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Free Speech for American Fleas

 At one time, people talked and joked about “flea circuses.”  I, for one, did not know that there actually was such a thing, but recently I read about how fleas were “trained” for such an event.

stock vector : surly bulldog looks up at a flea
Anyone who has had a pet with fleas knows that the nasty things are incredible jumpers.  After the trainer collects them and puts them into a jar, a lid is placed on the jar to keep them contained.  At first, one might hear them bump against the lid, but in only a short time, most of them will learn to jump to a height of only a fraction of an inch below the lid.

When this happens, a flea trainer can remove the lid from the jar.  The fleas will continue to jump, but they will not jump out of the jar.  The reason?  They have conditioned themselves to jump only so high.  Once they have been conditioned to jump to a certain height, they will never again exceed that height.

I think that, in some ways, government intervention is training Americans to reach heights that are far below what we once dreamed of achieving. Regulations that have capped productivity and creativeness have become tighter and tighter over the years.

My personal feeling is that some people in government positions actually have a secret goal to hold down the entrepreneurial spirit in Americans.  They want to take away America’s exceptional spirit for achieving things that are, in other countries, unattainable.

I cannot imagine why any elected official would want to do this.  Perhaps they feel some obligation to fall in line with some international guidelines that they believe are more “fair” to the rest of the world.  For instance, if they have adopted the philosophy that the world needs to be more “green,” they may feel that Americans are using more than their fair share of the world’s resources.  Maybe these politicians have some high-minded ideas that we can actually do away with world hunger by taking from “mega-producers” and spreading the wealth around.

Or, perhaps it is nothing more than wanting to be the one in control of everyone else’s fun…a class monitor trying to make everyone else behave.

The worst part of it all is that the American public has fallen in line with these power hungry monsters.

I was just a kid when my parents began thinking about joining a new movement called  “The John Birch Society.” This group was organized to, among other things, hold up the original interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, limit government powers and oppose wealth redistribution.    They opposed socialism, fascism and communism as well.

I listened to my parents talk about joining this group for quite some time.  I guess I didn’t fully understand it all, but my mother talked to me about it enough that I understood the idea that they were joining a “watchdog” group. Eventually they decided not to involve themselves… not because what was being proposed was right or wrong, but because their friends were telling them that the group was too radical.

Later, my mother would point out to me that I shouldn’t make choices in my life based on peer pressure.  (We all heard that line, right?)  But what had they based their choice on?

The conversations we had opened my eyes to a lifetime observation that there has been a war for the hearts and minds of this free people since the very beginning.  But it is only lately that I have really become irritated by the thought and speech control that seems to becoming stronger and more inclusive.   The recent hoopla over “Chick-fil-a’s” CEO’s statements about marriage is a good example of how a minority wants to guilt others into changing their personal attitudes.   Right or wrong, an individual should be able to say what they think without anyone taking any kind of action more than an independent boycott.   What ever made people think that they have the right to tell anyone else how to think?

How about the so-called “fairness doctrine” that keeps getting reintroduced?  (A doctrine that broadcasters offer equal amount of liberal and conservative commentary)

Why should any private station have to broadcast anything other than what they want to air?   America is supposed to be a free country!

I have five children whose thinking, individually, is wildly different than mine on several issues.   I have to admit that, occasionally, it is difficult for me to accept their ideas.   I even try to reason with them to see things differently.  But in the end, I try to respect the idea that they are free to believe what they will and also, to teach their philosophies to their children.

Another tool to stop us from discussing whatever controversial topic is the current “elephant in the room” is the suggestion that people should not engage in topics that are “disagreeable.” Unions, tax increases, and Foreign Involvements are only some of the topics that have been deemed inappropriate for polite discussions.  Well, I for one have decided that we need to start having some real dialogue without worrying so much about whether someone agrees with us before we express our ideas.

That does not mean that we need to create bad feelings with friends and family.   Hugh Blair, a theologian in the 1700’s said, “Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manner.”

Last year, I began calling my neighbors to get them to come to a precinct meeting at our little town hall.  I was shocked to learn that one of my friends was not from the same party that I was affiliated with.  When I had asked her to come out, she politely explained that she was not of that party.  We talked about my surprise at this news and then we went on to another topic.  Neither of us was offended.

Two days ago, one of my Face book friends posted something on her timeline that I strongly disagreed with.  I tried to give my opinion as politely as I could.  She responded as politely as she was able.  It wasn’t much, but we exchanged ideas and I don’t think either of us was offended.   The point is, we each were able to respectfully “stand our ground.”

Maybe some of us like those benign conversations about the changes in our child’s napping schedule, the route we take to work or the trick we taught our dog last night. (Andy Rooney once said, “If dogs could talk, it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one.”)

But back to American fleas.  We have to get over these silly rules that will not allow us to really talk and understand each other.  We used to have clean speech laws that monitored common decency on the airwaves.  Those laws have been relaxed to be practically non-existent, while rules about expressing ideas have become stronger. We are putting a lid on our ability to think through the problems that plague our nation…a lid that will limit our potential.

And, we may never be able to exceed that height again.

  stock photo : Young woman sitting in a jar    

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