In a single day–in the span of a few hours, in fact–the tone and overall vibe of this festival changed dramatically. Yesterday, it was a family. Today, it’s a festival.
It’s true that the majority of attendees showed up yesterday, but that’s not really what caused the shift.
Monday night we had an awesome rave. A Muslim DJ’d, the Anarchist Shemale recorded and took pics, and danced with gay dudes, and naked and half-naked people wandered however they wanted. No one judged, no one disrespected. There was the issue with the rave going on a bit late, and people taking to Facebook to bitch about the music, but the rave was in Agora Valley, not near the campsites. That is a curious thing itself, that instead of just coming over and asking us to wrap it up, they went to Facebook and bitched.
So what did they want? If they wanted us to wrap up the rave, all they had to do was come over and ask, and everyone here would have known that. But they evidently didn’t want the music to be turned down, or the rave to end–they just wanted to bitch. Two minutes to make a request versus an hour or two of bitching on Facebook? They just wanted to bitch.
Last night after I took some MDMA and went to sleep, there were several groups of people wandering around the campsites at 1:30 in the morning being loud as fuck. Some of them were just drunken, inconsiderate douchebags who had no idea how loud they were being. Around 2:00, some young chick came walking through the camps singing loud as fuck. There’s an enormous difference in raving in Agora Valley a little late during Somalia Fest, not Porcfest, and making a ton of noise through campsites where people are sleeping.
Mutual respect was a critical part of Anarchist Shemale Fest. No one ever stared at me. No one raised their eyebrows in surprise when I came out of the women’s restroom. I was stared at more yesterday than I did through the entire drive, and I got gas in Nashville, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The best way I’ve come up to describe it is that it was an influx of hipsters, but they’re not hipsters, really. It’s a lot of young people–early 20s and such–and that’s great, but there’s been a shift. The incomers aren’t radical anarchists as I was four years ago.
It reminds me so very much of the young people who went to Standing Rock to protest the DAPL. To them, it was just a party. That’s the vibe many people are putting off today. Don’t get me wrong: Somalia Fest was quite obviously a party, but it was a celebration of peace, love, and liberty–individualism, mutual respect, and self-ownership.
Everyone is still friendly, for the most part, but now it’s a celebration of… something else. Words escape my attempts to elucidate the difference.
Great news! There’s a Soap Box Idol show, and if too many speakers are late, I’m really hoping that I can work my way in and speak on AnCap principles, justice, and forgiveness–topics that I know intimately.
Even greater news!
I officially left the Keyboard Activism. I went to attend a seminar, but the speaker didn’t show. My brain began working. The next thing I knew, I was talking to the organizer about giving a lecture on AnCap principles, justice, and forgiveness. Two minutes later, I was on stage in the main pavilion hosting a seminar. I recorded it, but it will be next week before I’m able to actually upload it. I do have a 4G signal, but of the 4000 people here, probably 20% use Verizon, so network congestion is killing my speeds. With a data cap, I just can’t justify a 1 GB upload that could ultimately fail.
I’m not particularly proud of the speech, though several hours later two people approached me to tell me that they enjoyed it. I finally got to meet Daryl W. Perry, too! Considering I’ve been told I’m “like Daryl Perry in drag,” it was a tremendous honor to finally meet him.
Regarding my speech, these factors need to be remembered:
Public speaking is hard under any circumstances
I am hungover from MDMA
I was thirsty as fuck
I had prep time equal to “The amount of time it took to walk back to the pavilion,” so about a minute and a half.
It’s extremely difficult to generate a coherent, effective speech on the fly, even for a topic I’m so passionate about and have written about so extensively.
But I did it.
As Ernest said, “Audacity ensued.”
And he’s right. That is audacious. Narrow window of opportunity, and the Anarchist Shemale jumped on it. Not only did it make many people I’ve met more aware of my interest and ability in leadership roles, but it also paved the way to make it much easier for me to speak at next year’s. My first Porcfest, and I gave a speech in the pavilion.
It’s not great. In fact, it’s not even good. Without a plan, without notes, without rehearsal, and without any time to clear my head and organize my thoughts, I went on stage and gave a speech. It would be hard to exaggerate how difficult it was. I can rant privately all day long, but there’s an enormous difference between ranting and recording it, and standing in front of a crowd to give a lecture.
Technically, I moved from Keyboard Activism to real activism a while ago, and now I’ve just moved further along that road. I intend to keep doing what I’m doing, and I’m evidently decently good at it, so I’m excited to see where it goes.
One thing is sure: I’m gonna push as far as I can.
