Grasshopper Soup: A nation divided will fall | SierraSun.com
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Grasshopper Soup: A nation divided will fall

Bob Sweigert
Special to the Sun

TRUCKEE/TAHOE, Calif. and#8212;-Most of us are familiar with the color white, perhaps too familiar, as is the case with those of us who have lived here in the snow so long, especially this winter. White is so plentiful around here it can seem like it isnand#8217;t a color at all.

White is the absence of all colors and black is the presence of all colors. Or is it the other way around? I had to ask an old friend, who had to ask his wife. At our age, ignorance and doubt are no surprise at all. The clueless make for some of lifeand#8217;s best laughs.

Dennisand#8217;s wife said it was the other way around, that white is the presence of all colors, and black the absence of all colors. Either way, Dennis and I were clueless, so we agreed with his wife. Probably a wise decision.

One thing we felt sure of and#8212; black and white are not the same. Too much white stuff and everything can go black, especially if your propane tank has tons of snow on it.

My college yearbook for 1970-71 has a plain white cover, completely white except for a small space in the upper left corner. In plain black letters, copied right out of Websterand#8217;s dictionary, is the full definition of the word and#8220;freedom,and#8221; nothing else. No year, no slogan, no mascot, nothing but a tiny text, so small you might not even want to read it. Nowhere on the front cover was the book identified in any other way. All you could see, in fine print, were sixteen definitions of freedom, and a long list of synonyms and antonyms for freedom in even smaller print. Always read the fine print.

I still have my yearbook. It was a brilliant cover concept, especially appropriate for that time in history, when the error of involuntary military conscription and the Vietnam war was becoming something established authority could no longer dispute; when mainstream America began to see the plain, simple white fact that the draft and the war were wrong.

My favorite definitions of freedom are, and#8220;Openness or frankness in speech and manner; informality,and#8221; and and#8220;excessive familiarity or candor.and#8221; People still have a problem with excessive familiarity and candor. We have all seen how some politicians respond to the candor of their constituents. Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, a Democrat, went so far as to call one manand#8217;s concern about the cost of Americaand#8217;s three wars and#8220;caustic.and#8221; Moran wasnand#8217;t trying to make a play on words. He rejected a perfectly valid concern. Bad politics.

I figure, since we are all human, it is only natural to have strong opinions about things. Excessive familiarity and candor, sometimes even being caustic, should be expected, and most of all, greatly appreciated in all of our relationships. But thatand#8217;s just me.

Classical philosophy logically defines freedom as the condition of individual free will being the cause of human action. Liberty, a synonym for freedom, is defined as and#8220;a measure of freedom within restraints.and#8221; When you cannot respectfully agree to disagree and cause yourself to hate, falsely accuse and otherwise personally assault other human beings instead, then you do not respect the proper restraints. You become the problem.

People will choose their own individual immediate gratification or the long term success of the entire group. The latter is the more noble goal. Diversity can only exist in goodwill and unity with all that is diverse, or else there will be civil war.

We are all equally free to expect others to mind their own business. We are free to refuse to associate with anyone, including the government. But, if we canand#8217;t get along, all is lost.

In our too often unobserved world it should be no surprise to find colors never before seen by the human eye, and levels of freedom yet to be experienced. Hopefully it wonand#8217;t turn out to be the other way around, a colorless world with less freedom than ever.

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 28 years.


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