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Optimus Prime and the rights of all sentient beings

Admittedly I liked the Transformers as a boy (I think every boy who was my age did). And admittedly I'm excited about the upcoming movie, which will be released tomorrow. And I'm particularly excited that Peter Cullen, the voice of the original Optimus Prime, will be reprising his role.

Optimus Prime was presented as the ultimate hero. He was completely noble, with perfectly pure motives. In multiple versions of the Transformers story (the cartoon and the comic books carried completely different stories, and the movie is starting yet another new version) that purity and nobility led him to give his life to save others. Sometimes multiple times -- it's science fiction, and that kind of thing happens.

Now as an adult I can ask serious questions like "Is it really good for kids to invest so much hero-worship in a fictional character, and an animated one at that?" And "if I'm using the word hero-worship, should I be a little worried, theologically?" And I definitely don't hold up Optimus Prime as the supreme example of morality, as I might've been more inclined to do at age seven or so. Obviously some people took Optimus Prime very seriously as a role model. And I confess I just bought a Softimus Prime for my second boy's first birthday. Probably he'll mostly just chew on it, not view it as a role model. (But it really transforms!)

But Optimus Prime got a lot of great heroic lines, and some of them taught good morality. And one of them forms the basis of my slogan for the work I do through this weblog and my writings and conversations elsewhere: "Secession is the right of all sentient beings."

Prime's original slogan was "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings." What a great 80's American slogan, huh? :) No wonder Optimus Prime is conspicuously colored in red, white and blue. But the American ideology of freedom is a good one. At least when you mean true freedom, the ideology of the founders, not the ideology of today where we pretend that "democracy" means "freedom" instead of "everybody voting on taking turns violating freedom."

In our world we don't have freedom, because we're missing a particular right. Without that right, freedom is meaningless. Ironically, tomorrow, the day the Transformers movie comes out, is the day that we have set aside for the past 231 years to celebrate men exercising that right: the right to secede. But today we have eliminated that right, and we brainwash children to create a public that actually thinks that not having that right is a foundation of freedom. The mind boggles.

The founders recognized that government was not an institution that magically deserved blind obedience from its subjects. The Declaration of Independence specifically states that government is an institution created by men in order to protect rights. It states that people are free and have the right to abolish and reform that government and create their own whenever the government isn't securing their rights. And when people do establish their government, nothing permits them to commit their descendants to give that government perpetual fealty, generation after generation. Nothing permits them to take away their descendants' rights as expressed in the Declaration of July 4, 1776.

How many things can you name that your government does that do not secure rights? Will your government recognize your right to secede? And if you want to stay with your government, will you recognize the right of other people to make a different choice?

Optimus Prime teaches children that all sentient beings, anything that can think, anything which, as the Christian might say, "has a soul" deserves freedom. He teaches it on a child's level. But adults wrote the declaration of independence, and if the message of Independence Day really is true, then Secession really is the right of all sentient beings. I acknowledge your right to secede, and may I suggest that you celebrate Independence Day by acknowledging mine, and that of others?

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