Sunday, June 30, 2013

Freedom -- just another word?

photo of herd of bison in a pasture
© harrington
Hi! Does your neighborhood have its own buffalo bison herd? That's using the term neighborhood in the rural sense, you know, less than an hour's drive. This herd is about 10 to 15 miles away. Across the road from them, and slightly to the west (toward Center City) is a herd of red deer. I mention them because, together with the yak herd, they mean we live in a pretty exotic locale, or, at least, a locale with exotic neighbors. I have mixed feelings about that. Bison, according to MNDNR, are extirpated "in the wild" from their range in Minnesota. We did that. Perhaps not you or I specifically, but our predecessors and ancestors killed them in great numbers. More of them managed to escape habitat destruction and slaughter than was the case with the passenger pigeon. The passenger pigeon is permanently extirpated not only from its range but from the earth. I forget who wrote it, but I remember being impressed at the idea that people are a little more humble when they aren't obviously the most dominant animal around. Now you and I both know that we can readily be done in by a bacteria or virus transmitted by a mosquito that is abysmally small and difficult to swat. That's not what I'm talking about. I know that my whole being functions in a different register when I'm walking through an area known to support wolves, or bears, or pumas, or buffalo. (Actually, in one case it was bulls in a moonlit pasture in Vermont.) It did me a world of good to be put in my place as another animal with vulnerabilities. What started me on this train of thought is the fact that this is Fourth of July week. America is big on celebrating our independence. Too often we forget that we're part of an interdependent world. Too often we confuse independence with freedom. In the coming days, we'll talk some more about Freedom and Independence, including Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms (which did not include a freedom to extirpate to the point of extinction). In the interim, we might do well to remember another perspective on freedom, found in Kris Kristofferson's wonderful lyrics from Me and Bobby McGee: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." Enjoy the upcoming holiday. Come back when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily from slightly left of the middle of the land of the free and the home of the brave.