I think it was way back between 2007 to 2012 when I became a libertarian. I’ll use the small “l” for now. Because I had not as yet joined the party but my thoughts and outlook were becoming libertarian.
My father was, and is, a die-hard conservative Republican. So, not knowing any better, I was as well. I think one could have considered me a “Neo-conservative” or a “Neo-Con.” I believed in “America” and everything I thought it stood for.
In the public school I went to (I like to think of them as government-run indoctrination centers) I had been taught about the Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary War and all the noble ideas that came with it. Most of the Presidents were lionized especially the ones that got us into wars. I was taught that World War Two was “the good war” and that we definitely, definitely, should have fought that one, for the good of everyone.
My father and mother went to public schools also and they learned the same things I did regarding our Presidents, foreign policy, and our government. My grandparents also went to public schools and while they were there, they were also taught pretty much the same thing that I was taught.
My parents and grandparents reinforced what I had been taught in school. The news, television shows, and movies that I saw pretty much reinforced what I had been taught in school and what my parents told me. So, can you blame me for being a Neo-Con? I believed in what I was taught so thoroughly that I believed it was all my idea to start with.
When I was nineteen I joined the Marine Corps where my idea of America policing the world and interfering in other countries' politics was not only reinforced, it was put into overdrive. I believed that the United States of America, for the good of the world, should be the world’s policeman. America should have bases all over the world and have the largest military ever.
I remember reading a book about Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, one of, if not the, most famous Marine ever. A sergeant saw what I was reading and told me that if I liked reading I should read “War Is A Racket” written by another famous Marine — Smedley Butler. I asked him what it was about. He told me that Butler had realized that rich people used the Marine Corps to protect their interests (companies and corporations) in other countries (think United Fruit, sugar and coffee plantations in Latin America, etc.) and that wealthy elites profited off of war.
I thought the guy was crazy, there must be some mistake. If Smedley Butler was a Marine, surely he must have gone crazy to lose faith in “America” and what we stood for. I knew some veterans felt that way after seeing horrible things in war, in combat. I thought that perhaps he had some kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or something like it. I was quick to dismiss this story. I didn’t believe him at the time, but, you see, he planted a seed of curiosity.
There was one other distinct moment I remember. I feel so silly now when I think about it. When I was stationed in Okinawa Japan on Camp Hansen back in 1990 many of us would go out into the town of Kinville to eat, drink, and otherwise, be merry. At the many bars and clubs in town, there were what we called “Drinky Girls” who worked at the establishment. I always like to think of drinky girls as the poor man’s geisha. These girls were provided as “company” for lonely GIs. You would buy them a “drink” for about ten dollars and they would then sit with you for about seven to ten minutes, or as long as it took them to smoke a cigarette. Most of these girls were from the Philippines.
I had a buddy who dated one of these ladies. He told me that she didn’t like the Japanese. She also didn’t like Americans. She didn’t like them for the same reason, they had both invaded her country, killed people, and committed atrocities.
I could understand her not liking the Japanese. After all, hadn’t they started WWII by bombing Pearl Harbor? Weren’t they an empire that went around taking over countries forcefully, killing the populace and taking their resources? But the United States of America? Surely she must be mistaken. We were the good guys. Why we sacrificed our own servicemen in several wars all for the sake of democracy, and freedom? We were the ones who won WWI and WWII single-handedly only to help other countries who needed it.
I told him to tell his girlfriend that she better reread some of her history books and if she did she would know what really happened and that the USA was a shining beacon of liberty to all the world and we were the good guys.
The fact that I was telling someone about their own culture and history still haunts me to this day. I can’t believe how uninformed, naive, and ignorant I was. But, please remember, I had only gone to government-run public schools. What I learned there was reinforced by what I saw on television and movie screens. My father and mother, and my grandparents all went to public schools and watched the same thing I watched on television and movie screens.
What I didn’t know was that the US had invaded the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. After we “liberated” them from the Spanish they wanted their independence. Instead of giving it to them, our government proceeded to slaughter and torture as many people in the Philippines as they could. They also put civilians in concentration camps and committed atrocities that would have made any tyrant or despot proud. I have to forgive my younger self. I just didn’t know because I wasn’t taught it. Neither were my older relatives or friends.
