Liberty, What Have I Done for You Lately?

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That's a big question, to which I wish I had a big answer. As I started to wake up from my statist stupor years ago, I asked myself what one person could do to rectify the awful state of affairs this nation-of-much-potential had come to. Paying membership dues to the Libertarian Party and running for office was the best I could come up with at first. I imagined all the taxes I'd slash and tyrannical, artificial controls I'd eliminate! It made for a rich fantasy life. I was a cross between Robin Hood and Zorro. Just your average super girl, here to change the world.

Reality was discouraging, to say the least. Besides all the nauseating, bureaucratic hoops I had to jump through to get on the ballot, something about it just never felt right. First, I had to register to vote, something I haven't bothered with for a long time, which opened up a whole new can of worms. (If you don't want to receive a jury summons, don't register to vote.) There was the inevitable tornado of bureaucratic paperwork, accompanied, naturally, by nasty letters warning me not to file them late or incorrectly. (Sounds a lot like another bureaucracy we know and love, doesn't it?) It brought me to the conclusion that politicians, like doctors, are not smarter than other people, they're just more doggedly determined. You have to ask yourself, why would anyone be so doggedly determined to run other people's lives?

After some time I stood back and took a good, hard look at the state of the nation. I asked myself one question ' as much as I admired the LP's stance, since its inception 30 odd years earlier: Is America now more free or less free? We all know the answer to that. It was the deal breaker for me and the end of my grandiose political aspirations. My Dad used to say that you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear. Trying to save the world proved time consuming, thankless and futile.

I'm certainly not saying that the LP is to blame for the nearly complete erosion of our civil liberties. On the contrary, I'm afraid no politician can hold back America 's march to tyranny ' that's just not the way they roll, Mama, as my son would say. Trying to stop the gigantic Washington machine from eating you alive like a lonely, little sock is akin to petitioning time not to leave lines on your face. The only way that's going to happen is if you die young.

I am a small 'l' libertarian now. I admire and appreciate what brave Americans are doing to protest the size and scope of government today: the war protestors, the National Taxpayers Union, the members of the Free State Project and many more. They get themselves on watch lists and risk arrest and worse for simply exercising their right to free speech.

While I have minor children, I hesitate to come under the scrutiny of such tyrants, when anyone at any time can be labeled an 'enemy combatant' and disappear in the night. So for now I have to contend myself with plodding. A tortoise is not very sexy, but slow and steady does win the race.

Here's my plan 'B':

1) I educate myself on history, economics, and what the powers-that-be are really up to these days. I do this by turning off the tube, reading history and non-traditional media, and corresponding with other freedom lovers. 2) I can't change the world, but I do affect those around me. I keep my mental blade sharp and use it to strike at the root of tyranny at any opportunity by discussing current affairs in calm, understandable terms with everyday people. I find that some of them are beginning to come around! I know this because I started to hear them repeat my refrain back to me. They tell me torrid tales of welfare fraud or government waste and then say, "I don't want to pay for this with my tax dollars!!" Okay then!

You can try this at home ' I call it the 'Find-out-where-it-hurts-and-jab-it-good-and-hard' technique. First, simply determine where a person falls on the political spectrum (this is the easy part.) Based on your knowledge of politics so far, bring up a subject that will likely make them pop their cork (easier still!) For instance, a liberal leaning friend could resent war and naturally, its profiteers. A conservative may blister when faced with the fact that they are paying for abortions, lots of them. Share some interesting statistic with them about their hot topic. (This is where arming yourself with facts comes in handy.) The beauty of a 'super sized' government is that it offers unlimited material for cork popping!

It doesn't really matter what their beef with an issue is, or even whether or not you agree with the principle, you just play your trump card--tell them you are sick of being taxed to pay for it too. (This is the fun part, depending upon how advanced their case of bureau rot is!)

No matter how I feel about any particular issue, I resent being forced to pay for other people's anything. Being against abortion or war or what have you is one thing, being forced to pay for it is another. This takes the issue out of the political fog and brings it ringing home where it hurts ' the pocketbook. As the economy worsens, I find that this strikes a chord with more and more people. (Be sure to clean your blade when you finish this type of work, and try not to leave any visible marks.)

Not only is this an invitation to others to align themselves with you (an anarchist?!) but it really leaves them no way around the fact that they are paying for something they find abhorrent, and they're paying in spades. Short of a SWAT team busting down your door, is there a more efficient wakeup call? (No need to mention that you're also sick of paying for their pet projects too.) In time, they may come to see the ugliness of taxation in general. We just want to plant some seeds (thorns, what have you) and water them a little at a time. It's OK if you have some fun doing it.