So… I’m at Anarchist Shemale Fest, which is kinda like the Porcfest pre-party. The more radical and audacious people come to Anarchist Shemale Fest, and I’d wager the guess that nearly everyone here is an anarchist/voluntaryist. There’s no practical difference between an anarcho-capitalist and a voluntaryist, except that the AnCap recognizes that capitalism is the most efficiency and most likely method of voluntary interactions.
Last night, we had a rave. A Muslim was the DJ. An anarchist shemale took videos and pics, and danced with some gay dudes and a half naked chick while her boyfriend fucked an American flag that was on the ground. There are really no rules here, and no one makes the claim that this Individualism Fest is family friendly, but there are kids running around anyway.
You can’t walk fifteen feet without smelling someone smoking weed, drinking, or doing something heavier. Obviously, there are overarching laws, since this is taking place in the United States, a nation which has about as many laws as it does people, and within New Hampshire, a state that has made phenomenal strides toward libertarianism yet still has far to go. But none of those laws really apply here. They’re not on anyone’s mind, not even distantly.
People open carry hatchets, knives, and guns. There is no theft here–any theft that’s occurred here has been the result of family members who weren’t libertarians. There is zero chance that any of the kids wandering around are going to be kidnapped or molested, and if they happen to stumble across sexual activity, someone will stop and send them away.
It’s anarchism in action.
It really goes to show the power of libertarian ideology. Individualism, and the mutual respect that is born of compassion, empathy, and peace. In the five years that Will has been coming, there’s never been a fight. The only real altercation occurred when Cantwell–general alt-right bullshit–got drunk as hell and, reportedly, tried to drive his van through a crowd of people. But Cantwell is no longer allowed on the premises.
He has been shunned from the anarchist society. He wasn’t attacked by thugs with guns for his unacceptable behavior. He was shunned, and forbidden from returning to this private property.
This is what peace, love, and liberty can do.
The whole thing is a lot like Woodstock, to be totally honest, except there’s an ideology and a central principle that guides us all: non-aggression. No one wants to be the victim of aggression, and therefore no one uses aggression to make someone else such a victim. There is also the lack of live music, and I was going to bring an acoustic guitar for exactly that purpose. I will next year. Of course, next year I’ll be here as a vendor; this year I’m getting a feel for things and meeting people.
I’ve talked with Liberty Radio Network about getting a show on there, and right now the general idea is that it would be better, since I’m trans, to have me on the two gay dudes’ show as another co-host. However, I prefer flying solo, so I’m going to keep podcasting and liaising with them now that I’ve met them and have that connection.
I should have made a bunch of those perler bead anarchy symbols, but it didn’t even occur to me. I’m currently looking into “Godless & Lawless” bumper stickers and similar things, all of which would be good merchandise for here. C’est la vie. Now I know.
Of course, there’s no sales tax on things, because taxation is theft, and no one is getting robbed here. This is an anarchist paradise that we’ve carved in the center of the fascist, overblown, military-based United States, and, at least here, we are free.
Anyone curious about how anarchy can actually work should really come to Somalia Fest next year. I’m also hoping to speak at Porcfest next year, since I’ve been building a lot of connections this year and amplifying my voice.
Most of the people here accept crypto currencies as payment.
Will is running The Cultural Appropriation Grill. In fact, Will has made it a point to say that he’s cooking and selling culturally appropriated food because he’s a dirty capitalist.
One guy is selling 3 hours of cell phone charging for $1.
If I was willing, I could change outfits and make $300, at least, by the end of the day. My cash supply is fast depleting, too. 🙁
It would have been alright, but I ended up having to pay part of two hotel rooms that I wasn’t anticipating having to pay for (The plan changed frequently, but it was never mentioned that I’d need to pay for part of any hotel room), and I was hoping for a $150 loan from a friend that didn’t pan out.
But hey! That’s why I brought hot dogs, bread, and lunch meat. The only thing I’m worried about now is being hit up for gas on the trip back to Tennessee, since we’ve already come close to the figure I was initially quoted, and that was on the drive up here… I’m not complaining, just saying. This is AnCap city. Things will work out.
I’ve derailed from my initial point–this is what an anarchist society looks like. If I want to change clothes and throw up a sign that says “Your place, $30,” no one will judge me for it. And this place is a total sausage fest. There would be plenty of takers. Just saying.
Anyway, I don’t know if there will be a podcast today. Tomorrow, Porcfest begins, so there will be plenty to discuss then.
Through most of my life, I considered myself a boy. I was such a dude that it still bothers me to see men wearing pink, and I’ve said countless times that the shirt that says “Real men wear pink” is stupid–real men avoid wearing pink at all costs. I wore boxers, shaved my head, and had a bad ass goatee. No one in their right mind would have looked at me and suspected that I was anything but ordinary heterosexual male.
