… but I fear my government."
So reads a bumper sticker I've seen on a bunch of cars lately, from trucks with matching pro-gun stickers, to beat-up VW vans with Grateful Dead decals.
I love my country, AND I REFUSE to fear my government.
I have made plain my disgust and dissent from the direction our federal government is going multiple times in recent years, in writing letters-to-the-editor to my local newspaper and national news magazines, and in the archives of this blog. I will continue to do so in the future. What I will not do is hide in fear, or remain silent about things that matter. Life is too short, and too beautiful; Love is too powerful; freedom is too precious.
When I attended the University of Oregon, I had an opportunity to take a class on the Soviet Union under Andrei Sinyavsky. I made sure to fit it into my schedule. Sinyavsky was an old man then; it was only a year before he died. He didn't speak English. A team of Russian immigrants translated for him, sitting on either side and towering over him, a tiny old man with a white beard – who yet towered over us all. I never missed a single class session, and when I had the chance I shook his hand and gave him my respect. Since I'd already filled elective requirements, the class did nothing for my degree; it did a lot for my education.
Sinyavsky knew what it meant to fear his government. He spent six years in the Soviet Gulag for criticizing the government in writing published under the pen name Abram Tertz. That writing, and his trial, gave birth to the modern Soviet dissident movement, which led to the collapse of that regime – which he lived to see. I will never forget his presence, nor his example.
Compared to that, we live in radical freedom, with a government that is simply benign – even if it is foolishly driving over a financial cliff, and even though black men often have to fear the government that will harrass them for such "crimes" as running while black, driving while black, and so on. As for our state, county, and municipal governments, they provide so many valuable services that I treasure them. I have no patience for people who make a big show about fearing our government as if it were a fearsome totalitarian state. Its problems are legion, but that's not one of them - at least not yet. We are incredibly lucky to live in this country, sharing in a legacy of liberty and boundless creativity.
Regardless of the overwhelming power that multinational corporations appear to have over our government, our government operates with our consent. It is us. There is no us vs. the government; we are the government. That is part of living in a democracy, even a broken one like ours. If we feel disempowered, then perhaps we should look deep inside ourselves, and determine what matters. Because no one can take away our power without our consent.