Freedom and Risk

Good afternoon and Happy Fourth. I’ll be glad for rain but hope your party doesn’t get rained out.

We know the original Independence Day was to celebrate the newly declared freedom from British rule. That we still collectively celebrate Independence Day after 243 years is remarkable, in my opinion. I dare say many American citizens today have only a vague idea—if any idea at all—of what we’re celebrating on July 4th. There’s a serious lack of knowledge of history among even educated Americans. And I don’t see that as a good thing. However, that’s not what this blog is about.

I would like to dedicate this posting to Independence. In recent years, freedom has become a debatable word. I still think the Declaration of Independence, which was signed by our founding Fathers over two centuries ago, defines it best where it says;  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If that doesn’t describe freedom very well, I don’t know what does.

At the risk of being accused of animism, or indicating that all animals are created equal (which they are not, outside of deserving our mutual respect and care) I’ll give my view. If men are endowed to these unalienable rights, how about our livestock and pets. Do they also have that right? If you’ve been reading my ramblings you probably have an idea what I’m leading up to, but I’ll say it anyway. Modern day agriculture is focused on a production system that confines food animals to buildings and/or feedlots to the tune of thousands of animals per building/feedlot. It’s all about bigger, fatter, faster, cheaper. This not only robs them of liberty, but suppresses their natural instincts and alters the nutritional profile of the human food they produce or become. So in disrespecting the animal, we disrespect ourselves via food that hurts rather than heals. I know this is saying a lot, but I suggest that a culture and food system that disrespects its food animals to this degree, will also view each other with contempt—which leads to the tyrannical food regulation of our day.

That a group of people can no longer pool resources, buy the needed items, and add value to basic deli meats, cheese, and vegetables to create hoagies for the sake of charity to benefit the needy among them without taking food handling courses and having an inspected facility is authoritarianism gone wild. Excuse the lengthy sentence, but this scenario gets my blood boiling. By way of explanation, our children attend a parochial school—which is an extension of our church and is run by the church. For approximately 12 years the school has collaborated with a local shoe and clothing shop’s annual summer tent sale by providing food and drinks for the attendees—for benefit funds. We purchased the needed supplies from a local grocer, made hoagies and ham & cheese sandwiches in someone’s home kitchen, solicited homemade baked goods and drinks from the community, barbequed chicken, and all was well. It was a community effort, raised a nice amount of benefit funds, and was fun. The inspector from the Chester County Health Department (CCHD) worked with us, providing oversight where needed, and pointed us in the right direction where the law was concerned. That is, until this year, when CCHD assigns us a new inspector.

Now… all “processing” must take place in an inspected facility. No more homemade baked goods (again, un-inspected facility). All drinks must be purchased (no homemade chocolate milk etc.). And it’s all in the name of food safety. Poppycock! I cannot escape the feeling that it’s more about protecting the interests of the already entrenched industrialized food system than about food safety. Excuse my rant, but I had to get that off my shoulders. Now let’s move on to the thoughts this absurdity brought forth.

The way I see it, freedom and risk are inseparable. To reword it, freedom always carries a degree of risk. Two hundred forty three years ago, when the assembled Continental Congress declared independence from the heavy hand of British rule, they were taking a huge risk. A risk of life or death for themselves and their constituents, with many giving their lives for the cause. Even beyond the Revolution, developing a new nation on the statutes they chose to build on was quite risky and unproven. To live with zero risk is to live in a bubble, arms in straitjacket, fed via feeding tube, but that’s not my idea of freedom. It may be life, but certainly not “liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. When folks attend their local shoe shop’s tent sale and buy barbequed chicken, chocolate milk, and an apple pie from the “for charity” food stand on site, they take a risk. When there’s no ingredients listed on the pie, they know that it wasn’t produced in an inspected facility. But people choose that risk. They had the right to choose freedom, and with it came risk. My foremost concern is for future generations. Take food regulation as an example. If we accept these can-and-can’ts as normal and view them as being for our protection, I’m afraid our children and grandchildren will have far less choice than we do today.

We probably all learned about Patrick Henry in grade school, and he left us with several powerful quotes that are as profound today as they were two centuries ago. Here is one: 

“Suspicion is a virtue as long as its object is the public good, and as long as it stays within proper bounds. … Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel.”

— Patrick Henry

It’s freedom and risk, or security and bondage.  As for me, give me Freedom—and risk. Freedom is about choice, and risk is exhilarating. Let Freedom Ring!! And that’s the View from the Country.