I drank beer, ate steaks, had a wife, knew how to work on automobiles, knew how to repair washing machines, and all the usual stuff. Yet the person there in that pic–that’s me. That person in that pic who five minutes before or after would have laughed at a guy for wearing a pink shirt–that’s me. That person who would have sneered if someone offered him a wine cooler over a Bud Light–that’s me.
Recently, Caryn Harlos has called me a revisionist making the party look silly because I say that Nolan was, and always was, an anarchist, even if he identified in the past as a minarchist. Speaking as a transgender person, I know exactly how this goes, and that’s why I bring all of this up. There is a lot of truth to the idea that a M2F trans person will embrace the most masculine aspects of being a male. It’s not an accident that I shaved my head, had a goatee, lifted weights, wore muscle shirts, and all the other shit. One might say I was overcompensating.
Yet the truth always bled through, often unbidden and without conscious intent, and I wondered about it for years. I remember remarking to a friend several years ago that I am, and always have been, an enthusiastic supporter of LGBT rights, but that I wasn’t sure why. I’m not gay or bisexual, so why should I be such an Ally that it consumed probably 10% of my political discussion? It didn’t make much sense. This was the transgenderism bleeding through subconsciously, without my knowing it or realizing it.
Of course, you could ask my ex-wife (from whom I divorced for reasons entirely unrelated to any of this) about other ways my transgenderism bled through. I mentioned in Dancing in Hellfire that my cousin enjoyed wearing makeup when we played various games, but as early as kindergarten I loathed makeup. Our kindergarten teacher forced us all to put on lipstick to kiss a paperplate (making a thing for our parents), and I resented her from that day forward. Makeup was for girls, and I wasn’t a goddamned girl. Only because I was a freak (what people today would call “goth”) did eyeliner get a pass, and only then because it looked so freaking awesome, and that was much later.
There were always periods, though, no matter how masculine I presented myself, and no matter how generally conformist I was to sexual stereotypes of heterosexuality, it always bled through. I’ve described being transgender and having to repress it as desperately needing to breathe, but being able to breathe only in short, very sporadic gasps. But no matter what I did, no matter how I attempted to hide it–often from myself–it always bled through. My grandmother would find women’s clothing hidden between my mattresses. I wore them when I could, while at the same time hating myself for wearing them, knowing that I was betraying some other part of me.
It was conflict, pure and simple.
Conflict between who I was and the identity that I proclaimed–the identity that I believed in.
And now look at me.
Who would ever have guessed that the person in the above pic was not truly the person he identified as? Who would have guessed that the goatee, the shaved head, the muscles, the Bud Light, the steaks, and all the other things… were just ways of masking the true behavior that underwrote so much of what I said and did?
Because it’s true. I wore my girlfriend’s prom dress before she did–and she thought it was hot. I had long hair through most of high school, too. At one point, my hair fell below my breasts. This same girlfriend gave me tons of panties, yet at every given moment I’d have insisted that I was not even a cross-dresser, that I was adamantly against the notion of transgenderism. I’m sure that I’ve in the past said “Boys are boys and girls are girls, and that’s that.”
When the True Self conflicts with the Expressed Self, there are contradictions–often glaring contradictions.
It would be the height of transphobic ignorance to look back at that first pic, of me with a goatee, and say that I was clearly just a male, that I was only a male, and that I was not, even then, transgender. I most certainly was. I was even female then. I simply repressed it because, for various reasons that are often unique to the individual, I could not accept it, and I was not ready to accept it.
Several, several years ago, I mentioned to a friend that if my ex-wife and I ever divorced, I would move to California and get a sex change operation. I told this to another friend, too–one that you could almost call a boyfriend, except that it wasn’t like that for me. When he brought this up again a year later, I adamantly denied it. Even though I had told him to his face that I felt like a girl and wanted to pursue that, when he mentioned it later, I abjectly refused to admit that I’d said that. I told him he was taking it out of context and making it to be a much bigger deal than it was. Readiness often comes in phases, rarely does it come all at once.
Nolan’s early writings, particularly his written declaration of the case for a Libertarian Party, have anarchism bleeding through it in exactly the same way that transgenderism bled through so much of my life, even as I identified as a male and sought desperately to hide any indication that I wasn’t quite normal. We see in Nolan’s other writings exactly the same conflict that we saw in me when I said “real men don’t wear pink.” Coming to term with oneself and making that final leap is often extremely difficult, but it shines through, and nothing can dim the inner light of the true self.
When such a conflict arises, how shall we form an understanding of the person? Through their often-confused and often-contradictory expressions and positions, or through the inner light that bleeds through no matter how adamantly it is denied, and is only embraced much later in life? Should we embrace the identity of the person as they express themselves while clearly embroiled in internal conflict, or should we be more understanding and accept their internal conflict as just that–internal conflict that was only resolved much later in life? Nolan denied being an anarchist and expressly stated that he was a minarchist with exactly the same fervor and tenacity with which I stated that I was a normal heterosexual male.
