Chaplain Norris Burkes: The case of stolen freedoms
“Chaplain, I want to report a theft!” a reader wrote.
No, he didn’t exactly say that, but his email definitely sought to account for the freedoms he considered missing.
I wasn’t sure how a chaplain could help him recover his losses, and I considered reciting the commonly recorded message, “If you want to report an emergency, please hang up and dial 911.”
Nevertheless, I promised I’d do my best at Search and Recovery – or SAR as we called it during my Air Force career.
I began the recovery investigation by asking two key, journalistic questions: WHO and WHAT.
First, “WHO has taken away your freedom?” Most everyone to whom I pose this question answers the same. He was no exception.
“I should have known,” I said. “Those pencil whippers are always stealing something or tapping my phone calls or squelching the UFO reports.”
I posed my second question. “WHAT freedom did they steal?”
“They’re trying to take my guns,” he said.
I’m not a gun owner myself, so I knew I had no business suggesting common-sense regulation, like registration, waiting periods and background check for private sales as well as gun-show sales.
Instead of making that argument, I fired a follow-up question point blank: “BUT, has the government actually taken your personal firearm?”
His silence asserted his fifth amendment right over his second amendment rights. It’s likely that his guns were never confiscated, unless he was writing from prison where they put the bad guys who misuse guns.
In another case, a neighbor voiced a similar complaint about freedom losses, I repeated my question – WHAT exactly have you lost?
“I’ve been denied my right to breathe,” she answered, overstating the mask mandate.
Yeah, I get it. I hate surgical masks too. They were such a pesky detail, pre-COVID, when my chaplain duties sent me to visit double-lung transplants or premature babies in our ICU.
My guess is that it’s not the mask that bothers her. It’s the other M-word: mandate.
Yes, we temporarily lost some freedom. But the last time I checked, the U.S. wasn’t alone in suspending that freedom. The entire world lives under masking restrictions while the U.S. remains the least restrictive.
So, I keep pressing folks — WHAT have you personally lost? Name it.
“Chaplain, you of all people should know,” said one pastor. “We lost our freedom of worship.”
Again, temporary is the operative word. Even so, many churches responded with innovative answers.
During the worst of the lockdown, I maintained that freedom of worship wasn’t threatened as long as restrictions were applied equally among churches, institutions, and businesses. In other words, if the Rotary Club wasn’t meeting in person, then it was fair to restrict meetings, religious assemblies.
Gratefully, vaccinations are steering our lives back to normal. We have returned to church and will resume our July Fourth fireworks intended to celebrate our freedoms.
Fortunately, American freedoms are resilient little boogers. To paraphrase a military reply, “All freedoms present and accounted for, sir.”
I call this return to normal, “Vaccinated, Liberated and Vindicated.”
Even Dr. Fauci concurs. He has publicly proclaimed that “fully vaccinated people are free to do whatever they like on July Fourth.”
But seriously, Dr Fauci. Really? I now have the freedom to do anything?
If that’s true, maybe I should ask Nicolas Cage if he’ll help me reprise his role in the 2004 Walt Disney Pictures film, “National Treasure.” Let’s steal the Declaration of Independence.
These days, I know a few folks who need to read it.
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