Playing Strip Poker With Freedoms

Once upon a time, a little Cat went to summer camp. It was fun, except for swimming lessons; everyone knows cats hate to swim, right? Our cabin full of young teenage girls was assigned to an older teenage male counselor, oddly enough: in retrospect, probably not a good idea. One rainy day we were all stuck in the cabin with nothing to do, so he got us involved in a game of strip poker. (Mom, did I never mention this? Oops.) First the shoes went, and the socks – then the t-shirt; you get the picture. It stopped being fun and became uncomfortable quickly thereafter, but it seemed harmless enough in the beginning.

With liberties, we’re at that point where their absence is starting to feel distinctly uncomfortable. Maybe losing the first few freedoms wasn’t terribly troublesome to most people – like the shoes, socks, or the watch – it was ok to shed them. That loss wasn’t alarming; it didn’t uncover anything vital or endanger one’s well being, and it was all for the good cause of security… besides, it was probably someone else’s shirt at stake anyway. At camp, when it came time for the t-shirt or the shorts, most of us threw in our cards and read on our bunks instead. It was a game we could opt out of when the stakes were too high. Any clothes we lost in the game were back on again long before parents arrived to take us home in the evening.

Now is the time to say “no.” When enough people stay in the game it doesn’t seem as shameful, but playing by numbers justifies a lot of dumb things as long as people don’t think for themselves. We were only kids, but I don’t think anyone kept playing until the logical end – we knew better, or maybe I just didn’t pay attention after I left the game. How anyone justifies staying in this game is beyond me; the stakes are much higher when our “clothes,” once removed, will require blood to recover. When freedom is stolen, theft may be required to regain it. Bartering away freedoms for hollow promises is like giving up your pot of gold for the rainbow that might come tomorrow, assuming it rains.

Freedom is priceless: it’s more than a family heirloom or an old bauble from a defunct relationship, and it doesn’t belong in a pawnshop. If your freedom means little to you, it will mean even less to someone else for whom it holds no personal value, but all things have their price when you’re willing to sell. Love and justice, like liberty, are beyond valuation until you hold a yard sale: Moving out of state (of sanity)! Everything must go… future generations will fend for themselves – no early birds, please. Reign by appointment only.

Alas! The priceless may be pawned for a pittance, and the shame is, the purchaser rarely esteems the priceless higher than the pittance he paid for it. Such is politics… the vote that meant so much to the voter, pawned at the poll booth; perhaps the voter would have held on to it, had he recognized its value. That vote, withheld, might have counted: while the vote that was cast – like a favor, once granted too readily – is soon forgotten, and courted no longer.

Taking your shoes off at the airport seems harmless enough, and taking your watch off to go through a metal detector isn’t traumatic. Small things don’t feel so compromising. When strip searches become routine procedure, and under wire bras must be displayed or prosthetic limbs removed to gratify some petty tyrant’s gawking adolescent curiosity, the game of strip poker has gone far enough. Inevitably it progresses; like our older teen counselor, authority relishes command and will host the game until the last player walks out on it. No parents are coming to take us home from this game, folks. Either we parent ourselves, and send the deviants with a penchant for strip poker packing, or we’re going to wind up in an orphanage Charles Dickens never imagined in his wildest nightmares.

I do mean parenting ourselves, of course: and not everyone else. You parent you, and I parent me. We learn to be responsible adults, and the rascally teenager (now grown into a pinstriped suit and tie, and perhaps a seat in the senate) doesn’t stand much chance of corralling us into a compromising situation. If we don’t assume a parental role and assert authority over ourselves, we’re just fillies in his pleasure pasture. Count me out, please – I’d rather be dog food! Being a naïve kid was ok once, but not twice, thank you.

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