Friday, March 6, 2009

This is Freedom?

The following is a transcript of my comments in support of a Dane County Regional Transportation Authority, delivered to Sun Prairie and Madison Area Transportation Planning Board officials at a hearing in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, on 4 Mar 2009. My “prop” for the occasion was a gasoline pump nozzle.

Do I support a Dane County Regional Transportation Authority? Absolutely. An RTA isn’t just about commuter rail in Madison – it is about real transportation choices all over Dane County, including commuter service in communities like Oregon and Stoughton and Sun Prairie.

That’s right: an RTA is about freedom of choice.

Now let’s think about that word “freedom”. Edmund Burke, an 18th century British philosopher whom many consider the father of modern conservativism, had this to say:

“Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

---hold up nozzle

Do you think this is liberty? Do you think this is freedom? Do you think importing 60% of our oil a few years ago, importing 70% today, importing 80% and more tomorrow is independence?

---look around room

Do you think freedom is pretending that you and I are not addicted to oil?

Do you think freedom is refusing to connect the dots between where most of the remaining oil is… {pregnant pause}

…and where our country has deployed most of its incredibly powerful, incredibly expensive military forces?

---hands over eyes

Do you think freedom is closing your eyes to the inconvenient truth that blood was shed – and more blood will be shed – to put that tiger in your tank…and my tank…and every other tank driving down Highway 151 and Highway 14 and Highway 138 every weekday morning with only 1.1 people inside?

---hold up nozzle

Do you think the guys at the other end of this hose are our friends? Do you think a tube made of braided rubber is no less a shackle on our lives than ones made of forged steel?

My friends, is freedom is being ignorant of these facts – or worse, willfully, stubbornly blind to them?

I’ll tell you what freedom is.

Above all things, freedom is being honest with ourselves and each other. Because this isn’t just about our entitlements to guzzle what comes out of here…

---point out of nozzle

…we also have a great many obligations and responsibilities for what happens at the other end of the hose.

---point backwards from hose.

This is something we should be talking about here, in this room. It breaks my heart that we’re not.

Freedom is living in a community where you can stand up on your own hind legs once in a while and walk – actually WALK! – when you want to go somewhere. Real freedom of movement begins with…moving yourself!

Freedom is living where your child can ride her bicycle to play with her friends, not endless duty as child chauffeur…on top of both of you working to meet your car payments!

Freedom is neighbors cooperating for the common good, funding and building and sharing energy-efficient, land-conserving, public transportation together. Freedom is being a CITIZEN who says, “Yes! I want to invest my fair share in a better tomorrow!”

I will close by telling you what freedom could be.

Freedom would be living in peace with other people on Earth instead of hogging the lion’s share of resources for ourselves.

Freedom would be us weaving ourselves together rather than our cars driving us apart; giant corporations driving us into bankruptcy; and the economy driving us all insane with the terribly wicked lie that enough is never enough.

Freedom would be leaving behind a decent planet for our grandchildren.

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