On the Day I Die
By Deborah Marie Pulaski
As told to Claire Wolfe
Deborah Marie Pulaski, mother and freedom fighter,
died November 19, 1997, age 54.
This week I learned I'm
dying. Of course I've always known, in the everyday, human
sense, that I was going to die. But this week I learned
I am going to die "soon." In a year or so at most, I won't
be on this planet. No more breathing. No more Zinfandel
or chocolate cake. No hugs. No sorrows. I won't ever again
have to worry whether there's a run in my stocking when
I go to a meeting with the boss, or whether I remembered
to send a birthday card to my best friend's husband.
It's a peculiar thought, looking at my
own death, so close. But you know, it isn't a bad thought,
all things considered.
I'm 53 years old. That isn't old. I might
have had another 30 years, if one little cell hadn't decided
to start mutating out of control a while back. But 53
is old enough to have lived a good life. It's long enough
to have become a full person, without all those "who am
I's" and "what do I want to do with my life's" that make
youth so over-rated.
It's enough time to have loved -- both
in the frantic, desperate way of being young, and in the
comfortable way of being an adult. That's been an amazing,
and a very happy, transition.
But I don't want to talk about love. I
want to talk about freedom.
Well, I guess that means I *do* want to
talk about love. Because I love freedom more than I love
anything. Really, more than I ever loved my husband. Even
more than I love my kids -- and I think they'll understand
and forgive me for saying so, even though that statement
might require a little more explaining for strangers who
might be reading this.
I have to say it again. I love freedom
more than I love anything. More than I ever loved anything.
And that's what makes the thought of dying so bitter,
and at the same time, so welcome.
I guess that idea is going to take some
explaining, too. Claire, tell them about me. I've never
been able to write, or even talk all that well about things
that matter to me. So you tell people what kind of person
I am. Make them understand.
I've always been a political junky. You
know me. Like some women shop, I do politics. No, that
isn't putting it right. Not at all. I do politics...I
guess I'd better say I used to do politics...because I
couldn't stand still and let "them" take away our world.
You know, the types who aren't happy unless they're running
other people's lives.
When I ran into a neighbor, co-worker
or family member like that, I could just say, "Sayonara,
Baby" and avoid them. But the people who really got to
me were the ones who wanted to make endless rules for
the whole country, the whole world, and make everybody
else obey them. Just obey, all the time.
I swear, you know, that these people don't
even care what the particular rules are. They just like
making and enforcing rules "because." For the power. For
the control. For their other powerful, controlling friends.
So they can all feel important and be in charge.
So I always had to try to stop those people.
But there wasn't any stopping them. I found that out.
God, I wish I were a writer like you or
a great orator or a wizard about the law or something
like that. I wish I could have done something big during
my life. But you know me, I was never anything but a little
precinct worker, a drone, a little deputy voter registrar,
doorbeller, meeting attender, envelope licker. One of
those women you see in every campaign and every organization,
never getting noticed and never particularly wanting to
be. Just wanting to make the world freer -- or at least
keep a little bit of the world away from the people who
want to make it less free.
It was really kind of stupid, looking
back on it, because nearly all of the people who said
they believed in freedom turned around and, once they
got in office, acted exactly like the other guys. They
didn't really want less government and more freedom. They
just wanted to be the ones in control. But I just had
to try, didn't I? Anyway, I did try. Just about all my
God, that expression "just about all my
life" has a different ring all of a sudden. It really
has been just about "all" my life. Will be just about
all my life.
I wanted freedom so much. I wanted it
just so that I and my kids could live an ordinary life.
Making a living. Paying our way. Doing what we wanted
to do, within the bounds of polite behavior to our neighbors.
Just to live, without being ordered around, threatened
or tangled up in red tape every time we tried to do something.
I didn't have any spectacular ambitions. I just wanted
to be let alone to live a peaceful life.
I have two daughters, you know. They're
both in their early 20s right now. The youngest one, Edyie,
was always a dreamer. She had all the ideas and ambitions
I didn't dare to have. I remember, as a little kid, she
swore she was going to go live on Venus someday. Then,
when she learned Venus was really this awful place, she
pouted for about two days, then switched to Mars. She
figured we could colonize Mars. I don't know whether that's
realistic or not, but I always wanted to see Edyie get
the chance to try, if that's what she wanted to
do. I wanted her to have the chance to try anything her
wild little imagination could dream up. Maybe she'd fail.
