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A Maid of Constant Sorrow

It’s been a bad-news couple of weeks. Developments in the world have sucked — from those multiple anti-Fourth Amendment court decisions through the re-inflicting of UnPatriot Act provisions to individual horrors like the sadistic abuse of Star, “the dog who lived.”

In fact, it’s been a bad month starting with the jingoistic blood-lust over the assassination of bin Laden and the murder-followed-by-ever-changing-sheriff-blame-the-victim stories of Jose Guerena.

But then (as I’ve been reminded lately reading histories of the Middle Ages), developments in the world mostly suck, and always have. At least when they involve governments or conscienceless sociopathic sadists (but I repeat myself).

I deliberately avoided blogging much of the month’s rottenness. Others were covering the bad news and I just didn’t want it here. This is, after all, supposed to be “Living Freedom” — and being free is not supposed to be about being jerked hither and thither by rotten news created by even more rotten malefactors and their malodorous institutions.

But try though I might, it got to me. Yesterday afternoon, I caught a tune going round and round in my head: “Maid of Constant Sorrow.” That’s the girly version of the old folk song, “Man of Constant Sorrow,” which you might remember from The Soggy Bottom Boys of O Brother, Where Art Thou?

It wasn’t the lyrics, which are just standard country misery, but the concept — being a person of constant sorrow. Which is what the world will inflict on you if you let it. Between the bad news and worries about some wonderful people who are going through hard times, I let it.

Well, to hell with the ceaseless din of dismal developments. I don’t want to blog an endless stream of bad news. I don’t want to blog cynical, snarky rants. Not all the time — even though I suspect that blogging cynical, snarky rants about bad news would probably triple the readership and sell more books. Snark is entertaining. Indignation makes people feel good. Even being “of constant sorrow” feels good if you can convince yourself you’re suffering because you’re so Sensitive and Noble that the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune perpetually wound your Saintly Soul.

And it feels irresponsible not to blog the scariest news that — like it or not — affects us all, even though others who specialize in privacy or police brutality or law and regulation can do it better.

Which is why I added that topic-delineated not-quite-a-blogroll over the weekend. In the future, you want to watch video of the latest puppycide — go see Radley Balko. Want to know which part of your toddler the TSA wants to grope next — visit one of the blogs under the privacy heading. Want gun news? David Codrea and Mke Vanderboegh are your friends. I know, you probably pay them frequent visits, anyhow. But now that I’ve put the specialists on this page, I feel like I’m off the hook for at least some of that stuff. (You never thought I was on the hook, did you? But I did. And now I feel better.)

Oh, that’s not to say I’ve sworn off ranting. Of course I’ll rant. And I hope you will, too. The comment section can use some good rants. And good links to bad news. Go to it.

Nor am I going to turn this blog into your daily dose of Happy News. There’d be about five readers left at the end of the week if I did that. And I wouldn’t be one of them.

But Living Freedom needs to be what its title implies. It needs to be a refuge, a sanity break, from the relentlessness of BAD. It needs more of this and less of … well, constant sorrow.

Ranting is easier, and so are quick newsbits. So if I really cut down on the rants and news items, that also means I’ll probably cut down a bit on the frequency of postings. But I’m going to do my best to bring you news you can use, practical freedom tips, as well as some non-sappy uplift, and make this blog live up to its amazingly pretentious name.

I should probably even write another book: “How to be Happy While the Whole World is Going to Hell in a Handbasket.” Seriously. I should. Probably ought to read it, too.


  1. Water Lilu
    Water Lilu May 31, 2011 4:09 am

    Timely post. I get bogged down in bad news most of the time, and sometimes need to be reminded that there is still some good left in the world.

  2. Claire
    Claire May 31, 2011 7:19 am

    I hear you. Well, FWIW, I’ve been making a list of positive, hopeful topics this morning … and there’s no shortage of the good.

  3. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal May 31, 2011 7:42 am

    Even when you blog about the bad stuff in the world, your posts have a happy ending. Because they are a reminder to just live free.

  4. Woody
    Woody May 31, 2011 7:55 am

    A couple of years ago I suffered a severe case of outrage fatigue. I have since recovered and now view the world through a different filter. Now I can read about the bad things happening in the world without a blood pressure spike, most of the time. I have come to realize that there are many things I can not effect, at all, and I no longer let them tie me up in neurotic knots. I concentrate on those things close to me that I can change and spend more time enjoying the good while pushing the distant bad things to the back of my consciousness. It helps that I live in a rural place with relatively few people. Perhaps it’s a function of age but I like to think of it as wisdom .

