I am fat. No really, I know how big I should be, how big I am now, and while not always the most self aware I have a pretty good idea of what my mass is made. I am not ignorant of how I got this way or how to fix it so I am not open to suggestions on what worked for so-and-so or what I should do. I think my lifestyle has become affected by all the academics I have been reading in that I know all the answers but don’t necessarily want to actually put those answers int0 practice. I leave that to those lab rats that I see through the foggy glass as they run on treadmills at gyms.
Now that my academic life is mostly over it is time for action. I went jogging.
Cities are great for running; lots of even surfaces with lots of things to keep your mind distracted. Last Tuesday these distractions included members of the occupy movement.
I was unaware they still existed.
It felt appropriate that they would be at Independence Hall the week of the Fourth of July and I was happy to see them there. I sympathize with much of what the occupiers claim to stand for, I am in fact a member of the lower half of the 99%. I happily kept jogging.
That next morning we loaded up the kids and staked out a claim on Market St. from which to watch the parade. Kids love parades. My wife and I decided that one fire engine is quite enough and that the dramatic level of police presence where we were must have put the other side of town in great jeopardy. There were marching bands from Michigan, a Latino dancing group from Virginia, and about half way through, there were occupiers.
They were not in the parade but parading down the sidewalk along side the floats and bands. They stopped on the walk right behind us and stayed. “Money for fighting forest fires, not for fighting foreign wars!” they shouted in unison. One white man with dread locks and no shirt walked laps around us, filming the group with his digital camera, I believe we were being streamed live to the web. O yay!
The group that made me smile yesterday caused me to cringe today. My ideals were at that moment tested. My wife tried to explain to the kids that the loud people saying mean things about the parade were part of what make America great. I believe she is right though at that moment I admit my thoughts were mostly retorts of things akin to “yeah, free to be an idiot.”
I looked one way and saw a group of mostly young, mostly naked, people shouting that the parade we were seeing wasn’t patriotic, only to turn and see a contingent of buffalo soldiers marching past. At that moment of annoyance and frustration I appreciated what I hold sacred about my country and my constitution.
There is a tradition in my faith that states this country’s founding was inspired by God. I believe that. I call it a tradition because it has come to mean differing things to different people within my faith. I have had my religious devotion questioned when I have written or spoken about the moral failings of our founding fathers. There are those who see such discussions as an affront to the God inspired work they played part in. I don’t see it that way.
Saul, before he was Paul, was not good or nice. My experience with humans tells me he was not perfected after his name changed. Peter, the chief disciple, denied knowing Jesus as he was being sentenced to death. there has only been one perfect person and that was not me, nor was it George Washington.
God, through necessity of working with his children, must inspire imperfect people to do His work. Knowing this I proceed with caution when looking at their lives to see which parts were the inspired ones. I’m not sure I, nor you, are really qualified to say which is or is not.
Watching the occupiers intentionally annoy my family I witnessed an element of the American ideology that I have no doubt is in line with divinity. Freedom.
I am not inclined to believe that capitalism is any where near inspired or sacred. I am also not a Marxist. Both theories are too much entrenched in the failures of human nature and our tendencies to inhibit the freedoms of others. I am not comfortable placing my destiny into the hands of a collective or into a central redistribution system nor am I comfortable with tying my choices and freedoms to the numbers of dollars I posses. In capitalism you are as free as you are rich and history has shown that those “with” (be they private or governmental) cannot be trusted to share.
My jog the other day took me through China town. It was strewn with American flags flying over Chinese characters. I love it. I love the hope and opportunity possible in our system.
I also jog through North Philly and Kensington. I spend time with many who are truly impoverished and have seen that these people are no where near free. Many live in situations where they make choices but none of the options before them are actual opportunity. They cannot afford a path to freedom.
I believe we as a nation, and a world, are indeed on a moral decline. But I deeply believe this to be a “we” and not a “they” decline. The poor and the rich are a problem. The right and the left are a problem. Black and White both perpetuate the problem.
But that is the risk of freedom. If one is given the right to choose, there will and must be failures. This is part of the sacredness of freedom. My faith teaches that at one time we all lived with our family in divine glory. Heaven, all of us, together. Happy, holy, and untried. We chose freedom. We chose this mortal existence to be provided opportunity to choose for ourselves the existence we wanted. Our Father granted us that freedom and I consider it holy.
Later that evening, after watching fireworks, I walked past those same protesters from the morning as they swarmed over the fountains in Logan Circle. They still had their megaphones, chants, and appeared mostly absorbed in themselves. Seeing them made me sad.
I agree with them. I think unfettered capitalism is placing the levers of freedom, money, mostly into the hands of those who are willing to do anything they can to get it. I do not trust those thus motivated to control my freedom. I should be an ally but in watching them I am most certainly not motivated to join. Nor do I think they want me.
Yelling at my children with a megaphone while they watch a parade is not the way to gain my sympathy. I believe your tactics hurt your cause. I believe your lack of evolving past the 60’s form of protest has doomed the cause to fall into the same hole as the American economy. Protesters and manufacturers can rest in that same pitfall together due to lack of evolution.
But both are a byproduct of freedom. So is my spare tire; both it’s excess and existence. I have started jogging and it is about time I also ate less. Sounds reasonable. Reason? How novel. I think there may something sacred about reason.
In this season of national celebration I realize I do love my country. I have known this all along, just like I knew I shouldn’t have the second helping of cake. It is this country that both provided me the cake and allowed me to eat it to. It is this freedom that also requires me to get off the couch and jog.