Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Postcards From My Childhood Part 15: The Declaration of Independence

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"The child is the father of the man", they say. Surprisingly, I understood this even as a child. And so I willfully sent forward to my elder self some thoughts and images which I knew would be helpful, and which I suspected I'd otherwise forget.


As a child in 1969, I saw something on TV that deeply affected me. The Right at that time was fond of the sentiment "America: Love It or Leave It!" America is a free, just, moral country, so everyone needs to fall in line and shut up. You don't like the Vietnam War? You want to holler about minority or women's rights? Go start another country. This is how we do it here, and if you don't love it, again: leave it.

This was, on the face of it, patently un-American, of course. And not the only time half the country leaned authoritarian in their freedom-loving desire to uphold liberty and democracy. But the inherent contradiction was even less self-evident in those days.

A conservative rally was being held somewhere to celebrate our founding fathers and the glorious principles upon which the nation was based. Cannons firing and fifes and drums and lots of salutes to our boys over in 'Nam kickin' Asian commie butt. Meanwhile a reporter strolled around the crowd, asking participants for their opinions about snippets of writing, which he didn't identify as having been drawn from the Declaration of Independence. Not the parts we all know (i.e. the first two sentences). Lesser-known chunks. And every one of these respondents belligerently invited the reporter to take his Commie propaganda elsewhere.

This landed hard on me as a thoughtful seven year old. Wait. They love America's founding principles. But they spit in your face when you quote them? My little brain ground feverishly at the illogic. And I directed myself to watch for this phenomenon in other contexts. And, man, there's been plenty to see. It's just further evidence for my claim that most people are posing nearly all the time.


Just one example among multitudes (few intelligent observers lack for examples of this phenomenon): I don't talk about yoga with yoga people anymore. I know from experience that I tend to disturb and annoy them. Mr. Weirdo talking crazy talk. It's not that I hold heretical views, or am antagonistic or arrogantly condescending. I amiably chime in with observations more or less straight from the teachings, but all of them - including the teachers (especially the teachers) are into yoga in precisely the same way 1969 Republicans were into the Declaration of Independence.


If humans were a truth-oriented species, this would be a whole other world. Earthly existence would not be devoted to concocting and inhabiting fake dramatic trajectories, and we would not be endlessly and transparently posing as this or that. So the truth seldom attracts. In fact, it repels...at least mildly. This is a reasonably easy observation to accept, yet I find that I, at least, nonetheless get snared by it in day-to-day life. I have a visceral and seemingly irradicable assumption that most people love truth like I do (and please don't imagine I don't recognize this as faulty framing on my end).


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