Freethinking

There must be a photographic corollary to the saying, Great minds think alike. Something akin to, All photographers recognize the changing season. I say this because fellow photoblogger Steve, at Stephen Gingold Nature Photography Blog, has also recognized that winter is coming to an end. Especially here in the north east where we have been experiencing mild and wet conditions. Surely, there will be a few cold nights and perhaps more snow, but I believe I can report with confidence that significant, and photogenic, ice won’t be seen again until next year. Having said that, the image presented here will, perhaps, be the last of its kind until next winter.

Before sitting down to write this morning I did not know that there was more to the saying I quoted above. The full verse goes Great minds think alike, small minds rarely differ. To my mind, the genuine meaning of the full phrase may be found hidden in the small spaces between the letters of the words themselves. The critical word is think. It requires no small amount of fortitude to think, for yourself. It requires no small amount of fortitude to think and to do so independently of the, oftentimes, conflicting opinion of others. To be a freethinker requires work, far more than is required to simply accept what has already been ingested, digested, and egested by others. Perhaps the recent circus which has been our national political scene has made me pause to think about what it means to have a mind of one’s own. My kids used to have shirts which proclaimed It’s OK to be Different and, I have always agreed. I wonder how many of us live by these words?

Having been thinking along these lines recently I was quite pleased, when we visited the offices of our local Town Clerk to register to vote. As it turns out, part of the process in our little town includes recitation of an oath. Did you know that Vermont is the only state in the country with a Voter’s Oath? It was originally required in the 1777 Vermont Constitution. It was known then as the Freeman’s Oath until the Inclusive Language Revision Amendment of 1994, when it became the Voter’s Oath. In November 2002, the Vermont General Assembly amended the language of the oath to reflect the inclusion of women. It currently reads as follows:

Every person of the full age of eighteen years who is a citizen of the United States, having resided in this State for the period established by the General Assembly and who is of a quiet and peaceable behavior, and will take the following oath or affirmation, shall be entitled to all the privileges of a voter of this state: You solemnly swear (or affirm) that whenever you give your vote or suffrage, touching any matter that concerns the State of Vermont, you will do it so as in your conscience you shall judge will most conduce to the best good of the same, as established by the Constitution, without fear or favor of any person. [Emphases are mine.]

Note that the oath requires folks to think. The oath asks that folks swear (or affirm) to vote their conscience. It directs them to do so without fear. Vermont has told it citizens, in plain words of few syllables, that It’s OK to be Different … I like that … I like that, very, very much indeed.

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