Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Thursday, October 8, 2009

“I Love My Country…

… 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.


anne said...

Hi Girl,

Ooh, I like this one. (rubbing hands together) I've known so many people who feared the government, in particular their collection agencies or the FBI, etc. I've known numbers of people who spent time in prison for anything from midwifery to murder. I also deal with the IRS on a daily basis. And the system works on fear.

Little fears, like trying to convince employees that they don't have to take 0 exemptions so that they will always get money back rather than have to ever pay in. Little fears like people agonizing over getting driver's licenses because they automatically get signed up for selective services in doing it. Big fears like tax audits and deportation. Big fears like having your friends shot up in FBI battles because of political stances. I've known people who live on the fringe all my life and lived with their fears.

I think it's bullshit. As soon as I give one moment of my time to fear of the government, they have taken that moment from me. I have lost that moment. I will not waste my precious moments doing anything more than I absolutely have to to get by in this country. And fear is a big time sink.

But I don't fear being on the streets or being ill or any of that because it is not living right here and now. Right hear and now, I'm replying to your blog--everything else does not exist. It's in the future.

But that's not what you're talking about. What you're talking about is standing up. My parents both stood up. My father was notorious for fighting with authority, mostly the police and the IRS. He believed that we were all created equal and that no one in government had a right to push him around.

Everyone talks about government having the ultimate say-so because they hold the guns. That's bullshit. Government is just people trying to do their jobs, like you. Even police and the FBI and IRS agents are people. I've always stood up to the police, every time they've stopped me. But I don't defy them, just stand up to them. Question them back. Ditto in my encounters with the FBI.

You know my views on government, that we are all sovereigns and have to take responsibility for our actions. I don't believe in crime, but in responsibility. This is an old custom, popular in confederacies like the Vikings, Mongols, Lakotah and Celts.

The thing that makes fear so stupid is that all of the functions of government can be privatized. No one is afraid of security guards or firemen.

But I do know that I would not have survived very long in an oppressive society like Mao's China or the Soviet Empire or in Germany under Hitler or in England under Bloody Mary. People kill each other over fear and usually governments that are most oppressive are the most fearful. Ironic isn't it?

No matter what, I will act as I have always acted, which is to challenge anyone who tells me that I can't do something. I'm lucky that it's automatic with me. Any time I've been attacked or beat up, I've reacted with blinding rage, which is good in one way, but could get me killed. So what? I'm from a long, long line of people who stood up to authority and it's what I am.

I'm very proud (as you saw from yesterday's conversation) that my son is the same way.

And if anyone laid a hand on one of my friends to take away their rights or force them to do something out of fear, I would react also with blinding outrage. I would be happy to die for your rights as a person as well as my own, Seda, girl.

But fear is so sad. I empathize with it completely, but the only answer for it is love and courage and trust that we are ultimately for good, not for the evil that people can do to one another.

rock on, girl!

David Carrel said...

But if we keep giving our consent, we will have to start fearing them. Is it possible to wipe clean and start again? haha.

Seda said...

I don't give my consent; therefore I retain my power to myself. I choose not to be afraid, because it is my choice. My government is made up of my own people. I will seek instead that "perfect love that casteth out fear."

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our