Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer free, summer not

photo of Summer road dust
© harrington
Hi! You're looking at one of the surest signs of Summer in this neighborhood. Road dust billowing up behind a fast moving vehicle. As it settles, it coats leaves, flowers and blades of grass. With just a slight breeze, it drifts into the house through open windows, doors and unnoticed cracks. On the other hand, the township hasn't been using PCB contaminated oil as a dust suppressant measure, the way they did years ago at Love Canal. Those folks may have been among many of us who think if something isn't prohibited by law, it's OK to do it. We all know that's not the case, but it isn't always convenient to be reminded of the truth. Here's an example. We live in a country noted for its freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is one of the four freedoms. (Told you we'd be getting to them this week.) We all know (I hope) that having the right to yell "Fire" in a crowded theater isn't an acceptable exercise of our freedom of speech. Just as we know (I hope) it isn't all right to use our freedom of speech to incite the violent overthrow of the government (no matter how tempting that idea may be some days) nor to promote hate and racial bigotry. Speech may be protected, but the speaker isn't guaranteed protection from the consequences of exercising that freedom. Speaking of which, I don't know about you, but I've been increasingly troubled by what seems to be a growing number of Minnesotans who think they're entitled to freedom of speech based on freedom to have their own facts. This seems to be particularly true of our politicians, usually those of the opposition party. I agree with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, that such just isn't so. I'm starting to see a pattern here, are you? Even in, especially in, Minnesota, the heart of the Midwest, which is the heart of the country, at the heart of Summer, Freedom isn't absolute. It's tempered by a dollup or more of social responsibility, either applied internally as an ethical constraint or externally as a legal constraint. We can also practice shunning more formally than we are now doing to a celebrity chef who forgot that her "Southern manners" might not be mannerly among respectable folks. By the way, if you're wondering what all this talk about Freedom and ethics and manners has to do with Minnesota and nature and writing, think about Citizens United, the Keystone Pipeline, the Deepwater Horizon, climate change, Congress, the Minnesota legislature and fracing sand. I'm writing right here that national and state legislatures think they have too much freedom from us, the electorate, and too many obligations to corporations -- the Unpersons. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.