Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Liberties of our Forebears

In a note to myself I scribbled the words "The liberties enjoyed by the generation of the Founding Fathers may well amaze most of us and, in fact, be deemed by us as too much liberty."

Is there such a state of being defined by the exercise of too much liberty? This seems to be the paradigm of the modern American citizen. We are used to the prospect of being stopped by the police for sundry reasons, most notably as a result of how fast we drive our cars. In fact we are probably more fearful of that inconvenience than being "inconvenienced" by a criminal act by someone we've never met and would never see coming anyway.

And that says volumes about where we are as a society than anything else. Are we more afraid of our government institutions than we are of complete strangers who share our habitat? In essence, are we afraid of our government? And if we are, why?

Perhaps many of us go about our business never giving a thought to this question, but it is worth asking. If we live in a society in which our worst nightmares are of arrest by authorities for "crimes" that were mere misdemeanors yesterday, and not even misdemeanors the day before, then we should begin finding out where that crazy idea that we are free came from.

When I was twelve years old my dad gave me and my younger brother each our own 12 gauge shotguns. We were permitted to carry our shotguns from the home, down the street, in broad daylight, with ammunition and then into the woods where we would load them and hunt or just shoot stuff. No big deal. That was 38 years ago.

I doubt that would be allowed to happen today. But why? What has changed since then? I never took my shotgun to school. In fact I never thought I should or even could. I never used it in a criminal manner and never thought to do so. But, something has changed in 38 years. Now anyone, especially a young person, is so suspect if in possession of a firearm that the whole scenario seems to draw way too much response and way too much judiciary review.

This is so not the same place in which Sam Adams sojourned. I have never lived there, even though I have lived here all my life.


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