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LAND OF THE MOSTLY FREE, HOME OF THE OCCASIONALLY BRAVE

In 1977, during my senior year in High School, I went to a drive in theater and  sat on the roof of a station wagon to see a movie called Star Wars.

Star Wars was set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away – only it wasn’t. It was about a farm boy from Tatooine – who was really a farm boy from Iowa – who meets a Corellian pirate with a fast starship – who is really a high school jock with a hotrod – and together they set out to rescue a Princess from Alderaan – who, again, is really just some snooty girl from the big city.

And it was just great fun. That movie changed the world.

Then, four years later when I was at the University of Florida, I saw a movie called Raiders of the Lost Ark. It featured a daring, adventurous, brilliant American explorer named Indiana Jones who roamed the world stealing things in the name of science.

And it too was just great fun.

Now, if you’re looking for that spirit of adventure – that sense of freedom and euphoria with just enough of an element of danger to get the blood flowing, then you cannot do much better in the real world than flying a small airplane. It’s been my passion all of my life. So imagine my delight to discover that Harrison Ford — the actor who of course portrayed both Han Solo and Indiana Jones — he and I both share the same passion for the challenge and transcendental freedom that comes with being a pilot.

 

Now a few days ago, Mr. Ford was doing an interview and casually mentioned how deeply he loved the freedom of flight:

“Learning to fly was a work of art,” said Mr. Ford. “I’m so passionate about flying I often fly up the coast for a cheeseburger. Flying is like good music; it elevates the spirit and it’s an exhilarating freedom.”

Like good music, it elevates the spirit and it’s an exhilarating freedom. Exactly right.

But the days of elevated spirits and exhilarating freedoms are coming to an end here in America. Because Harrison Ford – the quintessential American actor playing the archtypical American rebel and adventurer, can no longer use his own money, his own time and his own freedom to hop in an airplane and fly up the coast for the proverbial hundred dollar hamburger. Not if Wendy Buckley has her way!

Dr. Buckley, proprietor of carbonfootprint.com, located in fine old Worting House on Church Lane in Basingstoke, Hampshire, United Kingdom, has publicly called Mr. Ford’s personally funded search for an elevated spirit and exhilarating freedom “unnecessary.”

She goes on to say that “Flying is a huge source of carbon emissions and making unnecessary journeys by plane can no longer be seen as responsible to our environment. Stars like Harrison Ford need to embrace the huge opportunity to lead by example in the battle against climate change – reduce their overall lifestyle carbon footprint and carbon offset those unavoidable emissions.”

Now Mr. Ford, you will be pleased and surprised to know that Dr. Wendy Buckley herself can help you in this regard because at her website you can in fact purchase absolution at the bargain rate of $25.61 per ton of carbon emitted. What a remarkably selfless and helpful woman.

Mr. Ford, I’d like to speak to you now not as a Hollywood celebrity and not even as a fellow pilot, but rather as the actor that was able to find within himself that exceedingly rare alchemy of rebellious charm mixed with fundamental decency and innocence. I’d like to speak to the person who has captured the American spirit in the characters of Han Solo and Indiana Jones in a way that has never been surpassed, and which brought you – deservedly – the resources to buy and fly your own airplanes and experience the exhilaration that you and I and very few others can actually comprehend.  

I am asking that man to do the right thing, to stand up and publicly invite Dr. Wendy Buckley of Worting House in Basingstoke, UK to share a moment of our pilot’s euphoria by taking a very long flying leap off of a very short pier. Mr. Ford, stand up and tell Wendy Buckley to Pound Sand!

From Dr. Jones to Dr. Buckley: just say, “This is none of your business! It’s a free country!”

Remember that little expression? “It’s a free country!” Remember when that was a common response to these petty tyrannies? Remember when any time anybody tried to tell you what you could and could not do we didn’t just whimper and apologize we used to turn to them and say, “Who died and made you king? This is a free country! I’ll do what I damn well please!”

Does this matter? Yes it does. Because freedom of action and personal responsibility are welded together, two sides of the same coin. When we are free to do as we please we become the kind of independent, self-reliant people who will step up in emergencies. And when we surrender our will to other people who live to tell us what to do, we then become dependent on being told what to do all the time.

My brother Steve is a year younger than me. Right around age 13 Stevie used to take a tent, his dog and a shotgun and hitchhike from our home in South Florida out into the Everglades. He’d usually be gone or two or three days. Did my mom worry about him? Yes she did, but on some level I guess she preferred to raise an independent boy who was living his life to the fullest rather than perpetually trying to defend a life-long infant.

