Neither Liberty Nor Security

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Neither Liberty Nor Security

sky stegall

Neither Liberty Nor Security

A play in several acts

A scene, from the beginning of the last act.

The Players:

Tom, a poor, pious man who has been trying to bring peace, safety, love and freedom to his people and who has been persecuted for it.

Cassy, a prostitute of the tyrant; well brought-up but degraded now and half-mad in her situation.

The Scene:

Late at night, in an old abandoned barn. Tom has just been badly beaten and wounded in an interrogation. Cassy is an acquaintance, not yet a friend, but is trying to help Tom.

Some Background:

They live on the compound of a tyrant; they are his servant/slaves, along with many others. Some are political prisoners, some are religious dissenters, some are prisoners of the constant war around them. Against all the rules Tom preaches, helps the sick and hurt, and tries (in vain?) to save his comrades (if only by humanizing them).

A Note:

This is not our world. This is our world through a glass, darkly. This is simplified, steeped and strained, reverse-refined. This is not a portrait; this is grafitti representative but not parallel to what we think of as real.

Some Stage Stuff:

The set is dark, dank and dingy, with the wild colors of poorly kept-up tropical landscape. Lights (bluish from above and reddish from below) come in at strange angles, through cracks in the walls and what suffice for door and window. Amber spot warms the special where Tom stays (somewhere near center) so that he looks more human than Cassy and the scene around them.

(as Cassy enters from upstage)
Tom: Who's there? Oh, for the Lord's mercy, please give me some water!

Cassy: (giving him water slowly and steadily) Drink all you want. I knew how it would be. It isn't the first time I've been out in the night, carrying water to such as you.

(a pause, while Cassy gives him water, washes his wounds, etc)
Cassy: It's no use, my poor fellow! It's of no use, this you've been trying to do. You were a brave fellow, you had the right on your side but it's all in vain, and out of the question for you to struggle. You are in the Devil's hands he is the strongest, and you must give up!

Tom: Oh Lord! Oh Lord! How can I give up?

Cassy: There's no use calling on the Lord he never hears. If there is a god, he's taken sides against us. All goes against us, heaven and earth. Everything is pushing us into hell. Why shouldn't we go? Oh, you don't know anything about it I do, I've been here for five years, body and soul under this man's foot. Here we are, alone with him way in the swamps, no one to speak for you or save you or even seek vengance if you are burned alive if you are scalded, cut into inch-pieces, set up for the dogs to tear, or hung up and whipped to death. There's no law here, of God or man, that can do you the least good. And this man! Did I want to live with him? Wasn't I a woman, and he God in heaven! What is he? And yet, I've lived with him, these five years, and cursed every moment of my life night and day!

Tom: Oh Jesus! Lord Jesus! Have you quite forgotten us poor creatures? Help, Lord, I perish!

Cassy: And what are these miserable low dogs you work with, that you should suffer on their account? Every one of them would turn against you, the first time they got a chance. They are all of them as low and cruel to each other as they can be; there's no use in your suffering to keep from hurting them.

Tom: Poor creatures! What made them cruel? And if I give out, I shall get used to it, and grow, little by little, just like them! No, no, no ma'am, I've lost everything wife, and children, and home I've lost evertyhing in this world, and it's clean gone, forever now I can't lose Heaven, too; no, I can't be wicked, besides all!

Cassy: But it can't be that the Lord will lay sin to our account; he won't charge it to us, when we're forced to it; he'll charge it to them that drove us to it.

Tom: Yes, but that won't keep us from growing wicked. If I get to be as hard-hearted as Sambo, and as wicked, it won't make much odds to me how I come so; it's the being so that's what I'm dreading.

Cassy: (realizing what this means for her, speaking slowly) Oh! God of mercy! What if you speak the truth?

Tom: Ma'am, I can see that, some how, you're quite above me in everything; but there's one thing you might learn even from poor Tom. You said the Lord too sides against us, because he lets us be abused and knocked around; but you see what came on his own son wasn't he always poor? And have we, any of us, yet come so low as he came? The Lord hasn't forgotten us if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him. Suffering is no reason to think the Lord's turned against us; but just the contrary, if only we hold on to him, and don't give up to sin.

Cassy: But why does he put us where we can't help but sin?

Tom: I think we can help it.

Cassy: Maybe it's the way. But those that have given up there's no hope for them none! We live in filth, and grow loathsome, until we loathe ourselves! And we long to die and we don't dare to kill ourselves! No hope! No hope! No hope! They think it's nothing, what we suffer! It's a small matter; yet I've walked the streets when it seemed as if I had misery enough in my one heart to sink the city. I've wished the houses would fall on me, or the stones sink under me. Yes! And in the judgement day, I will stand up before God, a witness against those that have ruined me, body and soul!

