The death of one's country is a hard thing to watch.When my children were very young, we all played the nightly game of "Tell Us About When You Were a Little Boy." Following evening prayer and then tuck-in, the game was a ruse, and we all knew it. It provided the kids with a few minutes' reprieve before lights-out. But as a bedtime assist, it turned out to be invaluable, much more than I could have known at the time.
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So, each night, a particular reminisce would play for them from my heart's ancient reel-to-reel, and they would grow silent as they entered an age as distant as that of castles and princesses. Trips to the penny candy store, dodging the truant officer, collecting soda bottles from vacant lots (the big ones were worth a quarter on the return) all ushered them into the magic land of a parent's childhood.
Yet sometimes, during those sleepless nights that often plague the aging, I gaze into the darkness beyond the cabin, drift again into my youth and muse over other remembrances. Not those of candy shops or hookey-playing, but other things so familiar we kids never bothered learning their names. They were just there, woven inextricably (we thought) into the fabric of our daily lives.
Those were tough, good days overall, when the bulk of a man's pay went to himself instead of a governmental leviathan; when his privacy was nearly sacred; when working toward the American dream actually meant something; when the "middle class" was a growing, not a dying breed; when speech unhindered by the cancer of political correctness might ruffle a few feathers but didn't net him a lawsuit or incarceration; when his country was his own and those living on his soil were there by his invitation only; when "1984" was a work of fiction, instead of a burgeoning reality.
I find myself grieving the loss of freedoms, those many of which have died the incremental death of legislative strangulation. They haunt me, these ghosts of liberty that flit across the periphery of our national vision. Once vibrant and alive, they are now mere shadows, silhouetted forms without substance forcibly retired onto that parchment yellowed with age and imprisoned behind glass where "We the People" can view but no longer touch them.
Such a bitter irony.
The sad truth is, this is no longer the land of my childhood. Unreasoning fear is on every side, and the pathological whining of a people no longer capable or desirous of self-governance has culminated into a pathetic battle cry for more laws and more restrictions to "protect us." The rugged individualism that marked the men of this country from day one has been hounded from our public school textbooks. A sickening national guilt has largely replaced love of country. A simpering acquiescence is the response our elite overseers command to the continually legislated stripping away of our collective manhood.
I see my Alaska slowly going the way of the Lower 48. It's spit-in-your-eye attitude is giving ground to that of the political correct ambassadors who consider it their duty to civilize the backward masses. The state is becoming the playground of the rich, who bring their Lower 48 ideas to transplant them here like so many weeds. The reins of Alaska politics run all the way to Washington, D.C., and our freedoms continue to fall like 10 pins.
Now, when I speak to my teenage daughter of what it was like in my childhood, it is of the freedoms we Americans once knew, those rather outdated concepts of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And as she listens, I see in her the pain, the feeling of loss, the silent wishing she hadn't grown up in an era that knows none of those things. It stuns me to realize that today's world of surveillance and restrictions and endless laws is all she's ever known, and, barring the merciful intervention of God, all she ever will.
So on those occasional sleepless nights when I gaze out into the darkness beyond the cabin and remember, there is one more image that, along with the rest, haunts me.
It is that look in my daughter's eyes.
Kevin Reeves is a freelance writer living in Haines.
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