Freedom Burning

Sundown -- I can’t stand sundown anymore.

Sundown is when the car was found. No footprints, no tire marks leading in or out; just the car, smoldering out in an open field. But the car wasn’t all that had been set ablaze.

The car belonged to my uncle, a self-proclaimed hermit who lived down by the river. A hermit, no less, yet the kindest, gentlest person one could ever know. Some claim he was a bitter pill at times, the few times “they” attempted to interact with him. But “they” say a lot publicly about people they don’t really know, don’t they.

If I were to make an opinion known, I believe it was “they” who left him there, burning inside that old run down car in the open field. The media reported he killed himself after setting the car on fire. But, I choose not to believe them.

The car had been burning for some time before a passing sheriff saw the glow of the aftermath. There were houses nearby. Of course, “nearby” in the farm lands can be a good mile away. Still, country folk have a way of noticing things and why no one but a passing sheriff noticed the black smoke that must have been billowing up high into the sky on a windless, cloudless day before the sun completely set is beyond me. Especially since there was a county-wide burn ban on that day in the drought-stricken area.

I’m told that gossip is as much a binder holding communities together as it is a pestilence. I am also told that is just the way the “theys” of the world like it. But I suspect it was more than just gossip that got him killed in the end. I think it was a fear of freedom. “Freedom,” he once said, “cannot survive very easily in a world ruled by opinionated ignorance.”

There are so many people with opinions these days. Gossip seems to be running the world. There is even talk of building a country-wide border wall and bringing back internment camps based on religion like the nationality camps of World War II in what is supposed to be the freest nation on the surface of Earth. I know about those camps because some of their remains still sit out in the fields close to where my uncle lived. He showed me the old water towers and concrete blocks that supported the housing where my grandparents were once detained. It was in one of those fields where they found my uncle’s car a few short days ago. Despite what the authorities say, I have a difficult time believing there isn’t a connection.

My uncle would not have gone quietly. He would have stood up to the “theys” of the world; perhaps, he finally did. Had he a voice today, my uncle would have told you about a past we could all learn from. Instead, only the walls of a run-down cabin heard what he had to say during what often became the yelling fits that plagued him towards the end. "Fits" were what my mother called them.

If those walls could speak there’s no telling what words and lessons one might hear reflected from this man that once traveled to every continent. He might have given a speech on compassion and how to keep history from repeating itself as easily as a diatribe on the current state of a world that seems to have no obligation to compromise. Sadly, those walls are now as silent as his voice.

My uncle never missed sending a birthday card to me with a letter enclosed until this year, on this day, that a car set burning, out in an open field at sundown. But, his body, in his car, was not what was ablaze on this day — it was freedom burning.

Sundown — I can’t stand sundown anymore.