But maybe she'd succeed. And isn't that what keeps the
human race moving? Edyie, impossible though she can be
at times, is the kind of person who keeps the human race
from sitting on its dead butt, getting nowhere.
But Edyie isn't going to have the chance,
unless something comes out of the blue to turn things
around. Edyie's never going to get to Mars. Heck, she
isn't even going to get a chance to build a little earthbound
business because she's too independent to jump through
all the hoops the government requires. Yeah, I can just
see my Edyie filling out forms in triplicate, collecting
taxes from her employees and begging for government licenses
-- NOT! She isn't going to get a chance to make many personal
choices -- beyond what brand of soap or TV to buy -- because
our choices are being limited day by day, and everywhere
you turn, you run into something illegal. Maybe even something
that was legal yesterday, but is illegal today, thanks
to some regulation nobody ever heard of. She just won't
put up with that -- but I don't know what she'll do instead.
I used to dream, as I worked on all those
campaigns, that someday I'd win back the right for Edyie
to have the risky, but hope-filled future she craved.
When I thought about dying, someday, it was with regret
that I might not live to see Edyie go to Mars or to accomplish
whatever other big thing she wanted to do.
But now I don't have any of those regrets,
because it isn't going to happen.
Even three years ago, I wouldn't have
said that. I'd still have said, "Darnit, there's hope.
Freedom is just common sense. We'll win." But some of
the things that have happened in the last couple of years
make that all different. No, don't say "things that have
happened." They didn't just *happen*. People in government
did them to us. On purpose.
In the last couple of years, they finally
did what they'd been moving toward for a long time. They
passed the laws that just plain make us slaves.
They did it, and hardly anybody's even
talking about it. That's what amazes me. For one thing,
they passed a law that makes our driver's licenses into
national ID cards. They're doing it right now, while we
sit here talking. A year or two after I'm gone, all you
people who are left are all going to have to carry around
cards with all your numbers and fingerprints and retinal
scans and "personal data" coded on them. The law says
so. You won't be able to cash a check or get a passport
without supplying your "biometric data" to the government
or the bank. I thought it was some big conspiracy story
when I first heard it. But it's true and it's happening.
And where are all the people screaming to stop it?
And they've now got this database that
everybody who gets a job gets put into. Some national
database in some big stone building in Washington where
they'll know where everybody works, all the time. They
said it was to track "deadbeat dads." Yeah. Then why are
they going to put Edyie and my other daughter Pat and
everybody else into it? Since when are they, or you, or
I "deadbeat dads"?
Along these same lines, they've even got
what they call "pilot programs" to make people get permission
from the federal government *before* they can get jobs.
Employers in these "pilot programs" have to get scanners
to let the federal government check people's Social Security
numbers before they can hire anybody. Isn't that just
great? Some bureaucrat in the Social Security Administration
or someplace gets to decide whether you can work or not.
And this other database. All your medical
records are going to go into some other big, stone building
in Washington. That's going to be on line about the time
I go, too. Any old bureaucrat who wants to look at them
can see them. You can't, of course. But they can.
All this stuff is real. It's not
in some novel about the future or in some right-wingy
pamphlet. It's in the law. It's in America. Right
now. They did it all in the last couple of years. Mostly
by sneaking a paragraph or a page into bigger laws when
nobody was looking.
And what's all this about? Is it really
to help "welfare moms" or to keep illegal immigrants from
taking other people's jobs? Oh, c'mon! This is about one
thing. It's about slavery.
They give you a citizen registration number
shortly after birth. As soon as you get old enough to
start moving around, doing things and making decisions
on your own, they make sure that they're in a position
to know every move you make, to record every transaction,
to examine your whole life's record any time some bureaucrat
gets curious. They not only want to know where you are
at any given moment -- where you're working and living
and banking -- but to make sure you can't work someplace
if they don't want you to.
And they even want to be able to check
up on your health. That one seems especially silly. I
mean, why should some bureaucrat in Washington give a
hoot about how some woman's pregnancy is going, or whether
some man is boozing it up a bit more than he should? Or
whether a middle-aged lady is dying of cancer or not?