Tom: And when you do, ma'am, what will the Lord say of you? You have suffered, sure, but so have we all. To suffer alone, to make others suffer as well, to deny the Lord and his supreme suffering for your sake, that is to give up heaven and forsake any hope of freedom.

Cassy: Heaven? Hope? Freedom? What do these things mean to me, who have had only this place, only this dispair, only this rule and law and tyranny over my life? How can you speak of freedom in any life but this one, knowing there is no freedom now?

Tom: That's just it, ma'am there can be no freedom here if there is no hope of heaven
when we're gone. It is the victory...

Cassy: Victory? Over whom? And what? And HOW? We have nothing no power, no influence, barely even food and water and air enough. What can be victorious in that?

Tom: It is hard, I know, it is hard to suffer, to lose everything, to go on suffering, but to suffer and resist sin, that is the Lord's victory, the one that counts in the end. It is from the Lord we receive victory, and blessing, and freedom.

Cassy: (getting up, crossing back and forth half angrily, half distractedly) Freedom, ha! What is that supposed to be? I used to have such a clear picture of it when I first came here my whole survival was based on remembering freedom, remembering the feeling of making my own choices and deciding my own fate. Now I know that even that false feeling of freedom has led me here. Inside these walls, under his thumb, every choice we make is governed by him and by what he allows and wants. He is our God now. (she stops moving, as if frozen by "his" will)

Tom: (rising painfully up) NO! No! I'm sorry, ma'am, but I can't let you say that. This man, this earthly mortal man no more powerful than I am, really he doesn't own my soul; he can't. He does not govern my fate; that job's taken. I belong to my Lord, and someday someday soon I'm going to see him and live in his glory.

Cassy: But how is that freedom, either, if you are owned? I say there is no freedom, if we are never able to control our own destinies. There is no hope of freedom; it cannot be.

Tom: Someday I will be so free even you must recognize it free to worship the Lord and do nothing wicked or wrong or painful. I am free now, in a way that no one especially no dictator or punisher can touch, because I know only God has control of me. If he needs me to be suffering right now, so be it; I will have the victory soon, and the best I can do for now is be kind to my fellow-sufferers and try and help them to Glory, as well. (sinking back down, having spent his energy)

Cassy: Poor fellow. How can you believe such things in this world? How can you see God when all we know is the rod and the lash and the boot? How do you delude yourself so far as to believe you have choice, you have power, you have freedom here, where everything we think or say or do is dictated and restrained?

Tom: Forgive me for saying so, ma'am, but I don't think you understand me. Freedom is not
the absence of rules, or the lack of restraints it's not even just being able to make your own decisions. Our master here, he makes his choices without regard to anyone else's rules, but does that make him free? No he is as miserable as the lowest of us. No, he has no freedom. Freedom is the ability to do what is right and good and best for you and yours. Freedom is having rights, having those rights respected, and using them well. Freedom is having no fear of death. Freedom is responsibility for your actions and respect from those around you. Freedom is a victory, it is the victory; freedom to worship and love and live and let live. That's what I have and you don't.
(a pause, while Cassy considers this and Tom seems to sink down further)

Tom: It must be true. If not true, how could I live, how could any of us live? What would life be worth if it is not true if there is no freedom? What would our children be worth to us, or our homes, if we cannot hope to see them again? If we cannot pray for them, and dream that someday our families will be together unopressed, why would it hurt us so much to lose them?

Cassy: What is that pain worth, then? Why is it so important that we suffer?

Tom: (smiling) We've come back around, ma'am. You know why we suffer. You know what it's worth to us. And you know what to do with it. The question is, will you do it? Will you give yourself up to freedom? Will you stop fighting so hard, and accept the victory?
(lights fade down as Cassy comes back to Tom, bringing him water)


a note: I see this happening near the end but not AT the end there needs to be a scene
after this where someone dies (hey, it's a tragedy, we're lucky if anyone's alive at the end!), either Cassy accepts Tom's idea and carries on after him when he is beaten to death, OR she disagrees and is killed for some other offense, leaving Tom alone to continue his work. I don't know how I would want it to go a whole play says so much more than a single scene sometimes, and this scene is all I'm willing to say right now.

"It must be true; for, if not true, how could he live? " (p. 125).

"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security." Benjamin Franklin

Ideas, quotations, and text from Chapter XXXIV of Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852 (Norton Critical Edition, 1994)

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