By Barnabas Firth
“Calvin and Hobbes”: those who don’t associate that title with a striped-shirted boy of questionable life motives and his paradoxical tiger have really missed out on one of the better things in life. But fear not! Being without exposure to Calvin and Hobbes is a remediable situation. A good bookstore could be the cure. Most of us who charted a course through American boyhood can see something of a reflection of it in Calvin. Fortunately for the wits of millions of American moms, Calvin is an exaggeration of raw boyhood. There’s a priceless comic frame in which Calvin imagines himself opening a present and finding a bomb. He hugs the bomb with a look of pure, triumphant joy. As I said, this is raw boyhood presented in exaggeration. Indeed, many of us can remember the thrills of receiving something that had some real power, though perhaps somewhat less than a bomb.
I was a young lad of perhaps seven or eight when I received my first two knives: A small two-bladed whittling knife and a mini Leatherman. There is nothing cooler than a Leatherman to a boy of that age. The possibilities are endless. The world is yours. You can measure things with the ruler etched into the edge, cut things, pull out slivers, file your nails – and other things, open cans, drive screws , and even unhook and kill fish at the river. All with one tool that slips cozily into the pocket. To a boy who had been entrusted with little more than plastic cutlery till then, it was like unlimited freedom in a pocket. For many years, I never went anywhere without that Leatherman which had my name engraved on it, courtesy of my dad. It stayed with me through several moves. Then, one day, I couldn’t find it. Life went on. I never got another Leatherman. I now have a wide assortment of knives for various purposes, from fishing knives to a fantasy knife which serves no conceivable purpose which wouldn’t be better served by another knife. But I never found a knife that attached itself to my pocket quite like it—the knife my father gave me—my Leatherman.
It was only a few days ago. Someone came and placed something in my hand. It was no longer solid silver. Despite the promise of being stainless, it was somewhat rusted. But it was stainless enough to clearly see my name engraved on it. My Leatherman had been found in an old box of tackle in the crawlspace of the family house. It needs oil and some steel wool, but it will again take its place in my pocket.
Also engraved on the knife are three letters, USA, denoting the nation which crafted this one-time wonder of a young boy. I grew up under the banner of this nation. I learned to love that banner and what it symbolized. As I read the story of how we were founded, and all the ways, such as the Bill of Rights, in which we set forth a standard of liberty that has been unmatched, I made a choice to defend conservatism. Not because I agree with every single thing that self-proclaimed conservatives say on radio and TV, but because Conservative simply means someone who holds onto a heritage too precious to give up. Our heritage of American liberty is precious enough that everyone who lives here should be proud to call themselves conservative. And as I have watched the path and policies of liberal progressives who think there is a better way through tight control, massive government programs, and breakdown of all institutions and authority that smack of oldness, it becomes clearer every day. Looking across the landscape of a nation with a government that would spy on every facet of its own people’s lives, and would mandate and regulate new aspects of our lives yearly, it is so clear everyone should be able to see: progressives are purposely throwing out the Leatherman our fathers gave us, and trying to convince us that plastic cutlery is actually better.
There is something precious intended for all people. There is something stainless enough that if we find it again we will see our names on it, for it was given to us, each of us, as individual Americans, by millions who fought and died, who spoke out, who sacrificed the best years of life and all they had to preserve it all. The legacy our fathers gave us: freedom.
Barnabas Firth has lived in Alaska for most of his life, both in the interior and on the coast. His paid occupation is in maintenance, but he occasionally leaves the world of maintaining to convey his thoughts in writing. He welcomes any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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