Archive | May 2017

The Blood I Cried

Want to read the whole story? Well, now you can! For a limited time (until June 15), Dancing in Hellfire is finally available for sale, for only $3.49. You can buy it here, through this very site, using PayPal or a typical credit/debit card (payment is processed by PayPal, so I don’t see the info), after which you’ll be given access to the book as both a PDF and an ePub.

Introduction

Whether being four years old and watching one of my parents’ friends shoot up peanut butter on our couch and dying before my eyes; whether being effectively kidnapped at the age of eight by my meth-addicted mother and forced to endure a summer of being too poor to buy food, with our water turned off due to non-payment, and with mom being beaten mercilessly by a violent alcoholic; whether coming to terms with her disappearance like something out of a murder mystery show; or whether being transgender in the midst of all of this and trying desperately to come to terms with it while surrounded by a fundamentalist Christian family that forced me to not merely repress who I was but also to forget who I was, I have seen a great deal of tragedy.

It’s strangely easy to forget how devastating all of this must truly have been, even as I was the one who experienced it, because it’s easy to forget how it truly felt to lie awake, crying and listening to the sounds of shattering glass as my mother was thrown brutally through windows. It’s easy to forget how angry I have the right to be at my father and grandmother, for forcing me to oppress myself and attempting to turn me into something that I am not.

Today I am a transgender woman and resident of the state of Mississippi. This is as frustrating, difficult, and dangerous as one would expect, but I survive, and I roll with the punches. I have no choice, just as I had no choice those early mornings as I bore witness to horrific domestic violence.

So this is my story–a story of how low human depravity can sink, but also how the human spirit can stand resilient and refuse to surrender. However, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. The majority of people who endure such childhood trauma, and who are forced by religiously oppressive authorities to repress their own natures, are not so fortunate. Most of the former lose themselves in a sea of drugs that allow them to forget, while the latter often lose themselves to the blade of a razor. Yet I know, because I have lived it, that we can survive the struggles–and not merely survive, but become stronger through them.

Where to begin, in this sordid tale of devils and demons?

My family is exactly what one would expect of a north Mississippi lower middle class / upper lower class white Christian family; it was only a few years ago that I first heard the acronym WASP, but I have to admit: aside from its redundancy, there is no more apt description of my family. They are almost stereotypical in how typical they are of an ordinary white fundamentalist Christian family from the southern United States.

Everyone in Mississippi isn’t like that, however, which is a point I’ve tried to stress in the past: Mississippi does contain many people like myself. As a friend recently put it, “We grew up in an area that is run-down, poor, and stupid, over all, where most of the populace is indoctrinated by religious nonsense to the point where they can’t even recognize rational thought. We pushed through what it takes to fit in here, and we defined ourselves. That’s something to embrace and be proud of.”

My friends and I have reached the end of a long and grueling journey that was filled with adversity and people who would use any means at their disposal—terrorism, fear, violence, and coercion—to bend us to their wills, and we’ve looked back at the paths we traveled and rejoiced that we survived and stayed true to ourselves. Friends are priceless when one is transgender in a family full of fundamentalist Christians.

Both of my paternal grandparents would reject me entirely—they do not yet know, and they will be among the last to know, since I see them only a few times a year. “You don’t know how they’ll react,” I’ve had people tell me. “Give them a chance. Sometimes people surprise you.”

With all due respect, those allies and friends have no idea the type of people we’re really dealing with. My Mississippian friends know better, too; they know that there is no chance that my family will ever welcome me at Christmas dinner as a female. When my grandfather (who, for the record, is on his tenth or eleventh wife) learned that my sister was living with her boyfriend, he wrote her a lengthy letter, wherein he quoted Biblical passages and called her a whore. When my grandmother found girls’ clothes hidden between my mattresses, she wanted to send me to a foster home and asserted that she would not have that in her house. If they had thought I was gay, they would have sent me to one of those awful “pray the gay away” camps.

This isn’t to say that I’m perfect, and acknowledging my own faults and mistakes will be the most difficult part of writing this. I have made plenty of mistakes and stupid decisions that brought people around me severe difficulty and hardship, particularly regarding past relationships.

My memory is also not perfect, and I am likely to make mistakes, and, given that some of the information comes from extremely unreliable sources (like my father), some of that can’t really be helped. It doesn’t matter, though. The point of this is to show how awful parenting shaped me, and the countless lies that my dad told me are part of that. I strive for honesty, integrity, and sincerity in all things. Consider this my vow that everything within is, to the best of my knowledge, the unaltered truth, except that names have been changed.

South Pontotoc

I was born premature, thankfully, since the umbilical cord had wrapped around my throat and I was choking to death. This was surely a result of my mother’s cigarette smoking and eating painkillers while pregnant. My father insists that she didn’t do drugs while she carried us, but… Yeah, she did.

I certainly don’t remember my birth, but I do remember some things from shortly after my birth. Though my family says there is no way I could remember it, my introduction to the world came with overwhelming confusion: I was in some sort of cradle, and the back of my right hand hurt because a number of needles and tubes penetrated my flesh. The details are blurry and fuzzy, as one would expect from such early memories, but the needles burned and itched. They irritated me, and I wanted them out. I was afraid and confused, with no idea why these things penetrated my hand and no understanding of what was going on. I knew only that I was hurting and helpless to do anything about it.

Confusion—pure confusion. I didn’t even have a sense of self. I had no idea that I existed, that I was a baby in a hospital, and that I was a being. I could feel the needles in the back of my hand, and they hurt. The pain, however, was not unbearable, and wasn’t the main facet of that moment. It was confusion. I was not afraid—I didn’t have enough self-awareness for the confusion to make me scared. I simply knew nothing. I was a blank slate, onto which was being written reality in the ink of experience. I didn’t even know that I was a blank slate. I knew only that I hurt, and that I was confused. I was not in the arms of a loving mother whose warmth brought me comfort. I did not stare up and into the eyes of a nurse who was delighted to see a baby growing healthier by the hour. I was not being cooed by an older brother, or rocked in the cradle while a loving grandparent read a story. I was alone and hurting in a room bathed in fluorescent light.

That was my first experience with the world. That was how I was introduced to the universe—in the sterilizing, emotionless light of an empty hospital room, not the gentle and soothing light of a home. I heard the beeps and sounds of monitoring equipment, not the joyous laughter of a loving family. I lie alone in a hospital contraption with the shrill, uncomfortable hospital sheets, not wrapped in a blanket and the arms of a doting mother.

And the worst part—the indisputable worst part—is that I remember this.

The first few years of my life were probably normal, about what anyone would expect from a southern, lower middle class white family that subsisted more on the successes of previous generations than the merits of its own. There were some oddities, though, and signs even then of who I really was, but it was the mid-80s. It wouldn’t really be fair to blame my parents for not recognizing and embracing that I was transgender.

Of course, I was born male, “with a penis and everything.” But whenever all of my underwear was dirty, my mother would put me in my sister’s panties; it wasn’t a punishment, to clarify. Being the clever child that I was, I began hiding all of my underwear, just so that I could tell my mom that I didn’t have any, and so that I could wear panties instead. Somewhere around three years old, I took all of my underwear and threw them into the back of a closet that no one ever opened, and then I reported to my mother that, strangely, all of my underwear was suddenly gone.

So when I say that I’ve been transgender since birth, it’s as close to “since birth” as one can get. I couldn’t have been older than three years old at that point, because my sister hadn’t begun kindergarten herself. I knew then that I preferred women to men: I loved my mother and sister, and, even at that age, I had a deep appreciation for feminine beauty. I also thought that my Aunt Diane was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, and my mother used to make fun of me for my enamorment with my aunt.

My experience with men at this point was limited to my father (who was fat and not overly pleasant to look at), my brother (who was thin, but who had nothing on my mother), my grandfather (who was also overweight, and a jerk), and my Uncle Danny (who has always been an asshole). Although it’s typical for young boys to love their mothers, I wanted to be just like mine, and I suspect that had a lot to do it with, but who can say? I was three when it began, and I simply wanted to be a girl.

I had a blanket (what most people would call a “blankie,” though I never called it that), and it was one of those cotton-threaded ones similar to fishnet. I refused to sleep without it and my pillow. The pillow actually wasn’t that important, but the pillowcase certainly was. I rubbed the pillowcase between my finger and thumbnail, sleeping on the central heating vents in the floor and driving my father crazy with all of it.

A Look at My Father

I would love to say that my father isn’t a bad man.

But he is.

That’s a difficult thing to say and accept, but I have to stress that it doesn’t really make me love him any less, and that the dominant emotion I have for my father is pity. Even so, I would be lying if I said that he was a good man who simply made some mistakes; that isn’t the case at all. He’s a bad man who has made some good decisions, not a good man who has made a few bad ones.

His own childhood was no walk in the park, damaged by my alcoholic and abusive grandfather beating the hell out of my grandmother. Though not much of that has been shared with me, I can certainly relate to what he has said, and it’s clear the recollections are as painful to him as it is for me to recall the abuse my mother endured at the hands of alcoholics.

At some point, my grandparents divorced—Go, grandma!—because my grandmother wouldn’t put up with the abuse. My grandmother is easily worthy of her own story, because she is an unsung hero of the feminist movement without even trying. In the sixties and seventies, she left her violent husband and blazed her own path in Mississippi, won the house in the divorce, and then worked at a college until she retired at the age of 67.

True to the family history, my grandmother endured her own screwed up childhood, and was even sent away by her mother to live with Uncle Bill and Aunt Edna on their farm. Evidently, Aunt Edna didn’t like my grandmother one bit, and was very unkind to her. What internal strength caused my grandmother, in what must have been the 40s, to graduate as the valedictorian of her class? What quiet resolve allowed my grandmother to learn the necessary skills to work in the administration section of a college during the 60s?

These are questions to which I would love answers, but I’ll never have them, because they are not things that my grandmother is willing to discuss. Questions about her past are met with short answers, and I can’t blame her for not wanting to talk about it.

On one particular drunken rampage, my father held a gun on my grandfather so that my grandmother could limp out of the house. While I truly hate that he had to do such a thing in the first place, I’m also jealous that he was old enough to do something about it. When my mother suffered under Everett’s hands, I was in the second grade, and too young and weak to do anything to intervene.

For years, my father insisted that he was drafted to Vietnam, and he even talked about how he was called a murderer and spit upon when he returned. Eventually my sister and I realized that there’s no way this is true. Either he was actually the oldest between him and his brother (and thus wouldn’t have been drafted), or the Vietnam War ended when he was 16. In this little alternate reality he had constructed, he had to be older than our mother was (which was blatantly false—she had always been recognized as the older one), his brother had to be lying about his own age, and almost everyone had to have falsified birth records.

He changed his story to say that he was in Vietnam during the 80s, through another offensive that we did, but I have been unable to find any military record for him. Whether he actually fought in Vietnam, he did mislead us into believing he’d fought in the Vietnam War, which is a lie of such magnitude and scope that one has to marvel at it.

He is a religious man, though it’s hard to tell by his behavior: heavy drug usage, constant lies, and steady manipulation. Although he is less religious than other family members are, his secularism is applied selectively, and he’s generally as fundamental as everyone else is. He continues to believe that President Obama is a Muslim, is more or less openly racist, and is a diehard Republican, despite that he’s effectively a ward of the state who benefits substantially from liberal policies.

I obviously don’t see eye-to-eye with him, but we do have some similar interests. It was he who introduced me to Fantasy literature and tabletop gaming, both of which almost immediately became passions for me. In turn, I exposed him to the tenth installment of a popular roleplaying video game, and I’m still happy that I was able to show him to something that he enjoyed so immensely. He must have played through it a dozen times, and he certainly discovered more of its secrets than I ever would have.

There is some kinship between us, and I do love him, despite the numerous differences, and in spite of the fact that he has done me far more harm than good. More than anything, I pity him, because his childhood evidently destroyed him; he is one those who did not escape unscathed. He was swallowed by the mentality that the world owes him something, and oblivious to the reality that the world will never give it.

The rifts between us began because I was not the son that he wanted. He hated that I loved sleeping on the heating vents—I’ve always loved heat. I wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. I had to sleep on one of the floor vents, and the heat had to be on. There in the floor, I had the pillow and pillowcase that I refused to sleep without, and the blanket that I required as I slept.

My father hated all of these things. We went to visit some relatives at one point, and I left my blanket and pillow at home. With no other way to shut me up, my parents took me to a store to get a new pillow, and there I went from one to the next, tearing open the plastic just slightly, and “testing” it until I found one that was satisfactory. When we got back to our trailer a few nights later, dad went outside and told me to bring my pillow.

As I stepped out into the night air, I saw him kneeling just outside the small stone circle beside our front steps. It had once been a flower garden—conceived during one of mom’s highs, when she was bolstered with energy from painkillers. The high wore off, but the flowers remained in that little circle of rocks—at least for a while. Then they died, shriveled, neglected, and forgotten.

Almost like a demon out of a child’s horror story, there was my dad, grinning devilishly and eagerly, urging me to throw my old pillow onto a mess of crumbled newspapers soaked in lighter fluid as he held his flaming lighter above it. “We need to burn it!” he said, but I refused. There was no need to burn it. They were already making me throw it away—they were already making me discard this pillow that I loved and had slept with every night for years. Was that not enough?

