Three Wise Guys

This is not a true story: like any story, the reader may or may not find truth in it.

It was a dark and stormy night before Christmas; I in my pajamas was ready for bed: it was late, and snow was softly falling outside. A dusting became a deepening blanket of white as I relished the peace and unearthly quiet; I'd halfway dozed off when there came a loud rap on the door. "An emergency," I thought; "some poor soul who's lost in the storm - who else would knock at this hour? Burglars don't usually knock, and lately the cops tend not to knock either!" I dashed on a robe and scrambled to open the door.

There were three men, all nattily dressed in black. One stepped forward, and said "We're wise guys, and we bring you tidings of discomfort: enjoy." The second stepped forward, and said, "We've come to offer you some frank and sensible advice: Anarchist lady, you should pay more attention to what you say, do, and think." The third stepped forward, silently handed me an official looking envelope, and in the twinkling of an eye the three wise guys mysteriously vanished into the snowy night.

Shaken, I sat down to read the enclosed document; as nearly as I could translate the legal jargon, it said something like this: "You're either with us or against us. Behave like a good American should; we the wise guys know who you are, and we're watching you: if you don't wise up, we'll call on you again, and next time we won't knock politely. Your lawyer won't save you; we are the long nose and the strong-arm of the law."

Hmmm. Perhaps I'd better reform, and recant my anti-authoritarian ways. Any desire to sleep had vanished along with my nocturnal visitors: they disturbed my peace effectively. I sat down and composed the following: if the three wise guys ever return I can show that I've turned a new leaf, and I'm ready to behave like an acceptable American citizen from now onů maybe. At least, I've given the matter a good deal of consideration.

Wise Up I Will

From now on, I promise to behave like an upstanding, government-fearing Americanů

I will solemnly swear (so help me, God) not to honor the 10 Commandments should I venture into State buildings (courthouses or schools, for example) or onto State property.

I'll rail for State protection of "freedom from religion" without bothering to realize that I'm giving a real-life, mean old "Mr. Grinch" ammunition to steal Christmas from an entirely fictitious, kid-friendly, cheer-spreading, good-doing, peace-loving Santa Claus. Santa bad, State good; 10 Commandments dangerous, ever-expanding volumes of law beneficialů got it. I won't bemoan the forfeiture of Santa's voluntary good-doing social redistribution schemes; we can't tolerate jolly old unregulated souls wandering around illegally distributing random acts of kindness and joy, especially to the poor children.

I will not express disgust when airport security personnel confiscate manicure kits, cackle over humiliating body scans or searches, scrutinize sandals, harass amputees, nursing mothers, and elderly travelers, while at the same time a full grown man manages to ship himself by air across country in a crate without encountering similar insulting hindrances.

I'll conveniently suppose that the defense contractor across town manufactures paperclips to drop mercifully on poor underprivileged nations that are malnourished due to a chronic deficiency of well-intentioned bureaucratic nonsense. I'll assume those little desiccant packages will carry "do not eat" warnings in appropriate languages from now on, though.

I will patriotically support our troops when they march off to war, and patriotically resent the same troops should they happen to come home inclined to spoil our Memorial Day parades by marching conscientiously on behalf of peace. I won't ask why politicians fly troops off to war with pomp and propaganda, and forbid media coverage when troops fly home wounded or in body bags for unpublicized burials. I won't comment aloud that loftier human instincts would evince greater reluctance to send troops to war, and display more readiness to celebrate or honor their arrival home again: I'll just think it quietly.

I won't ask why bureaucrats claim so much faith in public schools when they send their own kids to private academies, or why they're so ready to vote themselves pay raises, and raise taxes for the rest of us to support charitable social programs they consider vitally important. Bureaucrats vote with taxpayer's involuntary donations; that's a "democratic process." I'll endeavor to realize that some mysteries are better left unsolved. Who am I to choose amongst charities, or decide where my own dollars might do the most good?

I will not question the counterintuitive logic involved in forcing schoolchildren to take Ritalin against their parents' better judgment, while jailing adults who choose to smoke pot for medicinal or therapeutic benefit; or mandating vaccines that may harm children and cause them to suffer on one hand, while mandating minimum sentences for suffering adults who choose to use potentially harmful drugs on the other. I won't wonder, "who benefits?" when people lose their medical freedom, as pharmaceutical companies gain profits due to lawmakers regulating or outright criminalizing the competition. Innocent people get hurt by the War on Drugs: alas, another inevitable form of collateral damage.

I won't trouble my head over the reasons why every last taxpayer should be forced to account for every last dime, while tax-eating agencies lose track of millions of dollars at a time and never account for them. I won't ask why a free US citizen is not free to defend herself against a home invader, when the US government aggressively invades a battered foreign country in a war of aggression. It doesn't have to make sense; it's the law.

Strange: I felt better before reforming. America has been my home since birth; it would be impossible not to love my country. How can I call any country home when I can't feel at home in my own thoughts, or honor obligations to my country when I can't even honor my own conscience? What kind of person can be a true American citizen without being true to herself, her conscience, her God? I'm not sure I want to know, to tell the truth.

Wise guys: Quote me a legitimate offer for the price of my conscience. Convince me that the sacrifice of one Jesus or Buddha is worth a thousand men of your caliber. Show me that a thousand enforced regulations are worth one law that abides peacefully in the heart of man. Argue me into trusting your armed forces with a thousand nuclear weapons when you say I shouldn't trust myself with one pistol. Persuade me that free people can give their power to politicians and remain free. Give me the gift of wisdom, so I'm not doomed to waste my life serving fools. Guarantee God's forgiveness for fallen humanity, enough food to sustain the hungry, sufficient wealth to enrich the poor. Provide all of these things without resorting to the use of force. I know I'm asking the impossible; that's the whole point: you ask the impossible of me, so I'll ask the impossible of you in return.

Perhaps I'm hopelessly na´ve; I can't help but feel that if Jesus were alive today, he'd leap at the opportunity to save Satan himself. Wise guys, I hear that one good turn deserves another: You gave me a chance to turn a new leaf; here's your chance. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Leaf.


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