But I was never a normal heterosexual male, and Nolan was never a minarchist.
So, no. Caryn Harlos is wrong. Nolan was an anarchist, even back then, and it clearly bleeds through in his early writings in exactly the same way that female clothing bled through my otherwise-normal male adolescence. That I claimed to be a normal male didn’t make me one; that Nolan claimed not to be an anarchist didn’t prevent him from being one. It merely prevented him from coming to terms with what was already then shining through.
But apparently I’m a revisionist for saying that, clearly, Nolan was always an anarchist. If so, then I’m a revisionist for saying that I was always transgender.
Moreover, I can claim right now to be a minarchist. That won’t make me one. I could just as easily call this site “The Minarchist Shemale” and write pretty much the same things, though occasionally throwing out contradictory articles about how we need a state to protect us from a state. None of that would make me a minarchist, though–it would only make me confused about who I am and what I believe.
I’d rather take the word of the person who has worked through that confusion and expressed an identity that is in accord with their inner identity than to arbitrarily cling to the confused contradictions of someone struggling to come to terms with their identity.
So Will Coley invited me to attend Somalia Fest and PorcFest (Porcupine Fest) with him this year, and it’s such an opportunity (and a low cost one) that I really can’t pass it up. Separately from all other considerations, I’ve managed to generate $350 toward that end, which leaves me about halfway to be able to go comfortably and with a safety net so I don’t have to worry about things going wrong.
I have a client who owes $400 in back invoices, and I’m really hoping that I can get them to pay. But let me give a breakdown on things:
$100~ to cover my portion of the gas to get there and back. I’ll be riding with Will’s mother, but it’s still only fair that I cover half the gas. $100 is an estimate, though.
$50 to get to Knoxville and back. This isn’t a big deal. My car can do that just fine, and I’m assuming that I can leave it parked at Will’s property for the duration.
$25 to a cat-sitter who is going to check in on my cats once a day, refill their water and food and, if necessary, empty their litter box. I’m not sure how my cats will handle being away from me that long.
$200 is expected to be necessary to cover food and things “at festival prices.” I don’t go to a ton of festivals, but the last one I went to had people trying to sell grilled cheese sandwiches for $5. Those who know me know that I don’t eat a lot, so this isn’t much of a consideration, and $200 is likely overkill.
I eat cheap and, given the option, would much rather being a cooler of lunch meat and bread. If this is possible, I’ll obviously knock huge numbers off the expenses. I’m a frugal chick.
I’ve no interest in dropping LSD with people I’ve never met, so won’t really be purchasing any “party supplies.
Due to horrific timing, I’m set to run out of hormones on last day of the trip. That’s manageable, because my next shipment will have arrived by then. However, this does mean I have a present expense that can’t be avoided.
So why am I telling you all this? Well, because the client who owes me has been continuing to ignore my calls and emails, and it’s looking more and more unlikely that they’re just not going to pay.
GoFundMe has never sat well with me. To that end, I’ve started selling my book Dancing in Hellfire, which is currently on sale for $3.49. If you read my work, if you support my work, and if you enjoy my work, I humbly ask that you purchase a copy. Presently, this can only be done via PayPal, but who doesn’t use PayPal?
It’s a captivating tale, my autobiography, of dealing with drug-addicted and irresponsible parents, child abuse, murder, torture, domestic violence, and, on top of all that, coming to terms with being transgender in a fundamentalist Christian family in rural Mississippi. There were summers when we didn’t have electricity or even running water, much less anything to eat. It’s the story of how I came to be the person that I am, and the lessons that I learned from these experiences when I chose to be the beneficiary rather than the victim. It extends far beyond the scope of transgenderism and deals instead with two main devils: reckless drug abuse and oppressive parenting. It’s a good read, and it will pull on your heart strings and, hopefully, inspire you to never give in.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I intend to become a major player within the Libertarian Party. To that end, I purchased membership to the national party last week, and have contacted the state chairperson about state membership.
At the end of this month, I’ll be up for Full Membership in The Audacious Caucus, and have every intention of being a delegate in 2018 and 2020 to ensure the party gets back on track. If you agree with my message, then you can literally help me accomplish this by buying my book. Feel free to buy multiple copies, and give the extras to friends who fight the radical and audacious cause of ideology, not identity.
“The Anarchist Shemale” is a brand, and nothing more. I want to be known for being unflinchingly loyal to the principles of liberty, not for my gender identity and orientation.
