Monday, July 07, 2008

Taking liberties

When I was a boy, I thought myself patriotic. The Fourth of July was one of my favorite holidays. I believed the stories about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree and Abe Lincoln never telling a lie. And though I'm sure they were relatively good men, I know now that those were just the myths created by presidential press secretaries.

But I suppose all holidays are built around myths: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Pilgrims sitting down with the Indians (or Native Americans if you want to be politically correct about it), and Leprechauns. Let's not forget the little people from the old sod. Why shouldn't the Fourth of July be built around myths, too. So what if Paul Revere never really warned the people of Concord and Lexington that the British were coming? And who cares if the Sons of Liberty were really barflies and bullies pissed about taxes that really weren't that big of a deal. Okay, Ben Franklin was a womanizer and Thomas Jefferson slept with his slaves.

The truth doesn't make for good PR. But we need our myths. The truth rarely inspires. And history needs polishing or heroes quickly tarnish. Just like my parents, I have no desire for my children to grow up too quickly disillusioned by the lies of our forefathers.

It is too easy and cliche to blame the government for everything. The government isn't a thing. That is most people's mistake. They view the government as an malevolent entity that conspires against them. The government is simply people. And people operate out of one basic principle -- self preservation. Bureaucrats have families, too. Government workers have mortgages, pay taxes, buy groceries, and worry about their children. If there is a conspiracy in government, it is based on individuals trying to hang on, survive and pay bills.

I don't necessarily believe this is true for politicians. Politicians aspire to power. And anyone who aspires to power should be suspect and not trusted with power. Even the ones with good intentions bend to the addiction of power and sink into various forms of corruption to hold onto it.

There are other bogeymen people seek out to blame for our woes. Small businesses blame big businesses, Protestants blames Catholics, Christians blame Muslims, Blacks blame whites, whites blame minorities, Republicans blame Democrats, Liberals blame Conservatives, freaks blame straights, environmentalists blame industry, workers blame intellectuals and just about everyone blames WalMart.

I personally blame reality TV and Deal or No Deal for the downfall of civilization...or at least prime time television.

But the one person no one blames (as I've said before and forgive me for repeating yet again) is themselves.

And that is probably the one person who is really to blame.
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