Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
I always forget the man’s name and despite having to look it up just now I’m not going to amplify it any further. Who he is wasn’t as significant as the thing he spoke on his radio show in April 2013, from the sidelines of the sweltering boil of a legislative debate, four months after a troubled man destroyed a peaceful community in Newtown, Connecticut.
“I have something I want to say to the victims of Newtown, or any other shooting. I don’t care if it’s here in Minneapolis or anyplace else. Just because a bad thing happened to you doesn’t mean that you get to put a king in charge of my life. I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss. I’m sick and tired of seeing these victims trotted out, given rides on Air Force One, hauled into the Senate well, and everyone is just afraid — they’re terrified of these victims. … I would stand in front of them and tell them, ‘Go to hell.’”
I come back to this quote now and again — not verbatim, just the operative tones and phrases of it — as a reminder of a certain pervasive American mindset. The screed went beyond simply “saying the quiet part out loud” to reveal a void so pure and dark as to achieve a state of eldritch horror, which is why it remains seared in my brain seven years later. It is this quote that surfaces again as I witness the protests and lawsuits being filed to reopen states for normal business despite the recommendations of epidemiologists and other experts.
America bound itself to words like liberty and freedom from its inception while maintaining the institution of slavery, so even if it were possible to craft concrete definitions of such nebulous terms we hardly seem the nation most appropriate to handle it. What we are left with instead in America is the tension of laws that attempt to negotiate fences upon the shifting lines of social custom, pushing up against those who insist that freedom means whatever it is that makes them feel the most powerful or comfortable. Freedom is used as marketing, freedom is used as weapon, freedom is used as wardrobe. Freedom can be deployed like a row of exclamation points at the end of your sentence to drive home the correctness of your bullshit.
Over 50,000 of our nation’s citizens have died in lonely rooms gasping for air, their loved ones unsure when they can give them proper memorials, while our toddler-in-chief accelerates his graft schemes and complains about how unfairly the media is treating him. Last week the five year-old daughter of two first-responders in Detroit was killed by the virus after she spent two weeks in a ventilator, and I’m watching people with long rifles and flak jackets crowd the steps of government buildings and block the paths to emergency rooms, declaring that the haircuts and golf games they’ve missed amount to intolerable pain.
“Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss. … I would stand in front of them and tell them, ‘Go to hell.’”
These are not people I want defining liberty for me.
These are not people I want to share a nation with at all.