Sunday, November 21, 2004

Decision 2004

Retreat is not an option. I Pulled my head back into my shell for five days but I discovered the sense of safety was an illusion. My sanity was at risk and my sanity--integrity of heart and mind--is infinitely more precious to me than my reputation or my physical safety. November 2 is a hugely symbolic date for me and I had loaded the coincidence of this year's election with all its related themes falling on that date with an unwarranted significance. So the outcome hit me even harder as though I were being told that I had been on the wrong path for the last ten years, that I might as well give up and surrender once again to the fundamentalist mindset that I had begun my escape from in November of 1992 and made a definitive break from on November 2, 1994 when the essence of its heart had been revealed to me as corrosive fear and nothing to do with faith or God or even truth. Not one whit!

But the thought of returning to that mindset is so repulsive to me that I find I am more afraid of that then of the possible consequences of once more standing up to an authority which has no integrity. Even though this time the authority may soon have the power to make life a misery for dissenters or even take it away altogether. It is no light matter this new meme (an idea with the properties of a virus) propagating through the culture with rampant rapidity and an astonishing level of acceptance: that dissent in a time of war is tantamount to treason. Especially when the war in question--the 'war on terror' has been carefully designed to be a perpetual one--un-winnable because the very act of fighting it promotes the rage and the sense of powerlessness in those who use terror as a tactic against those who abuse their power.

And so I concluded that it was no longer enough to continue to use my freedoms without starting to do my part to help ensure that they will continue to be a vital part of our society. It also occurred to me that defense of freedom is not a job for a loner. It cannot be accomplished in isolation. It took a community pulling together to create the society founded on the principle that there are certain rights that belong to individuals which cannot be usurped by others--not even the state. And it takes a community to keep those rights protected as the precious jewels in the crown of our common endeavor they are. My fear of the herd makes me wary of getting involved with groups. But a community of autonomous souls creating a society that works for the betterment of all its members while harming none is something I can acquiesce to. The trick is in preventing that tempting slide back to the comfort of the herd mentality.

Ten months of vigorous surfing, reading, research and lurking online revealed to me the plethora of communities out there who were working for these ideals and searching each other out and coalescing to consolidate power and resources. I realized that my unique set of talents and experience was a good fit both for the needs of this spiritual battle and for the forum provided by the internet. I would have to stop hiding my light under the bushel as the old Sunday School song says. No sooner did I make this determination, I came down with a cold which compromised my impaired vision further not to mention the energy and stamina for working, even thinking. It didn't stop me, only slowed me. But I found it too difficult to work with an unfamiliar application--the blogger program and the on-line WYSIWYG where my website is hosted. So my high ambitions toward the end of October took a bit of a nose dive. But it was only temporary. I am more determined than before to continue down the path I have begun.

The theme which November 2, 1994 and November 2, 2004 have in common for me is the hijacking of one's voice by abuse of power. When I witnessed the discipline of a one-year-old infant for crying by the application of a hand over the mouth--as a means, as explained to me, of depriving him of the reward of hearing the sound of his own wails--it constituted the final and irrevocable break with the Fundamentalist sect I was raised in. In a profound epiphany, I saw that this person I loved, admired and greatly respected was operating from the underlying principle of the philosophy that shaped our lives--that it was necessary to break the will as the will was the source of all evil because our hearts and minds were full of evil continually and incapable of governing themselves or our lives. I experienced a visceral repulsion towards this idea and with it the entire world-view it sprang from. I could no longer assent to it. Even if it meant isolation from many of those I loved--both blood relations and the 'Brothers and Sisters in the Lord' as we had been taught to think of one another. And it had seemed to me a large, spirited and joyful family for most of my life. Until, that is, the late eighties when dozens of the Teaching Brethren began to excommunicate one another and their entire families left and right for heresy in an unfathomable doctrinal dispute. This split up many of the very inter-married and otherwise intertwined families. When I witnessed the pain and confusion this brought upon the innocent children involved, I began to question the entire edifice of doctrine but I realized that I did not know how to think for myself. That had been actively discouraged. So in November of 1992 I set out on an autodidact program to learn how to think. I was two years into that and still not feeling very competent at it when the incident of November 1994 occurred and I was forced to choose between the safety of conformity and the challenge of freedom. But there really was no choice. It was already too late to retreat. I could no longer stuff my mind into that mold. It was either go forward or succumb to despair.

I decided then to go forward and it has not been a smooth path. For years afterwards, I dreamed of buildings collapsing, under construction or appearing to be fine but walls would fall when bumped against and rugs would fall through a floorless void when walked upon. But I persevered and soon began to test my fledgling voice and developing world-view through my writing. First through a commitment to daily journaling in the summer of 1996. Which led to the development of a personal voice and of mature themes in my creative writings--poems, essays and stories.

As for the outcome of Election 2004 and the seeming assent of over half of the voters to the exchange of liberty for the illusion of security and the growing demand for conformity with a concomitant defining of dissent as treason... It changes nothing. Yet it changes everything. It changes nothing because the issue is the same for me as it was in 1994--having freedom of conscience or being fenced in with a herd; a voice unleashed to speak its truth or muzzled by the force of authority (that of the herder or that of the herd itself); a will and a spirit free to create a life worth living or a choice between joining either the herd or the pack of wolves that hound and hunt the frail ones who, having given their will over to a herd find that it will not or cannot protect them when any deviation, any accidental straying makes them easy prey for the ravenous and devious will of those who feed on the energy, labor and spirit of the vulnerable.

Both of those choices repel me and not just because I no longer fancy being a joiner of any kind. I have both witnessed and experienced the pain of the abused and have no wish to be either partaker or imparter. And I have had a taste of the freedom outside the fence without the herd and have no wish to return. I sat on the fence for a long time but no more. For awhile I kept the fence at arms length where I could reach out and touch it for a reminder of that sense of belonging that once gave me security. But I am no longer nostalgic for the herd and the fence was beginning to give me a sense of security only because it was keeping the herd on the other side. But lately I've been getting the sense that both the herd and the wolf pack are eyeing that fence with the idea that it is no longer needed because the wolves can serve the purpose of keeping the herd corralled and culling the non-compliant. With this collusion between the wolves and the herd it is incumbent upon those who value the rights of individuals to apply themselves to the work of defending them from erosion by the greedy and the fearful.

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