I’ve been sober and authority free for one year now. It has been a real struggle, but I’ve come so far. I’m really proud of my progress in becoming a peaceful and ethical human being.
That wasn’t always the case, however.
I was raised in a strict, disciplinarian, Christian household. My father was very stern and demanded much of me. I obeyed most of the time, but when I didn’t I would be whipped with his belt, or switched by my mother. Bad kids deserved to be punished for not doing as they are told. I went to church every Sunday and was expected to pray to Jesus for forgiveness for my disobedience. I was a good Christian boy and I did as the Bible commanded.
I went to public school like everybody else, and did as the teachers told me. When I didn’t do as instructed, I would be paddled, sent to time out and punished. Bad students deserve to be punished. I mostly behaved as I knew my father would punish me at home for not obeying the teacher. I asked Jesus to make me a better student.
Every day in school, every lesson was obedience. Behave on the bus, sit quietly in your seat, do your homework, stay in line, answer the test questions correctly, color inside the lines, say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. I learned that rules were meant to be followed and if I was going to be a good student, I would have to follow them, too.
My father was a minister and a farmer, and I was expected to help him to put food on our table when I wasn’t at school. I wanted to play more than work most of the time, though. So I would be punished for not contributing to the family when I was expected to.
So I learned. To do as one is told is to do good. To disobey is to be a bad person.
As I grew and got older, I noticed that there were a lot of people not doing as they were told. Those people were doing drugs, driving too fast, not paying their taxes, not going to church, talking bad about the President, and on and on. The world was full of bad people it seemed. They needed to be punished to teach them to be good and follow the rules like me.
But something happened to me. I’m not sure what it was exactly, but I began to have doubts about Jesus. I began to question my father’s instructions. I stopped doing my homework. This all happened around the time a boy starts thinking about girls. I had always heard being a teenager would make you bad. My father had warned me once when I was about 10 that I might be bad when I grew up a little more. I had told him I would always be good. I would always do as I was told.
But as I grew, I broke my promise. I stopped going to church, and abandoned much of what I had been taught. The more I stopped, the worse everyone made me feel about my choices. It made me very upset, but following the rules and being obedient really didn’t make me happy. I was told to grow up, that life was hard, and if I wanted to be something I was going to have to do as I was told. The pressure to follow the rules was piled on and I eventually melted down. Depressed, alone, without any real friends in the world, I quit everything. But a chance event would, in a very strange way, save my soul.
At 17, while skipping school my senior year, I was deep in the forest next door with my two young dogs. I always took a machete with me to carve out trails, and perhaps to use for defense if the need arose. But this day, I cleaved my bare left foot opened on accident. Blood poured out and I learned a lot about myself that day. I abandoned fear and saved my own life. I didn’t even think about what I was doing, and I just reacted to the situation. I used a sock to make a simple tourniquet around the wound. Then I proceeded to crawl, only wearing a pair of shorts, through the swamp, briars, cow shit, weeds, across gullies, and through the hot August sun for four hours, to my neighbor’s house for help. They heard me yelling when I got close and I was taken to the hospital.
That day was my salvation in a lot of ways. I required tendon repair surgery as the machete had cut deep. I missed 6 weeks of school, had to learn to walk again. The school system failed to deliver my assignments and I fell far behind. When I returned, it became apparent that I couldn’t catch up and graduate with my class. So I quit.
I became good at quitting after that. I quit college 3 times, I couldn’t hold a job for very long, I couldn’t hold a relationship. I became successful at failure. But there was one thing that gave me a sense of purpose, of belonging, of direction, and of strength; The Nation. It filled that empty void that a broken and humiliated person feels when they have lost their dignity.
Around age 18, I tried to join the Navy. I wanted to be on a submarine that carried nukes. I wanted to be one of the chosen few to protect The Nation. My family had a long tradition of military service. My brother, father, uncles, cousins and distant relatives had served. My ancestors had served in every American war. Now it was my turn to serve.
But that ol’ machete saved me from that fate, too. They wouldn’t take me because my wound gave me some limited mobility (which I have completely regained). I was depressed, for a while. I found odd jobs as I searched for purpose.
Then September 11th happened. Those bastards had attacked MY Nation. I was angry, and I wanted vengeance and war. I wanted The Nation to turn the middle east into a glow-in-the-dark parking lot. I wanted the blood of millions to be spilled to repay what they had done. They were my enemies, and I hated them all.
When The Nation sent in its conquering armies I was so happy and proud. I watched the tanks thundering through the desert. I couldn’t get enough of it and wanted Iraq to become the 51st state, ripe for colonization by good Americans. I wanted Empire. I was only angry at the Nation’s leaders for not sending more troops. I wanted a million troops dominating that sand pit of a country.
