Category Archives: Freedom and Liberty

My Unpopular Opinion


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The recent events where pro ball players taking to the knee while our National Anthem is played has led me to do a lot of thinking about freedom and what it means to me.

I am an Army brat. I was born to a soldier and then 52 years later, held him in my arms as he died. To say that I was proud of that man and all of his accomplishments during his life and the 3 wars in which he fought and almost died would be an understatement. I grew up on Army posts around the world, went to school with other army brats, eaten dinner at the tables of soldiers, from NCOs to generals. I have attended more military funerals than I care to remember and have wept at them all, some, my school friends, from war wounds and others just old soldiers.

I am army through and through. When I think of my father, his friends, comrades in arms, and my own friends, I really believe that what they were fighting for was not so much our own freedom but the concept of freedom for individuals of any nationality. True, they were often political pawns but fought nonetheless for someone’s freedom.

But foremost, in thinking of what my own father taught me, was that our founding fathers envisioned the freedoms of thought, action, and speech. Those were my Dad’s guiding principles and what he taught me to cherish.

I might find the kneeling and fist raising unpleasant to watch and even disrespectful but they are each fulfilling the dreams of our founding fathers, exercising their freedom of speech as it were. How can I possibly cherish the foundation of our country if I deny others the right to their freedom.

I have no doubt that my Dad would have harsh words for those ball players but I also have no doubt that he would accept their expression as much as he would expect them to accept his.

I stand with those who really believe in what our founding fathers enumerated for us to use as guideposts to a free society.

Listen to that with which you disagree, consider it and ignore it if you choose but never believe that your efforts to exercise freedom supersedes theirs.

 

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The Final Breath


There are moments when time stands still, moments when the earth seems to stop revolving on its’ axis, when the sun disappears from the sky, the stars are extinguished and the moon drops into the abyss of a far off universe; times when the air we breath ceases to exist as we hold our breath, waiting, just waiting. There are moments frozen in time and burned into the personal history of our lives.

But we live with courage and we survive, changed forever but going forward for those who cannot

Some years ago, I had written a piece about living our lives in moments, some wonderful beyond compare and others that could shatter the universe in which we live.  There was a woman in our group known by the name of “Wee Granny Mush” and after publishing my thoughts on moments, she told me about hers – when she was sitting by her daughter’s bed, holding her hand as her adult child died.  As her daughter took her final breath, Wee Granny Mush felt a light squeeze to her hand, the final earthly connection between mother and child.

It was that thought, that image which led me to write about moments when time stands still.  It was meant for Wee Granny Mush but we all have them at some time in our lives, some dramatic and others less so but no less impactful.  My own came when my father died in my arms just a few short weeks after my mother had died.  As I held my dad as he was dying I cried “Daddy don’t leave me.”  Of course he did and at 52 years old, I became an orphan.


A Rich Full Life


LiveWithCourage

 

 

Early one morning last week, I was enjoying a few minutes of tale telling with one of the women who works for me.   We are very much alike and easily share laughter and truth about life.

She said that some day, we should run topless through the field that abuts our shop. She heard me chuckling to myself and demanded, in that prim and proper New England school-marm way, that I fess up! Nothing too dramatic to tell, just that I had run naked through many fields in my life and the one next to the shop wasn’t a prime spot for a couple of old women with sagging breasts and pudgy thighs that would create the sound of gulls flying over. We laughed at the image but before we got back to work, she commented that I have lived such a rich and full life.

I guess that I have been so busy living my life, I failed to realize how rich and full it has been.

I have know laughter that couldn’t be contained, smiles that warmed my spirit, and grief so deep I didn’t think I would survive.

I have been blessed to know that the love for one’s child comes not from the act of birthing but from the never-ending act of parenting so I have known motherhood not only by example but also by experience and I have been the father when there was no one else to fill that role.   I have known the joy of music and art and my hand in creating both and the satisfaction of a body exhausted by hard physical labor.  Thanks to the gift of confidence given to me by the love of my own parents, I built my life in the same way that I built my home, on my own terms.

I have swum in oceans and rivers and lakes and felt my body cut through the cool water without letting it swallow me. I have loved, deeply and passionately, and have been loved the same way in return. I have known friendship that is like the other part of me that was separated at birth.

