By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."
Every once in a while, the song done by Janis Joplin as well as Kris Kristofferson (who wrote the song) pops into my head. The actual song title is "Me and Bobby McGee." While the song is about a journey taken by a couple through difficult times, the refrain includes that great phrase: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
The concept of freedom is one we are hearing a lot about every day. In particular, if we look at the citizens of Hong Kong, we see a besieged population of people who grew up with freedom. In fact, Hong Kong developed into one of the most important financial centers in the world.
When the English (United Kingdom) agreed to return this former colony (won in the first Opium War 1839-1842 – to be kept by the UK for 99 years) to the People's Republic of China (why they agreed to do this is clearly weighing heavily on the citizens there), the deal was to be “one country, two systems.” This was supposed to mean a free society for Hong Kong – but under the communist system of the People's Republic of China for at least 50 years.
Well, now under Chinese President Xi, the People’s Republic of China seems to be having second thoughts about allowing Hong Kongers too much freedom. Riots, (no deaths so far – but the first person was shot in the past few days) have been very large – with as many as 30% of its seven million+ citizens turning out to protest.
So what is the big deal? Here’s the big deal. Once you’ve been “free,” the human spirit will fight to the death to either remain free or become free once again.
Look at the civil rights movement in the US. Even though the slaves were freed after the Civil War in the 1800’s, defacto segregation continued on for well beyond the middle of the 20th century. Many died fighting for true freedom during a struggle that started in earnest when Rosa Parks, a black woman riding on a bus in Alabama decided that there was no reason she could not sit further forward.
Looking back almost 75 years one wonders whether such a fuss was really necessary. Clearly, it was.
I really like the movie “The Hunt for Red October.” There is a scene in the film where a Russian submarine captain and his first officer (who are in the process of defecting to the US) are talking about their future life in the United States. The first officer asked the captain whether it is really true that you can drive from one state in the US to another “without papers.”
The captain answered simply, “Yes.” A great big smile popped onto the face of the first officer. Then he said, “I think I shall have two wives when I settle in the US, and I shall drive a big SUV.” Of course, other than historically in some parts of Utah, you cannot have two wives, legally.
This shows that in civilized society, some “laws” which some might argue restrict freedom, are necessary. The classic: “You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater” or “Your right to free space ends at the nose of the person next to you” are just two of many.
Now in early America, “disagreements” were sometimes settled by a duel. The two parties would start back to back, count out ten paces (or 20) then would be allowed to turn and shoot. Fortunately, that is against the law today.
Here’s what I believe. I respectfully suggest that our US Government has gotten too big. It appears (to me) to encroach upon personal freedoms that were part of the founding fathers aims for this country and are written in the Bill of Rights in our Constitution.
I truly like walking down the street and knowing that I can become just about anything I desire and go anywhere I like. That there is nothing governing my personal freedom other than what I wish to make of my life.
To that end, I salute Bobby McGee. Freedom is truly just another word for nothing left to lose.