“We need to burn it!” he said again, as I ran inside and cried to mom that dad wanted to burn the pillow that I loved. It may seem strange that I had such attachment to a pillow, but I did, and both of my parents knew it. My father certainly knew very well that I loved that pillow.

That’s why he wanted to burn it. Because I loved it.

We didn’t burn random things, and I doubt that we ever burned anything there at all. He wasn’t content to force me to throw away this pillow, the symbol that I was an emotional person and not the crass son that he apparently wanted. The pillow had to be destroyed in flames because I loved it, and because “real men don’t love.” This silly, feminine weakness, this emotional attachment to an object—it had to be gotten rid of, and in the most dramatic way possible.

It was not the pillow that my dad wanted to burn.

It was my heart.

My mother intervened, though my father came inside and continued insisting that we needed to burn the pillow, because he was afraid that I would be able to talk my mother into letting me keep it. One has to wonder why it was an issue that I wanted to keep it. In the end, I placed it gingerly on top of the garbage can in the kitchen and told it goodbye. I hated to do so, and I cried, because it didn’t make sense to me.

It’s understandable that I developed such strong emotional ties to objects, as neither parent spent much time with me, and there was not much hugging in the family. Mom and dad were always high on one drug or another, lying on the couch and borderline comatose. I don’t know how Brandi handled it then, or what she did in order to get through the long and miserable days, but it was surely as awful for her as it was for me. Unlike our older brother, we didn’t have friends with whom we could go hang out. Or, at least, I didn’t. Brandi was friends with a girl who didn’t live too far from us, and I hope that my sister was happy then.

Aunt May and Kay-Kay

For a while, mom did work, as did my father. While Brandi and Eric were gone to school and my parents were at work, I was babysat by our great aunt who lived next door, a relatively kind woman who I remember as mostly humorless. My father fleeced her out of most of her money, just as he did to my great-grandmother, and just as he is currently doing to my grandmother. However, I was too young to comprehend that, and there isn’t much that I remember about Aunt May.

It was horrendously boring at Aunt May’s. There were few places worse for my pre-school self. I wasn’t allowed to take my Nintendo, which left me there alone with an eighty-year-old woman and very little to actually do, because there was no one to play with and nowhere to play at. Aunt May wasn’t unkind, but she was also not particularly joyful. I don’t blame her for that—she was a very old woman, and probably not happy to babysit a four-year-old.

I should have been outside having fun, rather than sitting in a living room with an eighty-year-old woman and playing with paper dolls that she cut out of a magazine. Of course, such things seem droll only from a modern perspective, but I was accustomed to video games and cartoons, the heightened entertainment possibilities of the late 1980s. In the 1880s, a child would have been thrilled to sit on a couch in an air-conditioned house and idle away the hours with paper dolls.

However, imagine the horrified response one would get if a modern child was asked to spend day after day in that environment, with only a very old woman as company. There would probably be allegations of child abuse, though I’m not making that claim. However, many modern parents would likely consider that to be, at the least, borderline child abuse. To me, it was simply boring, and the time passed so slowly that I probably lived more moments there at Aunt May’s house than all the moments I have lived since.

I don’t intend any of this to be disparaging to Aunt May. I have no doubt that she did the best she could, and significantly better than many people in her position would have. Still, I dreaded those days when both parents had to work, and it was routine for me to ask mom each afternoon, “Do you have to work tomorrow?”

Aunt May had a moustache, as well, but I never noticed it. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and I was shown a picture of her that I learned she had a moustache. I was pre-kindergarten when I spent time with Aunt May, so the idea that a woman didn’t have facial hair wasn’t in my head yet, so it seemed perfectly normal to me. My father had a moustache and Aunt May had a moustache. Cars had tires, and houses had walls.

One horrible day, as Aunt May sat in her recliner, concealed from view of the kitchen as I sat on the couch near the front door, there was suddenly a crash in the kitchen. The backdoor entered into the kitchen, and I will never forget the fear that fell over this old woman’s face. Someone had broken in through the back door.

She and I hid in the living room, cowering in the corner behind her chair. I don’t believe she ever called the police (she didn’t have a phone), or did anything about it, but my memory of that ordeal is vague. I recall only the noise, the unmistakable terror in her eyes that I was able to recognize even at four years old, and the hiding.

Because she was very old, it simply wasn’t possible for Aunt May to always babysit me, and I had another sitter called Kay-Kay—a hefty, middle-aged woman who seemed to be doing pretty well in life. She had a house, at least, which I recognized to mean that she was okay—we lived in a trailer, and most of the people we knew lived in a trailer. Living in a house… That was a grand thing to me. I didn’t mind that we lived in a trailer, and I was much too young to know that being the child of two fast-food workers (even if they were supervisors) who raised Confederate flags, shot up heroin, and ate Xanax made me the definitive example of “trailer trash,” but I knew that it was a great thing to have a house.

Kay-Kay was an ordinary woman, and there was much going on beneath the surface that most people never saw. As I sat in one of her bedrooms, playing a video game, there was suddenly a banging on the door and people shouting, demanding to be allowed inside and promising that, if Kay-Kay refused, they would tear the house down.

Although I was shocked and scared at first, Kay-Kay put my fears to rest by handling it expertly. She answered in an almost aloof way, as though she had no concern about it. Even as they banged and screamed, I was unafraid, because Kay-Kay didn’t appear to take it seriously. After a minute or so, the banging stopped, and then the rhythmic pounding echoed through her home, coming from somewhere in the back.

“They’re going to tear the house down!” I shouted to Kay-Kay, scared once more. In my head, I had the image of two enormous, burly, and angry men outside with huge hammers, smashing away the bricks and crashing through the walls.

“Oh, no, they’re not, sweetie,” came Kay-Kay’s reply as she dropped to a knee and hugged me. “They’re just mad. They’ll get over it and leave in a few minutes.”

Sure enough, Kay-Kay was right: they did leave shortly thereafter. In actuality, they probably just had given up on the front door and gone to try the back door. Finding it locked, they banged and shouted some more, and then left. I never learned what it was about, and Kay-Kay asked me not to mention it to my parents, which made sense: that isn’t the sort of thing a mother wants happening at the selected babysitter’s home. I didn’t stay quiet, though, and that was the last time Kay-Kay ever babysat me. It was also the last time that I saw her.

The Rise of Tumult

There was a “friend of the family” called Doc, and I liked him a lot. Everyone liked Doc—he was a friendly, charismatic person. Being my parents’ friend, he was heavily on drugs, but Doc was also in a motorcycle gang, which created a problem, because shooting up was explicitly against the gang’s laws. Just to be clear here: this is the world I grew up in. This was normal to my three-year-old self. On any given day, I was likely to see one or both of my parents shoot up heroin with a buddy who was in a motorcycle gang, smoke a joint or two, and collapse onto the couch in a stupor and droning out “Yeah…” to no one.

I watched my mother, laid out on the loveseat, look to my father on the other side of the living room. She held up, toward my father, a syringe full of some red liquid, and then she asked in a seductive voice, “John, do you want some of this?” And as she spoke, she pressed in the syringe and sent a jet stream of this stuff—whatever it was—flying across the living room. They were both out of their minds, just high as hell.

Disheveled, frantic, panicked, and terrified, Doc stopped by our trailer and wanted to sell my father a half-pound of weed for fifty bucks. My father had twenty dollars he could pay. Knowing my father, it’s amazing that he had any money, but he did, and he explained to Doc what he had.

Doc in turn explained that he had to get out of town. “Had to,” he said, and my father understood what that meant. The gang somehow learned that Doc was shooting up, so Doc had to get out of town before they found him and forced him to run “The Gauntlet.” Because, apparently, that actually happens. My father bought the weed, and Doc fled, but it was to no avail, and he was later found dead.

We frequently drove north to visit my Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny (the man who would later go to prison for murder and, in all likelihood, killed my mother, though there is no body or evidence), as well as our cousins. One of these trips proved to be one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood.

As Brandi and I rode with dad in his yellow truck, in a secluded area where the road was surrounded by steep ditches that spelled death for anyone who lost control and went over, a truck driver decided to pass us. The trucker blew his horn a few times, and then he went for it. As he passed, he veered to the right—or dad swerved to the left. The enormous side view mirror of the rig crashed through the window beside dad and sent a spray of glass shards through the cab of our truck. Luckily, neither my sister nor I sustained any injuries.

The fault was probably my father’s (driving under the influence of one drug or another), but the reason officially given was that the highway wasn’t wide enough to pass. This excuse came much later in the day, after the trip got significantly worse.

We passed through Memphis as we traveled, and came upon an intersection. Not paying attention, I couldn’t tell you exactly how it happened, but there was shaking and noise. We rear-ended another vehicle. It’s possible that my father didn’t stop quickly enough, and it’s possible that he pressed the gas too hard and too quickly after the light turned green. Regardless, we hit the vehicle hard and sent it careening into the intersection. Reportedly, it traveled fifty feet from the impact.

The woman driving that car died on the spot with a broken neck.

Someone obviously called the police, and they arrested my father. The police placed Brandi and me in the back of the police car with him, which made us feel as though we were also being arrested, and that is terrifying when you’re four or five years old and have no comprehension of what is going on. As though we were playing out a scene in a movie, the very same trucker who had hit us earlier happened upon the accident, and presumably told the police that dad was driving erratically. The next thing I knew, the trucker was banging on the glass beside me, shouting obscenities at us—not just at our dad, but honestly at the five-year-old children, too. I was terrified, confused, and frightened out of my mind, and it didn’t help that dad, with his hands cuffed behind his back, was frothing at the mouth, rocking the police car, and demanding to be let out so that he could fight the truck driver.

My sister and I were taken to the hospital, and police, doctors, and therapists repeatedly questioned us about the accidents. We were separated from our father, but also from each other, and that made the experience more traumatic than it had to be. We were finally told that we would be going into the care of Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny briefly, and they were the ones who picked us up from the hospital. My grandmother acquired a good lawyer for my father, and he was able to go to rehabilitation rather than prison, or something to that effect.

For a long time, my nerves were absolutely shot, and it was nearly impossible to get me into a vehicle, which is probably the normal response of a four year old child after being in two accidents in a single day, one of which resulted in a death, all because the parents didn’t mind driving after eating a bunch of pills. Naturally, their solution was to shove pills down my throat, giving me what they called “nerve pills” that were probably Xanax or Klonopin. This was the only way to get me into an automobile for several months after the accidents, because otherwise I would scream and throw fits. Eventually the anxiety faded, but knocking me out with drugs was the only way to get me into a car for a while.

Things returned to what we considered normal, though that isn’t to say that either of my parents stopped doing drugs. I doubt either parent was clean for any notable period, and they continued inviting friends over. These parties, while they were more or less tame and consisted of people drinking, doing drugs, and playing spades, would not constitute “normal” for most kids.

On one such occasion, one of the people with whom they were hanging out decided that it would be a brilliant idea to inject peanut butter. Presumably, he’d heard that “The high is incredible, man!” and wasn’t much interested in maybe asking a doctor before doing something so horrendously and creatively stupid. According to my father—who is a known pathological liar, it’s worth remembering—the man died on the spot, so they took him home and left him on his couch, dead. I have no memory of this, but it allegedly happened sometime around my fifth birthday.

I started kindergarten, and I loathed it. Up until that point, my life was fantastic. I could wake up whenever I wanted, spend the entire day watching cartoons and playing videogames, snacking whenever I desired, and just doing anything I pleased. Then suddenly I couldn’t do that any longer; I had to wake up at a specific time, go spend the entire day in a boring school, and then only had a few hours afterward to do the things that I enjoyed doing. As early as kindergarten, it struck me as absurd: if the point of life is to be happy, as everyone constantly insisted to me, then why did I have to go to school?

We were poor—dirt poor, as you might expect, given the heavy drug usage. Although both parents were managers at various fast food restaurants at times, my mother eventually quit working altogether and got onto disability for her migraines. It was with tremendous excitement that we were approved for food stamps, and we waited for weeks with palpable eagerness in the air, though I had no idea what it even meant. There are two times that I distinctly recall the entire family waiting anxiously for something to happen, and the anticipation was identical on both occasions; we waited for food stamps and we waited for our cable to be activated with the same sense of impending thrill, as did I, even though I had no understanding of what either meant.

Being approved for food stamps felt like having a birthday, and so did the cable company finally coming out, after weeks of waiting, to connect our cable television. While I understood that having cable meant that we would have Nickelodeon, there was no way that I understood the concept of food stamps, so my excitement was surely nothing more than a mirror of my parents’ own eager anticipations. It was just months after this that I began school, and that mom became convinced that dad was not really working, that he was only disappearing while he was supposed to be at work.

It was a school day when it happened, because we were supposed to be in class, but mom kept us at home. My much older brother, my slightly older sister, and I were told that we were leaving dad, and I’m sure I handled that as well as any six year old child would, which is to say with naked emotion untempered by the jaded self-control we are taught to exercise in later years. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I was devastated nonetheless. First, the life I had come to know and love was wrecked by having to go to school, and then what little semblance of it remained was being irretrievably shattered by this upheaval. I spent the entire day in tears, as did my sister. Whatever was going on between our parents had nothing to do with us, and our lives were being cast into the hurricane because of it.

