Are Liberty and Freedom Slowly Becoming Just Words?

So,  the fam and I went to Philadelphia, PA last weekend, the town that symbolizes the Freedom and Liberty of these great United States of America and we knew that we had to go and check out some wonderful pieces of our history. Why, I fondly remember visiting this fair city in 6th or 7th grade, back in 1984ish. It was so much fun! Each of these great historic places were right there, accessible to one and all. The Liberty Bell was outside and you could walk right up to it and no one could stop you. I would find out in later years that my and my husband’s ancestors have been here since the 1600’s and that his sixth great grandfather was a Captain in the Revolutionary War. Our family helped found this country and it’s our duty to take our daughter to see what her ancestors helped create – which is awesome, btw. So we leave our hotel in the windy March weather and trek across town to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the rest.

All is going well. We see a rather unique individual dressed like a purple bunny shouting about something in between chugging from a water bottle. Cool.  My daughter wants to have her picture taken with said bunny. I tell her no. We go into the Visitor’s Center and take some pics with some Colonial looking dudes. Then we attempt  go to the National Constitution Center and the annoyance begins. 

Let me explain that my husband is a man, therefore he always has a multi-tool with him. All able-bodied men should be able to fix things at any time. It isn’t too much to ask, I don’t see what the problem is. Every guy I ever knew carried either a knife or multi-tool. It could be used at a moment’s notice to cut an apple, unscrew a screw or pry something open. Phrases such as “Let me get my knife” or “hey, you got your knife on you?” were just part of normal, every day conversation. And at least once a year, boys would declare they needed a new one cause the one they had was shot. A guy leaving the house without one of  these things was like forgetting your cell phone. But not now, not anymore.

 Now every other place you go has a checkpoint because every other thing you have is a weapon. All of the historical places we go to have a line so that we can prepare to be searched and wanded. What that hell is that all about? They go through your purse, make you lift up your jacket and shirt so they can see your waist. I don’t let my kid go through my purse, so I should let some stranger do it? And ya know what? I don’t need anyone looking at my waist, thank you very much.

We figure we should at least see the Liberty Bell. If the hubby can’t get in, he’ll wait outside. “NO, screw that!” I say. This is his bell and he has every right to see it. We get in, I watch in disgust as some dude molests my purse – really, he should have bought her dinner for what he did to her. The spouse admits, right away that he has what is considered a “weapon” on him. One guard is ready to kick him out but another says that it’s fine. It was very gracious of him. The new home of the bell is very nice and serene. There are all kinds of artifacts and little bits of historical things in a sunlit hall that leads to the famous chime. My husband and daughter love it, but for me it’s just not the same. She should be outside, the way she used to be, in the open air. Anyone should be able to walk up to her at any time, no lines or checkpoints. I can understand that people carved so much out of the bell that she was in really, really bad shape but couldn’t they find another way rather than lock her up?

The whole experience did not make me feel free, it made me sad. Maybe I’m just romanticizing my past like we all do, the usual “life was better back in the old days” routine. Maybe it was always like this and I’m just fooling myself. I know that you couldn’t bring outside food and beverages anywhere, which everyone’s mom did anyway.  But this weekend reminded that this is how life is now, not just in Philadelphia, but everywhere in the United States.  When I heard two older women outside of a different site afterwards, discussing with irritation how they needed a ticket for this and there was a security checkpoint at that place too, they should just skip the whole thing and go somewhere else, it really drove home for me that my America is not the one I knew even twenty years ago, and it is not something my daughter will ever get to experience. She will live her entire life being checked and scanned and scrutinized. She won’t be able to go anywhere without being registered or stamped or made to wear a sticker or a tag or a paper bracelet. She won’t feel that there is anything wrong with it because she will never be able to say that she knew it any other way.

Here is your bell. It’s free. I won’t check your bag or your pants.

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