What business is it of theirs, and why should they even
want to bother? But it makes sense when you realize what
they're really doing. After all, if you own animals, of
course you want to make sure your property has got all
its vaccinations, is producing healthy offspring, and
isn't being overfed or something.
It's just like a modern-day farmer, keeping
track of his cows or pigs on his computer. You want to
know they're healthy and whether they're producing as
much as they can for you. So you track them. Track everything
about them. They belong to you, after all. If you're a
kindly, efficient farmer, of course you want to watch
over your livestock.
There've been a lot of bad laws passed
in my lifetime, Claire. Sometimes I thought, "This is
just the worst, the worst. It can't get any more horrible
than this." But these laws, that authorized all this tracking,
are really the final thing. They're the declaration that
the people in Washington own us. That's all. They're plain
and simply saying we're their property.
There are going to be a lot more bad laws,
yeah. Really bad ones that will follow these and will
be possible because of these. But before this, the bad
laws were passed against free people. After this, the
laws are passed to control slaves.
Neither of my girls has children yet.
Like every mother, I always wanted them to get going and
do it, you know. I wanted my grandbabies! Now! Believe
me, I had to bite my lip a lot to keep from nagging them
about it, like some mothers do.
But to be absolutely honest, now I wish
neither one of them would have children. I don't think
Edyie will. We've talked about this. She's a lot like
me in some ways, and I think she won't bring a child into
a country like this one is becoming.
Now my other daughter -- we always called
her Practical Patty -- probably will have children someday.
I've kind of given Patty short shrift in talking about
all this. She was the sort of daughter who never gave
any trouble and was more interested in doing well in band
and glee club than in thinking about all the *heavy* things.
Her big dreams were just of having a nice little job someday,
then getting married to a decent sort of guy, having a
nice house and, yeah, children. So all this won't affect
Patty as much as it will Edyie, or as much as it would
have affected me if I'd have lived to see it all come
to fruition. To Patty's mind, it isn't "sensible" to worry
about things like this.
So Patty will have children, and I can
only hope that at least their lives will be comfortable,
if they can't be free. Maybe they'll be well-fed, well-cared-for
little citizens. And maybe I should hope they turn out
to be the kind of people who don't think or question too
much. Because if they're the other kind -- like me or
Edyie -- their lives will be miserable.
The next step, you know, after getting
ownership of your slaves or cows is to punish or cull
out the ones that don't fit the mold...that make trouble,
or that don't produce the way you want them to. If you
aren't "nice," the Social Security Administration can
just "lose" your records, or the health care people can
just diddle your medical history around so you look like
a mental case. Then they can "help" you to death. So I
guess for that reason, I should hope those grandbabies
I won't live to see are quiet, obedient sheep.
But damnit, if there are grandbabies,
I hope they'll be as stubborn and freethinking as their
Aunt Edyie, and that they'll find a better way of fighting
for freedom than their Grandma Deb ever could. Let their
lives be worth something deep and true, not just the "worth"
of good livestock or laborers. If they fight, maybe they
won't live happily or long. But if they have to live at
all, I hope those little kids live bravely, in spite of
all the odds against them. The poor souls.
Do you remember the hymn, "The Old Rugged
Cross"? It's been on my mind a lot since I got the verdict.
When I was little, I thought it was such a beautiful song.
I knew it was partly about dying, and about being at peace
in dying because of the singer's beliefs, but I didn't
completely understand it.
There was this line, "Till my trophies
at last I lay down." I knew it meant "when I die." But
since I didn't have any "trophies" and couldn't figure
out what giving up awards had to do with dying, I put
my own little girl interpretation on it. I figured the
word had to be "trophis," and that it was some fancy,
adult word meaning "body." Well, Claire, I'll tell you.
In a year or so, when I lay this middle-aged "trophis"
down for the last time, I won't have any regrets for myself.
On the day I die, I'll be able to say I've done all I
could. I tried, even though most of what I did turned
out to be misguided and ineffective. And even though I'd
try something different -- and a lot less "nice" -- if
I could do it over again, I won't regret leaving the world
the politicians just created. I don't want to see it.
I don't want to live in it.
But my grandbabies will be born as slaves.
And oh God, I regret that. And I regret not being around
to protect them.