Too young to truly understand what was really going on, my primary concern was whether to leave my father “the good Nintendo” or the bad one. They both worked, but one of them was much more difficult to get working. Both my dad and I were big on video games, and so was my older brother, and even my mom and sister played occasionally. There were lots of family moments when we all took turns, and we even had a device that allowed four controllers to be used.

I agonized over that decision far more than a six year old should, and my mom didn’t give the situation nearly as much attention as it deserved. My entire world, prior to school, consisted almost entirely of playing video games. That I even debated which one to leave was a tremendous indicator of how much I loved my father, how much I didn’t want to leave, and, above all, how poorly equipped I was to cope with the chaos I suddenly was confronting. Mom was tearing our family apart, breaking it into two pieces, and she never sat down with my sister and me to explain what was happening, to assure us that we’d still see our dad, or to promise us that it would be okay. While to some extent that’s understandable, since she had to pack and load things up, the utter failure to remember that she was literally wrecking her youngest kids’ lives is very difficult to excuse.

To make matters worse, she was cowardly about it, too, because all of this happened while my father was at work. We lived in a trailer on my grandfather’s land, and it’s very likely that my grandfather was the one who alerted my father to the moving truck that was at his home. However, seeing as my grandfather later offered to shoot my mother for my dad, I doubt he would have showed the restraint simply to inform my dad of what was happening.

Regardless, dad pulled up while we were finishing and preparing to leave. The next little bit is a blur of anger, hostility, and shouting from which I am able to pull very few details. In a flash, dad went from anger to pleading, but mom refused to listen; her mind was made up, and she cranked the car, put it into gear, and hit the gas. Dad threw himself into the side of the car and then hit the ground, fell onto his back, and then lie there in the grass. My sister and I screamed and cried—our dad had just been run over!—and mom shouted at us to stop yelling. I gazed out of the back window at my father as we drove away, and there he was, lying unmoving in the grass, and all I could think was the horrible thought, “Dad is dead.”

There in the back of the car, crying quietly, having just watched my father die from being hit by a car, I sat at the age of six years old, being shouted at by my mom to shut up because I freaked out when I saw her kill my dad.

Want to read the whole story? Well, now you can! For a limited time (until June 15), Dancing in Hellfire is finally available for sale, for only $3.49. You can buy it here, through this very site, using PayPal or a typical credit/debit card (payment is processed by PayPal, so I don’t see the info), after which you’ll be given access to the book as both a PDF and an ePub.

The Drumhead

Anyone who has seen the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called “The Drumhead” will probably have a pretty good idea of where I’m going with this. In the episode, a klingon happens to be a spy, and is caught–however, an accident that occurred at around the same time went unexplained, and, worried about saboteurs and collaborators, Starfleet began an investigation into the crew of the Enterprise.

What began as a seemingly justifiable investigation devolved almost immediately into a witch hunt, or, as Picard put it, a “Drumhead Trial”–a mock trial put on by a military tribunal where punishment was swift and decisive. It’s a well-known episode, and generally considered among that series best’s. It’s a pity that we learned nothing from its rather anvilicious lessons.

Consider this excerpt from someone at Fox News who was writing in defense of Trump:

That doesn’t mean that, say, Michael Flynn, who just invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying on the Hill, doesn’t have problems related to past payments from the Russians.

Er… No, Howard Kurtz, that’s not right. The way this is phrased creates the default idea that Flynn has those problems, and that his invocation of the fifth is evidence of that–otherwise, why even link these two things?

In the episode I mentioned, a young man is revealed to have lied about his heritage, having claimed to be half-Vulcan when he was actually half-Romulan, and the Romulans were essentially Star Trek’s Russians. During his publicly open interrogation, with dozens and dozens of people watching eagerly, he was asked about his true lineage, and he invoked the fifth (or, actually, Starfleet’s version of the fifth).

Immediately, the whispering and gasps rang out. Rumor swirled, and he was instantly assumed to be guilty.

Kangaroo done hung the juror with the innocent.

We would all do well to watch this tense episode once more, but allowing it to hit closer to home. You’ll see in the inquisitor none other than Democratic leadership, relentlessly pursuing every possible lead in their quixotic quest to find a collaborator or saboteur. In those nightmarish circumstances, where even Picard is ultimately brought in for questioning, even pleading the fifth becomes evidence of a person’s guilt.

The moral of the story is that we’re never more than one accident away from a witch hunt. We saw it last year when the clown sightings began–fully hysterical reactions from people over clowns who had done nothing to anyone and may very well not have existed in the first place. It’s entirely possible that there was never even a single clown, much less several, but that didn’t stop panic and hysteria from sweeping the nation: schools were locked down, clown masks were pulled from store shelves, and police investigations were launched.

Of course, we can look to an actual witch hunt if we’d like to depress ourselves, since 40,000 people were killed in puritan America for being witches–and, the reasoned mind of today understands that none of them were witches. The accusation alone branded one guilty, and often the trials involved horrific things like “Drown her. If she’s innocent, God will save her.”

Eyeballs deep in muddy water, fucking hypocrite.

I’m honestly not scared of much. I’ve had someone put a gun in my face and tell me to drop to my knees and beg for my life, whereupon I defiantly replied, “You’re gonna have to kill me, because I’m not doing that.” I’ve been left beaten and bloody in at least three parking lots. I’ve had picking up hitch hikers backfire on me in spectacular ways. But none of that scares me.

Hysteria, however… Hysteria terrifies me.

How long did McCarthy and Hoover’s reigns of terror last? There has even been talk of recognition the House of Un-American Activities. My death–who cares? It would likely be painful, but after that, over, so it’s really not something to be scared of. However, a witch hunt can go so very far beyond that–into tortured confessions, corrupt interrogators, presumed guilt rather than presumed innocence…

We played with the fire after the Orlando Shooting, as well, when people asked how this person who had been investigated three times by the FBI had been able to acquire guns. It is simply assumed, in their worldview, that a person is guilty if the FBI investigates them. Never mind that this could easily be part of the anti-Muslim witch hunt. “He was investigated three times? Then he’s guilty. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire! Besides, look what he did!”

Yes, but the fact that “what he did” was something he “hadn’t yet done” at the time he was being investigated is of critical importance. You can’t apply current knowledge about him to decisions people made about him in the past. And we damn sure can’t assume people are guilty just because we have an out-of-control investigatory agency that is perfectly poised to begin and instigate witch hunts.

I don’t know or care whether Flynn did whatever it is that he’s being presumed guilty of doing, and I don’t care if Trump played a role in it. Even if they do manage to demonstrate guilt (as opposed to assuming it), they still have to demonstrate why the whole thing is of any consequence at all.

Now people are talking impeachment. There’s no doubt: impeachment was on people’s minds on Election Day, as soon as the results came in. If the idea of having a hardcore religious nutjob as President sounds appealing, then, by all means, proceed with impeachment. People seem to think that we can make a Democrat president if we impeach Trump, or that we can spark an emergency election. Neither of these things will or can happen.

Kangaroo be stoned, he’s guilty as the government.

If Trump is impeached and remove from office, then Mike Pence becomes President. And any impeachment proceeding would look far more like a Drumhead Trial than anything that resembles a fair court. And, really, I think such an act could very easily spark a civil war, given that Trump has been in office barely four months and hasn’t done anything out of line with what previous presidents did. Removing the president that people chose before that president has even had the chance, in his supporters’ eyes, to do what they wanted him to do… I hope Democrats are ready for the fallout from that, because it won’t be the sunshine and daisies they seem to expect.

We have a problem, though, and the problem is fear. We are terrifyingly prone to panic, and that should be what scares us, not whatever bogeyman we’re panicking about at the given moment. Panic and hysteria shredded much of the Bill of Rights already. What is next in our witch hunt?

Call to Freedom (LRN Show) 5-21-17 & Aftershow Discussion

The Call to Freedom With Will Coley & Thom Gray

Last week and this week, I was a guest on the Liberty Radio Network show “The Call to Freedom” hosted by former Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate Will Coley and Thom Gray, who doesn’t get an awesome title before his name but doesn’t need one, because that’s how awesome he is. Due to it not having a podcast form, I wasn’t aware the show existed (without a permanent form, it doesn’t get picked up at the RRND, which is where I learn about such things). While I tried to get a recording of last week’s, I got the time wrong and forgot about it, but did get this one.

We discussed vice chair Arvin Vohra’s statements about veterans. Well… Jim Babbs and Larry Sharpe discussed it. I barely touched on it. Partway through the episode, I asked why Larry brought it up again, and this is something that badly needs to be explained. I did so in this article, where I elaborated that he kept bringing it up, even though he said he’d forgiven it and let it go. Live on the air, I couldn’t formulate my thoughts in a way that didn’t sound antagonistic as hell, so I instead chose to let it go and to just sound like an idiot instead. C’est la vie.

It was a great show, and, personally, I think the aftershow was even better, primarily because I was looser and more relaxed. By that point, I was beginning to get comfortable and fall into a groove, so any future appearances (crossing my fingers) won’t have me quite so silent. If you’re interested in liberty, be sure to check out these links.

I did edit the Aftershow. For one, all of my input was lost due to how I recorded it. Because of this, I had to record today’s encore airing, and then re-record and re-impose what I’d said during the aftershow discussion back into the audio. I think I achieved about a 99% accuracy, though I knowingly added one remark (and made note that it was an added remark not said during the conversation). Much of the aftershow discussion, about the possibility of me attending Somalia Fest and PorcFest with Will Coley and his family, was personal in nature, and so I removed it. Additionally, there is some beeping, because a few things were said that wouldn’t have been said if it was on the air. In consideration of all involved, I’ve beeped out some names, and removed one brief section about someone.

I cannot say that I will record and upload every episode of “Call to Freedom,” but it is something that I would like to do, and I’m generally available on Sunday nights. I know that I’ll record and upload any future episodes that I’m in, but I think it would be a little narcissistic to do only episodes that have me as a guest (even though it is a bit of work to do all this–removing commercials, tweaking audio, normalizing, compressing, adjusting EQ bands…).

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Sunday night I was invited again to be on “The Call to Freedom” hosted by Thom Grey and former libertarian Vice Presidential candidate (and possible future presidential candidate!) to discuss the neverending Libertarian Drama and the current status of the Libertarian Party, with two other guests: James Babbs and Larry Sharpe. It was a really good episode, though most of it was (frustratingly, honestly, as I had a lot I wanted to say, but I don’t get into shouting matches, and I try very hard not to interrupt people unless my point is very critical, like when I interrupted Jim at one point to say that if he wanted the LP to be a “safe place” for people to learn about libertarianism, than we can’t call people “murderers”), but it calmed down for about the last half hour and I got some words in.

Funnily, Thom messaged me through the episode and jokingly said something like, “When the cis men keep talking over the trans woman.” I lol’d, and I know he was joking, but my silence was 100% on me, and no one else. It’s true that Jim and Larry weren’t perhaps as considerate of the fact that they were co-guests were two other people, but my silence was totally on me for making the choice to sit out the shouting match, and for being extremely reluctant to interrupt anyone. I’m not knocking them–that’s often how these things go, and I don’t blame them for that. It’s just not how I prefer to do things. And it doesn’t seem to be how Will and Thom prefer to do things, either, as they were mostly silent through it all, too.

It made for a pretty good show, though.

It also brought a few things to my attention. First, I am extremely out of practice with having to think on my feet and formulate replies on the fly. Through the last two years, I’ve more or less avoided all “live” discussions of politics and religion (and, honestly, I just about don’t discuss religion at all any longer). When clients start talking about it, I simply listen, because they’re wrong on so many levels, and I know better than to try to point that out to them. When friends dive into it, I know I’m the only anarchist present, and trying to explain to someone why the entire tax system enslaves the American people is a bit too much for a light political discussion over a few glasses of wine when other people are interested in talking about a tax increase or decrease. Being an anarchist is like being the quantum mechanics physicist in the room full of people who are all discussing gravity, and each and every other person is wrong about something in spectacular ways. Does the physicist jump in to correct everyone? Almost certainly not. He instead quietly shakes his head and listens, lamenting all the way that they have failed themselves. Even with my family, I’m extremely unlikely to jump into a conversation, because trying to explain what libertarianism is and why I’m a libertarian is a fifteen minute ordeal, at best, and no one–absolutely no one–is going to sit and listen to you for 15 minutes. You might get thirty seconds before you’re interrupted, but even through those 30 seconds they won’t be listening–they’ll be thinking about what they’re going to say as soon as you finish talking.

During high school, I was an amazing debater. I don’t mean to brag, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone. I have a knack for analyzing things and picking them apart until nothing is left. I’d even call it my best skill. But once you start picking apart people’s assumptions, they always reply in a few predictable ways. They’ll either say that you’ve brought it to the level of reductio ad absurdum by asking them to demonstrate why it’s better that humans should survive instead of go extinct, when the reality is that it’s a completely fair question: there is much argument to be made that Earth and the universe would be much better off if humans suddenly ceased existing. Some other animal species would probably rise up at some point, and maybe they wouldn’t be as consumed by their egos as we are. Who knows? Regardless, it’s not an absurd question; it’s a totally fair question, and one that they can’t answer. That it’s better for humans to survive is an assumption, and the assumption is based on their value system, primarily the idea that “life is good.”