Though I’ve honestly very little interest in attending and listening to seminars (You know me! I’d rather speak at a seminar than listen at one), the networking opportunity is too great to pass up. This dual-festival will put me directly in touch with many of the right people for me to begin making things happen at the 2018 convention. And by the 2020 convention, I should be positioned well to forward the audacious cause.
So I’m asking you to give me the benefit of the doubt. You know my ideology, my strict adherence to the NAP, and my laity to reason and principle over pragmatism. If radicals are to reaffirm our voice in the party, then this is how we do it. I humbly ask that you help put these plans into action. Not for free! You get what is truly a fascinating book out of it. After all, who else followed their mother’s murder from the American Justice System to one built upon forgiveness rather than vengeance? How many others have the experiential clout to stand there and say, “I’ve HAD a loved one murdered, and I’m still telling you: vengeance is not the answer”?
If $3.49 is too much, consider purchasing “Dead or Alive” instead, which is a short story being sold for $1. You can even use the coupon code “Real subtle, asshole.” to get it 50% off.
We don’t all have the time or energy to write such things and to take back the party. So, basically, make me your delegate. You know what I stand for, and you know that I don’t back down from the devil himself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 can’t prevent any and all negative consequences.
The idea that we somehow can lies at the heart of statism. We can’t have freedom of association, because then some racist assholes would choose not to associate with black people. We can’t have capitalism because then some people might not be able to afford food. We can’t have freedom of speech because then some people might hurt other people’s feelings.
The most common criticism of anarchism is that anarchy can’t guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong, a security that people seem to desperately crave, even though they don’t have it, and even though it’s impossible in a universe that doesn’t seem to care much whether we’re here. “What will you do to prevent murder?” people ask the anarchist, using the anarchist’s inability to definitively prevent murder as a reason for rejecting anarchy.
It’s fallacious, of course. The state doesn’t successfully prevent negative consequences either, no matter how much it tries and interferes in our lives. With all the laws and prisons, with all the destruction of liberty in the modern United States, there remains murder. It’s readily apparent that this isn’t an argument for the state; it’s an excuse for the status quo. “The state doesn’t successfully prevent murder, but anarchy can’t either. So why change?”
The obvious answer is that the state doesn’t simply fail to prevent murder; it is the Primary Murderer. As an institution, the state has racked up a body count that should cause any moral person to do a doubletake; in the 20th century alone, counting only war and advice combatants, states killed more than 120,000,000 people. If there were no states, those people killed by states would not have died. So if we want to reduce murder, the stateless society is clearly the way to go.
Prohibition doesn’t work, and we know this. Everyone knows it until we get to their Pet Issue, at which point they decide arbitrarily that prohibition can work. Abortion is a great example, because outlawing abortion doesn’t stop abortion; it merely chases it to the shadows of the back alley. Prohibition against alcohol didn’t eliminate alcohol; it was merely chased into the shadows of the black market. Prohibition against drugs hasn’t stopped people from doing drugs.
The argument may be that it’s fine, because we’ve substantially reduced the number of people doing these things, even if some people still do them, but this ignores the tremendous negative consequences. Our prisons are filled with non-violent offenders, largely minorities. Drugs are bought and sold in secret, unverified, possibly impure, possibly laced, and possibly lethal. People who can’t find heroin turn to krokodil. These are negative consequences. Our state intervention did not come without a price and arguments can certainly be made that the price was higher than the reward. Great, we kept five people off heroin, and the only side effect was that two people got on krokodil! Only a supremely jaded person can call this a victory.
Of course, this simply leads to more interventions, and more attempts to make up new rules to address the negative side effects of the old rules. Russia made codeine prescription-only to fix the krokodil epidemic caused by heroin being illegal, which simply made heroin easier to get and cheaper than krokodil. And then they’ll come up with some new rule to address the negative side effects of the last rule, and the end result is a clusterfuck of nonsensical laws limiting the behavior of adults.
Don’t think that we’re any different in the United States. There are positive and negative consequences to every action. Getting up early and starting my work day early comes with the positive consequence of earning more money, and with the negative consequence of getting less sleep. There’s always a trade-off, and this is the critical thing that statists attempt to deny.
Sure, outlawing heroin seems like a good idea with positive consequences–right up until someone’s skin rots off because they turned to krokodil. That negative consequence can’t be ignored. Furthermore, any attempt to fix it will come with its own set of consequences. And each time, liberty is restricted. The adults out there who use heroin in the same way that party drinkers use alcohol are caught in the cross fire, their lives destroyed in our Quixotic quest to eliminate drug addicts, and turned into hardened criminals by a prison system that rivals the Roman Gladiatorial Arenas in sheer barbarism.
Prohibition against alcohol probably lowered the number of people who drank. It also created Al Capone and turned Chicago into the gang-infested nightmare that it remains today. It drastically lowered the quality of alcohol, leading to widespread poisoning, and turned previously safe warehouses into guarded camps that regularly saw vicious battles erupting over control of the lucrative black market. It was hardly what anyone would call a victory.
