Ben Stein's Diary

On Losing Freedom

Once it's gone, how do you get it back?

By 4.11.13

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Saturday
Fragments of a note I sent to my dear pal who is in drab confinement...

“All of your letters are moving, but the last several have been especially moving. You must be getting terribly worn down by this experience. You are being magnificently brave, though. You have impressed Alex and me more than ever. Still, it is obviously incredibly difficult to go through what you are going through. You have behaved with amazing courage and I know you will continue to do. It is probably easier if you are brave.

“Not that any part of it is easy.

“A friend took some old videotapes of mine and put them on DVD’s. I watched one of my parents visiting Alex and me in 1984. They seemed so young and happy it made me cry. I also had a DVD of my father talking about Clinton’s 1993 budget very animatedly and intelligently in 1993 and he looked the picture of health. Who would have dreamed he would be dead in six years and my mother two and a half years before that?

“I kept dreaming my father was alive all night last night and was reassuring me after I had gotten a bad medical diagnosis. When I awakened and he was not there, I was extremely upset. I was blessed to have had as good a relationship with my Pop as I did. My mother was acting very loving in the videos, too.

“All of this is trivia compared with your being in prison, that’s for sure.

“Again, you did not deserve this and you are being a hero.

“Love, Ben”

Wednesday
I have been extremely ill lately. I don't know what it is but I am guessing a flu. I saw one of my doctors yesterday and he drew a tanker load of blood. I hate needles, hate having blood drawn. Really makes me feel crazy.

I wake up every morning with a terrible headache and feelings of doom. Usually if I listen to Mozart's Requiem for a good long while, I feel better but not always. Aspirin helps and so does Tylenol. But it's day after day of feeling exhausted and beaten down. My wife has gone to visit her stepmother in Eden Isle, Arkansas, so I am all alone except for the dogs and the seven loathsome cats. The housekeeper appears every morning along with her beautiful daughter and they clean, clean, clean. It doesn't offset the ill effects, the truly nauseating ill effects, of the cats.

Don't get me wrong. They're cute and endearing. But they create disgusting smells. Just sickening.

I have a charity fund-raising event tonight in Rancho Mirage. It is for a fund to give scholarships to young people who work at our club or whose parents do. I feel obligated to go, even though I feel so lousy.

So, I threw my pitiful old self together, gathered up a few rags of clothing and my mile high stack of bills to pay, and off I went. By a miracle, there was no traffic the whole way down. That was great.

Then, misery. We have a new, totally crazy adopted dog named JoJo. She is not housebroken and she chases the cats and generally is a pain in the butt. Usually, we let her wander out onto a tiny patio outside my wife's bedroom and she will occasionally do her business there. This time, when I let her out, she ran away. The gardener, whom I like very much, had left the gate open and off she went. She gathered speed as I approached her and was soon long gone. I was frantic, ill, and exhausted. She really is a lot of trouble. But my wife would be sad if she died.

So, I called security here at the club and they all came screeching around and found her. She kept running away, but finally a kind jogger and the guards and I corralled her and put her inside. It was a big mistake to adopt her. The truest of true statements: no good deed goes unpunished.

Then a short nap. Then, off to the club to give my very short speech. Mostly, I told jokes about older men's great interest in younger, attractive women. No dirty words. No sex. But still while most of the people in the room laughed heartily, a few women looked angry at me. The women at my table loved the jokes, though.

Why do we have to have political correctness tests about every darned thing? I guess it's because we don't really value freedom of speech and anxious people like to control other people. It's what Bob Dylan said so long ago. "There are a lot of people who have knives and forks but they don't have anything on their plates, so they have to cut something."

On the way down today, I had a long talk with John Coyne about race in America. We both think there is a lot more anger about race than is publicly acknowledged. Just for myself, I see it as the issue in America today. Will we have genuine equality of opportunity and consequences, or will we continue to favor certain groups because of genuine injustices from long ago? And will racial groups who are not compelled to face the consequences of their lack of self-discipline ever truly achieve or will they be like spoiled children forever. And how long will Americans who work want to support Americans who don't? And are we ever allowed to talk about it or is freedom of speech secondary to political kowtowing to some racial groups?

It is probably too late already. Freedom is so hard to win and so easy to lose.

That is what the GOP should be about.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.