Anyway… So I’ve been very out-of-practice when it comes to arguing on my feet, though, luckily, stage fright has never been a problem for me. I intend to resolve this by going back to doing one “on-the-fly” response video on Youtube, where I record myself watching and replying to a video that I’m likely to disagree with. That’s essentially the same thing, and doing it allows me to go back to creating content, and has the added benefit of getting me back into practice, since it’s a skill like any other–use it or lose it. Anyway, so tonight’s podcast…

…is an episode of someone else’s show.

Dancing in Hellfire

Last year, I wrote a book called Dancing in Hellfire. It is essentially my autobiography, except that I didn’t stop at simply relating events that had happened. Instead, I looked back on them and thought about what I learned from them, because the functional mind is always learning–any mind that refuses to learn is effectively dead. To be sure, I’ve had some really screwed up things happen in my past: both parents are/were drug addicts, my father killed a woman when I was 4, my mother was murdered when I was 12 (her body never found, so she’s still listed as a missing person), and other, generally awful things that you would rightly expect to happen in circumstances like that. Before we even factor in transgenderism, there is easily enough material to fill an 80,000 word autobiography (a bit on the heavy side for a memoir anyway), and I found myself chopping out entire recollections to make room for the transgender stuff.

Really, you’d think in today’s political environment that it would be an easy sell. That’s opportunistic of me, and I don’t deny that, but I also don’t see it as a problem. Identifying a niche in the market and targeting that niche isn’t a bad thing–in fact, it’s a smart thing to do. Only in the past six months, as my search for a literary agent has hit a dead end, has it dawned on me that I still made a mistake with the targeting. As I said, the book isn’t about “Oh, poor me, this happened and society didn’t do anything to prevent it!” Instead, it’s a book about “This happened, and this is what I learned from it.”

The critical difference is that the former marks me as a victim; the latter marks me as a beneficiary.

Without a doubt, I’d rather have my mother alive today, but there’s also no disputing that it has marked me in many ways that are very positive. Foremost among these is surely my awareness of justice as a function of forgiveness rather than vengeance. Those wounds are real, and they are painful–however, those very wounds have also made me ask the excruciating question, “How might I have closure on this?” The answer to that is not “…by seeing the murderer in prison!” The murderer has already been to prison for an unrelated murder, and it did nothing to make me feel any better. While it sucks beyond the capacity of weak words to convey how much it actually sucks to have my mother gone, absent without a trace, like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, I can detach myself from that enough to recognize that having a mind that is more focused on forgiveness than vengeance is a positive result.

It wouldn’t be worth asking whether I’d rather have my mother alive, and to still consider vengeance and justice to be the same thing, or if I’d prefer the current state of affairs. Just because these things happened in a way that are causal doesn’t mean they’re mutually exclusive. Maybe my mother could still be alive and something else could have happened to lead me to that realization. There’s no way to know, and so the hypothetical is useless–built, as it is, on the assumption that I can’t have both simply because I don’t have both.

I’ve neglected to talk about it publicly before now, but we do live in a society that glorifies victimization, and this is no more evident than in the bizarre way that Glamour magazine named the Stanford rape victim their Woman of the Year. This perplexes me in countless ways. I’m not demeaning her fight within the system to see Brock punished for what he did, but “having been raped” doesn’t strike me as a particularly good reason to be named “Woman of the Year” any more than being trans was reason to name Caitlyn Jenner woman of the year. Why don’t we celebrate accomplishments rather than victimization? It is an absolute slap in the face to the female biochemists who lead breakthrough research, the females at CERN, and the leading female experts in countless industries, to be passed up as Woman of the Year because someone was a victim of rape and the case was very public. Again, this isn’t to say that the rape should be ignored, but it certainly shouldn’t be celebrated.

Bad Stuff Happens

… all the time.

Earlier this month, I attempted to drive ~150 miles to see A Perfect Circle live, for probably the last live tour they’re going to do, and it was an ordeal just to get tickets, much less to find someone who would go. To give you an idea of how much this meant to me, a few weeks beforehand, in an article about scalpers, I wrote:

I bought tickets to the A Perfect Circle concert next month for well over what they cost initially, and the reason was precisely because my demand exceeds other people’s. I can’t even convey with words what A Perfect Circle’s music means to me. Being able to see them again–probably for the last tour they’re ever going to do, since no one expected this one and it’s been 14 years since their last one–is one of those experiences that literally makes life worth living (no exaggeration). Because of scalpers, I was able to acquire a ticket, and I would say it’s far more important that I was able to get a ticket than Random Joe who kinda likes their music and has nothing else to do that evening. The seats aren’t even that good, and I don’t even care. It’s A Perfect Circle. It means more to me than it will anyone else in that audience.

And you know what happened? Shortly after I got onto i240, headed for i40 and the long eastward trip to Nashville, I saw that my temperature gauge was way higher than it should have been–like “about to overheat” high. I whipped over and got off the interstate, stopping on Airways. Not being an idiot, I’d left with more than an hour to spare, in the event that something weird happened. However, it took my car nearly 45 minutes to cool off enough to hold water, and we discovered that the upper radiator hose had come completely off, which is the rarest and most unlikely thing that could possibly happen with a working clamp (not to mention, of course, that the months of driving before that had no issue, so it happened at the worst possible moment). In doing so, it had brushed against the alternator belt, and had been cut open, so even after it was cool enough to travel again, it had a steady leak that meant the hose had to be replaced. This meant we had to go to an Auto Zone, buy a replacement hose, put it on, and then refill the thing with water (if you’ve ever driven a Chrysler, you know this isn’t as straightforward as with most vehicles). When we were finally heading back toward the interstate, the GPS called out, “Estimated time of arrival is 9:23 pm…” which was two hours after the concert started. That’s right. We lost nearly three hours due to that overheating.

This actually took me completely down for about ten days, as some people may have noticed, because I didn’t post anything. I didn’t have the strength. I was depressed; it’s really hard to convey how much it hurt to miss the concert over something so extraordinarily unlikely that no one would have taken the bet that it was likely to happen. Yet life goes on, I recovered, and got back to it–though I was down longer than I would have anticipated. Because I’m moving to Vegas and the state of Mississippi said “lol, fuck you” earlier this year, setting me back on that plan far more than I’d have liked, I don’t make plans to go and do things very often–spare money is better put toward moving to Vegas than going to see a concert, but this was no ordinary band–this is the band that has influenced my music more than any other. I didn’t really learn anything from that experience, because there was nothing to really learn. It was a freak accident at the worst possible time, and I’d checked my car that very morning. It’s true that I didn’t inspect the hoses, but, c’mon, no one does. That’s absurd. One might as well pull out and check each and every fuse. While I did inspect everything (on a different vehicle) before driving to Vegas in 2015, that was 1800 miles, not 180 miles.

I tend to think that I’m so anti-authoritarian because of the horrifically bad parenting of my mother and father, a point that I call attention to in Dancing in Hellfire. Through most people’s childhoods, and well into their adolescences, they have this idea that their parents are indestructible and supreme. I remember well being in the third grade and having Danny, a friend of mine, stand beside me in line at the cafeteria and put his fist to one of the cinderblocks in the wall and ask, “Do you think your dad could punch through this? My dad could!” Even then, at nine years old, it struck me as ridiculous. No, his dad could not punch through the cinderblock, but I didn’t challenge the idea with him. It did not occur to me then how odd it was that he would have this unrealistic idea of his dad, but it happened again much later, in the seventh grade, when a kid described his dad’s hand as “alligator skin,” proud of his dad being a Working Class Hero, and remarked that a puppy could chew on his fingers for hours and never draw blood.

I didn’t have any of that. When I was six years old, the state showed up with its footsoldiers to kidnap my sister and me, and our mother was powerless to do anything about it. All she could do was cry. I learned that day that my mother–who I’d been with since I was born–was ultimately not the one responsible for me, and that these other people called “the police” had usurped her authority. A brutal lesson for a six year old to learn, but one that has served me well since. My dad wasn’t ultimately the one in charge of me–my mother had trumped him by taking me in the first place, so clearly he was ranked below her in the hierarchy. My mother was also not ultimately the one in charge of me, because her impudence in the face of the state and its footsoldiers left no room to believe that.

And what of my father? Well, you lose the image of your father as the Glorious Personification of Everything Great around the time you see him faceplant into the dirt at a baseball field after eating too many Xanax and drinking too many beers. And if that doesn’t do it, then watching those very same police officers arrest him after a vehicle wreck and place him, powerless, in their police car will shatter that image. There’s absolutely no doubt: some of my earliest and most jarring experiences involved the state exerting its authority. I have very little doubt that this is what left me inclined to view the state as what it is: the slavemaster.

Would I be an anarchist now, if none of this had happened? Another useless hypothetical.

Every experience is not just an opportunity to learn; it is also a choice. No matter what happens, we never lose the power to choose how we react. We are not* mindless machines who operate on extremely complex if-then programming that dictates our responses; we are not powerless. We are not at the mercy of our reactions; our reactions are at our mercy, and nothing changes this. Just because some people choose to let their responses unfold emotionally, with no tempering or self-control, doesn’t mean that they have no choice in the matter, and we shouldn’t allow them to so easily escape the fact that their reactions to things are their reactions. We are not wild beasts braying in the field. We are human beings, and it’s time we acted like it.

If someone says “Fuck you, you’re an idiot” to me, it’s true that I have very little control at this time over my initial emotional reaction of anger and desire to retaliate. Evidence suggests, however, that extensive meditation and self-reflection can, in fact, put us in control of even that lightning-fast emotional reaction. And that’s the key: “lightning-fast.” Emotions are instantaneous. That anger lasts only a flash of a second. If left to its own devices, it would immediately die out, but more often than not we embrace it and purposely keep it going, stoking the fires. Larry Sharpe Sunday night (and today at 2pm Central at www.lrn.fm) is a clear example. After saying that he’d accepted Arvin’s apology and forgiven him, and that they were “good,” the indignation and anger in Larry’s voice were still audible–he was clearly still clinging to those emotions. I actually initially attempted to call attention that, but couldn’t formulate my thoughts quickly enough in a way that weren’t antagonistic, so I instead let it go immediately. While saying that he had let the matter go, he kept bringing it up, even after we tried to move on to other matters, and his voice was absolutely dripping with emotion. Regardless of what he said, it is clear that Larry is keeping those emotions alive rather than releasing them.

Still, that I would immediately react with anger and a desire to retaliate is still on me. It’s still my emotional reaction, and my failure to control my emotions to that degree is my failure. It’s not this person’s fault. They didn’t “make” me angry. I made me angry. They were merely the catalyst–they merely presented me with the choice of how to react, and I chose to react in anger. However, I would typically choose within a second or two to let it go and to release the anger, rather than dwelling on it. Unlike Larry Sharpe, if I forgive what I perceive as a transgression, then I’m not going to bring it up again, because forgiving someone is an internal thing–it has nothing to do with the transgressor, which the Vegas Chick made me realize when I pondered whether she could do anything that would “cause” me to forgive her–the answer was that whether I forgave her had almost nothing to do with her. Demanding contrition or restitution isn’t forgiveness, even if that restitution comes in the form of a simple apology.

Through my own failure, I have no control over the initial emotional reaction. Through much work, I have largely (though certainly not perfectly) taken control of the following moments. My own failures lead me to make the wrong choice in the first place, by reacting with anger, but the choice that immediately follows is whether to release that anger or to embrace it. Both of these are choices.

* At least, we don’t appear to be.

Why Does the Libertarian Party Exist?

There are two main sides within the Libertarian Party these days. One side believes the party exists to win elections, and the other side insists that the party exists to spread the principles of liberty. We can definitively settle the matter right now by taking a look over at the Libertarian Party’s official website and checking out its official platform, wherein it states:

Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands.

It’s pretty explicit and hard to misinterpret. So if you happen to fall in the “the party exists to win elections” camp, then I’m going to have to ask you to free your mind for a moment, because you’re wrong. The party exists to set the world free in our lifetime; winning elections is one of many ways of achieving that goal. The goal is “to create liberty,” basically, to  keep things short. The method–that is, how we get from here to “a world set free”–is not explicitly defined, except in the platform that follows, but that’s more or less just a list of ways that we aren’t free. There is nowhere in the platform any suggestion that we must or, heaven forbid, should go through the state in order to achieve liberty.

That is by design.

It is entirely possible that we may one day set the world free by doing nothing more than spreading the word and making people aware of the reality of the state, and that one day we might have the numbers to simply shake off the fleas and be done with them, without ever electing someone to a political office. That so many people assume that we must go through the state simply shows how trapped in the statist mindset they are. Not only have there been countless sweeping changes throughout human history that did not go through the state, but the best changes have always not gone through the state, and have always been spontaneous creations of individuals acting in liberty, not because of a mandate.

Anarchists Versus Minarchists/Classical Liberals/Statists/Big Ls

This is closest to being honest I’ve had one of the Big L Libertarians get. I’m sure many people reading will instinctively agree with what Tristan said. However, read what Tristan said. “This is our party, and we’re going to do what we want. If you don’t like it, leave.”

It’s been my contention for some time now that when Big L Libertarians talk about “compromise” they don’t mean “with anarchists,” and they actually mean “with Republicans and Democrats.” They love talking about compromise, but when it actually comes down to it, they’re typically intransigent and seem to think that “compromise” means that they get whatever they want, and dissenters get to go along with it or stfu. Compromise is a two-way street, and it means that one side gives up something to secure something that would be tolerable, while the other side gives up something to secure something that would be tolerable. If the nominations of Gary Johnson and William Weld, of all people, didn’t prove beyond any doubt that Big L Libertarians have absolutely no desire to make any concessions–when so many superior Vice Presidential candidates were available, like Will Coley–then I’m not sure what will.

