freedom

An Antidote For Myopia

From time to time, I wonder why I see so many flags flying in the streets. Neighborhoods, institutions, shopping malls; all of them have at least one flag flapping on a pole–if it’s a location for social gatherings, it’ll have another one placed distinctly on a wall, or on another, smaller pole close to the ceiling. People notice them in that familiar manner so especial to drive-by landmarks and panhandlers, considering them for a moment before proceeding on with life. It’s no biggie. It’s a flag. It’s the flag hoisted above them so repeatedly it has little significance other than as “The Object Particular To This Here Pole.” There’s no blame to pass around for the dismissive attitude, as it’s the expected attitude. To think otherwise is to refuse observational surrender, not letting the flag be a symbol unique in its repeated mental onslaught: a national reminder.

Forgetfulness always arrives unwanted, the houseguest to which somebody neglects to not pass an invitation. We wander through life, dreading it and preparing ourselves for its eventual appearance on our doorstep. A slovenly figure, it plops on the porch, trench hat muddied and strode upon by the more abusive few; it has nothing to tell us, as it turns out, and apologizes for any undue intrusion into our “well-off” [spoken in a low murmur] lives. It leaves, and despite the sun’s summer preference, it gives way to hard rain, and forgetfulness raises the face we never see and lets [he lets it] the drops stream across whatever features dare settle into that mystery. Every time, it breaks us–the pain, that is, so sorrowful, and we feel ashamed for not offering a drink, a place to rest. The figure is familiar; we do know him, after all, but for one reason or another, we cannot remember his name.

We succumb to absent-mindedness. Despite our safeguards, we never expect the unexpected: a paradox in itself, as if we daily battle the inevitable. Wandering leads to intrigue and nostalgia, yet it also falls prey to soreness and fatigue. Exhaustion besets the best of us, and we sleep on our feet, still moving, still seeing. Objects are blurs, concepts even more abstract than before. At a time, we fought and found and lived; now all we do is flounder. We are for the world’s taking, its curiosities our binding chains.

We walk and walk and walk some more on roads tarred in tears. Our stride grows lanky, made up of the antique movements inner clockwork deems sufficient ’till breakage–and it emerges without a whistle, gears a-busting, spindles spun to sputters, the clock-face punched out of its trappings and clapping a cold floor. Destruction. Nothing else remains in our minds. Near dark, close to oblivion, yet from out of the spiritual withdrawal flutters a flag, colorful and grand. It beckons us, and we remember.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

R.I.P Freedom of Speech.

This is a sad story. It’s not sad in a bittersweet, melancholy sense; it’s a tragedy in the making, Shakespearean platitudes abound. We’ve not reached the ending, and I doubt we’re halfway through the plot. Here is the beginning of something gravely upsetting, the Death of Freedom of Speech.

This just in, optimists claim the world is perfect, and the rest of us skim over the headline and sip our coffee. Television’s a mockery of itself, the once bold horizon pressed flat against its blank, unchanging face. The teacher is no more than a microphone to amplify the safe stuff, the okay stuff, and all the students doze off to repetitive drones.

I don’t get out much, bit of a hermit. The world comes to me through media: vast blocs of interrelated events, actions, and contradictions. Sometimes I watch to know what’s going on, and sometimes I refuse to let myself be propagandized. It depends on my mood. CNN, CBS, FOX, ABC; I’ve seen the lot of them, surprised at how, in the scope of things, little a role they play in this tragedy. Media doesn’t create our darkest visions–it merely reinforces them. They encompass a large portion of the story, don’t get me wrong, but one right hasn’t the jurisdiction to restrict another. Both toe a line disintegrating before our eyes, and despite the media’s notoriety, there’s time for their story later.

Freedom of speech is defined as “the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.” Well, now, have we not a consistent, time-honored tradition of censoring the strange and unorthodox perspectives? A rhetorical question, hope you caught it. As for restraint, no examples should be necessary, but I’ll oblige: any opinion contrary to the widely held popular beliefs. These days, we call it, ‘the wrong side of history,’ or ‘hate speech,’ and I want to expand on the last term. Hate speech has come into the limelight recently, only because we feel we need to redefine it, and through redefinition reach restriction. Although it’s not as simple in practice, in theory, we take the phrase ‘hate speech,’ remove ‘hate,’ and examine it as such. It’s what rights guarantee. It’s what rights protect. It’s what rights allow.

If to speak freely is to speak without constraint, then regular discourse is in a state of perpetual imprisonment.

We claim to be for all rights, save when those rights infringe upon our strongly held beliefs. That conviction is both our greatest strength and weakness, as it builds our character, yet often builds it too high. Online, we view ourselves as Judge, Jury, and Executioner, engaging in Internet trials too aggressive to be practiced in actual society, too artificial to fit anything but the digital world.

We’re far from perfect people, and we desperately attempt to attain perfection through trial-and-error. Some things work out, and others have unfortunate outcomes. ‘It’s the way the world goes’, say the pessimists, but when the world goes one way, we should, by all means, go the other.

This is a sad story. This is a tragedy. This does not have to be the end.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

Without Boundaries

Did you know that, last week, I drove on a road without any markers. There were no yellow lines, nor white lines, not even those funny little hash marks I like to watch evolve into the lines. T’was a blank road, but for these tiny plastic colored boxes that people carelessly ran over. It wasn’t as if those were the only things keeping us from total road anarchy, or anything!

I gotta tell ya, it was frightening. Frightening, why?

I was scared of crashing. I was scared of having no direction.

I was scared of being free.

Eventually, that stretch of road ended, then came the regular, painted pathways for all us  tired drivers. The fear had dissipated, sure; but I felt disappointment creeping within my relief. The adventure had come to an end–now the same ol’, same ol’ repeated itself as it had done so many times.

The blank road left a mark on me, not a mark that you can see; actually, it’s a mark on the mind. An imprint. If being free frightened me, what did it say about my reliance on rules and the general structure? What did it say about the sense of confidence in myself, in my motivations?

Sure, the rules are necessary. Half of the world would probably be brimstone and nuclear radiation if not for those pesky things; however, being without them for barely a minute made me wonder about how terrifying it can be to break the rules, or to go down your own path.

Being a trail blazer, rather than a trail follower, is not an easy task. I would not hesitate to say that pursuing such a path can cause you to feel alone, or perhaps separated from the rest of the common world–and it has those effects, but through them, I realized, comes benefits.

I can join a flock as easy as anything, but to create, to engineer, my own flock…

Why, I’d have to be the craziest person in the world; I would have to be declared mentally insane–have to be chained to the walls of a prison for the nutty–to want to experience so much isolation.

And mayhaps I am the craziest person in the world.

The way I see it, though–if I can have conviction in what I believe, what I feel is honest to my self, then I am fine with being the craziest person in this whole, wild world, so long as  the Earth keeps turning, and the rest of this rolling landscape of truth and lies, of blame and guilt, of honesty and falsity, stays its form, never unrolling out of its original clay.

Think daily,

A Southpaw