John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July.

OK, it’s actually days from now as I write this, but deadlines and temporal exactitude don’t mix well, so take it from me, tomorrow is the Fourth of July.

And I’ve been thinking about what that day means to us here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

I mean, it is an exclusive holiday, after all. Only we citizens of this nation have any claim to it, although I believe a certain former president known by the nickname “Shrub” was trying to figure out how to have it declared a holiday the world over.

So, what is the Fourth of July, anyway?

Let’s see, it’s the anniversary of the day we declared independence from England, thanks to the determination of a group of rich white guys who wanted to shake off the yoke of British taxation and other forms of control. We all know how that turned out, right? I mean, we fought a war, we won, we’re free.


So, the question becomes, what does this “freedom” thing amount to?

From my rather narrow professional perspective, the most important freedom is the freedom of speech, which gives me the right to pretty much say anything I feel like saying, anytime I feel like saying it.

Except, of course, when my freedom of speech runs headlong into someone else’s idea of their freedom to keep me in line.

For example, we can’t even joke about the ridiculous searching and seizing that goes on at airports these days, thanks to the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration.

Make some smart-alecky remark about it as you go through the security lines, and you are likely to find yourself in a dark room, behind a locked door, being searched and seized in ways you won’t want to talk about afterward.

Although, I must say, the TSA seems more relaxed about the situation these days. I was at O’Hare Field in Chicago a while ago, getting ready to fly back to Colorado, when my carry-on suitcase set off alarms.

They couldn’t find the offending item right away, and a guy brought the bag to me not once, but twice, for help in figuring out what was causing all the ruckus, then sending it back through the X-ray machines with no luck.

We finally found it – my grandfather’s ancient straight razor, which I had inherited from my mom. I’d dropped it into a side pocket and forgotten completely about it until it set off the alarms.

The guy was pretty cool about it, didn’t even arrest me and haul me away for questioning when I jestingly remarked that I wasn’t the type to go around hijacking planes with a straight razor, now, was I?

He suggested I check the bag with the razor inside, but my fear of the luggage handling demons that inhabit our airports is far greater than any fear of terrorists, or TSA agents, for that matter. So I mailed it to myself, right there at a box specially outfitted for these kinds of incidents, and all was well.

So, moving right along, what other freedoms can we celebrate this year?

Well, there’s the freedom to be stupid, a freedom we all enjoy from time to time, such as when we forget completely about something that, at best, could cause us to miss an airplane flight or, at worst, put us into a detention cell for a while.

This is an especially important freedom, though, in politics.

Fro example, Sarah Palin proves every day how important it is. And as she seemingly is getting dumber by the day, the relative importance of this special freedom becomes greater, for her, on a daily basis.

She follows a long and star-studded trail of basic stupidity, one that perhaps reached its zenith with the election, not once but twice, of the aforementioned Shrub, which would be George W. Bush.

I should state clearly here that Bush was a crafty devil, and proved more than capable of milking the connections his daddy, another former president, had established in a long career. And he managed to surround himself with people who were nowhere near as dumb as he, himself, so often proved to be.

Add to that his ability to charm the bark off a tree, and his political and philosophical malleability, and what you have is a guy who can fool a lot of people into thinking he’s something he’s not, which is smart enough to run the world, while in reality others do it for him.

Which, of course, begs a question – who is dumber, the guy who fools us, or the ones who are so regularly and completely fooled?

Happy Fourth of July.