Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Freedom Rock(s)

I was driving down the Pennsylvania turnpike today and noticed a new roadside display. Someone painted a great big rock red, white and blue- highlighted with the word "FREEDOM" in great big letters.  The star spangled boulder was surrounded by several U.S. flags waving in the breeze churned up by passing All-American tractor-trailers.  To be honest- I thought it was kind of cool- sort of a patriotic salute to all of us drivers who were at that very moment exercising our God-given right to break the speed limit at ludicrously high rates of velocity.  But then I wondered: does the anonymous rock painter really have the FREEDOM to paint up a rock on a public road- a rock that's owned collectively by all of us tax paying citizens?  That got me to thinking about old Judge Tams- the father of a very good friend from home.  Judge Tams used to tell us that the FREEDOM to swing our arms ended at the tip of his nose.  I always thought that made a lot of sense.  But I can't figure out how to apply that analogy to a chunk of granite soaked in Sherwin Williams hi-gloss.  Janice Joplin famously sang about FREEDOM being nothing left to lose.  The FREEDOM trail leads through Boston's historical sites.  But that's a long way from mile marker 113 on the PA pike.  And even farther from the story I was thinking about.  Judge Tams was a bit of a free thinker and somewhat ahead of the times.  If I remember correctly, he once settled an ugly divorce case by awarding custody of the kids to the father.  This was years ago when mother's were almost always given custody.
 Not long after the gavel fell and the plaintiffs left, the aggrieved mom confronted her newly-minted Ex on the courthouse steps- and shot him.  I think it was just a flesh wound.  But Judge Tams later told us he'd apparently awarded custody to the right parent.  I imagine that gun-toting mom had 6-10 years in the slammer to think about her lack of FREEDOM.  I thought of that woman in prison as I rocketed down the pike and wondered: how much of that time did she spend breaking rocks?

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