Prohibiting abortion today wouldn’t end it, especially not in an age that has the Tor network (The Dark Web), which would make it easier than ever to find an abortionist. Even Craigslist can’t keep illicit activity off, and people would find abortionists through it. Rather than having the procedure done in a safe and sterile environment, though, we’d be back in the alley with coathangers. We know this, because that’s what happened before abortion was legalized.
It’s true. I can’t promise you that nothing will ever go wrong in an anarcho-capitalist society. In fact, the only thing I can promise you is that things will go wrong. The only thing that really matters is which set of consequences you want. Do you want freedom and the sometimes negative consequences? Do you want free speech even though it means people might say hateful things? Do you want free association even though it means racists might not associate with minorities?
Or do you want statism, for the government to attempt to minimize negative consequences by limiting freedom, and thereby creating a new set of consequences that have to be addressed by limiting freedom more?
We can’t have a utopia. In a universe largely hostile to our existence, imperfect beings can’t have a utopia. The state can’t give us one, and anarchy can’t give us one. Basic algebra tells us, then, that we can reduce the equation by erasing utopia from both sides. When we do this, what are we left with?
Freedom and negative consequences, or tyranny and negative consequences.
It’s come to my attention–via hearsay, as I’ve never read the person in question–that Walter Block argues that punishment in a stateless society isn’t strictly necessary, but what is important is that survivors are doubly repaid for losses. This seems to deal primarily with theft, but there was also a solution relayed to me regarding murder: simply, the murder would work for the surviving family for the rest of his life.
I… can’t get on board with any of this.
These are the moments when the principle of Non Aggression gets skewed. I have no idea if Walter Block advocates these things are not, but they are grotesque and immoral, and are no better than the state system of law and punishment we have now. So because a man did something wrong, he is to be condemned to being a slave for the rest of his life? What part of that is supposed to be in accord with AnCap principles? What part of that is supposed to be in accord with non aggression? Slavery is among the greatest violations of the NAP, to take someone and force them to work for you because they wronged you and your family member…
Two wrongs don’t make a right.
I know it’s hard. Believe me, I really do. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see some news article from the tri-state area about a body being found in the mountains, in a lake, or in a ditch, and every single time some part of me hopes… “Could this be it? Could this be my mother?” I know damned well what it’s like to lose a family member to murder, and I know what it’s like to live with that, to live with the murderer getting away with absolutely no punishment whatsoever because the body was thoroughly discarded. So you’re not going to find too many more people with the stable ground to say this:
There is nothing that could be done to bring justice to my murdered mother. It’s done. It’s over. She’s dead. While I would love nothing more than to have her rotting body buried somewhere respectable, with a tombstone so that I could finally put her to rest, even that would do nothing to alleviate any of the sorrow or pain, and it definitely wouldn’t bring her back. I know exactly who killed her, but without a body there’s nothing to be charged with. He lives a life of relative comfort, now a trained engineer or something like that, and has the love of his children and his other family members. There is nothing that can be done to him that would constitute justice.
This is the conceit that is breaking modern society: there’s no such thing as justice. It’s an imaginary idea. What we mean when we say “justice” is “This person did something wrong, so we’re going to get revenge, but we’re going to call it something else because we want to convince ourselves that our wrongful act against him is somehow different than the wrongful act he committed.” But it isn’t, because two wrongs don’t make a right.
It’s wrong to kidnap people at gunpoint, hold them against their will, and force them into slave labor, to force them into situations where they live in concrete jungles and have to fight for their lives or be raped. That’s morally wrong. There are no exceptions.
Truth be told, there is only one way for me to have justice over my mother’s murder by what most people would call my uncle, and that would be… forgiveness. Forgiving him is the only way to ease the pain in my heart and to release the sorrow. Isn’t that the point of justice? To ease the victim’s pain? Punishment doesn’t ease the victim’s pain; it converts it into zealous excitement and lust for vengeance. Just like if your wife cheats on you, it won’t ease your pain to then go out and cheat on your wife; it will only exacerbate it, enlarge it, and lengthen it. No, the only way forward, the only way to recovery, and the only way toward justice is through forgiveness.
That phrasing isn’t accidental. Forgiveness is a difficult labyrinth that must be navigated, with pitfalls and temptations hiding around every corner. Through the darkness emanate the whispers, “Why should you be the one putting in the effort? You did nothing wrong! He should be the one who pays! He should be the one who suffers! Haven’t you suffered enough? It’s time for him to pay for what he did!” These voices rarely cease while one travels through the labyrinthine, internal mind, coming to terms with the past and accepting its role in shaping the present.
