Have you ever visited the monuments in Washington, D.C.? My husband and I were there a few years ago. Most American are familiar with the monuments, from the dignity of the seated Abraham Lincoln to the clean lines of the Washington Monument, but there is something about actually standing beside and within them that will give you pause. The war memorials are especially poignant. The openness of the WWII memorial, with all the sections for the different theatres of the war, contrasts mightily with the starkness of the Vietnam wall, where the prevailing feature is the quiet weeping that often disturbs the utter silence that surrounds it.
Of all the majestic and beautiful monuments that crowd the District of Columbia, the one that stood out to me was the memorial to the Korean conflict. The sight of those life-size soldiers marching through rice paddies, on constant lookout for the enemy, brought a chill to my spine the first time I saw them. My husband was drawn to one of the walls close to the soldiers. There, carved in granite, were the words, "Freedom isn't free," three words that remind us of the cost of the freedoms we enjoy in this country, no matter its problems and issues that currently divide us.
The old adage says, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." How true that is. Nothing in this life is free. Everything has its price, and that price can be anything from money or goods to the personal, such as a person's attention or time, or even their very life.
Freedom is one of the themes of the story of Huckleberry Finn. Huckleberry is all about freedom; he wants to be free of the well-meaning constrictions of the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, free of his overbearing, drunken father, and free of the expectations of the townspeople of St. Petersburg. The slave Jim yearns for freedom from slavery. The Duke and the King are in the business of swindling other people out of their money and possessions so they can gain the freedom they believe comes with wealth. Nearly every character in the story is striving for their own version of the good life that comes with freedom.
But each version of freedom comes with its price. Let's look at it. Huck's freedom comes along with both the sorrow of his friends and family when they believe him dead and the death of his father. Jim's freedom comes from the sacrifice of his friends, including Tom's being shot in the leg, and also through the death of Miss Watson. The Duke and the King pay the ultimate price for their own freedom-their own wounding and death. No one in the story is handed that "good life" that comes with freedom on a silver platter.
Whenever I am tempted to throw up my hands and give up on our country as a whole, as we struggle through fiscal calamity and moral stagnation, I am reminded of how blessed we are to have the freedoms that do remain to us: to be able to think and believe and speak as we wish, whether our thoughts and beliefs follow the crowd or not. We are still free to gather to worship as our hearts dictate. We can still come together to celebrate the joy given us by music and the theatre arts. These freedoms to come and go as we please are most often taken for granted in our country. They are not always "givens"; men and women have given their blood, sweat, and tears so that the generations following them can live in the bright light of the freedom that is never, ever free.
You can exercise your freedom this week (and over the next two weeks) by calling (419) 238-9689 between 2 and 6 on weekdays and making your reservation to see Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at the Van Wert Civic Theatre. The show opens on Thursday, Jan. 24, and runs through Saturday, Feb. 9. The full show schedule, as well as a complete season calendar, is available on the theatre's website: www.vwct.org. Don't wait too long - tickets are selling fast!
See you at the show!