Is it possible that we simply cannot remain free? Not as our ancestors imagined they were or the way we think of America as the Land of the Free.

Is it possible that freedom today is akin to a round bale left in the field? In time it just rots away.

What if American freedom was conceived and then grew in a window of time that is closing or even closed years ago? What if our freedom is wheat sown in the desert?

As the apple is a product of the apple tree, we cannot but help be a product of our people in the time and space in which they exist.

If I was born to Mongolian parents on the steppes in the mid-10th century, I would likely be quite the outdoorsman, be able to ride a pony while doing a handstand, consider my rare pony steak overcooked and prefer my pony milk straight from the udder and blood straight from the vein.

I also would likely be tough as rawhide and consider piling the freshly severed heads of my enemy’s families into a pyramid as the best of times and something well worth recalling to my grandchildren.

But let’s say that I am born in an American suburb to parents who were, as well. What if I have never known a moment of want or never seen and heard the flash and rumble of artillery beyond the horizon?

What if I have no concept of the origin of something as needful as food, nor of how it gets to the drive-through window from whence it comes?

What it I am perpetually overweight, frail or undersized, as were my parents before me and as are my children after me now, because of what we have consumed over the course of our lifetimes, in quantities as large as we wished?

What if I know little of what has come before and have no knowledge of past self-sacrifice or the heroic deeds of man?

What if I am dependent upon a vast and complex network of exchange for all that I must have and, just importantly, all that I have ever been accustomed to or valued?

What if I am only a small part of this network and do not begin to fully understand it or see my place in it?

How can I be anything but dependent and, if so, wholly dependent? How can I possibly be free or assert my freedom?


MARK ATKINS of Paris is a county native and the author of Women in Combat: Feminism Goes to War, available at His email address is

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