I think that’s the part that Big L Libertarians don’t get: compromise means that they have to make concessions, too. The anarchist-preferred candidate of 2016 was undoubtedly Daryl Perry. Compromising on John McAfee would have been excellent middleground between Big L Libertarians and Daryl Perry. However, they had no reason to compromise, did they? No, because they outnumbered us and have always outnumbered us. We were willing to compromise with having Daryl Perry as a libertarian (not anarchist) candidate. And “we” (I say “we” meaning “me,” but surely most anarchists would have happily agreed) were more than willing to compromise with having John McAfee as something more like a minarchist (whether McAfee is a minarchist or anarchist, I don’t know, but he is certainly easier to sell in the mainstream, simply by weight of his name). And, of course, we had already compromised by playing at all in the system that we want to destroy.

We are, and remain, willing to compromise… with minarchists.

I gladly admit that I have no desire to compromise with Republicans and Democrats. I do not compromise with people who are so blatantly wrong and whose modus operandi is force, violence, and coercion. I will not compromise my freedom to people who see nothing wrong with outlawing abortion, or to people who want to steal from me to pay for other people’s stuff. Not only am I unwilling to compromise with the people who devastated the Middle East and the people who are gleefully beating the Drums of War with Russia, but if you are willing to compromise with such people, then that throws your judgment immediately into doubt, as far as I’m concerned.

If Big L Libertarians want to compromise with Republicans and Democrats, there’s not much we anarchists can do about it, because we are outnumbered–we seem to comprise about 15-20% of the party. Obviously, they are perfectly free to compromise with whoever they want… Or are they? Does compromising with a tyrant or a sycophant not stain one’s hands? Isn’t this a bit like compromising with Charles Manson–“Okay, Charles, we’re going to compromise. You can’t kill anyone, but, I tell you what, we’ll let you torture one person every six months, as long as you don’t kill them. Deal?” How clean would one’s hands really be in such a compromise? And aren’t we all aware that the state is infinitely more horrific than Charles Manson?

Regardless, the issue is that Big L Libertarians act and speak as though what they want is to compromise with the anarchists who actually belong in the Libertarian Party. This is part of the leadership crisis that we face, but we’ve also got a major problem with collectivist thinking having infected the party. They regularly talk about how they wish that the in-fighting in the party would end, and I have to agree, but I dispute their understanding of the in-fighting. The rift is between anarchists and minarchists, or radicals and moderates, however one would like to put it, and exists because the minarchists/moderates have convinced themselves that the Libertarian Party belongs to them and that, at best, anarchists are the red-headed stepchild.

It is not and has never been a minarchist party–nor is it an anarchist party. It is, however, every bit as much an anarchist party as it is a minarchist party, and as it is a classical liberal party. Larry Sharpe came under fire recently (does the drama never end???) for making a video that people interpreted as his saying that he didn’t want anarchists in the party. Even though that isn’t what he said or meant, the whole thing still dances around the issue without actually stepping foot on it: it’s not Larry Sharpe’s party. It’s not minarchists’ party. It’s not their party to say they do or don’t want us in it.

This is my house that I’m writing this from. It belongs to me. If I don’t want you in it, that matters. But if I’m in Bob’s house and I don’t want you in it, that doesn’t matter, because it’s not my house. The very idea that Larry Sharpe or anyone else is in any position to want or not want anarchists in the party is patently absurd–this house belongs every bit as much to the anarchists as it does anyone else. It’s not Larry Sharpe’s house for him to proclaim who he doesn’t want inside, and neither is it any other minarchist’s or anarchist’s.

And the entire root of this rift is that the Big L Libertarians (of whatever variety) do think that it’s their house, and that we’re simply guests whom they allow to sleep on the couch. That… is… wrong. It is factually and historically wrong. Minarchists simply told themselves and convinced themselves that it was their party, and then they began marginalizing the anarchists. However, proclaiming something to be true does not make it true.

The Libertarian Party of the United States was founded in 1971–some of its founders are still around, and you can find them on Facebook and discuss it yourself with them (assuming they are willing). Merely three years later, the Dallas Accord was struck between the anarchists and the larger minarchist faction, wherein the two sides agreed that the question of whether a state was desirable would be intentionally avoided until such time as a libertarian society had been achieved; it was the agreement that the Libertarian Party was neither a minarchist nor an anarchist party, and this was only three years after the party was formed.

In 2006, the minarchists took control and became hostile to the anarchists, deleting most of the party platform and replacing it with things like “Government exists to protect rights…” This doesn’t make it right, and it’s an outright betrayal of the anarchist faction. It caused a mass exodus of anarchists from the party that had betrayed them so brazenly, and was dubbed the Portland Massacre. Now we have a party platform that says that a state-owned military is necessary! It was an obvious stab in the back to the anarchists, and in the years since the minarchists have not only betrayed anarchists further but have betrayed themselves and leaped right into classical liberalism and something very much like Constitutionalism.

I dread to think what the Libertarian Party would become if there weren’t still anarchists out here trying to stick it out and keep the party tethered to its principles, because it has betrayed so very many people, factions, and ideas. Now we have language that says the state should use immigration laws to “protect” us, which not only is patently un-libertarian, but it’s not even classically liberal–it’s full-blown statist, as even the Constitution didn’t grant the Federal Government the power to control immigration. In its desperation for mass approval and Quixotic quest for electability, is there any principle that the Big L Libertarians won’t betray?

Politics & Elections

As stated clearly, the party exists to cause liberty to happen. It is certainly conceivable–although I find the idea incredulous for reasons I’ll detail in a moment–that winning elections could be a valid method of achieving that goal. However, it is foolish, absurd, and narrow-minded to act like it’s the only possible way of achieving that goal, or even acting like it’s the best method of doing so. Given the results so far (widespread betrayal of anarchists and libertarian principles, schisms in the party, some Big L Libertarians even calling people like me enemies…), I’d argue that it’s not even an acceptable way of achieving that goal, even if it is possible in theory.

There seems to be this idea that we can pull a Bait & Switch on the electorate, and that we can run a “moderate Libertarian” who gets into office and enacts actual libertarian policies. This is called “deceit,” and it is generally frowned upon. It is false advertising, and it is considered to be deceptive–because it is deceptive. It’s like marrying a woman not because you love her (as she thinks you do), but because she’s a millionaire with no kids and no one to leave all her money to when she dies. It’s a clear case of false pretenses–everything about it is immoral, and that’s before we get into whether or not it would actually work.

Hint: it wouldn’t.

It is strangely denialistic to think that if you can convince Bob to legalize marijuana, then you’ll have an easier time convincing him to legalize all drugs. If there was any truth whatsoever to that, then the repeal of Prohibition in the 1920s would have prevented any further substances from being outlawed in the first place, because, in American history, Bob was convinced that outlawing alcohol was more trouble than it was worth, didn’t actually eliminate alcohol, created a black market, created gangs, and was a gross violation of people’s liberties. That didn’t stop Bob from turning around and making marijuana illegal barely a decade later, or from adding methamphetamine, heroin, and countless other substances to the list of banned narcotics.

Libertarian: “Bob, Prohibition isn’t working. We need to repeal it and just let people be free. This has done nothing but caused death and misery.”

Bob: “You know what? You’re right. Repeal Prohibition!”

Libertarian: “Alright! Let’s not make this mistake again, either.”

*Ten years later*

Bob: “We’re outlawing marijuana.”

*Seventy years later*

Libertarian: “Bob, marijuana prohibition isn’t working. We need to legalize it and just let people be free. This has done nothing but caused death and misery.”

Bob: “You know what? You’re right. Repeal marijuana prohibition!”

Here we enter Fantasy Land.

Libertarian: “Great! Let’s repeal prohibition of heroin, too! And cocaine! And crystal meth!”

Bob: “Hey, you’re right!”

… That’s so obviously not what would happen. Bob would reply, “Are you out of your mind? Marijuana is one thing, but heroin? No way! That’s something else entirely!”

That’s the flaw with the incrementalist/moderate approach. Just because you can get me to drive five miles doesn’t mean you can get me to drive five hundred miles. It’s absurdly unrealistic, and I find it hard to believe that anyone actually thinks such an approach will have any success. Legalizing marijuana won’t end the drug war; it won’t shift Bob’s position on the Drug War even the tiniest bit. I can already point to at least a hundred people I know who want to see marijuana legalized but who would recoil in shock and incredulity if I suggested to them that we should also legalize heroin.

Phase 1: Legalize weed!
Phase 2: ????
Phase 3: The drug war is over!

Phase 2 is “something magical happens.”

The “legalize marijuana” versus “end the drug war” thing is such a wonderful parallel to the radical/moderate divide, because this is true in nearly every sense. I’ve convinced plenty of people that a business owner has the unalienable right to choose the people with whom they associate, and that they therefore don’t have to serve LGBTQ people if they don’t want to. It’s not too difficult to convince people of this. But the next thing out of their mouth is always, “But what if they’re racist and don’t want to serve black people? We can’t allow them to do that!”

It’s insane. It’s either a huge misunderstanding of reality or a purposeful self-delusion about human nature. Though I’ve convinced at least twenty people that discrimination of LGBTQ people by business owners is an unalienable right, I have never convinced anyone that discrimination of black people by business owners is an unalienable right. According to the incrementalist approach, once I convince them that discrimination against LGBTQ people is a right, they should be receptive to the “more extreme” form, yes?

Except they’re not, and they never are.

A World Set Free

It should come as no surprise that the Big L Libertarian faction (which doesn’t include every libertarian, minarchist, or classical liberal) seems incapable of grasping the idea that there might be some other ways to set the world free than by going through the established political system. For anarchists, the established political system is optional–however, we do not deny that it is an option. In contrast, the Big L Libertarian faction denies that there are any other options: they know only the state, and so they only know to go through the state. But that’s where libertarianism starts to contradict itself in the first place, because anyone who follows the ideas to their logical conclusions will end up as an anarchist, since aggression is the only way that the state can do anything while still being a state.

It’s just another example of how anarchist ideology isn’t even being considered by the larger faction, and, if they’re not even considering it, they can’t possibly be able to compromise with it. It’s like that Jody guy who blocked me when he claimed to be an anarchist immediately after saying that the state should exist to protect liberty. If you’re unwilling to even learn what anarchists think, then how can you compromise with them? If you’re trying to sell something to a person, don’t you kinda have to know what they’re offering to pay? But, of course, they’re not willing to compromise–as we’ve established–and they aren’t willing to even consider anarchists enough to learn what we have to say. If they were, then they would already know that going through the existing state is most certainly not the “only” way to set the world free (and, if one follows the ideas to their conclusions, it’s actually impossible to use the state to set the world free because the state is literally what you’re trying to set the world free of).

To compromise with someone, you must first know what they want and what they believe. Judging from my person experiences, the Big L Libertarians (which, again, isn’t inclusive of every minarchist, libertarian, and classical liberal) have no idea what anarchists want or believe. Jody’s silliness was the most flagrant, but it was hardly unique.

These Big L Libertarians seem to operate solely on their belief and their idea of what they want the Libertarian Party to be, making whatever assumptions they like, and from there they seem wholly resistant to facts. This Travis person has the idea in their head of what the Libertarian Party is (and, it’s worth mentioning, that their understanding of the Libertarian Party just coincidentally is exactly what they want it to be), and nothing will shake that delusion.

To say that the Libertarian Party exists to win elections is to say that anarchists aren’t welcome in the party, because we imagine different ways of achieving the Libertarian Party’s goal (which, one will read, is to set the world free, not “to win elections, duh!”). Having our methods spit upon and waved away even as we’re willing to go along with their methods, as long as they agree to the standards that we laid down in 1974 to solve exactly this problem… We’re using our preferred method, but we’re also willing to help you and use your preferred method to get libertarians elected to office. Our method and your method are only at odds because you set them to be by saying our method is meaningless, that yours is the only method that matters–by usurping the entire party and proclaiming it to be nothing more than a vehicle for your chosen method!–and that we’re not even welcome in the party if we don’t cease our method, shut up, and meekly go along with you.

This is our party, too.

And that’s why the goal of the party is to set the world free, not to win elections. Like the liberals I’ve talked about before who associate their emotion with their preferred method, it has trapped you and left you unable to even fathom that there might be some other way of achieving that goal. After all, the liberal takes “There shouldn’t be anyone starving in America!” and links that directly to “We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour!” It’s the basest and most confused of human behaviors to link a given goal inextricably to one’s preferred method of achieving that goal, and then dogmatically sticking to that method regardless of whether it works (like how liberals continue to demand increases to the Minimum Wage, despite the unemployment that it has caused).

Our method is 100% as valid as yours, and the Libertarian Party is 100% as valid as a vehicle of our method as it is a vehicle of your method.

We are anarchists, and this is our party, too.

Slavktivism or Activism?

There sometimes comes a time when the voices of internet activists are so loud that they begin to effect an actual change in the real world. There sometimes comes a time when enough people shouting, “We aren’t happy!” prompts other people to ask, “So what do you want us to do about it?”

