January 16, 2010

Let Freedom Ring

People often ask us what it is like to live under "communism," or whatever capitalist-coated version of it we have here. After all, we are still Americans, right? I mean, even though we live here, we still have certain rights because we are human, first of all, and because we have American passports in our safe, bolted to the wall, right?

Not right. Double-meaning intended.

Americans here must, in order to survive with a shred of sanity, relinquish all notions of the following:
individual guilt
personal space
personal belongings
conflict resolution
hot water
all other innate rights

That leaves you with...hmmmm...your husband and kids, your memories, your faith, and your pride. Those are about the only things you can be absolutely sure you will have at the end of the day. At any moment, our electricity might kick off and stay off until the 600 residents at our complex who haven't paid their bill decide to pay (a threat we are currently under). All for one and one for all, people. At any moment, our "landlord" might walk in and tell us her nephew needs a place to stay and we must be out by Tuesday. This is not uncommon. At any moment, young men with large black jackets and billy clubs might appear at our door and tell us, for no reason whatever, that we must report to the officials and meanwhile all of our belongings will be confiscated and held until further notice.

Now, please don't get your feathers too ruffled. We have an emergency fund, ready and waiting for us to use on plane tickets to the nearest country where 2 plus 2 always equals 4. We hope we never have to use it, and we would feel bad, truthfully, to leave behind our friends and loved ones who don't hold a foreign passport, people who remember a time, within the last 40 years, when the entire nation was forced to wear the same color and style of clothing, and sport the same haircut, and no one owned any money, and everyone was given the same amount of "currency" with which to trade for the same amount rice and oil and other basic necessities. Things have changed DRAMATICALLY in a very short amount of time, and I am not trying to belittle this country. I am simply an American, striving to wrap my pampered mind around the reality that is in place for most of the rest of the citizens of this planet.

So fly your flag today, folks. Make notice of your twinkling light bulbs and your roaring heat. Pledge your allegiance, and remember the people who bled on battlefields to give you the right to petition, to strike without threat of injury or death; who gave you every right you have. Unless you've lived outside of the jurisdiction of Washington D.C., you will just have to take my word for it. Freedom is a rare gift, and one that should never be taken for granted.