A few months ago I heard in passing that Steve had been on his way to work one morning when he passed a car that was on fire with the driver still inside. He pulled over, grabbed his crowbar, smashed the window and with the help of another passing citizen pulled her out and saved her life. He never thought to mention this to me. I found out about it second hand a few days afterward.

Or parents raised all of us in the way that most American kids used to be raised: to be free and independent and capable of acting on our own initiative when the moment called for it. We rode in the back of pickup trucks and station wagons, we played on monkey bars and carousels and big old swing sets that we used to endlessly try to go all the way over on. We got hurt, and banged up, and we learned our lessons, and our survival rate did not seem to be significantly lower than the kids today, who, if they go outside at all, play non-competitive games on rubberized surfaces with anxious parents hovering a few inches away ready to catch them before they hit the ground.

How are these kids going to turn out? Well, a couple of months ago, I had to have my car towed from my parking garage. The man with the tow truck, named Eddie, pushed from the front while I pushed and steered from the side and after we got it on the truck he thanked me for the effort, to which I replied, “what am I going to do – just sit there and watch? Well, as it turns out, most men in Los Angeles do just sit there and watch. If it’s raining, these grown men will sit in the car while Eddie pushes – for a hundred yards down a slippery street. His number one call is to go out and change a tire: change a tire for grown men who just don’t know how.

So what does this have to do with Harrison Ford and Wendy Buckley? Well, Americans like Han Solo and Indiana Jones are free men. They are brave, resourceful and kind. And they take the initiative  – that’s what Americans used to know how to do in their bones. . They do not wait to be told what to do because they do not have to be told what to do. They know what to do.

Back in Dr. Buckley’s home, Great Britain, a little girl recently burned to death in her apartment as a result of what started as a smallish fire. A few brave men tried to enter the building to save her life, but they were forcibly prevented by the police – who not only did not go in to save her but in fact barred the way of the men who tried to.

When it was over, the police were congratulated by the police chief – a man no doubt after Wendy Buckley’s heart – who after all only wanted to prevent the additional loss of life that may have occurred should those men had attempted a rescue.

So the question is, ladies and gentlemen, which kind of world do you want to live in? A world where a little girl dies in a fire, along with perhaps two or three other heroic men who tried to save her? Or one in which that girl’s one chance at life, and a future, and children and grandchildren, was taken from her by policemen guarding her from individual action on behalf of the safety-minded nanny state… this horrific, faceless state identified only by the condescending smile of those acting out of the greater good… that cradle-to-grave, busy-body, do-gooderism that condemned that little girl to death and prevented by state force the free-will decision of those heroes who chose to risk their own lives to save another.

That kind of society is coming here. That ethos is growing daily here – in the last bastion of human freedom and initiative. Each year, fewer and fewer people – good-hearted people – will take the initiative to enter a burning house or car – or even change their own tires – because we allow people like Wendy Buckley to tell us what we can and cannot do with our own time, our own money and our own freedom.

If we surrender to these people, personal freedom and bravery – they are welded together – will wither and vanish, just as it did in the Soviet Union when this same sort of people finally got the power they live for. When Han Solo made the Kessel run in twelve parsecs, no doubt some bureaucrat was there to say that the Kessel Run should never be made in under 18 parsecs as it’s wasteful of fuel destructive to wormholes. Would Han Solo take that? Wasn’t the entire point of Star Wars the fight to make it a Free Galaxy? What the hell is the point of a Free Galaxy if you can’t do the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs when you feel like it? If you want to be a slave to the Imperial Bureaucracy, just come out and say so.

You’ll no doubt be pleased to know that the Heritage Foundation has, for the first time ever, has downgraded the United States of America from being a free country, economically, to being Mostly Free – in the same company as Chile, Bahrain, The Netherlands, Mauritius, Lithuania and Botswana.

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Oh, and culture lovers, just in case you can’t see the obvious: the reason the first three Star Wars movies were so terrific, and the second three sucked so bad, is actually very simple. The first three were about rebels, shooting guns and driving fast, and speaking with American accents. The second three were about politicians, discussing treaties and holding court, and speaking with British accents.   

It’s coming. But we can stop it. If we have the will, we can stop it. We can still do it, if we chose to: here in the land of the mostly free, and the home of the occasionally brave.