After all, our Nation was the mightiest, most prosperous of all. I told my friends that we would bring civilization to those barbaric people and save them from their cruel masters. When they learned what it was like to have wealth and freedom, they would abandon their evil religious nonsense. We would save them with arms and with prosperity.
The Nation made me feel strong and filled the emptiness in my life. I voted and attacked those who criticized my Nation’s leader. I hated those who vilified our glorious liberating army. I wanted them arrested, imprisoned for their treasonous words and poisonous acts of demonstration. I wanted them to follow the rules and obey like me.
But, once again, something happened that would save my humanity.
The stock market, and economy crashed. One of the mighty pillars that my faith in The Nation rested upon collapsed. I reeled. How could our leaders let such a thing happen? Then, I found the answers online. I found Peter Schiff on YouTube predicting it years in advance. I found Ludwig von Mises and Friedrick A. Hayek’s wisdom. I discovered Fractional Reserve Banking, and how fiat currency worked. I learned how evil and fraudulent it was. For a long time, I was perplexed at why the Nation’s leaders would allow such a scheme. Then I realized, they were in on it. They benefited from it. It was the leaders who betrayed the Nation!
And then I found Ron Paul.
Because of him, I began to read what Jefferson, Payne, and Franklin said. I found liberty. I found the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I read. I learned what I had never heard, that liberty is the mother of order, not order’s daughter. That my rights are not given by the Nation. That I my liberties are inalienable. That the Nation wasn’t a democracy, but a republic. I learned that my country and my government weren’t the same thing, which was earth shattering for me. I learned that the Nation was designed to protect us from evil. If only we could restore it to what it was supposed to do. The leaders weren’t following the rules. They had to obey the rules. They had to be punished.
I joined Campaign for Liberty, studied Austrian Economics, and devoured many books. I fell in love with Glenn Beck and bought a bunch of his books, too. Here was our cause’s true spokesman! He would wake up the People so they could punish the leaders! I joined a local tea party. I discovered the Non-Aggression Principle. I donated money to campaigns. I spread the word. I gave the constitution out at Christmas as gifts to my friends and family and told them about Ron Paul, the man who would save the Nation!
But, little did I know, the folks over at the Mises Institute had a trick up their sleeve. I found Lew Rockwell, and Murray Rothbard. I found article after article casting doubt on the Nation’s ability to manage things, to make things good for everyone. No longer did I believe that the Nation should help people get healthcare, housing, and education, but here they were questioning whether there should even be a Nation at all. What about roads? Who would protect us from thieves and outsiders, how would contracts be enforced and disputes resolved?
But I had grown to trust them. Clearly, they had predicted the collapse years in advance. Could they also be right about the need for a Nation? Slowly, one by one, the pieces fell into place. I learned that monopolies don’t really occur without the Nation, and that those monopolies provide services with crappy quality, at wealth destroying profit losses, and at high prices. The Postal Service, Amtrak, Medicare, Medicaid, every government program was an abject failure. The banks were a cartel backed up by the evil and private Federal Reserve. Health insurance companies were defacto state sanctioned cartels. I learned that the wars on drugs, poverty, and terror could all be traced back to meddlesome interference into people’s lives by the Nation.
I can’t remember the day, or the moment. It happened so quietly. A whisper at first and slowly it grew until it was a roar in my mind. Authority belongs to individuals, not nations. People shouldn’t have to obey a monopoly that forces its will upon them with threats of punishment. I saw that all government services are paid for with compulsory contributions we call taxes for things we may not approve. Even if we do approve, the funds are squandered on favors and is mostly wasted in the bueacratic jungle. I saw the police as violent thugs for the first time in my life. I saw that this monopoly I had called my Nation, trained me, my father before me, and his father before him, that it was Master. It had trained us without me even realizing it. It had trained me to obey, to follow the rules or to be punished.
I finally learned that people who are good, don’t use violence to get what they want; they cooperate peacefully. People who are bad take what they want with violence. No matter what badge, uniform, or title they have.
When I learned this, obedience to the authority of the Nation lost its hold on me forever. I found ethics and philosophy through Stefan Molyneux over at Free Domain Radio. I began to process my trauma.
I finally realized that freedom from predation, violence, and theft can only be successfully provided by voluntary association, just like in every other service or good people desire such as bread, shoes, or ipads. The monopoly that was supposed to protect me, had instead abused me and everyone I knew.
Many have asked me “why don’t you just leave if you don’t like it?” I have left, in my heart and mind. But what better place to fight the war of ideas than here where liberty had flourished the brightest for the longest? The battlefield is in the minds of my friends, family, neighbors and strangers. I think that battle can be won, in time. I stay here to be a beacon for others.
For the first time in my life, I have peace, tranquility, self esteem, and purpose. I don’t need the crutches of religion or nationalism to prop me up any more. I’m a human being and I have self-worth because I have gained self-knowledge. I can stand on my own two feet as a person and do the right thing, not because someone commands, but because it is true.
That is my Path.