It’s true that my activism takes place primarily on the Internet. There are a few reasons for this, but it’s mostly a matter of timing, and I’ve been working through the last six months to transition that activism into the real world. Even so, I don’t think that internet activism is automatically slacktivism, because I can point to at least five people whose ties to libertarian thought originated with my Facebook posts. Five, of course, is a drop in the bucket, but I would consider the time spent writing to be well used if I’d introduced even one person to libertarian philosophy.

Something I’ve written about before is continuing to happen, though, and Arvin Vohra gives is a clear case of it within the Libertarian Party. I’ve frequently said that Black Lives Matter enjoyed the national spotlight for nearly two years and yet didn’t accomplish a single thing except to make people aware that they weren’t happy. No policies were changed, and no police were found guilty. You’d be forgiven for thinking that we hadn’t just seen interstates throughout the nation shut down by protests. It’s a curious thing that protesters could command that level of attention and organization, yet accomplish absolutely nothing.

It’s slacktivism.

The activist has goals, and usually has at least some idea of how to get from where we are to that destination. The slacktivist has no goals, and instead has only emotions. “Everyone should be treated equally!” isn’t a goal, after all–it’s an emotional statement that could lead one to formulate a goal. “The military should be dismantled entirely” is a goal, albeit one that is hard to sell to the masses. It’s an actual action with an actual outcome, not a loose guide.

Considering Arvin Vohra, the emotional statement is “You shouldn’t say negative things about this group!” while a concrete action would be “Arvin should be removed from office!”

At a glance, I’d say that the difference between activism and slacktivism is that the slacktivist wants to tell other people what to do, while the activist wants to do things that have a desired outcome. The slacktivist proposes mandates of other people’s actions, knowing that they can’t be enforced, while the activist cares little about what other people are doing because the activist is working personally for the change they want to see. The slacktivist says, “You do this.” The activist says, “I’m going to do this.”

The goal of the slacktivist is nothing better than ensuring that everyone knows how unhappy they are; the activist doesn’t really have time to wax at length about their emotional reactions to various stimuli. In Buddhist terms, the slacktivist says, “I am suffering,” while the activist says, “There is suffering.”

Everyone has goals, though–even the slacktivist. However, the slacktivist just wants everyone to know that they aren’t happy. Slacktivism obviously isn’t limited to the internet, but the internet has made it much easier for Random Joe to spread his discontent, so it’s going to be more common on the Internet. How many pointless, ineffectual petitions are there on Change.Org? Tens of thousands? That’s slacktivism in a nutshell.

Why, there’s even a petition there to remove Arvin.

When the slacktivist sets out, their goal is to make sure other people know they are unhappy, and their method is to tell everyone that they aren’t happy. They want nothing beyond that, and if their voices become so loud that it seems they could actually achieve something beyond that, they’ll strangely back off. The child doesn’t want the parent to do anything except acknowledge that the child is throwing a tantrum.

It came as no surprise to me, to see a motion put forward to remove Arvin, and to immediately have the masses of people calling for his head to say, “Oh, hold on, let’s not be hasty here!” The same thing happened with Comey just a few weeks ago–mere months ago, liberals were calling for his head, but as soon as something real happened, they flipped entirely to the other side.

It reminds me of when I ran for class President my senior year, and proceeded to Ralph Nader the crap out of it. I didn’t want to win, and it’s a tremendously good thing that I didn’t. But, strangely, that didn’t stop me from running and campaigning. I didn’t win, but I split the white vote (in a school that had a very slight white majority, and it’s a matter of record that most people voted along racial lines–yes, even the black kids) enough that the black girl who had run and lost each year actually won the election. All that said, I didn’t want to win, and I didn’t even really want to spoil the vote. But that didn’t stop me. I guess I just wanted to see if I could. I don’t know. I was an idiot high schooler who dropped out a month later.

The platitudologists among us would probably say that the slacktivists truly want to accomplish things, but they are more paralyzed by a fear of success than anything else, and that could work as an explanation of this strange behavior, but I don’t think that “fear” is the right word. They’re not afraid of success; they’re just not aiming for the goal that most people assume, and that they even express to be their goal.

They say they want Arvin removed, and I know of many people who said that, right up until a motion was made. The removal of Arvin Vohra was not their goal; however, the threat of removing Arvin Vohra was among their methods for achieving their goal. They just wanted everyone to know they weren’t happy, to give them attention and acknowledge their discontent, and to at least pretend to give a shit what they feel. Toward that end, they did two things: they bitched, and they made what they thought were mostly empty threats. Like if I said I was going to nuke Washington D.C. (Hello, NSA/CIA!) if Trump didn’t step down, that would be an idle threat that no one would take seriously. But what if some rabble-rouser who shared my sentiments agreed and sent me a nuke?

Uh-oh. I’d suddenly be in a pretty awkward position (not to mention–in Gitmo) of having to find some kind of way to avoid admitting that I was totally full of shit. To that end, I’d backpedal from my previous hard-line stance, and would probably say, “You’ve gotta give Trump a chance to comply…”

Just like people backpedaled on Vohra and, now that they metaphorically have nukes, are suggesting that he must first be given a chance.

“Full of shit” indeed.

They didn’t want to remove Arvin. They just wanted to threaten to, as a way of forcing people to take their incessant whining seriously. Without that threat, they have nothing, and can easily be dismissed. “I’m not happy!” by itself is a lulz-worthy whine. “I’m not happy! Fix it or I’m gonna…” can be a potentially serious threat.

I say we should call them on their bluff, and call them on their bullshit.

The Assumption Liberals Make

Elements on the left seem increasingly zealous about whether Trump was, perhaps, friendlier with Russia than they want him to be, but I’m not really interested in whether the increasingly desperate attempts to engage Trump and Putin in a bromance is based on truth or some mutated psychosis leftover from the Cold War. Actually, I’d say that Cold War paranoia is more like AIDS, because AIDS isn’t actually the cause of death for HIV sufferers–some other disease infects them due to their severely weakened immune system, and this disease is what kills them. So the Cold War paranoia is the AIDS that made us susceptible to this weird, virulent strain of “Them Damn Russians!”

But whether we’ve got a severe AIDS infection or whether we have cause to distrust Trump’s Russia connections isn’t of much relevance until another question has been answered: Why should we care if Trump has these alleged connections?

The first contention is that we should care because Trump is close to the country that subverted our democracy by interfering in our election. At best, this ranks among the most dubious claims that I’ve ever heard. The leaks ripped the DNC into pieces, but progressives have benefited from that as much as Trump did, so unless they’re guilty of the same collusion (in fact, irate Sanders supporters have at least as much motive as Trump–“Oh, hello, Seth Rich!”), the claim appears to be nothing but “You possibly benefited from this, so you’re guilty of collusion, and even though we provably benefited, we’re not guilty of collusion.”

Even if we assume that all of the Democrats’ bizarre claims are true, it still doesn’t answer the question of why I should care. Hillary was no better suited to be President than Trump, and that some people are willing to eat a plate full of dog vomit over a pile of festering shit is of no consequence to me, and certainly not reason for me to get mad that more people (by the weight of the political rules we all agreed to beforehand) scarfed down a helping of turds.

Even if Trump only won because of these ties to Russia (which, again, we’re assuming are true), so freaking what? If you’re going to hold up electoral processes as wonderful, quasi-magical things that must be insulated from influence of the outside world, and whose integrity must be beyond reproach, I’d take your claim more seriously if you hadn’t spent the last six months rioting because you didn’t get the election result that you wanted.

Until actual evidence has been put forward–something more than a laundry list of “He Said, She Said” bullshit–and as long as we live in a place where one of the great social principles is that one is innocent until proven guilty, it follows that the only people undermining the integrity of the election are the Democrats. Mind you, this is after Jill Stein’s recount attempts showed no disparity at all with the results.

So let’s be clear about this. It’s not “The election” that democrats are claiming was influenced. The vote totals were not changed via Russian meddling, and, to my knowledge, only the most uninformed and absurd progressives are making such claims. For the greater part, what liberals actually mean when they allege that Russia influenced the election is that Russia influenced voters.

Again, I must ask: “So?”

By the Constitution of the United States, an American voter has the immutable right to not only believe whatever the hell they want, but also (an extension modern liberals gloss over) to act in accordance with those beliefs. It doesn’t matter if Bob votes for Trump because he’s a Christian, as is Bob, and if Bob was convinced of Christianity by Americans or by Russian Jesuits. Why Bob believes what he believes is his own business, not ours, and we can’t threaten that without also curtailing his right to believe what he wants.

So, too, if Jim voted for Trump because he believes Hillary is the worst thing since gonorrhea, it’s not of any relevance to us whether he believes that because of the “documentary” “Clinton Cash,” because of the DNC Leaks, because of Wikileaks, or because he was taught to be Republicans by his parents and never looked any further. He cast his vote, and his reasons for doing so may be whatever he wants. Maybe he doesn’t like Hillary’s hair, or maybe he finds Hillary to be somewhat more psychopathic than the unpredictable Trump.

Whatever his reasons are, they are his reasons, and the alleged beauty of the American political system is that he gets the same number of votes to express his values as does anyone else. It’s fine that liberals would disagree with his reasons–either because they believe those reasons are factually incorrect, or they believe that one should value other things–and it’s fine for them to express this disagreement through the one vote that they each have.

What’s not okay is attempting to erase Jim’s vote because one disagrees with the beliefs he holds that led him to vote the way that he did. I notice there’s no criticism of the people who only voted for Hillary for stupid, demagogic reasons, or for equally asinine reasons like “Well, she’s the first female candidate!”

The liberals, it seems, don’t want to erase every vote that was based on reasons with which they disagree (since “She’s the first female candidate!” obviously flies directly in the face of the claim that “Gender shouldn’t matter,” the basis they use for criticising Trump supporters who voted for Trump because he’s a man), but only those for the other candidate with which they disagree, and, let’s be honest here, that’s basically all of them, because the entire fucking rift exists because liberals and conservatives value different things.

Is there such a thing, to the Democrat, as a good reason to vote for Trump? If there is, I’ve yet to hear a Democrat acquiesce that point.

You voted for Trump because you liked his expressed opinions on immigration? No, that’s illegitimate, you racist bastard.

You voted for Trump because you preferred his probable tax policy? No, that’s illegitimate, you elitist fool, dick-riding the rich.

You voted for Trump because you didn’t like Hillary’s arrogant and sociopathic demeanor? No, that’s illegitimate, you sexist pig.

You voted for Trump because you liked his abortion stance? No, that’s illegitimate, you fascist, because people have the right to convenient abortions.

The conservative/liberal rift occurs long before the candidates are chosen. The point of the presidential debates is not for the Republican candidate to entice Democrats, or the Democratic candidate to entice Republicans. Even independents are rarely swayed by such things. People simply don’t operate that way. Most have their value system and will vote for whoever best fits with that value system, and the divide between Republicans and Democrats is so large that there is almost no crossover. How many people voted for Trump because of Wikileaks or these presumed-to-be-true ties to Russia? I’d wager that the number is fewer than a thousand, throughout the entire country, because that’s just not how people work.

No amount of terrible things you told me about Hillary, however true they were, would have caused me to vote for Trump. No amount of terrible things you told me about Trump would have caused me to vote for Hillary. Honestly, how manipulable do Democrats think people are? At absolute best, the revelations of how much a candidate sucks will only reinforce whatever position I currently hold, and most Americans will readily pick and choose what information to take in and what information to discard.

This is practically a tautology. I’ve seen countless Democrats say that there’s no evidence that Hillary has ever done anything wrong–no hyperbole, no straw man. Yet these same people proclaim there is incontrovertible evidence that Trump did countless things wrong. Meanwhile, Republicans do the same and claim that there’s no evidence that Trump has ever done anything wrong, and that there is incontrovertible evidence that Hillary is the devil.

Anyone who is actually open to the information long ago concluded that both of these people are disgusting toads who have no business being anywhere near a position of power. That’s the keyword: open to the information. Because there is plenty of evidence that both Trump and Hillary are absolutely awful.

What we’re talking about isn’t that someone isn’t “open to the information.” It’s simply that someone disagrees with the liberal, and the liberal lost the election because of that disagreement.

Remember any of the 90s sitcoms that had families “vote” on what they were going to do, only for the adults to immediately lose the vote and say, “Well, our votes each count as two, because we’re adults”?

That’s all we’re seeing here.

And even if all this was true, no one has yet explained to me why it’s undesirable for the United States to have warmer relations with Russia. No one seems to care that the United States has warm ties to the European Union–or Pakistan, or India, or Saudi Arabia. So why Russia? In what weird understanding of the world is it bad for two great powers to get along?

Is it because of their human rights record? No, it can’t be that, because many of our Middle Eastern buddies have far worse records–as do we, as we house 20% of the world’s prison population while having only 4% of the world’s population, and you can’t get to those numbers without severe destruction of liberty and rights. Is it because Russia has nukes? So does India, Pakistan, China, many EU countries, the UK, and many others, so it can’t be that, either.

In fact, I’d bet everything that only a year ago the majority of liberals would have happily agreed that the United States needs to work with Russia. Why do liberals suddenly hate them so much that state congressional Democrats are seriously making the claim that the United States needs to break off all communications with Russia? What changed between then and now?

