OPINION COLUMNS

The freedom to chase rabbits

By Jimmy Alford | Published Saturday, March 22, 2014

As I nursed my aching shoulder the other night, I came to realize rabbits are jerks.

I don’t know if the upcoming Easter holiday has got them all acting frisky or what, but they have been out in droves along the path I walk my dogs, specifically my deceptively strong beagle Chloe.

Jimmy Alford

Jimmy Alford

Of course, I was also thinking what a jerk I was for not letting Chloe do exactly what generations of genetics have programmed her to do. I’m selfish, though.

I know how it will play out. I’ve had beagles all my life, and I’ve hunted with them. One chase would turn into an all-night affair of her tracking down more bunnies and chasing them. Even if she caught one, it wouldn’t end there.

The worst and most likely outcome would be she’d chase that rabbit across one of the busy streets that surround the park.

That might not happen, but I’m not willing to risk it. She is part of the family. That small degree of separation is all that matters.

Still, I am denying her the simplest joys of being a beagle, all because I’m worried about her safety. I doubt she understands. I know she dreams of those rabbits. I can tell from the intermittent woofing and twitching legs while she sleeps.

That is what we as human beings do though – we try to control the world around us. We succeed some of the time and fail miserably other times.

The most difficult level of control still eludes us: the control of other people. It’s not for the lack of trying. I’m glad we haven’t achieved this level of domination, at least not totally.

Many will argue we are all “sheeple” instead of people and blindly follow the rules, whether they’re right or not. Hollywood has made a mint off movies that chastise the human race for that very thing. But it’s all fiction.

I must admit, we are controlled to a large extent. There are many things we can’t do because of the seemingly endless glut of rules.

But humans have a tremendous amount of freedom. And whether we think so or not, we are living fairly freely in the most peaceful period of human history.

We have seen fewer deaths because of war in the past decade or so than in any other decade in past 100 years. Even before that, it wasn’t unusual for whole civilizations to be crushed and dispersed, or a quarter of all men killed in wars.

Does less violence mean we are bending more under the yokes of our masters than ever before? I don’t think so. History is full of examples of monarchs and warlords imposing stringent rules upon their people, often without even being questioned.

For the most part, we can question our rulers and protest. With the advent and spread of the Internet, people’s voices echo around the world louder than ever before.

In the United States, we have even more opportunity to grouse and be heard. The First Amendment guarantees our ability to criticize those in power and the rules they impose. We have the power to affect change directly, too – by voting.

The only shortcomings of our system start with us. We are the kink. Either we complain and take no action or we aim our barbs at the wrong people.

We end up chasing rabbits – but I think for most of us, that’s enough.

As I tugged and dragged Chloe back down the path she stared and balked, trying to get back to her rabbit-chasing.

I’m pretty sure she would have been much happier if I had let her go.

Jimmy Alford is a graphic designer, reporter and photographer for the Messenger.

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