I was never a conservative or a liberal. My Mom was vaguely liberal and my Dad was vaguely conservative (they’re both better now, very libertarian) but both were very anti-authoritarian and I just landed in the middle. My Dad would brag about punking teachers by being smarter than them and tell stories about ignoring the law while growing up on a ranch in Wyoming. My Mom, who put in a lot of hours driving my brother and I to and from school, sports, and all sorts of enriching activities, gave us a choice in music from the two genres she enjoyed: oldies or classical. We always chose the oldies! While rarely explicitly libertarian, the music of the sixties and seventies has a distinct disdain for authority that pop music lacks today. As a Canadian green card holder, (now a “naturalized citizen”) she was showed us the silliness of government borders and collectivism.
So when I was in high school, there was a point at which I was asked, “Do you want to be a Republican or a Democrat?” My response was something like, “What? I don’t have a choice? I have to be super friggin’ lame?! This is America! There must be an alternative!” “Well, there’s these crazy Libertarians over there, and they like to be left alone.” As a punk kid, (who got arrested in middle school for trying to blow up the boys’ bathroom for a prank) I was like, “YUP! That’s me! Give me that sweet sweet freedom!” Because that was my way in, I identified with the party before I understood what the word libertarian meant.
I had been subjected to years of military propaganda as a typical young American and my parents did nothing to combat this directly, so I was the worst kind of Libertarian: a militarist. “I don’t trust the government to do anything except decide who lives and dies!” I joined the Marines at 17 years old as a reservist so that I could do some enlisted time before becoming an officer after college. Then in 2004, while at Claremont McKenna College, I volunteered to go to Iraq. I did seven months in Fallujah with a Civil Affairs Team. After graduating, I volunteered to go back, “Because I didn’t get a Purple Heart the first time.” (I didn’t get the chance because I got in trouble for bringing a gun back from Iraq as a souvenir and spent a year managing a barracks building and mowing lawns as a Sergeant who spoke Arabic with Civil Affairs combat experience. That’s why I was disgruntled enough when I got out to really question things.)
I became a true libertarian only after getting out of the Marines and joining Iraq Veterans Against the War. I was surrounded by dudes (and a few great women!) who were risking their lives with me in civil disobedience to protest a war that we knew from firsthand experience was wrong. I knew that they were legit, so I knew they were engaging in the broader political debates from a genuine place of wanting to better humanity. I was generally unsatisfied that so many of our debates came down to matters of opinion. “I’m a Libertarian, so I know I’m right about everything, I just have to prove it!” So in seeking a logically consistent, airtight worldview, I became a libertarian.
I read books and watched documentaries and I didn’t resist. I sought it out for myself. You can read a person’s soul by how they respond the message of consistent freedom, of ethics applied to politics. Of course you are looking through the lens of all the propaganda and conditioning that they have been subjected to, but you can almost always get a glimpse of their true nature. So for me, the real test was not how I sought out freedom, but rather how I resisted it before I understood it. Even as head of Libertarians of the Claremont Colleges, I did not let anyone properly challenge my militarism. I could call it the arrogance of the Marines (we like to say, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re the best!”) but I have to own that for myself. I was too committed to my identity of being a Marine to hear the truth.
I suppose there’s a lesson in patience to be had here. Not everyone can adjust their worldview overnight. I’m grateful that so many were so patient with me! I suppose the nice thing you could say about my response to the message was that I thought it all through very thoroughly for myself. For those of us who need that time, when we finally realize the truth, we know it in the bottom of our souls and so we are much more inclined to be committed to the cause. Having woken up so many people myself now, I’ve seen the whole range of possible reactions. Some people simply reject the concept of ethics. Those are the ones you really have to worry about! Some are reluctant, surprised, dismayed, scared. All of these responses can slow down the awakening. But I’m always encouraged by how many people today are ready to embrace the truth as soon as they hear it. Of course any thoughtful person has to go over it and turn it over in their head and compare it to their current worldview. My girlfriend, Stacey, is an amazing example of someone who didn’t have the emotional attachment to statism and converted almost immediately. We met at a party and had a conversation that was her introduction to the message. When she read FREEDOM! a couple weeks later, her reaction was, “I can’t believe this perspective has been kept from me!” and that’s why I love her. How did you first respond to the message of freedom and what do you think it says about you?
I am the author of FREEDOM!, a book endorsed (I mean banned) by the US Department of “Justice.” You can get a copy here. I’m running for Not-President in 2020 on the platform of the peaceful, orderly, and responsible dissolution of the United States federal government. You can find out more here. Whoever has the top comment on this post after 24 hours can claim a free signed copy of FREEDOM! by sending me an email with their address to [email protected]