It’s not supposed to be easy to forgive people, but forgiveness is all about the forgiver; it has nothing to do with the aggressor. I realized this when I was asked what, if anything, Vegas Chick could do to cause me to forgive her. I realized that there was nothing she could do, because it didn’t have anything to do with her. It had everything to do with me and my own emotional responses. I had a choice: to cling to the negative emotions, or to let them go. A demand for some kind of contrition, some kind of punishment… is clinging to the negative emotions. It never releases them, and releasing them is the only way to travel from the land of the wounded to the land of peace.
It’s also not easy to forgive the man who murdered my mother for unknown reasons. It’s not easy to forgive him for being the sole reason that I will be buried long before her body is ever discovered, if, indeed, her body is ever found. It’s not supposed to be easy to take a deep breath, let the negativity wash away, and say, “I forgive you.”
As a society, we have a passionate lust for revenge, and we love our euphemisms precisely because they allow us to pretend like it’s not revenge that we’re after. Years ago, when working through these ideas, I decided that the difference had to be that justice was impartial and vengeance was personal. In other words, if you enacted punishment against the murder on my behalf, then it was justice; if I did it, then it was vengeance. I’ve since realized how wrong that is. You acting on my behalf doesn’t change anything. It’s just a convenient way for me to shirk the responsibility; it’s just a handy way for me to pretend like I’m not the one responsible for the aggression being committed against someone else. “I’m not doing it!” I could proclaim. “They’re doing it!”
Except they’re doing it with my blessing. And whether I have the power to stop them or not–in the modern American system, I probably don’t have the power to stop the court system from prosecuting him, if her body was ever discovered–it wouldn’t change the fact that they’re doing so on my behalf, on my mom’s behalf, and on my sister’s behalf. But what if my sister and I both expressed that we wanted it forgiven, not punished? Because I would absolutely go before court and argue such a thing, even for the person who murdered my mother. Our testimony would mean little. We wouldn’t be able to simply drop the charges, despite being the only survivors of the murdered woman and therefore having more claim to express her wishes than anyone else.
And why? Because the state would be acting instead on behalf of Straw Victims it has imagined, and those Straw Victims are more important than my sister and me.
Punishment doesn’t end an injustice. It extends it.
The goal can’t be to punish someone. Punishment must be incidental, if it happens at all.
I don’t dispute that, once someone murders another person, individuals–whether elected or hired–have the purview to take measures to prevent the murderer from murdering anyone else. How this is to be accomplished, however, is a question of extreme importance. The obvious answer, according to most people, is to “Throw them in prison and throw away the key!”
No, because that doesn’t really prevent murder. The murder rate in prison is pretty high, and you won’t get most rational people to agree to a life sentence for one murder. Hell, the person we’re talking about served only 7 of a ten year sentence for murder. So the person is ultimately going to get back out of prison–or will kill someone in prison, bypassing the “out of prison” part altogether and committing a murder, meaning our preventative efforts failed. Since prison inmates have a 75% likelihood of going back to prison, prison is clearly an ineffective way of preventing crime from happening again. It may or may not prevent some crime, but it’s too ineffective to be our Yes, That’s the Best Solution answer.
I don’t know that I really have an alternative. Extensive therapy by trained psychologists would obviously be in order. Is there any way to fix this person’s damaged brain? Because, without exception, something has broken down in the moral centers of the murderer’s brain. That’s a given, because normal, healthy people don’t murder other people. We find the idea repugnant in every conceivable way, and we would not murder another person even if we knew that we could get away with it without any consequences at all. It’s not punishment or fear of punishment that stays our hands; it’s our own internal morality. Once that internal morality breaks down, no amount of laws will protect someone.
The goal of prison was supposed to be to segregate, punish, and rehabilitate. It fails on all accounts. A scary number of innocent people have landed in prison, without even getting into the number of people in prison for committing “victimless crimes*”. So criminals are not segregated from the innocent. Nor are they punished, at least not in the way that society likes to pretend. Drug abuse and sex are rampant in prison. It’s often easier to find hardcore drugs in prison than it is to find them on the streets. As for rehabilitation–you’re kidding right? I would bet my shiny new tickets to the A Perfect Circle show in Nashville that most the 25% of former prisoners who don’t return to prison are simply too old upon release to be out there raping and killing people, or whatever they did to go to prison in the first place.
There has to be some way of preventing someone from committing another murder, and that’s what our focus should be on. Not punishment. Punishment only exacerbates the amount of wrongdoing in the world. Killing someone because they killed someone doesn’t reduce the amount of killing in the world; it obviously increases it by one. Kidnapping and holding someone against their will for kidnapping and holding someone against their will doesn’t reduce the amount of people being kidnapped and held against their will; it increases it by one. There is no justice as long as we are doing things that add more murder, more kidnapping, more imprisonment, more rape, and more violence to the world.
