LOCAL VIEW –Liberty–

Liberty Bell LibertyBellPavillion02

Liberty is a cracked concept, and I think we Americans have been taken to school in many respects for the past fifty years, learning Freedom isn’t free, and liberty is no simple undertaking.

Not that I still don’t believe our Maker wants us free. It is just that we, in our ignorance, seem to make the most incredible mistakes, when it comes to mistaking chains as being freedom.

As a former smoker, I am well aware I was free to start smoking, but not so free when it came to quitting. When I tried to quit, I felt so awful that the only escape seemed to be to buy another pack, to be “free” of withdrawal symptoms. I chose my chains. And for years I was so blasted healthy that I got away with abusing my body, but the final ten years I smoked were more and more miserable, with a horrible cough and increasing weakness. Only when emphysema had me practically crawling, and cancer cost me a kidney, did I finally quit.

The experience was humbling, and allowed me to be less sneering towards my fellow mortals who demonstrate their addictions. Pity and mercy are good qualities, especially when dealing with arrogant fools (like I once was) who insist upon destructive behavior.

One particularly destructive behavior involves people’s desire for security.  People all but sell their souls for the “benefits” of a job. Even though they are never sick, they are so afraid of medical expenses that they cling to some job that stunts their spiritual growth and eventually makes them sick. They are so afraid of being poor when they get old that they cling to a job that kills them before they get old, for a promised “pension.” They think they have a “good” job, but live a shrunken life in a booth like a poor toll-taker on a turnpike.

I am quite serious about this. I have seen an amazing number of men endure decades of degradation in factories and government jobs for the “benefits”, and then drop dead surprisingly soon after they retire. It is as if, when they finally arrive at the day they “have it made”, it hits them that what they have made amounts to a big zero, and the revelation kills them.

I tend to be more forgiving of the need for security in the case of a woman with a babe in her arms. Her chest was made for feeding, not thumping with fists like a manly gorilla. She is more vulnerable, and has a greater need for security, and men are suppose to display guts and gain that security, by going without that security.

I know that some will call me a sexist for saying what I just said, but even the old Norman Rockwell painting “Freedom From Fear” shows the woman tucking the children in bed, as the man deals with the newspaper.

freedom-from-fear-1943

I know that critics of the above picture will point out the man isn’t fighting. They will assume he is some fat-cat capitalist, and sending sons off to die so he can sit smugly at home. What they fail to see is that he has done something right, to create Freedom From Fear for the women and children. What he has done-right is out of the picture, behind the scenes, and only suggested by the fact he is holding a newspaper. Also critics fail to see the alternative is ridiculous. I know it, for I lived it, back when I believed women were liberated by being promiscuous without having babies. This new “freedom from fear” was perhaps accidentally portrayed by Mad Magazine:

MAD-Mag-Freedom-From-Fear-Updated

Even if Mad Magazine had some utterly different aim, they used what Jung would have called an “archetype”.  The woman does the tucking, and the man deals with the newspaper. The woman is more tender, and the man is more tough. The woman is more concerned with immediate and personal security, and the man is more able to go without such things.

I have great respect for men who die young in battle. I even have respect for men who die in middle age working life-sapping jobs in factories or government bureaucracies. But when I was young I thought there was a greater battle to fight, and I have fought it.

I am anti-war, because war is stupid, and I am anti-life-sapping bureaucracies and factories, because they too are stupid. I am a firm believer in “If Only People Weren’t Stupid.”

The polite word for “Stupid” is “Ignorance.” Ignorance is something we all can confess to, because only God has the omniscience that knows everything. We, as mortals, can either side with attempting to end our ignorance, or side with furthering it. If you have done your best to side with the former, you side with “good”, and if you side with the latter, then, sad to say, you are “evil.”

Men who suffer tedious work to support their homes are, up to a point, like soldiers suffering wounds to save their homelands. They are heroes. But past a certain point they should not go. Past a certain point they are being loyal to a Hitler, and damning their wife and children to the social destruction eventually earned by dictators. They should have told their boss, “Take this job and shove it”, but lacked guts. They were timid and cowardly, and subservient to ignorance, thinking some medical insurance or pension mattered more than freedom from ignorance. They were not free from fear, and when fear controlled them they became like addicts.

I was not prone to this particular addiction, because, after I had been loyal and faithful to a boss up to a certain point, and excused his sins as “shortcomings” up to a certain point, I drew the line. It did not seem to be a matter of my brains as much as it was my stomach. I had guts, so I got fired. This is the price of Liberty: Good-bye health insurance, good-bye sick-pay, good-bye vacation-pay, good-bye pension. You are reduced to the status of a hobo. But you haven’t sold your soul and, praise great God almighty, you are Free!

There is some suffering involved in being a hobo, but in my humble opinion it sure beats the suffering of the alternative. I tried out the alternatives, and even worked a union job for an amazing two years. So I talk of the alternatives with a little bit of experience, when I say slavery stinks, when compared to Liberty.

