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'Don't Tread on Me' Snake Motto is Foundation for the Modern Free and Inquiring Mind

Dec 26, 2007
As a child I would look in awe at the flags of the world and the flags of the United States. In the U.S. section one flag always caught my attention; partly because it had the picture of a rattlesnake on it, and partly because the words beneath read 'Don't Tread on Me'.

The reference of course was to the oppression through taxes levied by the British crown upon her disloyal colonial subjects...us. The snake in real life is not something one wants to step or tread on; for you urbanites, stepped on snakes bite those that step on them. From the snakes's perspective; snake self defense is a fact of life. And sometimes death. Just like you, the snake needs its freedom or it will die.

The folks in the Don't Tread on Me days were obviously serious about it. Unlike those of us pampered by the freedoms of today, they were in it for life or death. They knew that if they lost they would hang. Their response was better to hang together than hang separately or in as many words, don't tread on me. Taking the not so gloomy side, we either hang individually or maybe collectively whip them. Men like Ben Franklin weren't stupid. Many think it was at Ben's urging the rattlesnake became the symbol of insurgent colonies; though poor Ben is perhaps more famous for proposing the turkey as the national bird.

As a little boy I was fascinated by that snake flag. On the other hand, the red, white and blue was all official and beautiful and worthy of patriotism and we all said the Pledge of Allegiance and put our hands over our heart. Still do. But as great as it was it was somehow not quite as interesting to me as a six year old as that snake flag...and it was official! Why the snake? Was it actually true that the snake flag was the USA's first flag? Why is that so secret now? How did we go from a snake flag to the Red, White and Blue? There actually is a flag with the red and white stripes on it and a rattlesnake...how's that for a transition?

Can I in fact fly the Don't Tread on Me flag instead of the Stars and Stripes? Don't they both stand for the same thing? Isn't the Don't Tread on Me flag a better representation of from whence we came?

Fast forward a half century later I take my first walk into the deep jungle with my Maya pal Poot. Poot starts laughing at me. He says in between laughing that if I don't look down I'll step on some snake. Stupid me. Some Tarzan. Later he would laugh again. I told him I was looking down but he said not to grab the branches and vines and because that's where most snakes live. Or at least a number of the really poisonous ones. That's why so many Maya men died working and climbing up the chicle gum trees in the old days. They would get bitten in the tree and that was it. Silly Gringo.

Today for us urban Indiana Jones explorers we fortunately have snake anti-venom. In the jungle we have to carry a generic version because there are so many deadly poisonous snake species that one flavor doesn't fit all so we have antivenom that sort of halfway stops them all. It is in fact, a real jungle out there.

That way if we get bitten we can take the antivenom and buy enough time to get to the hospital which can be a day away and where we can get snake specific antivenom if we hopefully have not yet expired. I've not had to use it yet. I've tried to stay nice and friendly to all my critters and hopefully the good karma will pay off. That and watching where I tread and grab.

Funny thing though. Most of the poisonous bites don't come from jungle villages like ours but in the cities and towns where asphalt and concrete pushes out the snake's habitat. Don't tread on me or my habitat. Of course there's always the jungle fun and games in the heavy rains when the snakes, scorpions and other critters come up out of their holes and into our huts. But hey, in the jungle we're all neighbors.

But the metaphor takes another turn as we examine human social evolution and the corresponding convolutions and wiring of our brain. The free and inquiring mind model appears to be the one that currently makes sense but free and inquiring minds become dulled if not free. The human brain and mind evolved to be free. That's how it operates; that's what it does.

The free mind crushes easily under those that would so willingly repress it and there are a lot of weirdoes out there who get their jollies doing just that. As a result human history is filled with societies that have become mindless and collectivized. We're probably next or at least in line...

Because unless it's free the mind's potential is lost.

Freedom is not only having the right to come and go but also the right to think and create and explore. Funny how our folks back then made a flag with a rattlesnake on it. As I'm older it now it begins to make sense. It's all pretty simple...just think of the rattlesnake. It doesn't provoke or attack and only strikes in self-defense after giving clear warning. Nice guy.

Just don't tread on me...
About the Author
Jack D. Deal writes marketing articles and is the owner of Deal Business Consulting. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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