Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Problem with Freedom

I've heard it said that the problem with freedom is that stupidity is not illegal. If there is any underlying base to the problems in the United States, I would argue that, as I call it, selective stupidity would be the most likely culprit. Now, I don't mean ignorance... I mean outright, basic stupidity... the kind that results in stickers being placed on electric hair dryers about the danger of using them while in the shower or bathtub. You know, stupid stuff. Now don't get me wrong, I do my fair share of stupid, so I'm not immune. I'm purely talking about the kind of stupidity that has progressively removed the "common" from common sense.

To complicate matters, the stupidity that prevails in our culture is driven by emotion and not a lack of knowledge or understanding. It's the kind of stupidity that doesn't realize that all violent crime is hate crime, that simply disagreeing with someone of a different ethnic or cultural background is not racism, that being "pro" something doesn't make you "anti" anything. We live in a culture and environment of instant access to immense amounts of factual data, and yet we choose the easy way out and readily digest the spoon fed junk that is shoved in our faces by sensationalism. That kind of stupidity is what's undermining the fabric of the United States and leading us down paths of an ultimately pathetic existence.

I remember, years ago, reading "Fahrenheit 451" and the imagery of the parlor walls and how Guy Montag's wife was captured by the sensless stories told on the walls (which are really televisions)... how they became the center of her's and her friends’ lives. At the time, I dared to even believe that such a thing... such a time or culture could actually exist. I was wrong. We live in a culture that not only has the freedom to be constantly entertained and amused, but we actually choose that path of stupidity in favor of being involved in the life around us. We get more upset about the insults of a silly, stupid talent show host than the fact that the members of our government continue to place themselves above the law... and without any accountability.

“You’re nothing but zombies... all of you... You’re not living, you’re just killing time.”
(Guy Montag, Fahrenheit 451)

A recent example of this is how President Obama announced, in January, that he will present his White House budget to Congress late, again, choosing to ignore the law that requires his budget to be presented by the first Monday of February. This is the third time in four years that this has happened, and every time it has happened, he's had some sort of excuse. I wonder if I could make up my own excuses should I choose to violate the law at my discretion. The Senate, too, has chosen to ignore the law (and one of its primary responsibilities) and has failed to pass a budget since 2009. The fact that the public is not outraged at this, my friends, is stupid.

How long will we sit this one out and choose, as a society, to ignore the basic foundations of our government... of the people and by the people... and choose to be stupid about it? Many who read this will say that it's too late, that our system has failed us, that it won't matter if the few who really care continue to stand up for what's right. Others will do what they always do... choose the path of stupidity, the path of the complacent, the path of refusing to be part of anything but the problem. To both groups, I say this... Oprah is no longer "on" -- it's time to move or be moved. It may be impossible to outlaw stupidity, but simply doing what is right, through knowledge and fierce determination will eventually triumph by one measure or another. Of this, I am sure.