Escape from Freedom

Today, as I write, the orange man (now blonde) who stole our election on behalf of the Russians held a meeting with Russian diplomats. He allowed only one press organization to cover and release photos. I asked some reasonably well-informed, smart people what press organization they thought it might be. They answered, Fox News.

Of course, their answer was nonsense. Fox News is clueless. It always has been. It’s run by a group of non-native Americans (their countries of origin are China and Australia) who have their own idiosyncratic ideas about what they want the USA to become. Their women parade around on camera half-dressed; recent lawsuits have disclosed that executives use many of them for sex. They pretend to be patriots and Christians. Of course, anyone who isn’t deaf, dumb, and blind knows they are neither. They aren’t reporters either. Cheerleaders for GOP politicians is a better descriptor.

No, the correct answer is TASS, the Russian news agency, which is an arm of the Russian government. TASS made the press announcements. They released the photographs. And of course, life goes on. No one seems to care. On Tuesday, the FBI director—who led the investigation into ties between our leaders and Russian mafia-oligarchs—was fired.

On Wednesday (today), we learned that it was the president—he remains under investigation—who fired the FBI director; he celebrated by meeting with his Russian friends. They all wore black suits, as if to highlight their bonds of power. The president lied, it turns out, about both the process and his reasons, according to members of his own staff who leaked to major news outlets.

The president’s bodyguard who delivered the FBI director’s pink slip.

The FBI director learned that he had been dismissed when he saw the announcement on television—the place where all of us get the news we trust most. He thought it was a prank. He was preaching, apparently, to a new class of recruits somewhere in southern California. He read the announcement on the scrolling news ribbon. Later, one of the president’s civilian body guards hand-delivered the director’s pink slip. One report claimed that the leader of the FBI hired a commercial aircraft to make his escape home. (ABC News reported that he was able to secure a government plane.)

Unless the Russians go door to door arresting people, no one will ever care—certainly no one in the GOP, it seems. The typical American lives inside a psychotic bubble of evil. Some act like they’ve lost the ability to assess realistic threats to their way of life; to the things they hold dear. They’ve watched too much television, too many movies, too much pornography; they’ve explored too many fake news sites—sites designed by experts to manipulate them into believing absurdities.  

The typical American takes too many drugs—some wake up with caffeine and amphetamines; some struggle through stressful work days that last way too long; they sustain themselves by swallowing tranquilizers or derivatives of heroin like oxycodone; some put themselves to sleep with barbiturates or alcohol or both. Some drugs are prescribed; they’re necessary. Others are illegal. It doesn’t seem to matter. The appetite for drugs is massive; Americans spend billions of dollars every year for drugs they shouldn’t be taking.

Howard Hughes (1905-1976) inherited the Hughes Tool Company. It became the nexus of a defense contractor empire worth billions of dollars.

Many Americans would strap syringes to their arms if they believed that no one would notice—as did Howard Hughes, the billionaire industrialist from yesteryear. Some readers may recall that our government confiscated his many businesses to make it easier to build and secure our country’s infamous war machine; the process drove Howard insane; he became dependent on drugs only they could reliably supply to keep him docile and compliant. He lived his last days wearing Kleenex boxes on his feet, because the tissues cushioned his arches and comforted him.

Howard Hughes watched movies all day long, movies he once produced; they often featured his long-lost Hollywood friends. When he felt sad, which was often, he tapped the end of the plungers in the syringes strapped to his arms. Sometimes he cried. 

The Mormon FBI agents who baby-sat him allowed him to wallow. They left him to himself, for the most part. He never traveled, unless they took him. He never fled his gilded prison. His addictions made flight impossible. He might as well have been left to die on a sandbar in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. He dropped off the face of the earth. Members of Congress, some of them, worried about him.

The public was asking, Did Howard Hughes die?  He had vanished from view like a ghost. No one ever saw him. He must be dead, some argued. Others knew better. They arranged a phone call with his handlers—to allay the fears of those few who believed that bad actors held him against his will. Some powerful congress members wanted to know the truth and share it with the public.

During the call—which was broadcast to the world via speaker-phone before a full congressional gathering—Howard said that he was OK. He was alive. Someone asked, almost as an afterthought, if he was happy. His reply stunned Congress into silence. He answered, No… I’m not happy. 

The phone called ended, and that was that. A few years later, Howard died. The coroner said that he found broken needles embedded in the bones of Howard’s arms and legs. He weighed less than ninety pounds.

Erich Fromm published the book Escape from Freedom in 1941. It was a required read in my high school during the 1960s, which was a long time ago—for some people. It seems like yesterday to me.

Fromm was a German psychoanalyst who argued that true freedom, if it ever came, would scare people so bad that they would embark on an unhealthy search for security; for certainty. The search would be a kind of escape; a frantic fleeing from the painful dissonance that the dissimilarity between people with disparate values can inflict.

This discord intensified inside the USA during the past decade or so. Does anyone really want to go through the list of things that Americans hate about each other? Must I mention gay marriage, abortion, liberal politics, civilian access to weapons of war, religion, race, ethnicity, politics, viewing habits, Facebook rants, Twitter smears, and on and on?

People follow; they unfollow; they block; they unblock. They flip channels. Nothing works; nothing helps. Erectile dysfunction, for example, is a subject that is thrust into everyone’s faces; into the deepest recesses of our subconscious minds. It’s relentless. It’s discussed with commercial intensity on every media channel. People who watch sports programming can’t escape it. 

No one can turn off the voices that are driving us mad, because the people who manipulate the public don’t agree with our points of view; with our sense of life. Do I suffer from erectile dysfunction? No; Hell no! I wish I never heard the term.

Do I yearn for a leader; a guide; someone to stand things up; to set things right?  Yes. Of course I do. But it seems like Christ is not going to visit anytime soon. Maybe a Second Coming is fantasy. Maybe we’ve been stood up. Maybe we need a Führer. Yeah, that’s it.

I said earlier that I borrowed this essay’s title from the book of the same name published in 1941 by the German-born psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm. I don’t know if the book is required reading today or not; perhaps it should be; better books might have replaced it. 

I considered a different title; I did. Maybe the Stockholm Syndrome would have been better. It’s about the ten percent of hostages who take on the values of their tormentors. I thought and thought. No; Escape from Freedom was best.

At least for now.

Billy Lee

Note from the Editorial Board: The details of the life of Howard Hughes included in Billy Lee’s essay are based on his memories of events as recorded in press accounts written and televised in real time as they were unfolding. Billy Lee’s memories do not in every case align with current historical accounts, because the history of Howard’s life has been reconstructed and fictionalized by many sources—according to Billy Lee. Billy Lee believes current accounts are revisionist, and in some particulars may in fact be inaccurate. Billy Lee witnessed the congressional interview with Mr. Hughes as it occurred.  

Billy Lee

About Billy Lee

Billy Lee is a retired machine designer. His bona-fides include: raised a Navy brat; former anti-Vietnam War activist; Francophile; math lover; Egyptology enthusiast; MSU grad; likes Blues and Culver’s fish sandwiches; father; grandfather; married to Bev, his best friend; Christian—but loves Obama, Hillary, and the gay people. Biggest problem facing civilization?—lack of CAPS on income, which permit the wealthy to loot corporations and public institutions. Possession by anyone of excessive wealth must be a felony enforced by international courts. The alternative is to continue the widespread poverty and human misery that have plagued civilization from before forever.

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