Democrats lost the White House. And since recount efforts showed the votes weren’t tampered with, rather than accepting responsibility and blaming themselves, they would undermine democracy itself with the contention that your vote only counts if you cast it for the reasons they want you to cast it. Put bluntly, your vote only counts if you cast it for their candidate.

They’d deny this adamantly, of course. “You can vote for a Republican,” they’d say. “Just not freaking Trump!”

I see no reason to believe that there’s any truth to this amended claim. In fact, I’m sure we’d be here today if Hillary lost to Kasich or Cruz. They say otherwise, and it’s useless to argue one hypothetical against another. Maybe they are telling the truth. I doubt it, though, because they’ve already lied to themselves about what they’re saying, and what they’re really saying is, “Your vote only counts if you cast it for reasons we agree with.”

If you want to talk tyranny and fascism, I think we’d have a hard time finding clearer examples.

Is Arvin Right or Wrong?

I’m anti-war.

However, I’m only “anti-war” in the sense that “war” is not a distinctly existent thing, but is instead merely a label we assign to certain actions that fulfill a specific criteria. It’s not the “war” that I condemn but the actions that earn that label. I don’t condemn “war” because there is nothing there to condemn. In the real world, a “war” never happens. Instead, what happens is that one person fires a bullet or rockets at other people. I condemn this whether it’s a person with state authority at their back who is firing the gun or whether it’s a random psychopath without state authority who is firing the gun.

There’s no such thing as a “war” any more than there is such a thing as a “stamp collection.” War is merely a collectivist category, an umbrella term used to denote the nature of certain actions, and the “war” never occurs, though the actions do.

There’s also no such thing as this ubiquitous group of “veterans” who all share culpability for actions that have earned the label of “war.” There is no “LGBT people,” and no “black people.” Neither is there a “people who are veterans” group. There are only individuals with certain characteristics, and, regardless of what characteristics they may have in common (even if that characteristic is that they’ve all shared in one superficially identical choice, such as LGBT people and veterans who chose to join the military), it’s inaccurate to suggest that “all veterans are this” or “all veterans are that.”

Tonight, Sunday’s episode of “Call to Freedom” airs at 10p Central, and Will Coley will again relate the parable of the man who grew and sold grapes knowing that they’d be used to make wine. The point of the parable is that the man had knowledge of the inevitable outcome, and yet he took the action anyway, and therefore bore responsibility for the drunkenness and the actions of the drunk people. I like the parable, but there is one critical difference between the man who sold the grapes and “veterans.” The man who sold the grapes is an individual; “veterans” is a collection.

The question is most certainly not “whether veterans knew” what they were signing up for, or “whether veterans knew” when signing up what the consequences of that would be. The question is whether “this individual who took these actions” had full cognizance of what they were agreeing to, and whether they had reasonable knowledge of the consequences. It’s a topic I only touched upon briefly–due to a catnichal problem, I missed the first half of the show–and only mentioned in passing near the end of the episode, but I would certainly argue that the man who changes the tires on an F-15 has less responsibility for the bomb’s destruction than the person who actually pushed the button that dropped the bomb.

It reminds me a lot of World War 2 and the company that produced Zyklon-B in Germany, and whether the owner of the company bore any responsibility for the Jews murdered with the poisonous gas. The entire argument hinged upon one thing: whether he knew how the gas was being used. I would say that’s a limited argument, though, because it ignores the fact that the owner may very well not have had a choice–this is Hitler we’re talking about, and if the owner hadn’t continued selling them the Zyklon-B, he’d have found himself replaced and in one of the concentration camps alongside the Jews. Can we really condemn him for giving in to this blatant coercion and fear in the interest of self-preservation?

The owner wasn’t alone in his responsibility, though. What of all the chemists and engineers who surely had some idea of how their product was being used? Because there is much to be said for the idea that many of the people who joined the military did so because of the coercive nature of poverty and were essentially facing the same crisis of self-preservation as the owner of the manufacturer of Zyklon-B, and that the military was merely a provider of a job to them in a time and place where they had no better options. Even I once looked into joining the Navy, for exactly this reason. What of the factory workers (or however Zyklon-B is produced) who knew how the pellets were being used by the Nazis, and yet did not quit their jobs? Should they not be held as responsible for the gas’s usage as Hitler himself?

Why not just round up everyone involved with the company and try them for the Holocaust?

Because, while we accept the notion of individual responsibility, we also can’t deny that there is such a thing as diffused responsibility. While we must hold the soldier accountable for the bombs he actually drops with the press of a button, we cannot deny the diffused responsibility of conditions and causes that led him to be there in the first place. The pilot didn’t produce the bomb, or call for it to be dropped, and neither did Oppenheimer open the hatch to see the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Neither did Einstein start World War 2, a period of total war that we today have a hard time even grasping because we have not experienced total war since.

Is a person responsible for the conditions in which they have found themselves?

“To some degree,” perhaps, at least in some cases. Surely the man who robs the bank because he became addicted to heroin and couldn’t afford any more bears responsibility for robbing the bank because he made all of the choices that led to his situation, right? Wrong. If heroin was legal, then much of what he experienced wouldn’t have happened, and he certainly had no say-so in the legal status of heroin.

It’s ultimately a question of Nature versus Nurture, then. This is a question that people have been debating for centuries, and we’re no nearer to the answer. Is a person responsible for the choices that they make in the conditions they are in? Sometimes. But if Bob has lost everything from his home to his job because of a medical condition that he couldn’t afford or prevent, is Bob really responsible when he robs a convenient store to avoid starvation? How much conscious, deliberate effort to effect change is possible? Is it even possible that Bob could have found himself in different circumstances? Does Bob even have free will to change those circumstances?

“We don’t know” is the answer to all of these questions. We can only assume, and we can only assume that our assumptions are valid. And we can only assume that our assumption that are assumptions are valid is valid. So on and so on, ad infinitum.

I would agree that there is substantially increased likelihood that an individual with the characteristic of “having been a veteran” is also a murderer, but that is the farthest I will go toward absolutism, and that’s the farthest that anyone should be willing to go, because anywhere beyond that is where the assumptions start. After all, we have the logic and data that defines “war” as being undertaken by soldiers and as being a category of events that necessarily involve murder; by this criteria, it is obvious that we will find among soldiers an increased chance of “once took another human life.”

But we’re all murderers, every single one of us–the only escape from that is to include “human” in our definition of murder. We have all taken lives, plant or animal or human. It was Jesus Christ who said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I have to agree.

Let the first person who hasn’t ever taken another life criticize “veterans” as a group. Until then, let’s keep our assumptions under control.

Libertarian Drama

Man.

Libertarians really love drama, don’t they?

I was left speechless when sections of the libertarian party criticized Nicholas Sarwark for appearing with Glenn Beck; I was stunned that anyone would care about such a thing, and even more surprised that anyone would consider it a bad thing. From where I sit, promotion of the party is a good thing. I’ve softened my position on Sarwark considerably, and I no longer really care to see him removed in 2018–nor do I really care to see him stay. My position on him is ambivalent, and depends largely on what he does between now and then, because the Libertarian Party is having what anyone would call a “leadership crisis” if it happened anywhere else and in any other context.

The Libertarian Party is a union of classical liberals, minarchists, libertarians, and anarchists who have united together for a common goal. It’s worth reminding people here that anarchists have already compromised by even playing with the system that they want to see destroyed. Of course, this compromise gets waved away as though it’s nothing, because there is so much contention that anarchists refuse to compromise, but it is true that, by even participating in electoral politics, anarchists have compromised with classical liberals and minarchists.

Libertarianism was essentially the “meet in the middle” position. It was agreed in 1974 that these various groups with disagreements about how far liberty should go would compromise on libertarianism. And here is where the first clear example of the leadership crisis comes in. The Libertarian Party has an absolutely dire need for Sarwark and other prominent libertarians to remind the Big L Libertarians that this is just as much the anarchists’ party as it is theirs. They don’t seem to be aware of this, but it’s just as much the Anarcho-Capitalist party as it is the Classical Liberal party and as it is the Minarchist party.

I’ve seen so many calls for “compromise” and “agreement” that are little more than masked statements that “Anarchists need to just shut up and go along with whatever we say.” As one of the aforementioned anarchists, our own party has not only marginalized us, but has also called us “the enemy” on several occasions, has made us heretics in our own party, and has simultaneously called us inconsequential and the bane of their success. Just as the Libertarian Party is said by the mainstream media to be inconsequential while also being the reason Hillary lost, so does the Libertarian Party turn around and say exactly that about anarchists. We’re irrelevant, apparently, but not so irrelevant that we can’t be single-handedly responsible for Gary Johnson’s failure to gain traction.

That’s the heart of the problem: they’re looking for someone to blame, and they’ve already found their scapegoat. If this means the Libertarian Party has to condemn the vice-chair for saying on his own Facebook page what is really just “the libertarian position,” then that is what these mainstream elements of the party will do.

I was the guest on Liberty Radio Network with Will Coley and Thom Gray last night, and I said then that this larger centrist element of the party is like a high school student who is absolutely obsessed with what everyone else thinks of him. They so desperately want to be part of the in-crowd that, yes, if their friends jumped off a bridge, they’d close their eyes and leap. They desperately want to go to prom and be voted prom king, and this causes them to do anything and everything that they think will help that happen, without any regard whatsoever to other considerations.

As a transgender atheist anarchist and resident of Mississippi, I know very well the pressures in society to care what other people think, to do what other people want, and to be what other people want you to be. I know exactly what it’s like to be in the closet because you’re terrified of how everyone will react. Everyone wants to be loved, and everyone wants approval; it’s no different for political parties. And yet there isn’t a person among us who wouldn’t repeat the banality that we shouldn’t care what other people think, and that we should be worried only about being true to ourselves.

Compromise

In truth, when Libertarians say that they just want to see compromise, they’re implying, and sometimes state directly, that they’re referring to compromise between minarchists and anarchists. They do this to frame themselves as the reasonable ones who want to compromise, forever thwarted by those unreasonable anarchists who flatly refuse to. It’s, as Will Coley described last night, “Bait & Switch Libertarianism.” It’s a game in classical Transactional Analysis terms; they want to frame themselves as Adults who want compromise to convince themselves and each other (in a classic circle jerk) that they’re being totally reasonable, but the reality is more insidious: they’re taking a Parent position and demanding that anarchists take a Child position. Then, when anarchists refuse to shift from Adult to Child to accommodate this “Just shut up and go along with us” mandate, it allows the Libertarian to justify to themselves that they did everything a “reasonable” person would do, and that their only recourse is to wash themselves of us and continue demonizing us.

It’s a psychological trick that people often use to convince themselves that what they already believe is true. It’s a case of “Why Don’t You / Yes But,” where Person A says, “This is the problem,” and Person B proceeds to offer suggestions. Person A responds to each of them with, “Yes, but…” and gives a brief overview of why B’s solution won’t work. After a bit of back-and-forth, Person B will say, “Well, I don’t know, then.” This allows Person A to say to themselves, “See? It really is hopeless.” It’s just about Person A reinforcing to themselves what they already believe, and so the Libertarians end up playing TA games to reinforce to themselves that anarchists are being unreasonable.

The game is revealed to be a game by pointing out that anarchists are absolutely willing to compromise. First, many have already compromised by taking part in the Libertarian Party, though there are certainly many who refuse to do even that. That’s fine–no one is saying that we must compromise with them, because they don’t vote in the conventions anyway. On top of that, we’re willing to compromise on libertarian candidates, rather than even attempting to run anarchist candidates (even if such a thing wasn’t a contradiction in terms).

However, the centrists in the party don’t want to compromise with anarchists; they want to win elections, and that seems to be all they care about. It’s only a matter of degree, how many positions they’re willing to sell-out in order to win an election, which raises the question of why anyone who “wants to win elections” wouldn’t just go to the Republican or Democratic parties. Apparently, that would be too much selling out of their principles, but bringing in dyed-in-the-wool Republicans like Bill Weld somehow isn’t.

They state clearly their intentions, though. They want to win elections, and the reason they get so butthurt over things like Arvin’s statements as that they’re obsessed with mass appeal and “the marketing factor,” such that the last thing they want is to do or say anything that could possibly harm their ability to reach Republicans and Democrats. They criticize Arvin because his statements about the military will make it harder for them to reach alt-right people, nationalists, conservatives, and other right-wing people who worship the state.

Do you see what is happening?

They want to compromise with the alt-right people, nationalists, conservatives, and other right-wingers, not anarchists. This is problematic because libertarianism is the middle-ground between anarchism and statism. Now they want to compromise with Republican and Democrat statists. They rarely have the courage to say this directly, because they know that it’s impossible to find the middleground between libertarianism and statism while also finding middleground between libertarianism and anarchism, since libertarianism already sits between anarchism and statism.

In numeric terms, statism is 100, anarchism 0, and libertarianism 50. Libertarians say that they want to compromise with anarchists at 25. Yet their actions–their drive to secure mass appeal, to water down the message to appeal to Republicans and Democrats, nominations of Johnson and Weld–show that they’re trying to compromise with statists at 75. And they keep telling each other through all of this that we anarchists are the ones being unreasonable, that we’re heretics and enemies because we refuse to compromise, when, in fact, they’re refusing to even consider the possibility of compromising with us, because doing so would make it impossible for them to compromise with Republicans and Democrats.