This technique works well with almost anyone, except of course, economic barnacles like welfare queens or politicians (oh wait, that's redundant!). In fact, I have a couple of friends who are recovering nicely. They've learned so well that it's all about the money, that they are almost ripe for the grand finale ' the fact that the only difference between political left and right is in what they say, not what they do, and even then only by degrees. It's a tough pill to swallow, but it can be done. You're reading this, aren't you?

A politician is like the beautiful woman propositioned by a rich man. He asks her if she'd sleep with him for $100,000. She says she would. He then asked if she'd do it for $10. She asks him, 'What kind of girl do you think I am?' His reply? 'We've already established that, we're just negotiating a price.'

Right and left both believe that 'once my candidate is in office, then things will improve.' Anyone half awake knows that's malarkey. Sadly, that is exactly what the Libertarians believe too. I don't anymore.

3) I work at keeping an open mind. I read things I don't necessarily agree with to see if I can articulate the flaws in the logic. I read news on the internet, where there's a better chance of finding something credible and come to my own conclusions about it based on my own basic love of liberty. 4) I home school my kids. I don't use a contrived curriculum. I have no objection to them as long as the child isn't suffering as a result of it. However, I've learned to trust my children's natural love of learning and so have no need of one. We use a variety of materials. The world is our oyster. We are life learners and as such, encounter plenty of educational opportunities without looking for them. I daresay you can't walk through life without stumbling over them.

Big government sticks its creepy tentacles into every aspect of existence. No one is more painfully aware of this than young people ' curfews, age restrictions, etc. Without realizing it, when we discuss current events or artificial barriers in our society, my kids are drinking as deeply from the well of history and economics as one mother can provide, which often launches them on research of their own.

I offer my children the very freedom of thinking and living, which I seek for myself. They eat when hungry and sleep when tired, rather than at contrived 'times.' They relentlessly test for vitality every artificial icon I have adopted in life, as children are want to do, and usually end up being my teacher. They get to experiment with life and explore things they are interested in, despite the disproval of those around us who have been brainwashed by 12 years of moving about at the sound of a bell in government schools. They are free to adopt thoughts and beliefs that appeal to them because their minds and bodies belong to them, not to me, not to the state, not to anyone else. How I treat them is itself a lesson in taking responsibility without exercising power.

5) I model for my children how to speak up for one's self when I experience what seems to me an injustice. My daughter used to bristle and blush when I publicly spoke up for myself. Actually, as long as I'm calm and professional, I'm not only taking responsibility for my own happiness, but I am doing a business owner a favor when I tell him what is not working for me as a customer. Cowering in fear of their response or hers is a poor lesson in living. I could just take my money elsewhere, but if I like a particular store, I take the time to talk without blaming anyone. In this economy, I find most people willing to work with me until I'm satisfied. Just the other day we encountered unpleasantness while out shopping and my girl informed me "It's time we had a talk with the manager, Mom." Okay, then! It matters not where I exercise my right to free speech. The important thing is that I use it. As I do, I get better at it, and by so doing, I teach my children something they'd never learn in government schools: how to think for one's self, live consciously and responsibly, and take action. Don't wait around for someone else to improve your life. Chances are that will never happen ' ignore the odds at your own peril.

What is most painful for me is that my children almost never encounter other free people. By the age of ten or so nearly everyone they know has been hypnotized to conform to a religion, state-dependent mindset or dysfunctional family system to one degree or another. Almost none of these conditioned people can avoid the temptation to try to frighten others into conforming to their beliefs. I often wonder how my children will ever find mates in this fearful, statist society.

6) You're reading it. I've begun writing for a publication that meets ruthless standards for liberty, and we all know that the pen is mightier than the sword. I never quite knew how to become a writer, but I got encouragement from an anarchist friend to give it a try. Note to self: encourage others to try something new.

Besides being fun, writing requires my asking for help with editing and feedback, which is painful for an independent, non-conformist like me. However, asking for help keeps me humble, which is good and necessary.

I'm sure there are a lot of liberty lovers more dedicated than I am. There are certainly smarter and braver ones. Mine are not grandiose exercises in saving the world. They are garden-variety folk remedies that are always handy when you need them and they work. I'd like to know about yours. What have you done for liberty lately?

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Retta Fontana's picture
Columns on STR: 53

Retta Fontana is an atheist, anarchist, baker, potter and parenting teacher.  Children are her favorite people.