I have slept under stars, on boats and in beds that I have shared with a variety of creatures, most of them invited.  I have read through many nights, great books and trashy novels, until I was forced to reluctantly put aside the book because it was time to leave for work.

I have shed tears alone in the bathtub but seldom in front of others, my pride I guess, and my reluctance to appear vulnerable in the eyes of anyone, myself included.

I have been blessed with a spirit that needs to keep learning and being challenged to either surpass my own expectations or gracefully learn from my failures.

I never really noticed when my hair turned to silver, when my blue eyes changed to a pastel facsimile or when my skin began resembling that of my mother. I have written my own rules, created the woman I have become, lived deliberately and tried to carry out my dreams without intentionally hurting others, and I’ve never looked back.

Yes, I have lived a rich and full life

 


An Ignoble Death


YankeeAfter hearing the results of the primaries that took place yesterday, I am at a loss to understand what has become of the infamous “Yankee Spirit.” Up through even the 1970’s we were known for and proud of the heritage that taught us we were responsible for ourselves and our families. We were generous in caring for our friends and neighbors, faithful to the tenets of our constitution and accepted the Bill of Rights as sacrosanct. We believed in ourselves, in the strength of our character and the dignity of perseverance.

None of us expected the government to take care of us or our families, that was our job. We didn’t ask for or accept the government stepping in to usurp what was rightfully our own, the self-respect we earned through hard work and diligence. When disaster befell one of us, our family, our church or our neighbors were there to offer the help we needed to get back on our feet.

We raised our children to have an intimate knowledge of “consequences” and they grew into adults who shared the values we held dear.

We valued education but that didn’t mean that college was the only education that had any meaning. The farmer, the mechanic, and the plumber were as respected for their knowledge and ability as the engineer who lived down the street.

We prepared for the future, saved our money, were frugal, valued self-reliance over “things.” We were the opposite of a disposable culture.

Unfortunately, that “Yankee” no longer exists. His heart may still beat somewhere in the far reaches of one of the colonies but he cannot be revived. He has died an ignoble death. In his place has arisen a citizenry who has been taught that the individual is either too feeble to take care of one’s self and one’s family or too greedy to care what troubles come to our fellow man and therefore need a the powerful, strong hand of the government to equalize everyone; a government who will distribute to each according to their needs. Hmmm, where have I heard that phrase before?

It is indeed a sad day when our children are taught that someone else is responsible for meeting not only their needs but their every desire. That child will suckle at the teat of Mother America until the teat is dry at which time they will be ill equipped to sustain themselves. They will pass from this life without ever having known the pride that comes from being a strong, self-reliant Yankee.


We Must Be the Guardians Of Liberty


In Celebration of Independence

When we were all in school, our least favorite thing to do was remember dates but stay with me a minute, I do have a point. Although you will NOT be tested on the dates, at no time in history has it been more important to remember the principles.

Following 442 days of Revolution, on July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in which it proclaimed our freedom from the rule of Great Britain and its king and marked the expansion of the American War for Independence to achieve this goal. The Revolution lasted from 1775 until 1783 and was supported by only 3% of the colonists. Fast forward to 1787. Because of his eloquence, Thomas Jefferson was tasked with the actual writing of the constitutional document and although there was some disagreement among the representatives as to the content, the Continental Congress adopted our Constitution on September 17, a full eleven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first 10 amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, weren’t ratified until four years later on December 17, 1791. Cumulatively these three documents asserted our belief in self determination, defined our representative form of government, and enumerated the constraints on that same government. These documents wisely guaranteed one single freedom – the freedom from an over zealous, tyrannical government.

And now to my point: It took 16 years and the death or wounding of 50,000 American and French, as well as British and German troops to bring us from being subjects of the British Crown to being citizens of the United States with rights and freedoms that were not meant to be taken from us…EVER.

So here we are in 2013 once again gathering in recognition and celebration of the very freedoms under which we were born, thanks to the courage of men and women over 200 years ago, and I am led to wonder if we have the same courage to protect and defend those principles for which our forefathers were willing to fight and die?

