- Benjamin Franklin
I can't help but think of that quotation these days. What would good ol' Doc Franklin, perhaps the greatest of the great Americans, think of the same United States he helped create?
A country torn by ideologies, where one plus one equals all or none under a two-party system, a government cashing plenty of partisan checks but providing anything but balanced rule.
How the hell could one of the world's beacons of hope, a country of vast intellectual capital and abundant in natural gifts, have fallen so far in so few decades?
I can't even imagine what it must've felt like, centuries ago, to be filled with the passion Franklin obviously felt for such ideas. I turn on the television, and ideas are nothing more than idle talking points. I turn on the radio and hear nothing but infomercials for musical product. And I have to read about a dozen newspapers simply to get to the truth in anything.
There's nothing like information overload on a Saturday night to make a person stop and breath in the wisdom of ancient thinkers.
Freedom, that great esoteric phantom that we all supposedly cherish more than life itself, is no longer measured against concepts like virtue and liberty. Instead, freedom is now a beast controlled only by the powerful elite, a class fattened by the pursuit of gluttonous wealth.
Freedom, in America these days, is weighed not in a man or woman's personal virtue but in terms of the market value at which that virtue can be bought and sold by political ideologues, pundits, pollsters, politicians, and talking heads.
Liberty seems to no longer be an unalienable human right. It is a right reserved only for those with the most powerful sponsors. Freedom is measured on great scales, designed to weigh elephants against jackasses, black against white, gay against straight, man against woman, rich against poor. Instead of a society determined to fight for a more powerful expression of holistic liberty, we simply divide our collective liberation between the powerful seeking to silence dissent and the powerless seeking to simply yell into a megaphone.
Freedom, at its most naked and raw, is a pragmatic thing. Perhaps that's why there's never been a been a better example of this than a man like Franklin - quite possibly the last American pragmatic enough to to touch freedom's face with the hands of an artist, the mind of a scientist, and the heart of a philosopher.
The same face Franklin touched, or so I've noticed, seems to be a vision taken too lightly anymore.
But, perhaps, somewhere in the individual understanding of freedom, there still lies the ultimate human definition of what it means to be free.
Rather than try to define freedom, I think I've come to the conclusion that it's probably better to simply let freedom define me.
What does it mean to you?