Friday, February 1, 2008

I'm Free by Barbara Quinn

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. John F. Kennedy

In Tom Stoppard’s play, Rock and Roll, a character talks about how in his native land he had to apply for permission to move from one part of the country to another. That’s a totally unacceptable idea to residents of the U.S where we have an unfettered right to travel wherever and whenever we wish.

That play made me recall the time my husband lost a textbook and I accompanied him to retrieve it. We arrived at a dark and sprawling old house in the Berkeley hills. The book finder answered the door and invited us in. We said no, but he insisted we enter. Inside, all the curtains were closed, and streams of smiling young people filtered past us into the living room. Though their grins were broad, their eyes were dull, and I felt the urge to scowl and flee. The fellow asked if we would stay for lunch and we declined. Then he told us that we had arrived at a good time. Prior to lunch there was a sing-along. If we joined in, he would return the book right after.

I looked up and saw a portrait of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon on the wall. Ohmigod. We were in a Moonie abode.

We linked arms with the singing, grinning, young people. I pasted a smile on my face, swayed side to side, and belted several choruses of “You are My Sunshine.” Meanwhile I prayed that we would get the book back and leave without being pressured to join the sunny cult. These aren't Jim Jones Kool-Aid afficionados, and this isn't Guyana. At the end of the singing, the group headed to the dining room. We hung back. The book finder again asked us to join him for lunch. When we said no, the young man fetched the book and said we should come back anytime.

I was extremely grateful to see the door open. The sun shone brighter than ever. Oh, sweet air.

I was sensitive to losing my freedom that day, probably because I remembered a wrongful confinement in Mexico by the police. That too turned out fine. Being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want, is a priceless gift that I rarely acknowledge in this land of the free. I am grateful for freedom, and for all who not only protect us, but for those who take part in the political process, because your votes do count toward our future freedom.


Kathryn Magendie said...

I was once arrested because of a misunderstanding - it was a weird experience - I was only 19 years old. I remember the feeling of that loss of freedom, so scary. I didn't spend much time there before they realized their mistake, but I never ever forgot it...

Angie Ledbetter said...

Let freedom ring...and don't forget to vote!! Enjoyed your post.

Anonymous said...

I remember this incident. I wasn't there, but you shared this with me when it happened. I am not sure why I wasn't alarmed with you. Probably because it was just so expected then to encounter something if you were in Berkeley or on campus everyday. Passing through Sather Gate to classes daily was always a path of the widest possible spectrum of groups. The whole thing seems like a dream to me now.

Nannette Croce said...

Good point, and there's more to freedom than just our ability to move around at will. Like the freedoms specifically granted in the Bill of Rights. A good and important read during this election season.

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