Treasure your freedom more than addiction
The Edmond Sun
EDMOND — One of my favorite Bob Dylan numbers is “You Got to Serve Somebody.” He summarizes the point of the song in the lyrics, which he seems to intend to be taken as gospel. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, you’re gonna hafta serve somebody.
I’m going to come back to this lyric in a minute, but first, let me say a word about addiction. The word has a dark history. In ancient Rome, if you were found guilty of a crime or liable for failure to pay a lawful debt, there was nothing more you could say. You were bound and handed over to the person charged with the execution of your sentence — imprisonment, slavery or death. The condemnation was the equivalent of the Roman phrase, “Now you are an addict.”
This meant that you have forfeited everything that is precious in the Roman world; your property, your freedom, your life and, worst of all, your honor. Now this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
A good argument can be made for the proposition that the opposite of addiction is freedom. This word has happier origins. In their ancient past, the words “friendship,” and “freedom,” sprang from the same root. Those who sat near you at meals were not servants — they were free, they were the ones you loved. They were friends. Logically, you cannot be bound and delivered for punishment — an addict — and at the same time be free, in the warm embrace of those you love, sharing a communal meal. If we ponder addiction in this context, as the antithesis of freedom, a surprising and disappointing possibility emerges. Addiction only can thrive in a society that devalues its freedom.
What if we, as parents, have been quietly allowing our children to be persuaded that their freedom is not really important? What if we are passive co-conspirators with advertisers who spend billions urging our children to surrender their independence in order to be like everyone else? What if we are passive co-conspirators with the entertainment industry that subtly urges our children to adopt the compliant attitudes of the domestic herd? What if we are passive co-conspirators with degenerate sports figures and celebrities that encourage our children to pursue a lifestyle where narcissism is king and addiction is cool?
If our children are not raised to treasure their freedom, why are we surprised to find that they are, by the millions, rushing into a life of slavery? Because let’s face it — anyone who takes that first voluntary step toward addiction only will do so if other values outweigh their reverence for freedom.
Ordinarily I try to avoid clichés, but sometimes they’re useful. Like now. We live in a society that encourages people to sell their souls for gold, for fame, for power, for fun; and sometimes, for nothing. What is the counterbalance for this type of culture-wide distortion?
There’s a limit to what we can do as parents. But we can teach our children that nothing in the world is more precious than their freedom to pursue the good as the Creator gives them the light to see it. And then, we have to set an example. I’m afraid most of us have fallen down on the job.
Am I suggesting that every time we see an addict, we are seeing evidence of a neglectful parent? Absolutely not! We all know that every person reaches a point where they make their own life choices irrespective of the quality of their upbringing. Wonderful people can spring from the ashes of a wretched environment, and vice versa. I’m just suggesting that, in the battle for the souls of our children and grandchildren, we shouldn’t be passive co-conspirators with those who peddle the charms of addiction. If we’re going to have any hope of offering future generations of Americans a meaningful choice between freedom and addiction, we have to do a better job of planting the roots of our children deeper in the love of liberty.
Now, back to Bob. In some sense, I guess it could be said we are all addicts as his song suggests. We all serve somebody. To the extent we can choose, let’s serve the Lord. By odd coincidence, on May 20, our Catholic friends observed the feast day of Saint Bernadine of Siena, the patron of compulsive gamblers. I’m not sure I get the connection, but he’s also the patron saint of public relations workers. Odd. Oh well, I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is an Edmond resident and retired attorney