The loss of rights does not usually happen with one single defining moment but rather creep over our lives like a primordial ooze. I came across words written by Kitty Werthmann, Austrian by birth. American by choice. “She survived Hitler and wants to warns America.” I believe that these words should be printed and posted in every office, train station, bus station, school, library, and public bathroom across our country and read to our children at least once a year. July 4th seems a perfect time to start a tradition.

This is Mrs. Werthmann’s warning

“I am a witness to history.

“I cannot tell you that Hitler took Austria by tanks and guns; it would distort history.

If you remember the plot of the Sound of Music, the Von Trapp family escaped over the Alps rather than submit to the Nazis. Kitty wasn’t so lucky. Her family chose to stay in her native Austria. She was 10 years old, but bright and aware. And she was watching.

“We elected him by a landslide – 98 percent of the vote,” she recalls.

She wasn’t old enough to vote in 1938 – approaching her 11th birthday. But she remembers.

“Everyone thinks that Hitler just rolled in with his tanks and took Austria by force.”

No so.

Hitler is welcomed to Austria

“In 1938, Austria was in deep Depression. Nearly one-third of our workforce was unemployed. We had 25 percent inflation and 25 percent bank loan interest rates.

Farmers and business people were declaring bankruptcy daily. Young people were going from house to house begging for food. Not that they didn’t want to work; there simply weren’t any jobs.

“My mother was a Christian woman and believed in helping people in need. Every day we cooked a big kettle of soup and baked bread to feed those poor, hungry people – about 30 daily.’

“We looked to our neighbor on the north, Germany, where Hitler had been in power since 1933.” she recalls. “We had been told that they didn’t have unemployment or crime, and they had a high standard of living.

“Nothing was ever said about persecution of any group – Jewish or otherwise. We were led to believe that everyone in Germany was happy. We wanted the same way of life in Austria. We were promised that a vote for Hitler would mean the end of unemployment and help for the family. Hitler also said that businesses would be assisted, and farmers would get their farms back.

“Ninety-eight percent of the population voted to annex Austria to Germany and have Hitler for our ruler.

“We were overjoyed,” remembers Kitty, “and for three days we danced in the streets and had candlelight parades. The new government opened up big field kitchens and everyone was fed.

“After the election, German officials were appointed, and, like a miracle, we suddenly had law and order. Three or four weeks later, everyone was employed. The government made sure that a lot of work was created through the Public Work Service.

“Hitler decided we should have equal rights for women. Before this, it was a custom that married Austrian women did not work outside the home. An able-bodied husband would be looked down on if he couldn’t support his family. Many women in the teaching profession were elated that they could retain the jobs they previously had been required to give up for marriage.

“Then we lost religious education for kids

“Our education was nationalized. I attended a very good public school.. The population was predominantly Catholic, so we had religion in our schools. The day we elected Hitler (March 13, 1938), I walked into my schoolroom to find the crucifix replaced by Hitler’s picture hanging next to a Nazi flag. Our teacher, a very devout woman, stood up and told the class we wouldn’t pray or have religion anymore. Instead, we sang ‘Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles,’ and had physical education.

“Sunday became National Youth Day with compulsory attendance. Parents were not pleased about the sudden change in curriculum. They were told that if they did not send us, they would receive a stiff letter of warning the first time. The second time they would be fined the equivalent of $300, and the third time they would be subject to jail.”

And then things got worse.

“The first two hours consisted of political indoctrination. The rest of the day we had sports. As time went along, we loved it. Oh, we had so much fun and got our sports equipment free.

“We would go home and gleefully tell our parents about the wonderful time we had.

“My mother was very unhappy,” remembers Kitty. “When the next term started, she took me out of public school and put me in a convent. I told her she couldn’t do that and she told me that someday when I grew up, I would be grateful. There was a very good curriculum, but hardly any fun – no sports, and no political indoctrination.

“I hated it at first but felt I could tolerate it. Every once in a while, on holidays, I went home. I would go back to my old friends and ask what was going on and what they were doing.

“Their loose lifestyle was very alarming to me. They lived without religion. By that time, unwed mothers were glorified for having a baby for Hitler.

“It seemed strange to me that our society changed so suddenly. As time went along, I realized what a great deed my mother did so that I wasn’t exposed to that kind of humanistic philosophy.

