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Friday, Jul. 08, 2005
It’s been said that change is inevitable, that it is a good and cleansing thing. We listen constantly to the changes of a very unsettled world on our televisions and read about them on the internet.

Then at the same time, my days are filled with the sort of sameness (or lameness, depending) that I can only view as stagnation, with visible arm movement. Everyday I see the youngest, the son, trot off to the bus stop for summer school. About an hour later Ally hops in the car and goes to work. I might be on a jobsite myself sometime that day, or it may be a stay at home day comprised of internet research slothful surfing and tinkering in the new tiny garage. Running some errands. Poking in to the Watering Hole and catching up on the regulars.

My wife doesn’t particularly like the days I spend at home. Not very productive in her view. But I dunno, there’s a price to be paid for freedom from the 9 to 5, and part of it involves not making a regular paycheck, sitting in traffic, fuming about asshat coworkers and the politics thereto. You have to enjoy your own company. Outside of a very elderly dog who sleeps most of the day, I don’t have a lot of social contact.

I wouldn’t recommend it for everybody. There’s a certain lethargy involved, tempered with sudden bursts of activity that leave you limp with exhaustion after a day sweating over a hot miter saw in July.

But it is freedom. Choices left up to yourself. Changes can be made, sameness can be sought. Things to be done, or not. I’m not expressing it very well because it isn’t the sort of thing that lends itself to words. Getting out from under the yoke of the everyday is a precious thing. Many people will never experience it. They yearn for it their whole life in the form of retirement, they obtain it, and it goes away in a poof of one medical event or another, at an age when the body can least resist it.

Very possibly, that same yoke of entrapment is what doomed so many yesterday in London. They got bombed and slaughtered on cattle cars by those whose idea of enlightenment had nothing to do with working a regular job, getting on a bus in the morning, going to work.

But they understood that change might make them cleansed in the eyes of their god, and that their freedom from this earth depended on it.

That’s a different sort of freedom. That’s a freedom from sanity.

I have to be a little careful in trudging forward with this post. I’ve got that whole sedition thing to avoid, and the alarmist factor. The lip pursing generalities that might cause one to say, “That’s it. He’s loosed his moorings for sure this time.”

I remember with some clarity a day some 4 years ago, and it wasn’t 9/11. It was more like 9/13 or so, a day when the general consensus was to “Not let any ol’ terrorist bring you down. Go about your business, shop. Go to dinner tonight. Watch a movie. Don’t let the bastards get to you.” And in the same light, the unspoken thing was, “Let your government worry about these things. That’s what we’re here for. To help.” You might have inferred that the help might have come in the dropping of munitions on small places overseas, places where lizards and people wearing a fez might burrow in.

It happened. The dropping of things that go boom, that is. We do that very well. What I don’t hear much anymore is the klaxon call to go about your business, do what you want. Don’t let the bastards get you down.

I saw a picture this morning of a law enforcement dude standing on the DC Metro with an M-10 and a bristling bandolier. Finger aside the trigger guard, staring down a tandem of secretaries with clutch purses and Ipods. I’ve been on that train, I‘ll bet a lot of my East Coast friends have too. About the last thing I can envision while getting on a subway to work is a lad with a submachine gun hanging off the grab bar and swaying to the rails, and I doubt seriously that he would have had much to say about not letting the bastards get you down.

Couple of weeks ago the folks in black robes decided, narrowly to be sure, but they really decided to lop off the whole thing about your property being more or less sovereign. I don’t own any property right now. I’d like to, but just exactly where am I going to buy some without the harness of eminent domain rearing its ugly head? What, up in the hills somewhere? Might make a dandy site for a listening outpost someday. Only it wouldn’t be me doing the listening.

Price of oil. Sheesh.

Tucked into the Local News today was the blurb about how the local grocery chain (and what is it with me and the whole grocery thing, anyway?) wants to implement the newest rage for paying for your Fritos. Sign up, get your fingerprint scanned. When you get to the register, press said ‘print against the scanner and whoo! The most painless transaction of store to door you’ve ever had. Nice, eh?

Maybe. Maybe not so nice is the change unsaid. That instead of leaving a greenback in the till you left a record of where you were, what you bought, and likely - whether you gave the cashier any lip about it. All for convenient retrieval by any lackey with a mind to do so.

Sometime in early fall, Ally and I are supposed to go on a cruise. A late anniversary thing, down and brown in the blue sea water boat. We have to fly to get there. We have to have visas, too. The airport will have its own compliment of grim men looking for metal combs, cufflinks and shoelaces of unusual length. The visa inspectors (assuming I even get one, I’m not altogether sure on that) will waft wands of culpability over my graying head and murmur a lot and look dubiously at my Nike bag, filled with swim trunks and cigarettes.

[Let me interject this true one. Last thing Chief Mo did before retiring from his long stint in the Navy was to take one last trip to the Middle East. He didn’t really say why he had to go, and I didn’t ask. Certain things you just don’t question. But on his way through one of several airports on his return trip, he got the x-ray beam pointed at his seabag and it was instant chaos. A squad of slim youth with automatic weapons, safeties in a decidedly off-position, surrounded him while a man with cautious skills in English screamed, “You’ve got magazines! You’ve got magazines! We must open your bag!” All the while pointing to a clip of ammo on his belt. A magazine. Mo, being a bald, white male with a nicely done anchor tattoo and a prodigious beer gut announced, “Yes! I do have magazines, look!” and produced a Playboy, a Crossword and a Field and Stream. He also happened to have several cylinders of expensive Arabian perfume for the ladies back home, all of which bore a striking resemblance to a 12 gauge shell when under the gaze of an otherwise bored security guard with an X-Ray machine . . .]

“You don’t understand, Outfoxed. It’s a changing world, we’re fighting a new enemy. This isn’t the time to go off and start questioning the very people who are trying to preserve your way of life. This is a time for solidarity. Your government is only working to ensure your freedom.”

Yes. They’re only here to help. They’ve told me so. Hopefully I’ll be lite in the magazine department when the time comes for a friendly conversation with a member of my government. I’ll have them stashed where they’ll do some good after the inquisition, and I’m not talking about Field and Stream, either. But I reckon you already guessed that.

I think that the only timeframe where things will change more rapidly than they have in those last 4 years, and more completely, and with less alarm, are the things that will change over the next couple of years. For change it surely will. We're getting numb to it. There’s a role reversal thing going on right now that disturbs me. A ramping up of sorts.

“We have to get this terrorist thing under control, don’t you see. It’s gonna cost. There will be bickering and backbiting, but we’re gonna see it through. We’re gonna make everything safe again, get our borders secure. And it will inconvenience some people, make no mistake. Everyone will have to sacrifice.”

A long time ago, a very clear eyed man said “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” A bewigged man, a planter of corn and owner of a very fine flintlock.

To this minute, I wonder what that man might have to say about this day and age. Possibly after his wig was searched, his corn replaced with condominiums, and his flintlock seized. I wonder indeed.

There will be a Part 2 for all of this. *Update: Okay, okay. So it was Barry Goldwater who said it. I had a thoroughly blighted vision of Pat Henry going on there. Never let it be said that I don't tamper with generational history. My fourth grade teacher just rolled over in her grave and whacked me with a paddle.

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