Just recently I had someone block me on Facebook (again) for commenting his status wherein he’d described the Libertarian Party’s problem as playing host to people who were “anti-state, not pro-liberty” and whose refusal to compromise prevented the party from coming together. It was a clear attack on anarchists, and he’d basically straight up said “We need to compromise with Republicans and Democrats, not anarchists, but anarchists refuse to compromise with us.” Also worth mentioning is that he said in the post he believed that the state should exist to protect liberty. When I pointed out this glaring discrepancy, he replied that he is an anarchist.

To quote John McAfee–the libertarian candidate that anarchists were more than willing to compromise on, by the way (McAfee/Coley, McAfee/Perry, and McAfee/Weiss would have been excellent libertarian tickets)–“I shit thee not.”

When I pointed out next that he’d explicitly stated that he thinks the state should exist to protect liberty and therefore is most certainly not an anarchist, he told me to stop being rude. I didn’t say it then because the words escaped me, but… Fine. I’ll stop being rude as soon as you stop being disingenuous. Stop wearing this mask of reasonable compromise when what you’re actually saying is “Anarchists shouldn’t try to have a voice within the party that belongs to them just as much as it does me.”

And whatever he has to do to justify that statement, evidently he and others will do it–even if it means describing himself as an “anarchist” who believes the state should exist to protect liberty. Obviously, that is libertarianism/minarchism, not anarchism.

I shudder to think, you know? This guy–this libertarian or minarchist–described himself, and I swear I’m not making this up, as believing the state should exist to protect liberty and as being an anarchist. I have to ask, honestly: how do Libertarians think we can compromise with them if they misrepresent our positions so badly? An anarchist is literally someone who believes the state shouldn’t exist. That’s literally the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist. But instead of even listening to us to find out what we’re saying and what we believe, he found it easier to simply misrepresent himself as one of us, though he doesn’t share the ideology that literally defines the group known as “anarchists.”

It would be like if I said “I’m a Christian who believes Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, and Christians need to compromise with atheists and accept that Jesus wasn’t the Son of God.” It’s filled with so many examples of “Bruh, that word–it doesn’t mean what you think it means” that it’s hard to know what to say. A Christian is someone who believes that Jesus was the Son of God. Imagine how an actual Christian would feel if they saw me say that sincerely, and then imagine that, on top of that, I’m an atheist anyway and simply claiming to be a Christian while I attempt to convince other, actual Christians that they should do whatever it is that I’m advocating.

Yeah. “Disingenuous” doesn’t even begin to describe how messed up and deceitful it is.

That’s how badly we’ve been sidelined and marginalized by our own political party. And if they’re not doing that (and, yes, this was likely an extreme case of deceitfulness), then they’re busy calling for our heads for daring to remind people what the libertarian position on something is. I have argued with so many people about what the Libertarian platform does or doesn’t say. One has to marvel that this happens, because the Libertarian Party platform is like three clicks away from anyone who has the capacity to argue with me on Facebook.

But the “facts” just don’t come into play. That “anarchist” means “someone who thinks the state should not exist” doesn’t come into play when someone instead can identify as a pro-state anarchist. The ends, evidently, justify the means, no matter how much deceit is present in the means.

And even now, after Johnson’s loss to the two most toxic presidential candidates in modern history, and even after we saw Bill “Gun-Grabbing” Weld secure the libertarian vice presidential nomination over just about anyone who would have made a better candidate, nothing has changed. I’ve seen calls for Johnson 2020, and, oh God help us, Rand 2020. Their intentions are clear: they want to continue compromising with Republicans and Democrats, because all they care about is winning elections, and they have this idea in their head that we can take an incrementalist approach (Right? Because we all know that if you can convince Bob that we should legalize pot, it is much easier to convince him to legalize heroin… Right? Don’t we all know that?).

But that’s mutually exclusive with compromising with anarchists. It can be one or the other. Libertarians can compromise with anarchists, or they can compromise with statists. The only way to do both is unabashed, undiluted libertarianism. Short of putting forward unafraid, unapologetic, and unbridled libertarianism, we need Sarwark and other prominent libertarians to remind the party that it belongs to anarchists, too, and that they’re supposed to be compromising with us when choosing the party’s candidate, not attempting to compromise with non-libertarians.

And if those Libertarians should happen to decide that, yes, they do want to compromise with Democrats and Republicans, and that they aren’t interested in compromising with anarchists, then they should have the balls to state that outright and not to pretend like they want to compromise with anarchists.

The Libertarian Party is a party of principle, not agenda. Its goal is to spread libertarian principles, not to win elections; winning elections is just one of many methods of spreading libertarian principles, but it is not the only one. Given how this disaster-ridden attempt to win elections has left the principles of the party frayed, it’s clearly not even the best method.

Why the English Language is Broken Fundamentally

It was years ago that I sat down to evaluate and rebut Matt Slick’s modified Cosmological Argument for the existence of a deity–a common Transcendental Argument for the existence of God, although modified slightly so that Slick took the “existence” of the Logical Absolutes, and the alleged characteristic of “transcendence,” and attempted to hold them up as proof that a deity exists. In that paper, I pointed out that Slick’s primary mistake was in misunderstanding the nature of the Logical Absolutes, because they are not things with existence; they are events, or, to be more specific, they are extrapolations of events into generalized form.

The easiest way to explain this is to take the first of the three Logical Absolutes–that something is what it is, and is not what it is not–and to say that “A tree is a tree.” It may seem a silly statement to the uninitiated, but the tautological nature of this statement forms the very basis of all possible knowledge; it is neither trivial nor silly. Before we can “know” anything, we must establish the parameters by which we can know things, and this is the purpose of the Logical Absolutes.

Anyway, “tautologies are true” is essentially the first of the three, which itself is a tautology and presumed to be truth only if it is already true. If tautologies were not true, then our tautology that “Tautologies are true” could not be true, and we end up with a logical paradox. We’ll come back to this.

It’s not because of any transcendent property of nature or reality that we would say that “A tree is a tree,” and it’s not an existent thing that allows us to make that assessment. It is an observation of an event–the verbiage should be instant giveaways. “Is,” after all, is a verb, and it means that something is presently engaged in being or doing something. The statement “A tree is a tree” is shorthand for saying “A tree is presently engaged in the act of being a tree.” We could ask, if we wanted, whether it was possible for the tree to be engaged in the act of being anything else, and that is where the Logical Absolutes come into play, but prior to that it’s nothing but the observation of a subjective being.

Whether the tree is actually engaged in the act of being a tree cannot be ascertained. To make this a statement of “truth,” we would need to modify it further, such that we’d say, “It appears that the tree is presently engaged in the act of being a tree.”

However, such a statement contains its own ellipsis, just as the initial one did. “It appears to me that the tree is presently engaged in the act of being a tree,” is what the sentence actually says, once we remove those banes of non-native English speakers that make grasping the language so difficult. This is because English often assumes one perspective or another, and hides the assumption in an ellipsis that the average native English speaker isn’t even aware of. Quite literally, they are unaware of the assumptions they are making, because the language of expression provides the means by which they can hide their own assumptions away from themselves and instead claim to be Heralds of the One True Value System.

And yet, what did we say? What were the words we initially used to express this sentiment?

“A tree is a tree.”

The English language is so full of self-deceit. The only way to begin to think freely and without this self-deception is to think in concepts rather than the words we use to (allegedly) represent those concepts. Language is infinitely valuable for communication, when it is built on the basis of the Logical Absolutes, which thereby allows us to agree that when we say “tree” we are both referring to the same thing, which is itself. But the language is only useful if the word “tree” actually calls up in your mind the essence of a tree. If you instead picture a flying fish, then communication is impossible, and one or the both of us is engaged in considerable self-deceit or a butchering of the shared medium of communication.

As always, it’s important to remember that we did not move from “A tree is a tree” to “It appears to me that the tree is presently engaged in the act of being a tree” accidentally or arbitrarily; we got to here by dissecting the statement and pointing out possibly errant assumptions.

First, how do I know that you aren’t lying? How am I to know how a thing appears to you? The English language allows us to make this statement of subjective experience as though it’s objective fact, but I cannot tell you whether or not “a tree is a tree,” because I can only tell you whether the tree appears to me to be presently engaged in the act of being a tree. Perhaps you’re wrong, or perhaps I’m wrong–we’d have no way of knowing.

If our senses are reliable, then they would report to us that they are reliable. We would not commonly see things that turned out to not be there upon closer inspection. Except… this does happen, doesn’t it? And quite regularly. Just last week I experienced an extended period of sleep paralysis where I not only saw a scythe-wielding reaper standing before me, but actually saw and felt a woman lift up my leg and stab me in the foot with a knife. These ghosts appeared entirely real–and, in my condition, I thought that they were–but closer inspection revealed that my ocular information had to be discarded as pareidolia, and the pain of having my foot stabbed was entirely imaginary. There are also mirages, aural and ocular hallucinations, feeling bugs crawling on the skin–why, just by suggesting it to you, I can make you feel like there is a spider crawling very slowly on the back of your neck.

More to the point, it’s a logical paradox that reliable senses could report that they are unreliable in the first place, because this would be a falsehood, and reporting falsehood to the perceiver would make the “reliable” senses unreliable. Reliable senses can only ever report that they are reliable.

Unreliable senses, however, have the freedom to report anything they like–they can report that they are reliable, as long as their consistency is unreliable. If this was the case*, we would find ourselves perceiving things and regularly having to evaluate them further, to determine whether or not the initial perception was accurate. Sometimes it would be, and sometimes it wouldn’t be, and there would be no immediate way of knowing when we perceived something whether it was one of those reliable pieces of input or an unreliable one. They could not regularly report that they were unreliable, as this would make them reliable, which is another logical paradox.

Alarmingly, this is precisely what we have found. It appeared that the Earth was flat and orbited by the sun, for example. I’ve no doubt that we all have experiences that we can point to where something appeared to be one way, yet turned out to be entirely different. Whether our correction of the situation and recognition of it as “something different” to what we initially thought is any more “correct” than the initial one of appearance is immaterial, because the truth of the matter is simpler: “Initially, we perceived one thing; upon closer inspection, we perceived something else.” The truth or falsehood of the perception has no bearing on how the subjective being experienced it, and neither does it matter that our unreliable senses are the metrics that we used to separate what we came to think of as “falsehood” (the initial perception) from “truth” (the modified perception).

Of course, this isn’t to say that we should stand in the street and question whether the oncoming car is actually there, or whether our unreliable senses are relaying inaccurately to us that we should probably move out of the way of the vehicle. For whatever reason, it appears to me that we must make assumptions as we go about our lives, and there couldn’t possibly be anything inherently wrong with that–neither does being an assumption make it any more or less likely to be true–but I do think it’s important that we not lose sight of the fact that we are making assumptions.

One such assumption was my critique of Slick’s work, wherein I didn’t dispute the notion that the Logical Absolutes are transcendent. First, what does “transcendent” even mean? “Above or beyond the range of human experience,” according to Google, which is fair enough as a definition but needs expansion. For something to be transcendent, it must not be dependent upon any particular perspective and must be universally true without regard to perception.

“Possibly, but probably not,” then, is the answer. They can appear to be transcendent, but whether they are or aren’t cannot be determined by subjects who rely upon perception to experience the world–perceptions that are dependent upon perspective in the first place. I cannot say whether the Logical Absolutes are transcendent any more than I can say that the tree is a tree; I can only say how they appear to me–or, in the case of the Logical Absolutes, how my fallible and weak human mind can imagine them to be.

Once more, we are not dealing with reasonable certainty here, but claims of absolute certainty. One can be reasonably certain or not that a car is coming down the highway, but one can never be absolutely certain of it. What is “reasonable” to one person isn’t necessarily reasonable to another, either.

TheraminTrees did a wonderful video on this subject, where he posed the hypothetical that you were having a party. A friend is known to be clumsy, and gets drunk, exacerbating his clumsiness. He breaks your lamp and apologizes. Most people would agree it’s reasonable to accept the apology. Then he breaks your television. At this point, if you were to fly into a yelling rage at the friend and demanding that he pay for the damages, many people would decry you as responding unreasonably to the situation. But surely if your friend is prone to clumsiness, he has incorporated that into his life such that he takes responsibility for it? Is it not unreasonable to allow someone to come into your home, get drunk, and break your things?

Where you or I disagree on what is reasonable is also irrelevant; the point is just that there is no universally agreed criteria where something qualifies as “reasonable” or “unreasonable,” and too often it’s nothing more than a matter of perspective. From the limited and narrow sense that shouting at a friend and demanding they pay for something is unreasonable, our hypothetical partier is unreasonable. From a greater perspective (I would probably argue)–one that takes in a wider view of the situation–it is, in fact, unreasonable of the friend to ignore their own mistakes and shortcomings, particularly when damage is caused to their friends.

So I can say that “I’m reasonably certain that the tree appears to me to be presently engaged in the act of being a tree, per my understanding of what it means to be and per my definition of what a ‘tree’ is,” and this is a statement filled with quite a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity. Not everyone seems equipped to handle that level of uncertainty, and thus–the English language, which provides them with the means to hide from all that uncertainty by presenting a tenuous and unfalsifiable statement of subjective experience as an absolute truth.

* As part of my attempts to dissect the English language, this is intentional. “This” is singular, and there is no good reason that it should be treated as though it is plural.