  5. dsd
    dsd May 31, 2011 9:46 am

    i understand the view point. it is easy in today’s media to become fatigued with all the bad news which they just seem to sensationalize for effect. (and to further create divide in our country)

    the worry is though that it can bring about a form of lethargy where people just don’t care unless it affects “them”

    i believe that is how we are slowly losing our rights – as each small infraction may only affect “someone else” – but in the big picture the end result is we are all losing the same rights even if we are not being directly or visibly affected at that point in time.

    americans who want to sustain our freedoms must not become victims of apathy and ignore the steady loss of our rights… the bread and circus’ theme is all too prevalent in todays society…

    “Roman politicians devised a plan in 140 B.C. to win the votes of the poor: giving out cheap food and entertainment, “bread and circuses”, would be the most effective way to rise to power.”

    then i can’t help but always think of this old quote…

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.…

    p.s. in the Jose Guerena case i found an article that appears to indicate the “part of an officers uniform” that they are now using as reverse justification for the raid was a hat in the garage that said border patrol on it – yeah the same type that is for sale at any surplus store or catalog… they have spun that misinformation out to seem like he was impersonating an officer etc…

  6. dsd
    dsd May 31, 2011 9:51 am

    an interesting breakdown of the Jose Guerena events – i pray this type of event does not unnecessarily happen again in our country. what justice is there for those killed in error?

  7. Kentucky Kid
    Kentucky Kid May 31, 2011 10:04 am

    Snark can be fun until it becomes the raison d’ete of the blog. Too cute is too much. There are a few blogs that lean too far in that direction, this one excepted.

    As Woody says, there are many thing ya just can’t do anything about, and it does you no good to fret and stew over them.

    I’ll buy a copy of “How to be Happy . . .” when it comes out.


  8. Victor Milan
    Victor Milan May 31, 2011 10:45 am

    It isn’t “apathy” to face facts. Such as that we in fact have no power over greater political events, and in persuading ourselves we do, we actually strengthen those who oppress us.

    The key is that, by imaging we exert control over things which in actuality lie beyond our power to control, we surrender power over the one thing we can control: ourselves.

    As a friend of mine likes to ask: how is government preventing any of us as an individual from living free? It seems to me one of Claire’s most valuable and consistent themes is ways in which we can live free in spite of the greater situation surrounding us.

    Meaning: we choose our own states – our actions, reactions, and emotions – and do not submit ourselves to control by externals. Whether persons or events.

    I think it’s also worthwhile remembering what we want freedom for. It cannot be an end in itself – otherwise, if you actually attained freedom (in whatever way, however achieved), wouldn’t your life just end?

    For me the highest value is joy. Or happiness; to me they’re the same. That is simply something we choose to feel – or choose not to.

    None of which means we can’t or oughtn’t resist in the relatively small ways available to us. But I submit that if we surrender to others the power to make us happy, or deprive us of happiness – we’ve already surrendered, period.

  9. dsd
    dsd May 31, 2011 11:47 am

    victor – your theory only hold up until we are no different from the third world countries where both criminals and government go around killing, maiming and raping with impunity.

    how “free” or “happy” will you be when these types of events are happening in our country once the guise of “law and order” and “justice for all” is truly dead and forgotten? once the ruling party has promoted themselves high enough above the law they keep making more and more oppressive laws for the law abiding citizens, while the lawbreakers are not affected. (sound familiar)

    when simply walking down the street may get you killed for the sport of another, your children and family possibly left to suffer horrendous lives of torture or slow deaths?

    there was a story i cannot find of the saddam era iraqi guard on patrol who killed a man walking down the street with his finance – they shot him right on the spot and took the woman – simply because they wanted to. a few days later she was found dead having been brutally beaten and raped. do you have a wife or daughter? would you be happy in that situation?

    what if like in argentina illegal immigrants – squatters – come into your yard, front, back etc and overnight built a tent city soon supplanted with block building? are you free? are you happy then? the government subsists only for itself and so do the criminal gangs – the once free citizens are prisoners trapped in the middle – try a quick look at ferfal’s experiences living through the argentina economic collapse… he has been documenting this for years.

    among dozens of other similar stories where the helpless citizens are treated as nothing more then sheep for the slaughter while living lives of the barest sustainability.

    meanwhile those making the ever oppressive laws against citizens in our country do not enforce our borders and prosecute those breaking other laws (corruption, bankers, wall street). but are wanting to outlaw salt, cheese or whatever else they deem you should not have… is that still freedom for all?

    you are currently free to choose your own actions, reactions and emotions until they make that against the law by some manner or effect – do you think these massive x-ray scanning machines at airports are for your good? they are soon to be rolled out to train stations and other mass transit. how long then before cars are scanned at major throughways?