“In 1939, the war started, and a food bank was established. All food was rationed and could only be purchased using food stamps. At the same time, a full-employment law was passed which meant if you didn’t work, you didn’t get a ration card, and, if you didn’t have a card, you starved to death.

“Women who stayed home to raise their families didn’t have any marketable skills and often had to take jobs more suited for men.

“Soon after this, the draft was implemented.

“It was compulsory for young people, male and female, to give one year to the labor corps,” remembers Kitty. “During the day, the girls worked on the farms, and at night they returned to their barracks for military training just like the boys.

“They were trained to be anti-aircraft gunners and participated in the signal corps. After the labor corps, they were not discharged but were used in the front lines.

“When I go back to Austria to visit my family and friends, most of these women are emotional cripples because they just were not equipped to handle the horrors of combat.

“Three months before I turned 18, I was severely injured in an air raid attack. I nearly had a leg amputated, so I was spared having to go into the labor corps and into military service.

“When the mothers had to go out into the work force, the government immediately established child care centers.

“You could take your children ages four weeks old to school age and leave them there around-the-clock, seven days a week, under the total care of the government.

“The state raised a whole generation of children. There were no motherly women to take care of the children, just people highly trained in child psychology. By this time, no one talked about equal rights. We knew we had been had.

“Before Hitler, we had very good medical care. Many American doctors trained at the University of Vienna..

“After Hitler, health care was socialized, free for everyone. Doctors were salaried by the government. The problem was, since it was free, the people were going to the doctors for everything.

“When the good doctor arrived at his office at 8 a.m., 40 people were already waiting and, at the same time, the hospitals were full.

“If you needed elective surgery, you had to wait a year or two for your turn. There was no money for research as it was poured into socialized medicine. Research at the medical schools literally stopped, so the best doctors left Austria and emigrated to other countries.

“As for healthcare, our tax rates went up to 80 percent of our income. Newlyweds immediately received a $1,000 loan from the government to establish a household. We had big programs for families.

“All day care and education were free. High schools were taken over by the government and college tuition was subsidized. Everyone was entitled to free handouts, such as food stamps, clothing, and housing.

“We had another agency designed to monitor business. My brother-in-law owned a restaurant that had square tables.

“Government officials told him he had to replace them with round tables because people might bump themselves on the corners. Then they said he had to have additional bathroom facilities. It was just a small dairy business with a snack bar. He couldn’t meet all the demands.

“Soon, he went out of business. If the government owned the large businesses and not many small ones existed, it could be in control.

“We had consumer protection, too

“We were told how to shop and what to buy. Free enterprise was essentially abolished. We had a planning agency specially designed for farmers. The agents would go to the farms, count the livestock, and then tell the farmers what to produce, and how to produce it.

“In 1944, I was a student teacher in a small village in the Alps. The villagers were surrounded by mountain passes which, in the winter, were closed off with snow, causing people to be isolated.

“So people intermarried and offspring were sometimes retarded. When I arrived, I was told there were 15 mentally retarded adults, but they were all useful and did good manual work.

“I knew one, named Vincent, very well. He was a janitor of the school. One day I looked out the window and saw Vincent and others getting into a van.

“I asked my superior where they were going. She said to an institution where the State Health Department would teach them a trade, and to read and write. The families were required to sign papers with a little clause that they could not visit for 6 months.

“They were told visits would interfere with the program and might cause homesickness.

“As time passed, letters started to dribble back saying these people died a natural, merciful death. The villagers were not fooled. We suspected what was happening. Those people left in excellent physical health and all died within 6 months. We called this euthanasia.

“Next came gun registration. People were getting injured by guns. Hitler said that the real way to catch criminals (we still had a few) was by matching serial numbers on guns. Most citizens were law-abiding and dutifully marched to the police station to register their firearms. Not long afterwards, the police said that it was best for everyone to turn in their guns. The authorities already knew who had them, so it was futile not to comply voluntarily.

“No more freedom of speech. Anyone who said something against the government was taken away. We knew many people who were arrested, not only Jews, but also priests and ministers who spoke up.

