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Wednesday, July 18, 2012


"If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude as opposed to the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. Crouch down and lick the hands that feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."
Sam Adams said that in early 1776, probably to a group of Tories and maybe highly placed ones, though I don't know for sure and anyone who does is most welcome to say as much. I think it highly relevant to our situation today, although not necessarily in ways one might think.
First, let me suggest that the Wall Street Wild, Wild West, where crooked riverboat gamblers now pretty much run the whole show, is not what cousin Sam had in mind by 'the animating contest of freedom'. No, I think he meant the stress that comes with not following a crowd and making one's own decisions as opposed to just following with blind obedience. If there's no choice to make, that can remove some stress. I think it highly unlikely that a man whose dream for America was to have it a 'Christian Sparta' could be in favor of such gross Belshazzarian excess. Let me hasten to add that such a dream is not shared by me; even Sam's cousin John was cool to such an idea. John agreed that we neither were, are nor should be 'Spartans in contempt for wealth'. I agree with John that wealth is a useful spur for honest work and creative talent; I happen to feel we're in trouble when it's treated as the only legitimate reason for industry and I'll venture cousin John would agree. The Founders' feelings on 'luxury' were very mixed indeed, with good reason.
Second and most importantly, cousin Sam was only partly right in characterizing servitude as tranquility. To the millions of us now working for a pittance we need to stretch like bubble gum toward the end of each pay period and having to stretch less further all the time, well, that's not tranquility but it sure feels a lot like servitude. When so many of us have only just enough (and not always that, not by half!) to keep ourselves and our families barely fed, clothed and sheltered and there's nowhere else to go because the economy is still so anemic, isn't this servitude?
And our masters in their unslakeable greed have made our servitude progressively more stressful. As the late great Senator Kennedy asked on the Senate floor, when does the greed end? The answer may prove to be, when the greediest do the airdance before a large crowd. Let us hope that justice needn't be as severe as that, although I don't bar the possibility of it. And those who need to stretch their little ever further know how stressful their lives are and how the stress continues to grow. No, indeed, servitude ain't tranquility.
Finally, I must disagree with cousin Sam about the last thing he said. No, let's not forget that such were our countrymen; indeed, I say we forget that at our peril. As one Founder (I forget which) said, we have no inherent virtue in ourselves rendering us immune from temptations--including those which soften our spines and drain, slowly or quickly, our will to resist those who now, indeed, bid fair to take everything from us as they seek a back door through which they may well attempt such evils as reintroducing outright slavery. And this is not from government but from the buying up of what should be our government by men already superrich and seeking ever more, more, more. It may be necessary to crush them completely, although I hope simply clipping their wings will do this, in order to restore domestic tranquility--and freedom-- for most of us.

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