At times it can be strange, when I confess to people I was a hobo until age 37. When I describe getting fired from job after job, rich people get green with envy. Many never dared, because they were addicted to money. At times, when I was younger, talking of my life as a bum became downright awkward, because rich men’s wives looked at me lustfully, (I suppose because a hobo sometimes is a man, and a rich man sometimes is not).

In other words, Liberty has little to do with money. To some this is obvious, but to others this is like saying up is down, because they are addicted to ignorance. In fact they are the ones saying down is up. And history shows that these down-is-up people do get their comeuppance.

America (so far, at least) has always tended to side with Liberty, and not down-is-up people. Not that America isn’t misled by its down-is-up minorities, (Mad Avenue bankers  addicted to money, Washington politicians addicted to power, Hollywood imbeciles addicted to fame), but so far these attempts to capsize Liberty have always been righted by the sanity of tiny, little people.

When you study history this power-of-the-small becomes so apparent that, for me at least, I see the fingerprints of the Almighty. The laws of reaping-what-you-sow jump out at me, even in the exact same historical events where the down-is-up people claim to see proof that injustice pays. They have eyes but cannot see, yet deem themselves wise. They think they will get away with stealing Indian’s land, but later look up to see Sherman come marching through Georgia.  They think they can get rich clipper-shipping slaves and selling opium, but then their sons die marching through Georgia and their great-grandchildren die of heroin overdoses. The kick-back of Karma revisits sins on succeeding generations with a complex and inescapable perfection.

This is not to say down-is-up people can’t be gifted, brilliant organizers and administrators, but they can’t beat God. If they fail to see their gifts are given by God, and fail to be humble about being gifted, all the might in the world can be defeated by a flea, and a great army be stopped by a snowflake. Sennacherib marched 185,000 to Jerusalem, and his soldiers all died in in their sleep at its gates. Napoleon marched a huge Army into Russia, and few returned from the snowflakes alive.

The down-is-uppers tend to feel they are sharp as axes, and can cut others down, but what they fail to see is that no ax cuts by itself. The Creator created the ax, and can cast it aside. If our pride over the gifts we are given becomes that of a megalomaniac, rather than doing the cutting we are cut down. Of course, the powerful laugh at this concept, and say, “How can a tree cut down an ax?”  They never like learning the answer.

The time of Napoleon is fascinating, because he was a megalomaniac who began as a flea who the big-shots were blithely ignorant of, yet was given gifts that allowed him to become an ax that shook the world, before falling as the mighty all fall, into the afterglow of glory. As he disrupted the calm and disturbed the peace he forced friends and foes alike to dare to be great. Men had to leave the cozy security of home, leave wives and children,  and be men.

I like this time in American history because back then we were a flea, compared to European powers, and when the War of 1812 eventually erupted we were like a flea taking on an elephant. Not counting the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, we had a Navy of some 8 ships, and were taking on Britain’s 600. President Madison does not come across as exactly smart, (but, after all, he was a democrat).

However in order to find crews for its 600 ships England, (and to a lesser degree France), had to bully unwilling men onto their ships, and this had been going on for some ten years before the USA declared war. The impressing of American sailors ruffled American feathers, for, while the USA might have only had a 8 ship Navy, it had developed the second largest fleet of Merchantmen in the world, and these ships were not crewed by men bullied aboard by press gangs, but by men who dared put personal security aside, for their wife and children, and risked death on the bounding main, calling it liberty and relishing it. They wanted no part of Europe’s war, but Europe wanted American goods to supply their troops, and both sides wanted to prevent America from supplying the other side. Jefferson faced an undeclared war with France, (which was angry we didn’t side with them, after they had sided with us in our Revolution.) Jefferson also faced Arab states in North Africa who demanded we pay tribute. And the English were increasingly demanding as well.

Of course it was not Jefferson, and later Madison, who was actually out on the ocean facing these troubles. Besides courage, strength and wisdom, life as a merchantman demanded diplomatic skill, and often involved having to smile as the English or French absconded with your cargo, and sometimes your ship.  The amazing thing is that the sailors kept sailing. I suppose the profits were better than the profits from farming, and there was also the not inconsiderable fact that sailing is just plain wonderful fun, for many men.

In any case, the United States may have had a small Navy, but it had a wealth of excellent sailors who were out on the sea because they wanted to be there, as opposed to the English crews who sometimes had been dragged on board their boats kicking and screaming, and would desert at the first opportunity, though doing so meant they risked being hung.