“Totalitarianism didn’t come quickly, it took 5 years from 1938 until 1943, to realize full dictatorship in Austria. Had it happened overnight, my countrymen would have fought to the last breath. Instead, we had creeping gradualism. Now, our only weapons were broom handles. The whole idea sounds almost unbelievable that the state, little by little eroded our freedom.”

“This is my eyewitness account.

“It’s true. Those of us who sailed past the Statue of Liberty came to a country of unbelievable freedom and opportunity.

“America is truly is the greatest country in the world. “Don’t let freedom slip away.

“After America, there is no place to go.”

Kitty Werthmann


Live with Courage and Refuse to be Silent


“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin

For the past two day, I have been trying to wrap my brain around “why.” Why would the residents of Watertown, MA allow an illegal search of their homes even when there is a plausible reason for it? Why is it that what is as obvious as the wart on a witches nose can’t be seen by so many people. I’ve even questioned if I am excessively paranoid, looking for reasons for a fight. I’ve asked myself if I would really resist were I in the situation. And then I see the video of the search in progress (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LrbsUVSVl8&feature=youtu.be) and the answers to at least some of my questions float to the surface. No, I am not excessively paranoid, not even a little paranoid and yes, I am looking for a fight but it is a fight for a cause. And yes, I would resist and bear the consequence. You see, I believe in the sanctity of the Constitution. I believe that it is one of the few absolutes in the lives of US citizens, the one thing we should be able to count on in an every changing world, in a world dominated by self serving politicians.

As we think back in our lives, we can all probably remember the first lie we told. It came out of our mouths in an effort to protect ourselves from a consequence. Afterwards, most of us probably agonized over that lie. It kept us awake at night. We tossed and turned and we couldn’t get it out of our minds. If we couldn’t correct it, we vowed that it would be the last lie we would ever tell. Then, someplace down the road, we were backed into another corner and again facing an unpleasant consequence so we took the easy route and told another lie. It bothered us but as we fell asleep that night, we were relieved that the reason for the lie was safely hidden. The next time we needed to protect ourselves and lied, our greatest fear was that we would be found out.

The very same thing is happening with the adherence to the Constitution. Playing fast and loose with principles will leave us without any principles at all.


“Tyranny, Like Hell, Is Not Easily Conquered”


It was 237 years ago that Thomas Paine published the now famous words “These are the times that try men’s souls.” I wonder if he foresaw that there would be other times in the future that would challenge us in the same way. Over and over again, our moral compasses have been impugned as well as our willingness to defend and protect the values to which we each, individually, subscribe.
The challenge that we now face as a nation is to defend our constitution against “enemies, foreign and domestic.” That may seem to be a daunting task for the individual but just as the Continental Congress called upon the people to become “citizen soldiers,” we must call upon our fellow citizens to do the same today because we are no less threatened now then we were in 1776.

What is a citizen soldier in 2013? We are today’s “3%” and our responsibility to the generations that will follow us is to educate the sheep and overcome the apathy that is rampant in our society. The arms that we take up are our words. The shots that we fire are the meaning of our constitution.

So often, we belong to groups and have friends who subscribe to the same beliefs that we hold. We preach to the choir. We discuss, we rant, we beat our chests in frustration and indignation when what we should be doing is sleeping with the enemy as a friend of mine so aptly put it. We need to broaden our individual circles to include those who don’t see any threat to our way of life. We need to be willing to be the people with a purpose because we can no longer afford to be silent. Instead of talking about assaults on our constitution with the guys after a trip to the range, go to a coffee shop and talk to the waitress or the person sitting next to you. When you go to the post office, talk about it to the postmaster. When you’re waiting in line at the market, talk about it to the person behind you. Use your words to spread knowledge and inspire the herd, not just to complain to your brethren.

Yes, there are those who will choose to dismiss you and view you as just another nut with a cause, but there are others who’s interest will be stirred. They will actually hear what you say and think about your message. Those are the ones who will talk to their circle of friends and neighbors and the process will continue. Our job is to overcome their apathy and replace it with understanding of what is at stake. It is only then that the 3% will have a chance of growing into 5%, then 10%, then 50%.

You hold the power within you to do this and it is your responsibility as an American citizen to act. Don’t allow your voice to be silenced.

 


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