    try taking your cash or gold, guns or other valuables with you anywhere today – you most likely will not make it and they will probably be taken from you. you don’t have to commit a crime – they only have to suspect you “may” commit a crime. is that freedom? isn’t the government preventing you from living free then? go drive down I-40 in TN and risk getting pulled over when wanting to purchase a larger item for cash like a car etc.

    how much longer at this pace will you really be able to choose where you go and when?

    i once read that only someone with nothing of value has nothing more to lose and who is content with the barest of minimums is the happiest person – sounds pretty much like how most third world countries citizens live to me. i find this especially ironic compared to the excessive opulence of their ruling masters/dictators that keep them within those constraints.

    that is a direction our country is moving in at our current pace and i don’t look forward to being in that company. if i could do anything to help prevent my children from growing up in any of the previous examples i would do it… but perhaps that is the differences in our views.

  10. Woody
    Woody May 31, 2011 1:46 pm

    dsd: Yours was a long and interesting reply to Victor The horrific examples of government gone bad you cited are certainly not trivial. But you never mentioned how you expect to change the things that he and I seem to think are beyond our ability to effect.

    We aren’t apathetic, only realistic. After 35 years of participating in the political charade we call voting I finally came to understand that it is not possible to vote one’s self to freedom. Karl Drega had a brief effect on the political system in his neighborhood a few years ago. I’m sure that you and I could have a similar effect in ours. I’m not ready for that just yet. Claire is famous for saying ….It’s too late to work within the system but it’s too early to shoot the bastards….or something to that effect. I have come to believe that she is correct.

    The problem is, there don’t seem to be many non violent solutions offered that don’t involve doing what we have always done while expecting different results.

  11. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth May 31, 2011 1:53 pm

    dsd, respectfully, I think you miss Victor’s point.

    You’re angry. I get that – I’m plenty angry too. It’s not right, what’s happening now, and sometimes you just can’t keep it from getting to you.

    But I assure you, you can go to the worst hellhole in the world, where any of the above can happen on any given day–and there you will yet find people who find ways to live happy. Kids who smile. Adults who say all the “right” things in public company but in private live just the way they want to. Nobody is saying they’re living perfectly, and nobody is saying that they aren’t fully aware of the atrocity happening around them–they just find ways to be happy nonetheless.

    You will find that because that is what human beings do.

    If they didn’t, then I think the whole effort would probably be pointless. But they do, despite every attempt by those who impersonate human beings to prevent it. And there are lessons in that, for those of us who struggle with what to do with the anger.

    What keeps me coming back to Claire’s place here is that she gives voice to that observation. When she observes of The Pursuit of Total Principle Purity “that way lies madness”, I hear experience talking, and, struggling with it myself, I listen.

    It is not surrender. Surrender certainly is accepting atrocity as morally acceptable, but it is also giving aid and comfort to your enemy by accepting despair. Surrender is also becoming what you behold, in the futile attempt to bring it to bay.

    It’s easy to become a dead patriot by taking any one of these too seriously. Easy. What’s much harder is finding out how to balance these against each other, kinda like DVC balances power, speed and accuracy, or kinda like “good, fast, cheap: pick any two”.

    That’s what I love so much about Claire’s perspective. She operates with that wider field of view, and try as I might, I need it from time to time.

    A little Nock doesn’t hurt, either. 🙂

  12. dsd
    dsd May 31, 2011 2:18 pm

    i certainly wish we could simply vote ourselves back onto a better path and i equally don’t wish for a civil war or similarly destructive solution…

    in thousands of years humankind has never really just tossed up their collective hands and sat like sheep in a field waiting for slaughter, saying “oh well”

    i wish i had a simple solution… but that does not preclude me from not looking or hoping or somehow trying to affect one. i don’t see how just doing nothing will change a thing – even if all i can do is talk, maybe try to educate people or raise awareness – i suppose that is better then nothing…

  13. dsd
    dsd May 31, 2011 2:20 pm

    to add… i often think about the founding fathers of our great country.

    look how impossible the odds seemed in their time, yet they still worked and sacrificed to make that change and through great perseverance and at times incredible suffering and loss – they still did not give up hope.

