Thursday, February 24, 2011
For background see Tom’s article “Stomped” here.
During the heyday of independent thinking which spawned the American Revolution and subsequent New Nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, the Founding Fathers came up with “certain inalienable rights” among which were “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” One can imagine the arguments, both practical and philosophical, in defense of “life” being an inalienable right. After all, to whom would you sell newspapers expressing such a concept if nobody survived the pogram? The right to Liberty is a more avante garde assertion; on the other hand it’s hard to keep more than half the population locked up at any given time since technically, if they do have the right to life, you have to feed them and pay Xcel, not to mention buy the occasional roll of toilet paper, so let’s admit a certain social cost if we keep Life and don’t excise Liberty. And perhaps that’s why it made the final cut.
The Pursuit of Happiness though, has got to be as “out there” as you can get. I mean, look around you and count the smiles. Let’s face it, if you’re more than five years old you probably can’t manage much more than a smirk. Trying to make the argument that anyone had the right to pursue happiness, especially in 1776 while winding down the Georgian era and hoeing corn on the outskirts of a town of Puritans dressed in homespun; ok, we’ll have to come to grips with the fact NOBODY proof-read the final draft. Which is probably why, after the uprising and ultimate dominion over the field of battle, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention left it out.
Nonetheless, when we grow up here in America we do have a fundamental belief that we have a right to pursue happiness, and the history books conveniently let us indulge it. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t. Take life here in Elyria, as an example. Here we are, scratching our heads about all the yard dirt that got moved to ASARCO (except ours) sort of happily eating dinners that smell like Purina (ok, our dogs are happy) ignoring the constant roar of traffic and trains, stoically accepting the lack of virtually any retail and service businesses or environmental advocacy, but sort of happily taking the kids to the Johnson Recreation Center and Elyria Park and meeting the neighbors when: VOILA, the City Councilwoman pulls a vanishing act on the Johnson Rec Center between October of 2009 and March of 2010, calling it a “repurposing.” And now El Centro Su Teatro, which has used the Elyria School to springboard to the Big Show on Santa Fe, suddenly has a plan for “affordable housing and offices” mainly paid for with our tax money, no notification, not so much as napkin sketch to show what to expect. Frankly, most of us would be happy to get our school back. What business does the City have paying to install “affordable housing” units full of families looking for a recreation center the City just closed?
But there is no guarantee of happiness in this world, much less this country, although the Clarence Darrows among us could possibly dredge up an affirmative defense of the right to “pursue” it. And here in Elyria, such pursuit is much like chasing a lawn sprite at Riverside Cemetery: way too little green grass and too many places to hide. Which is why the seasoned veterans of Elyria tend to wear a look of haunted indifference: Happiness, when she does show herself, is glimpsed from the corners of the eyes, fleetingly.
at 1:24 PM
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