A Poet Speaks of Liberty

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This past weekend, I spoke at a wonderful libertarian conference in Vancouver, BC. One of the speakers was a poet, Lilija Valis, who is originally from Lithuania. She has a forthcoming book of her poetry, Freedom on the Fault Line, from which she read the following. I reproduce them here with her permission, and eagerly await reading the rest of her poems when her book comes out in September. I have nothing to add, as her words eloquently speak for themselves.

POLITICS

Politics is not politics.

It's what you think of me and how I see you;

it's family and the stranger; it's who will do the work and who will get the reward;

it's how we decide who owns what and who the thieves are;

it's how we act when we see a child broken from a beating or a dog chained and starved;

it's marriage and divorce and what we teach our children;

it's what we do when floods carry away our lives, when fire surrounds us.

No, politics is not politics; it's you and me and how we decide to live together;

it's love and hate and everything in between.

ACID

If they throw acid in your face for going to school, it means the school can give you something to free you from the acid throwers.

QUALITY

Equality is reassurance your neighbor will not get too far ahead of you.

The promise is we're all one but someone else decides which one.

Force is used to take from you to give to others not of your choosing.

Equality invites not doing more than others, until nothing works.

Plymouth Pilgrims lived it into discord and starvation.

It continues to inspire. Unmarked mass graves testify to its appeal.

Inequality is an open road. A safe journey is not guaranteed.

No assurance is motivation for hard work and invention.

Want and envy are harnessed to produce what others desire.

Choice is virtue's tool: You cannot escape responsibility.

Equality is theft. Inequality is insecurity.

Fairness and equality are forever estranged.

Equality or freedom. The more you have of one, the less of the other.

CONFESSIONS OF A DO-GOODER

Yes, me too, when I was young. I worked to change the world, I mean — other people. I signed, demonstrated, marched, chanted and sang. I accused and forced. I changed laws. I gave away money others earned. I secretly admired those who posed with rifles and even a few who bombed. Yes, I'm the university type.

Though things changed, they remained the same. New faces took over old roles. A different color got the knife in the back. Someone else always pays. I stepped back, confused. The more you force the worse things become. You have to be careful when you open the gate to someone seeking shelter when behind her stand armed intruders.

GRAY PLACE

Choosing is rejecting – that's bullying now definitely verboten.

You can go to jail for not liking people who dislike you.

No more saying No to a stranger demanding your share.

You can tell jokes but only the ones everyone finds funny.

To offend is to cause rioting in the streets. Lawyers will file briefs.

If you report a fire the hoses will be turned on the real trouble — you.

You are to follow directions to a gray place where no one will know you.

FREEDOM

What I don't have enough but others have too much

what comes attached to things everyone wants to avoid

what draws those who lack it to seize too much and wreck it

what is rejected when possessed and sought after when lost

what looks promising on paper but gets bloodied in the streets

what songs are made of and jails filled with

what requires laws for others but only advice for me.

Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938 and of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival. His latest book is Boundaries of Order.

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