“Don’t Tread on Me” is one of the most graphic and patriotic flags in American history. It literally defines our strength, our rebellion, our independent spirit, and our desire to live our own lives on our own terms without an authoritarian group, legal or not, telling us what to do with our own property, our own communities. The Whiskey Rebellion, Shays’ Rebellion — indeed most other resistances — arose from this spring, and sometimes We the People changed those rules.
Our rebellions in the 21st century are not too different from those early ones. We see a repression, a wrong, and are free to say, “That’s not right.” We can carry banners, sign petitions, and, if all else fails, refuse to obey. That scares the bosses, since we outnumber them by quite a lot. They may have the big guns and drones and all that, but we provide the work, the taxes, the votes and their very authority that we, the people agree to. Sometimes the bosses in Albany/Washington/Wall Street forget that. So we have to remind them now and again.
All American gun owners are not the NRA [National Rifle Association] — that group has its own agenda. American farmers and citizens are not the fossil-fuel companies — that industry has its own economic aims. American families are not the small, noisy, well-funded radical right or left that seem to get all the media pundits worked into a lather.
We are just families who want to live well, be kind, have good neighbors and mind our own business, in our own homes we pay for with jobs that give us a living wage. Since the 1930s we have some assurance that our retirement years won’t be impoverished, and we put our money into that. We want to trust our government to take care of the really big stuff we can’t do, like roads and schools and health care when we’re sick and justice when we get bullied. The Bill of Rights takes care of a lot of that, and we really don’t need much else.
Now and them some psychopath steps way over those lines, and we should be able to stop those actions that hurt us. Sometimes those psychopaths are our relatives, neighbors, corporations, banks and even our own governments. We should be able to stop them, too. Too big to fail is not too big to jail. The desire to fix things that just aren’t right is what unites us, and the folks who are upset about gun regulations (or lack thereof) and the folks who are upset about our pollution regulations (or lack thereof) are on the same page. Neither group wants a bully to tear up our soil, water, air or Constitution.
This past Saturday, after going to our main social activity of the weekend — the recycling center, fondly called the dump — we stopped at the local free library (another blessing of our community we pay for as a common good) where I picked up the pocket book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” by Robert Fulghum. It was on the surplus shelf for a nickel.
I read this in the late ’80s, and thought it cute but a bit simplistic, and, let’s face it, kind of sappy. Perfect example of the “let’s all hold hands and sing Kumbaya” solutions from the post-hippy, drug-addled era that was everything our parents told us wouldn’t work.
Imagine my surprise when I re-read the list. “Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Take a nap every afternoon.”
The list went on, and we realized, laughing, that these rules were exactly what the bullies we were fighting WEREN’T doing, and that’s not right! The folks angry about having their guns taken away, which is in the SAFE Act, were as angry as the fractivists, and about the same things! The bullies were not sharing, not playing fair, were hurting people, not putting things back where they found them, not cleaning up their messes, were taking land and guns and lives that weren’t theirs, never saying they were sorry, making it seem like WE were the ones doing it wrong.
Just not right
Tobacco makes money, but if you die, YOU were the smoker. Medicines can cause “coma or death,” but it was YOU who took them. Our water and air are being destroyed, but it was YOU who got paid for the drilling and signed the lease. The bullies have “never hurt the water, never, in all the wells they’ve drilled.” And they swear that is true. Guns don’t kill people, YOU kill people. Well, guess what. That’s just not right.
We the People are tired of being trod on, so let’s put the bullies on notice to stop their treading or we’ll all join hands (watching out for traffic), stick together, and even sing Kumbaya. Maybe even not vote for them or buy their toxic lies. That’ll show them.
Now, let’s have some warm cookies and milk and go take a nap.
Karen Cookson lives in Sharon Springs and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.