Jan. 9th, 2011

A few topically relevant comments on this fine morning:

Long ago an exceptional gardener, one Thomas Jefferson by name, said "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants". This is an excellent bit of gardening lore, and many people hold this truism near and dear to their hearts. I think a few caveats should be mentioned, however, because this statement does not encapsulate the sum and total of all knowledge a good gardener must have when caring for their household tree of liberty.

First and most important: DO NOT OVERWATER. The tree of liberty was only able to germinate, sprout and flourish in a relatively arid climate, blood-wise. Oh, sure, we had a good soaking of the ground during the initial planting in 1775-1776, but after that the tree of liberty needed a fairly dry period to really take root and sprout into the fine, full-foliaged specimen it is today. Take a look at the Ivory Coast; those people have been pouring buckets of blood on their tree for the last few decades, and they haven't sprouted so much as a leaf; why would one ever want to follow their example? The general rule should be: unless the tree is falling over, and all its leaves have dropped off, and it looks like it's going to die unless you give it more blood, then it doesn't need any more blood.

Second: the tree of liberty needs to be fed with lots of things on a regular basis. Thanks to Jefferson people focus on the blood, when there's plenty of more useful substances you could be pouring on the roots. Education, for instance. The tree of liberty needs regular, liberal fertilizing with an emulsion of basic-level population-wide education. It's an essential nutrient without which the tree of liberty withers. Another good thing to do is to aerate the base with regular doses of public health care, because if the roots of the tree of liberty aren't healthy, the tree must inevitably die.

Finally, I wish the same people who were baying for "more blood, more blood" would stop trying to overzealously overprune the tree of liberty. I happen to believe the tree of liberty is perfectly beautiful in its natural state. It's had 235 years to grow into the shape it's in. I don't see why people need to be so excited about keeping the tree small and removing major limbs. Some people are so paranoid about the tree of liberty taking over their entire garden and intruding on their lives; they keep pointing over the wall to where the Soviets planted kudzu that one time. Look, this is the tree of liberty we're talking about. We grew it from nothing. We sheltered it and fed it and let it grow to shade our house. We swing our children from its lowest branches. Why are we afraid of it?

I'll conclude by saying that people in general could do a lot better job of tending to the tree of liberty. If you perceive a fungus on the leaves, or some kind of blight, or caterpillars are clustering on the trunk, the answer is not necessarily to run for the blood of tyrants and patriots. You could do more harm than good that way. Also, we like our patriots, and genuine tyrants are fairly scarce in these parts. If you're really concerned about caring for the tree of liberty, start by working with your fellow gardeners. Look for real solutions together. Stop fighting over the best methods of tree care, act like adults, and reach for compromise solutions. Then we can really start taking care of the tree that all of us love, or at least claim to love.

No more blood, thanks!

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