John Duffy




Ben Folds Five:


Freedom Isn’t

This is the light of autumn, not the light of spring. /…How privileged you are, to be still passionately / clinging to what you love; the forfeit of hope has not destroyed you. / This is the light of autumn; it has turned on us. / Surely it is a privilege to approach the end / still believing in something.
—Louise Glück

No intelligent radical can fail to realize the need of the rational education of the young. …Only by freeing education from compulsion and restraint can we create the environment for the manifestation of the spontaneous interest and inner incentives on the part of the child. ...It will produce men and women capable, in the words of Francisco Ferrer, “of evolving without stopping, of destroying and renewing their environment without cessation; of renewing themselves also; always ready to accept what is best, happy in the triumph of new ideas, aspiring to live multiple lives in one life.”
—Alexander Berkman

It’s lunchtime and the military’s back.  Their operation is bigger than before. There’s a chin-up bar with streamers on it.  A crowd has formed. Only 10 minutes until 5th hour. A woman in an army uniform is directing traffic.  The medals she’s wearing suggest that she’s seen active combat, one kid says. Behind her, a middle-aged man eyes potential candidates.  He’s wearing a grey suit and a light blue tie. His hands are crossed in front of him and his nose is in the air. He looks like a TV mob boss.

One kid signals that he’s ready to participate.  He writes his name on the sign-up list. The challenge requires it.  If you win, you get a water bottle emblazoned with a military logo. Lose, and the crowd will laugh at you.  No water bottle. But your name remains on the list.

The kid wins and the crowd cheers.  The girls in front take pictures and shout in excitement.  The line of hopeful boys now stretches all the way to the bathroom doors.  Two other Marines step in to man the desk. An unsure boy asks one of the Marines about his gun.  They start a conversation, and the Marine urges the boy to sign the list. I’d rather not, the boy says.  I can’t do a chin-up. Don’t worry, the Marine says. We’ll give you a call and maybe we can talk guns or something.  The boy beams. A connection.

The spectacle continues.  TV mob guy whispers to the woman in uniform.  He saw two boys who looked interested but who then walked away.  Her pursuit lasts less than a minute. Have you considered the challenge, she asks.  The boys look at each other and shrug. She points back to the crowd, to the girls, to the water bottles.  The boys are quietly escorted to the front of the line. They sign their names, compete, and win. Water bottles for them, too.