Justice, as an ideal, must be incapable of increasing the amount of aggression in the world. If it increases the amount of aggression, then it cannot be justice. That must be our metric for determining what is justice and what isn’t.
It starts with forgiveness.
This doesn’t mean that a person shouldn’t be held to account for acts of aggression, or that there should be no consequences. It does, however, change the goals of the consequences. Rather than seeking punishment, we should seek prevention. “What can we do to make sure this man never kills again?” should be our guiding question, not, “How can we make this man suffer for what he did?” The act is done. Making him suffer won’t fix anything and won’t help anything; it will only increase the amount of suffering in the world.
And two wrongs don’t make a right.
This is very different from catching someone in the act of aggression and having the opportunity to stop the act from escalating. If you walk in on some thief beating the hell out of your family member and you shoot and kill that thief, you’ve done nothing wrong. You prevented a beating from escalating into what probably would have been a murder. Since the thief initiated the aggression, you did what you had to do to protect another human being who had done nothing to initiate the attack. But what if you came home from work and you knew who had beaten your brother half to death and stolen your laptops and television? Would it be morally right to chase that person down and kill them? I don’t think many people would say “Yes” to that, and I certainly wouldn’t. Because at that point, you’re no longer preventing; you’re punishing.
We need a lot of spiritual growth–a phrase I use colloquially. It’s true, though. Before we can have a stateless society, we have to have a society where no one is asking “How can we punish criminals?” Because a stateless society can’t answer that question, because a stateless society forbids the use of force, violence, and coercion. “How can we punish criminals” is the wrong question, coming from a dark place in the human heart that prefers vengeance to forgiveness, and that’s something we have to let go of. We have to learn to forgive. Once we have a society of people asking the right question–“How can we prevent a murderer from killing again?”–then we will be ready to enjoy the luxuries of a stateless society.
This is part of the reason that the state is so tied to the criminal system, of course. It wants us to confuse punishment with justice, because as long as we’re erroneously calling punishment “justice,” we’ll despise any system that seeks to deny it to us. “You mean you’re not going to punish that child rapist? He should have his dick cut off! He should be publicly castrated! Fuck him! Throw him in prison with Big Jim!”
That’s vengeance, not justice.
Yes, by all means, and absolutely: let’s prevent that rapist from raping again. That’s mandatory, once they have done such a horrific act. But punishment isn’t going to do it. And when taking steps to prevent the act from occurring again, we should be mindful whether our motivation is to sate our bloodlust for vengeance, or whether our motivation is to actually protect future victims from being similarly harmed. Only by using the correct path can we arrive at the correct destination.
Bloodlust leads to punishment and, 75% of the time, repeat offenses.
Forgiveness leads to justice and prevention.
So what do we do about criminals in a stateless society? I don’t know. But I’d love for us to put our brilliant minds and our empathic hearts together and come up with a solution that actually works without increasing the amount of suffering in the world and while releasing the primordial instinct within us that demands we take an eye for an eye.
I’m in the process of launching Anarchy Central. I’m doing so for a few different reasons.
For the time being, the site will function as a mirror for my articles here, with some filtering. Things like my Samsung Galaxy S7 Review won’t land on Anarchy Central. And I’ll tone language down considerably (well, I’ll generally remove profanity) before mirroring the article. Non-political writings won’t end up there.
Secondly, it’s my hope that the more inclusive domain name will allow me to recruit contributors more easily, and I’ve already got the page up to do so. I’m particularly seeking AnComs and AnSyns, to balance the anarchist ideologies.
Ultimately, there will be dedicated sections that explain and argue for the various anarchy types, but disputes between them generally will be discouraged; for example, an AnComs article about how AnCaps aren’t real anarchists won’t be published, first of all, and could result in a ban. But I’m not about to go into the rules and terms here.
I’ve got everything needed to set up a BB Forum at https://anarchycentral.com/board, but that’s obviously something that will wait until the site has lots of traffic and contributors.
The primary goal right now is simpler: to have a more palatable and less controversial place to direct people. The alias “Anarchist Shemale” is doing at least as much to hurt as to help. Of course, this will still be my primary site, and nothing here will change; Anarchy Central won’t get exclusive articles or anything. Neither will Anarchy Central be a secondary site, though. It will, however, be community-oriented. That’s the plan, at least. Building a community isn’t easy.
The look and feel of the site isn’t complete. There are not yet any custom images or anything along those lines; I’ve been stuck working directly from my phone, which severely limits what I’m able to do. I’ve not yet set up most of the widgets that I’ll need, or created key pages. But I’m looking forward to doing it.