Dear Dirty America

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Unleashed: What Would You Do With Your Freedom?

April 04
22:00 2013

Don’t read into this one too far.

I stepped out of the luscious front yard of my apartment complex and heard a female voice shouting, “Freedom!” It wasn’t in despair. But there was a sense of urgency, as if to say, Where are you? I know you’re not too far away.

I thought, how fitting to have young people in the streets of America shouting words like that. It was time to take the power back, after all. Time to deny the thrust of intrusive technology that doesn’t actually assist us in living or becoming more independent, but instead steals our liberties, washes away our privacy, and fragments our sense of self.

I thought of that movie Network with Peter Finch, when he rants that he’s “Mad as hell,” and that, “I’m not going to take it anymore!” I thought about finding the owner of that boisterous voice and standing beside her and shouting how I felt, too.

The small grass courtyard beside the apartment complex was empty, except for a young woman and her chunky little pet. It looked like it was a miserable creature with DNA crossed between a wiener dog and a fox. It trundled along, sniffing and snorting in the grass.

“Freedom,” the girl called. “Freedom, you’re so cute. Come here, boy, come here.”

The dog hardly paid attention. I stood and watched. I had no fear that I might come off as creepy, the way I leaned against the corner of the building holding my new copy of Paul Vangelisti’s latest book, Wholly Falsetto with People Dancing.

“Freedom, it’s time to go!” she hollered.

Yes, indeed, I said to myself. With the latest renewal of the NDAA bill signed into law by President Obama, to the newest intrusive technology called Google Glass, that lets people record anything at anytime with their eyeglasses, we really must give that peculiar word and its elusive meaning our final adieu. When technology surpasses our rule of law and surpasses the understanding of the collective society, there is little left in store but a technocratic prison that locks us into its system and removes our capabilities to exist outside of it.

The dog, Freedom, bounded toward me. Its poky fox ears were at attention. Its fat legs propelled its body forward at labored intervals.

photo by Clarence Risher

“Freedom,” she yelled, “you bad dog! How many times do I have to tell you not to run away from me? How many times? How many times?” she repeated in the way parents talk to their new baby.

You named it Frida? I asked.

“Freedom!” she corrected me.

Freeda? I asked again, and scrunched up my forehead. I cupped my ear toward her.

Freedom! she saidFree-duhm! Free-duhm! Free-duhm! Because he’s always trying to get away from me. I don’t know why,” she said to the dog in that saccharine voice. “It’s like he’s trying to find his freedom, but thankfully I know better than to let that happen,” she said.

To the dog, she crooned, “What would you do if you were free, anyway? You don’t know how to find your own food. You wouldn’t know where to go. You couldn’t survive out there in that big world. You wouldn’t be able to handle your freedom. No you wouldn’t,” she said. “No you wouldn’t.”

The dog tried to escape her and run back to the grass patch. “Now hold still while I put your leash on.” The dog playfully bit at her wrists while she grabbed his collar and linked him to the leash.

“Your fifteen minutes of fun are over. We’ve got to go to the mall and the grocery store now,” she said. “I wish I could leave you here to play, but you might get into trouble.” The dog pulled at the leash. He tried to sniff a tree, but she yanked him back. “It’s time to go,” she said. “I can’t sit outside with you all day. Don’t you listen to me? If you’re going to be trouble every time we go out, I won’t take you out anymore.”

The dog doesn’t understand English, I said, but with a little practice and a reward-based system, you might get somewhere with him. Comprehension of basic syllables. Simple sentences.

She was going to retort, but I assured her I was an expert in language, and I could tell her with 100 percent confidence that the dog was not yet in possession of interpreting her brand of English.

Freedom was picked off the ground and shoved into the back seat of the girl’s car. I watched him clawing at the backseat window. He watched the grassy patch with his tongue hanging out. His owner pulled out of her parking space and drove away.

If only that poor creature could lodge a fiery speech from the backseat about the true merits of freedom, and what freedom was and was not. He may even lob an incendiary phrase like, “Who’s holding the other end of your leash, bitch.”

But that would be improper, and it would take some time for the dog to learn such linguistic flourishes.

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