I in no way would agitate to pursue your harm, I wouldn't necessarily mind if you voluntarily thinned the herd.
OK, I guess that's a poor example of holiday spirit. Maybe a little. Let me re-state this: First off, there is no freedom--existence, every existence, comes with a certain set of parameters or limitations thus making being "anything" the opposite of being "everything" and thus, to "be" at all is to not be "free."
But on a more basic level, you are not going to Wal-Mart and snagging yourself a twelve pack without paying for it, or put in your 40 for the boss man without expecting something back for it, because there is no "free." This is not a free country. Everybody's got bills to pay, everybody's got to get paid--ain't no free lunch, ain't no living free, only dying and how appealing is that during the holiday season?
You aren't going to live in America without commerce, that is income and expense, that's cash, and cash, in this year as in days of old, remains the actual risen King. And cash is just the first sacred cow among the infinity of restrictions we accept to exist. Among two of my favorites: corporality and animation. Again, no freedom. I like living among walls and floors, which also restricts me. Again, no freedom, but dang this time of year especially, indoor living is a prison maybe, but it's life.
So, there is no "live free" and those who claim to live by such, should, by their own rules, die as such. Not that I actually want you to take it this seriously; but you could take your life or at least your belief system more seriously. Just saying. If you think of our country as a democracy then this is not a free country because then you are obligated to participate in the decision making and improvement creating processes of the country and taking an obligation is a rejection of freedom. You can't say forget everyone else and just look out for yourself: that's not democracy.
Mr. "Live Free or Die," are you not even aware of the conditions of servitude you accept daily, no matter how much joy you believe you take in them? Since these kinds of bumper stickers surround me like a sea sometimes, I am hoping I am dealing with people who are a bit more aware than that. But sometimes the evidence suggests I'm wrong.
I for one think of our country as an obligation. It's not a ground-score meant for my plunder, it's a chance at a stewardship and maybe we can make it better. Of course that concept involves giving of one's self from time to time and so giving up one's freedom; thus democracy itself is not free. If you say you think of the country as capitalism, then it is even more clearly not "free," since capitalism is explicitly an assignment of value and thus a negation of "free."
Mr. "Live Free, Or Die," my good brother, have you thought this through? Obviously not, but perhaps we can write this off as a growth experience. Child, I forgive you; but now if you'll take a second to realize the hollowness of that slogan, perhaps you could acknowledge that there might be a few other concepts you're being sold by the hucksters of the right that also might, maybe, slightly be, less than truthful.
Perhaps the most subversive thing a person can do in a capitalist society is to give something away for "free." Maybe that is the actual truth and that is what will set you "free." This is the season of giving, so give this idea a chance Mr. "Live Free Or Die": When we give of ourselves, or our things, then we are not being part of someone's system for profit. It's still a choice between various sets of limitations, but it is closer to "free" than most. Maybe that's why we claim to take a break from oppressive capitalism for a day or two around the holidays and just give. No worry about the cost, just give.
Well, that's what we claim to do. Just as some claim to exist by a credo of "Live Free or Die."
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.