Don't Soil Yourself With Politics

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March 7, 2007

Thanks to Angelo Mike for the stark reminder of how ugly statism really is. It's terribly useful to read the firsthand account of someone who loves liberty yet ventures into the very belly of the beast, Washington D.C. We can all use a reminder of the actual horror of reality from time to time. Thanks for sharing your experience of falling on the sword with this field work! Aren't life's most painful lessons usually the most valuable?

I know a wise old fellow who taught me that everything in life can be poison or medicine. 'My First and Last Time' is a good example. It's easy to see the poison that is government, but taken in the right dosage, it can be just what the doctor ordered.

My friend Tom is a longtime member of Alcoholics Anonymous, for which I have the utmost respect. Sober AA's are some of the most open-minded, intelligent, warm, funny, enjoyable people I've ever met. The parallels between sobriety and liberty are appreciable.

Tom has many times laid out for me the wisdom found in any life path that is a 'road less traveled.' In other words, a commitment to any route which raises consciousness, awareness and maturity, whether it is called sobriety or liberty, it can bring one to the same end.

Addiction can be defined as the loss of the ability to choose (whether or not to participate in the political process, for instance) or the tendency to do the same things over and over while hoping for a different outcome (e.g., voting). Most agree that a person meets the criteria of addict when they cross the invisible line between a casual user and one who cannot give up their drug of choice no matter how destructive it becomes. They often become convinced that they could give it up if they wanted to or if they saw a need for it, they just don't have the desire. However you define it, everyone knows a sick addict when they step over one lying on the sidewalk. Think about the people you know who are obsessed with voting. Is any of the above applicable to them?

Tom has been sober for years. The thing about having been so is that, rather than become judgmental or revolted, he has learned to appreciate the usefulness of coming face to face with an active alcoholic. By the same token, we can appreciate the usefulness of active political donkeys. Most display the same pathetic loss of touch with reality, logic and integrity.

When Tom encounters a 'wet' face, he appreciates his own life so much more! 'There but for the grace of god go I,' he assures me. Like a roaring bender, one trip to the belly of the beast reminds us all of what awaits us should we allow ourselves to momentarily become seduced by the idea that government is anything but a dangerous parasite. A mature person learns from the mistakes of others, so you don't even have to make the trip yourself!

My friend assures me that alcoholics spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to again obtain the benefits of drinking without the problems. Some think that relocation is the cure ' drinking could work if the drinker got a different job, or a different wife or lived in a different state. Some try substitutes for alcohol ' painkillers, for instance, or retail recovery (spend your way to bliss!). I think it was Betty Ford who, in desperation, once drank rubbing alcohol. They'll try just about anything to avoid stopping the merry-go-round that once seemed to do the trick. The 'bottle' has been likened to an infant's dependency on its mother, and everyone knows what an unweaned, overgrown child is like. People addicted to the idea of the democratic process are in the same boat--they don't want to grow up.

Tom summed it up for me once with this allegory. A junkie (political or otherwise) thinks it is exciting to play on train tracks. People tell them that they shouldn't because a train comes through every day and it might run them over. A junkie's response is that the train won't run him over because he's special. The train that comes through every day will not only stop for him, but will actually turn into Santa's sleigh and bring him gifts. How many times a given junkie will have to be left bloody and broken by the side of the road before they accept the plain truth varies. He has no one to blame but himself for thinking that the facts don't matter nearly as much as his fantasies of how it ought to be.

An active alcoholic convinces themselves that alcohol (government) is not the problem, that it is actually the solution! If they can just learn to drink (vote) the right way, or select the right beverage (party) in the right amount (local, state, fed), life will stop hurting and start working well. Good citizens are under the same delusion. If only their man is elected, then life would start working well. The fact that an alcoholic's liver is rotting, just as a citizen's will towards self-responsibility and self-ownership does when exposed to the nanny state, must be ignored in order to keep 'using.'

Until all options have failed and hitting bottom is painful enough, quitting is out of the question. Often alcoholics must go to the brink of death or insanity to stop. It's apparent that politics also kills, but not close enough to home or often enough or to wake up the masses. Most citizens are already past the brink of insanity, and it doesn't seem to bother them. If the whole world is crazy, they fit right in and appear normal! It reminds me of one of my Dad's favorite lines: 'In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.'

I have a tender spot in my heart for Dr. Ron Paul. His words have many times given me hope for the survival of mankind. He often tells the inconvenient truth, refuses to vote for anything that does not pass the Constitutional 'sniff test' and possesses the rarest trait in a politician ' integrity. 'Dr. No' will never win a popularity contest on Capitol Hill because he manages to piss off both sides of the (one) political coin in D.C ' he must be a good guy, right?! Part of me is convinced that things would improve if he were elected President. But really, how is this different than the alcoholic who thinks if he just tries some conscious drinking that he can make alcohol work for him once again? You don't want to wind up bloody and broken on the side of the Beltway again, do you?

I became libertarian in my thinking about 15 years ago. When Jason Sorens conceived the 'Free State Project' some years later, it sounded inviting to me. My husband agreed to look for work in New Hampshire . I decided that it was far-fetched to think that I would become an activist after moving across the country, so I got busy here in Metro Detroit to prove to myself that I could do it.

Even though I feel strongly about a number of aspects of freedom, I had no idea how to begin. I had given up on voting and politics years before, but for lack of other options at the time, decided to renew my membership in the Libertarian Party, became Vice Chair of my county affiliate and ran for state representative in 2004. The entire process of just getting onto the ballot was so bureaucratically excruciating as to be unbearable. Because of the thought of spending many more hours of my life engaged in such horrendous boredom and futility, to say nothing of being part of the problem, it was a relief to me to realize I had no chance of winning. I also realize that my actions were misguided and what is required of me is more personal. While I have minor children, I am leery of sticking my neck out very far.

I'm beginning to wonder if the Free State Project isn't just another futile geographical cure. Its participants seem to be the 'don't tread on me' type who won't limit themselves to running for office, so it could work. Time will tell.

Tom's wisdom assures me that in time, I will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. All my experiences can be useful medicine, incentive to keep to the road less traveled, the one of thinking for myself and being responsible for my own life, liberty and happiness.

I would rather not have made that run for office. It took me a while to recover. I wish I could retrieve the hours I wasted on paperwork. I hope that correspondence from the state elections office will one day stop hounding me like Harry Potter's invitations to Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If the pain of my actions saves me from again entertaining the idea that politics is anything but the problem, then it was worth it. I learned through this process not to play on the tracks in hopes of stopping the leviathan train. The only way to live free is to follow my own heart.

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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.