A Lesson in Freedom…

Following last week’s assault on the US Capitol, CNN released this video of sequestered Republicans refusing to accept or wear masks offered by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. At the time, the room was occupied by close to 100 members hiding from the insurrectionists. Less than a week later, at least four people in that room, including a 75-year-old cancer survivor, tested positive for Covid-19.

In an Op-Ed last week, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote, “Refusing to wear a mask is no more a “personal choice” than is drinking all evening and then stumbling into your car and heading down the road. In a time of plague, shunning a face mask is like driving drunk, putting everyone in your path in danger.”

Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, the blond woman snickering at the Speaker’s offer, believes mask mandates are an infringement on her personal freedom. I want to introduce her to a friend of mine who could teach her a lesson about freedom.

This is, D (name withheld for privacy reasons), a friend of mine who is married to a Navy pilot colleague. D was born, raised, and educated in the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik), East Germany. In the 1970s she was an orthodontist–part of the professional class–in that totalitarian state, but she dreamed of freiheit/freedom.

She’d likely teach Rep. Greene how it feels when the government owns your freedom and it’s dangerous to express your opinion and you can’t travel freely. She’d probably ask Ms. Greene about images she’s seen of immigrants and their children in cages on the Texas border, about why CBP incarcerates people whose only crime was seeking freedom from dangerous and repressive governments in Central America. She’d probably point out that’s the kind of thing authoritarian governments do.

But her own story is like something out of a Len Deighton or John LeCarre’ spy thriller. The Berlin Wall was nearly 12 feet high and approximately 27 miles long, with 302 guard towers and 55,000 anti-personnel explosive devices (landmines) buried in the “Death Strip.” She was hemmed in by the Wall and needed a creative plan to escape – to cross over to freedom.

It began with scuba lessons in Berlin and plans to vacation at Hungarian and Black Sea resorts. For two years she did just that, but in year three she arrived in Hungary with her scuba gear in a duffle, but instead of heading to a dive resort she traveled up the Danube River to a spot across from Austria.

The geography is complicated. Hungary, Austria, and Slovakia converge near Bratislava. Hungary and Slovakia were satellite states of the USSR but Austria was beyond its reach. Her plan was to swim to Austria and freedom in the West. It was the culmination of her three year plan. She didn’t hesitate but waded into the river, swimming beneath its surface, calculating the distance and strength of the current until she reached the other side. If everything went right, she would be in Austria. If not she would be in serious trouble.

Yes, it was Austria. She had made it to freedom, but it meant leaving her family behind. She would not be allowed to visit East Germany and family members could not cross over to West Berlin until the Wall came down in 1989.

After her escape to the West, D built a successful orthodontic practice in West Berlin. Her fairy tale (although she wouldn’t describe it as such) took another positive turn when a French friend of mine brought her to my apartment. He met her while she was on vacation in Spain and wanted me to meet her. Another guest that night was my Navy pilot pal and when my French friend returned to Spain, he and D started a relationship that’s turned into a 35-year marriage.

So…with all due respect Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, you don’t know squat about freedom. You enjoy all the freedoms guaranteed by the US Constitution. Stop snickering, grow up, put a mask on (not this one) and do your job. My friend D is appalled by your behavior. She knows the price of freedom. I hope you don’t have to find it out in the same painful way.

Comments

  1. Thanks Jack. Good read. Hey! I got a Martin for Christmas! Well….I had to buy it for myself. But it sat in my kitchen in a box for a week until Christmas Day arrived!

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