Concrete and Barbed Wire

Stone walls do not a prison make

Nor iron bars a cage;

Minds innocent and quiet take

That for an hermitage.[1]

                                Richard Lovelace

It’s very easy to take our freedoms for granted, especially given the irrationality of a substantial number of our citizenry who see freedom as merely a license to do whatever they damn well please, as if American soldiers sacrificed their lives so these vulgarians can rev their unmuffled engines outside your condo at 2 AM, amass an arsenal’s worth of munitions in their basements, keep Bengal tigers as pets, burn barnfuls of autumn leaves during the windiest day of a four-month drought.  However, try stepping across the street from these freedom lovers’ houses and burning a Walmart-purchased-with-your-own-hard-earned-money-made-in-China American flag, and even though well within your rights as a US citizen, you’re likely to find yourself, run over, shot, devoured by an exotic pet, and/or torched because, if there’s anything that lovers of freedom detest, it’s “blame-America-first liberals like I-and–I.”

Nevertheless, even though, as Dr. Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” we should not take our freedoms for granted – as anyone who has spent a night in jail can attest.  Imagine being arrested for expressing an unsanctioned opinion, or worse, being imprisoned 6 years for making a fictional motion picture about your country’s controversial election and then being barred from making another film for 20 years.  Well, meet Iranian director Jafar Panahi who ended up doing a year plus and then a lifetime of house arrest, banned from leaving the country except for medical treatment or visiting Mecca for the Hadj.

One year, a mere instant in the life of the free, an eternity for someone sitting in a cell, the epic equivalent of that insufferable class or professional development seminar where you glance up at the clock every hour to discover to your horror only five minutes have elapsed.

In Panache’s case six years! Then being barred from doing what you love to do – that you feel compelled to do – for twenty years! – because your homeland has been confiscated by a bevy of Medieval paranoids who see the human body as somehow evil, who see women as temptresses, who respect not one iota the concept of individual freedom.

I find the jingoistic poster below offensive. “Taking America back” suggests taking America back from some usurper – minorities, immigrants, college professors, etc. However, it’s the right of whoever concocted the poster to create and publish menacing jingoistic images, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, so on this Memorial Day weekend, we should take time from boating, barbecuing, golfing, or vegetating to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives – whether in vain or not – so we can be ourselves, say what we please, and create what we will.


[1] Unless, of course, you’re being sodomized by a fellow inmate