"He is free who knows how to keep in his own hands the power to decide at each step, the course of his life, and who lives in a society which does not block the exercise of that power." ~ Salvador De Madariaga
Daddy's Special French Toast
The Sunday morning ritual in the Robertson household is a simple but important one; that is the day when daddy makes breakfast for the kids. Sometimes my five-year-old daughter requests Brahms for the music selection, or perhaps my seven-year-old son asks for Mozart, but most often I make the choice of jazz on WFNX radio. While the coffee brews I whip up a batch of Daddy's Special French Toast (one drop of vanilla per egg, nutmeg, allspice, Vienna bread, and a dusting of cinnamon as it cooks on a well buttered griddle and served with the last of my father's homemade maple syrup), listening to the kids make up jokes, or perhaps playing a game of "wrong way capitals". My youngest delights in asking me such things as, "Hey dad, what's the capital of Beijing?" with a bit of a mischievous twinkle in her eye, and in mock rage I pull on my hair and say, "Grrrr! Beijing doesn't HAVE a capital! It IS the capital of China!" The game continues with the kids supplying various capitals (I love it when they remember to ask "What's the capital of Ouagadougou?" Yes, they're homeschooled) and dad supplying the over-the-top theatrics.
Very often, though, my son will broach a subject that allows a more thoughtful response, and I take pleasure in hearing him apply reason to a moral issue as we discuss matters of right and wrong, and quite often how that differs from legal versus illegal. There was a time when seven was not all that young of an age to introduce children to the complexities of moral issues, and I recall the depth of feeling and the wide-ranging swirl of questions and thoughts evoked by my own viewing at that age of the movie "Cool Hand Luke" at the drive-in on the Lynnway in Lynn, Massachusetts. Paul Newman's character killed people because his government told him to, pinned a medal on his chest for it and yet threw him on a chain gang when he finally broke from the internal pressure of his guilt. As a young boy I understood the morality play that was acted out in that superb film; I recognized the moral cowardice of the guards and Luke's quiet condemnation when he said, "Calling it your job don't make it right, boss."
And so, my son openly faces questions of right and wrong, morality and immorality, and the consequence of actions; his own self-directed actions as well as the actions of those supposedly acting in his interest. Questions of right action as it pertains to self-defense are a constant at our house. I teach him the libertarian value of the non-inititation of aggression, but also stress the importance of self-defense (he has a blue belt in Tae Kwon Do). We have also discussed the war on terrorism, the attacks of September 11th, and the build-up to war against Iraq. In all of our discussions I've been very careful not to frighten him with horrific visions or instill a sense of vague fear of the future, but neither have I shielded him from the truth of what happens in wartime; the death of innocents, the destruction of homes, businesses and hills, and the costs, monetary and moral, incurred by such an action to all involved.
These talks are rare, and generally at quieter, more reflective moments in the day and usually not over our Sunday morning breakfast. In any case, discussions of the serious matter of FREEDOM in the Robertson household are of much greater complexity than simply attaching the word to fries or egg-covered bread. I really don't care what the ridiculous clowns on Capitol Hill have to say; in our house we will have Daddy's Special FRENCH toast as we carry the spirit of freedom where it belongs; in our hearts.