What then happened, once war was declared, was that the American merchantmen turned into “privateers”. They were suppose to get an official slip of paper from the American government, but not everyone bothered. I think it is for this reason there are hugely varying estimates on how many privateers sailed against the English. Officially there were some 500 “licenced” ships, but I have read estimates there were well over a thousand privateers in actual fact. (If you had a licence you were suppose to report your booty, when you got home, at the custom house and pay a tax. Of course this was not always done, by sailors who knew a great deal about smuggling, and about getting around red tape. In fact, in New England, which was most dependent on merchantmen, and where the war was very unpopular, (called “Mr. Madison’s War”), one way around the British blockade was to meet with the blockaders. The British blockade was actually depriving Britain itself of supplies that were needed. Therefore some merchantmen arranged to be “captured”, and then, after goods were off-loaded and cash changed hands, they conveniently “escaped”. So you see, there is a way around red tape, if you look for it.)

When a privateer set sail it had a over-sized crew, for every time it captured an English ship some of its crew had to board the captured ship and sail it home. Some ships would sail off with over a hundred men and return home crewed by fifteen. Some of the ships they captured were recaptured by the British, but many captured ships sailed back into American ports loaded with needed supplies, and as they arrived they told a thrilling tale of the parent ship’s exploits.

Some of the tales are wonderful.  The Paul Jones set sail from New York in 1812 with 120 men aboard, but only 3 cannons. She had holes cut in the side for 17.  The captain had logs painted black to look like cannons and sailed up to the British merchant ship Hassan, which carried 14 guns, but had a crew of only 20. The Paul Jones sent the extra crew swarming up into the rigging to look like marines.   The captain of the Hassan was so fooled by the bluff that he surrendered without firing a shot. In this manner the Paul Jones not only gained a “prize ship”, but 14 cannons, and the captain was able to fill the Paul Jones’ gun mounts with actual guns.

Captain William Nichols, aboard the Decauter,  eluded the English frigate Guerriere, but was unable to elude a faster frigate despite throwing his cannons overboard to go faster. To everyone’s relief the faster frigate was the American ship Constitution, and Captain Nichols was then able to direct the Constitution where to find (and defeat) the Guerriere. However as the Constitution sailed out of sight the Decauter’s crew promptly mutinied, insisting they should head home because they had only two cannon left to fight with. After subduing the mutiny by bopping the ringleader over the head, Captain Nichols proceeded to get cannons by capturing seven ships in five days, and headed home with hardly any crew left aboard his own ship, after capturing a total of ten.

The official tally, kept by Lloyds of London, was 1175 British ships captured, of which 373 were captured back by the British Navy before getting back to the United States. The actual numbers were likely higher, as insurance rates got so high as the war went on some ships may have sailed without insurance. Though the British blockade deeply hurt American ports,  the English were forced to resort to sailing in convoys. They were able to keep troops supplied (except in the Great Lakes),  but the American privateers then sailed across to England, even into the mouth of the Thames, and made the English fishermen fear to go out and fish, resulting in a shortage of that staple to the English diet in English markets. Lastly, there is a lot we don’t know. Of the privateers that officially reported their existence to the American government, 317 never reported capturing any ship. Hmm. Makes you wonder what they were doing with themselves, sailing around out there all that time.

The thing that fascinates me was this was a completely disorganized effort. It was not military in nature, and involved no planning board writing up logistics. It was just a bunch of individual captains and their crews, going every which way without any particular order, and becoming a total thorn in the side of the British fleet.  It was not what one would expect, looking at the original of odds of 8 American ships against 600. To me it demonstrates what individuality can accomplish, when set against a vast and seemingly all-powerful organization. Watch out for the flea.

Meanwhile the Americans in charge (being democrats) were making a shambles of things. A flea smaller than even the United States was Upper Canada, but the political appointments in charge of the war made such a mess of things that little Canada initially whupped our butts.  Further south British troops marched into the White House and ate Madison’s dinner, before burning the place down.  (Baltimore was saved only because a political appointment was booted out, and replaced by a Revolutionary War veteran who knew his ass from his elbow.)

Another small flea that made a difference consisted of some 3000 black slaves, who used the war as a chance to make a dash for freedom. In many cases the men joined the British army and fought against their former masters. (After the war many were settled in Canada, while others settled with their families as farmers on the south coast of Trinidad, where they live to this day as the “Merikins”.) (So perhaps democrats do get credit for freeing some slaves….with the law of unintended consequences kicking in.)

It is odd how liberty works.

In the end the United States did quite well to escape that war with the event called “a draw”. (The real losers were the Indians….but that’s another story).

Happy Independence Day!

Liberty has its price. At dawn I pay
The toll and buckle my worn leather belt
And plod out into the duty of new day
And remember no dreams, nor how I felt
When young, but a cloud then catches my eye.

It’s just a wisp of white in the west;
Just a mare’s tail, a curl of cirrus in the sky,
But disturbs me from my dormancy’s rest.

Toil has its peace, a dulling mindlessness,
But the cloud’s a disturbing reminder
That Liberty’s more than mess after mess.
It’s aim is higher, sweeter, kinder.

Liberty’s price is: Blood waters it’s root,
But Liberty’s hope is a fine future fruit.

Advertisements