Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries, Naomi Wolf

I have to confess something: I’m a very political person.

That both is and isn’t a difficult confession. For me, to be a member of society is necessarily to be political. Being political is to live among people and make choices and have discussions about the things I believe. It is not difficult to confess that I am political because to me that just means living. But it is difficult to confess because I have long been led to believe that politics is the realm of people who are not me; it is a space for people who are better educated or better funded or who are not daughters of conservative engineers from the Peace Country. It’s taken a long time to recognize and embrace that contradiction and to openly acknowledge that my life is unavoidably political.

My third book was one that’s lived on my shelf for some time – Naomi Wolf’s Give Me Liberty. Describing itself as a “handbook for American revolutionaries,” the book provides an overview of the loss of real American liberties, a discussion of why that’s happened, a set of principles for real liberty, and a handbook for those seeking to re-establish their fading democracy.

It’s interesting.

I had a conversation with my boyfriend yesterday. He saw what I was reading and laughed at it a bit – after all, isn’t it a little overblown? Is it really necessary to provide a handbook for “revolutionaries?” Our conversation veered after that into whether tools are more important to revolution than having a vision or vice versa. We didn’t resolve that debate. His view was that tools are unnecessary without a clear vision. I don’t disagree. But then: I’m political. So is he. We volunteer for political parties and could tell you who the MLA is for Battle River-Wainwright without having to think about it much. Of course vision is important to us: we already have the tools.

This book is for people who don’t. This book is for people who haven’t identified yet the struggle between loving and hating politics; haven’t yet recognized that living is political. Voter turnouts just about anywhere will tell you that people who have the tools are the minority. Many of us are disenfranchised and losing faith in the democratic process. That’s why this book is necessary: it gives people the tools that they need to realize their vision.

Of course, it has flaws. It’s very America-centric. And that’s fair enough – Naomi Wolf is an American patriot, and she does her best to strip down the idea of “America” to a philosophic construct of liberty that can apply anywhere. Call that whatever you want (and I think that it’s a bit idealistic and more than a bit inaccurate), but call it admirable.

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