  14. EN
    EN May 31, 2011 3:52 pm

    I have Firefox Morning Coffee and it’s loaded with six sights that I read every morning. Two of the them are heavyweight libertarian intellectual, two are news, one is Dilbert and then there’s Claire’s place. I consider this light reading. Not light weight, but easy, upbeat and written by a fellow traveler who’s not always sure of everything… just like me. I suspect that Claire might well be on her own journey with this blog. It’s changed quite a bit over time and she seems confused and apologetic about her content on some days. However, for me blogs are simply an adventure, you don’t know what the author is going to write about nor do I expect daily brilliance, or even total coherence. None of us no how to think about the chaotic world that is falling apart all around us, we’re all feeling our way in a sense. We know the Shiite is about to hit the fan, but we still try to live life and maintain a sense of pleasure and satisfaction within the chaos. Claire’s house is part of that for me. Another interesting thing about blogs is I didn’t write this for Claire, I wrote it for the commenters.

  15. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth May 31, 2011 10:38 pm

    “i wish i had a simple solution… but that does not preclude me from not looking or hoping or somehow trying to affect one. i don’t see how just doing nothing will change a thing – even if all i can do is talk, maybe try to educate people or raise awareness – i suppose that is better then nothing…”

    dsd, it sounds like you understand more than I had presumed. I like being wrong in that way. 🙂

    I would offer that the best possible solution may in fact be very simple, even if it’s not easy. And be careful not to conflate “doing nothing” with deliberate acts such as observation, networking, and withdrawal of consent. That latter, I think, just might be the best chance at a bloodless revolution that we have available to us, although the only way we’ll get to it is by observing, networking and getting the word out. Personally, I spent a shameful number of years completely unaware of all this, and I think I view my own need to share is a form of internal penance.

  16. naturegirl
    naturegirl May 31, 2011 11:19 pm

    At the risk of probably offending someone, I will say I like Claire’s perspective because it comes from a woman’s (strong) point of view…….I’m sure when the s***t rains down on all of us it will be equally uncomfortable, equally outrage inciting….but it’s great to hear and know there’s strong women out there – and thinking ahead, too…..and blogging about it even if it is to point to another site to send us to (get informed)…..

    I think everyone reading here has a good idea of what potentially is coming our way…..I’m kinda to the point of just wanting to think about how to make it thru, and how to hang on to as much freedom I can, in the process…..if that’s possible….

  17. Anonymous
    Anonymous May 31, 2011 11:37 pm

    Today is a great month for freedom!! Celebrate!

    Why, you ask? Elsewhere on this site, Massad Ayoob has deflected grave questions about the whole LEO system going rabid with the usual lies and half-truths, carefully pretending not to understand the questions, bobbing and weaving like any lawyer.

    Why is this important? Because Mas is the Norman Rockwell model for the very best sort of informed, balanced officer from small town New England. Mas is the most credible police officer in the country. And so, with his admission of jackbootery, he has set a very low ceiling over every other law enforcement officer.

    Suppose your rural deputy sheriff seems like a nice guy. But even a policeman with as distinguished a record of service like Mas is a jackboot…and your deputy is just a deputy, not a famous civil rights defender. What has your deputy done that is better than Mas? Nothing. So your deputy is a jackboot. And it gets even better! For any cop or politician to claim to be a defender of the rights of the innocent, they now have to repudiate Mas.

    Suppose that Mas doesn’t believe those jackboot positions, but he must act on them anyway because otherwise some employer holding his leash will end his career. From the standpoint of damage done to a LEO’s victim, does it matter why the LEO acts or what he privately believes?

  18. Victor Milan
    Victor Milan June 1, 2011 2:14 pm

    dsd – If you think those things aren’t going to happen in the US, you’re a great deal more optimistic than I.

    I wonder – how does surrendering to the oppressors and aggressors the power to control your inner state help you or others defend against them?

  19. dsd
    dsd June 2, 2011 10:41 am

    victor – no i worry they are going to happen here – it is an obvious and gradual change that i see taking place – hence my concerns…

    an article from today – to which i agree completely

    the video it references

    what irks me to no end is the officer saying (qt 1:25 in the video) “the governing authority approval, and that would be us” has to give permission, yet it is NOT illegal to do what this person is doing – it seems that this is more and more necessary for everything… we are now guilty until proven innocent in our country.

    i find it completely backwards to what our founding fathers fought against for our country and i agree completely to your statement quoted

    “I wonder – how does surrendering to the oppressors and aggressors the power to control your inner state help you or others defend against them?”

  20. dsd
    dsd June 3, 2011 11:21 am

    another good article that summarized my feelings

    this stuff is only going to get worse and worse unless the citizens do something to change it (sitting idly by will change nothing)

    read through the list and see some of the amazing abused of power…

  21. capt gooch
    capt gooch June 7, 2011 10:46 pm

    Not in an effort to add even more unhappiness to the stew but in an effort to spread the info to assist in educating all of those that we can … Has everyone seen the CATO Raid Map?

    Not for the Squeamish …

    stay safe,


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