When I got out of the Marine Corps, I eventually became a police officer. Because most of us were taught in school that police officers are our friends and they are there to protect us. My parents were also taught this. It was reinforced by television shows and movies … Are you starting to get the picture?
As I got older and started having a few election cycles under my belt, I became disenchanted with the two-party system. Those running for election, who were out to oust the incumbent, said they hated war and big government. They promised to end all our wars and foreign entanglements. They also promised to rein in government spending and make the government smaller.
The politician looking to get elected blamed all our woes on the party that was already in power and promised to make corrections and undo everything the incumbent had done. Finally, a new president from a different political party would get elected.
Suddenly whatever wars they started were necessary wars, not like the unnecessary conflicts their predecessor had started. And now they found that they had to increase the size and scope of government which in turn increased government spending. They blamed all of our woes on the party that had been in power before them and claimed responsibility for anything that was going right in the country.
Eventually, I caught on and began looking for something better, something different. And that’s when I heard of Ron Paul. I did a little research and found that he had been in politics for a long time. He was consistent with what he said. He said the same thing in 2008 as he had for the previous twenty years. It was almost like he had, well, principles. The more I discovered about
him and his ideas the more I liked him. So much so that I began to follow his campaign and read his books.
Then came the point of no return. Dr. Paul was at a debate with several Republican candidates including Rudi Guliani. Dr. Paul was talking about ending our foreign wars and bringing our troops home. He also said that many of our problems were “blowback” from our government interfering in the affairs of other countries. And then I remember people laughing at him.
The moderator did not stop them or try to bring order back to the debate. The other candidates, including Guliani, laughed at him and told him how wrong he was. Then they spouted some jingoistic bullshit about how great “Merica” was and the debate continued.
I also remember that in several of the other debates, they did not even mention that Ron Paul participated. There was one in particular where all the corporate media stations, including “fair and balanced—Fox News” reported who came in first, third, and fourth in the debate. Ron Paul came in second and they failed to report that or even mention that he participated in the debate.
There is an adage that goes something like, “You only tear out a man’s tongue if you are afraid of what he might say.” What could be so dangerous about what Ron Paul was saying that he received almost a complete blackout from the corporate media? He was only talking about ending the wars, auditing the Federal Reserve, and promoting freedom. What was so wrong with that?
At the time I was gradually becoming something other than a Neo-con. I began to research Libertarianism. The more I found out about it the more I liked it. I was probably a minarchist at this point. Yes, I wanted a smaller government but didn’t we need a little government?
I had heard of anarchists before but I associated that word with people who wanted chaos and that also threw bombs back in the 1800s. As I kept reading books by Rothbard and listening to people like Tom Woods, I realized that there was another definition of anarchy that simply meant an absence of government.
Fast forward to 2018 when I had just arrived at the annual state convention for the New Jersey Libertarian Party. Someone I had never met approached me and we began to converse on libertarian thought and ideas. The conversation was moving along and everything was good until he said, “I am a Libertarian but I think we should still have public schools.” I could feel myself getting angry and my left eyelid began to twitch. He then said, “And I also think that we should also have a strong foreign policy using our military to exert influence around the world.”
I could feel Rothbard rolling over in his grave and the tic in my eye became more pronounced. I wanted to shout at him, “Are you sure you’re a libertarian? Are you sure that you’re at the right convention?! You sound more like a Neoconservative republican you idiot!”
Luckily for everyone Vermin Supreme arrived and started shouting something about giving away free ponies. I quickly walked away and sat down next to Arvin Vohra who was having a conversation about how cops were thieves and terrorists.
Some people are libertarians simply because they didn’t want to be Republican or a Democrat anymore. Some libertarians are minarchists, some are anarchists. At various points, I went through all of those phases in my libertarian journey. I should have understood that the guy I was talking to was on his own journey as well. Perhaps he had just joined the party and libertarian ideas were new to him. If I had started berating him for his beliefs, we could have lost a member that we really needed.
I should have remembered how I used to think and why. If he had been indoctrinated, sorry, I mean educated, in public schools, watched the same television programs and movies that I had, then he was still stuck in that mindset, a lot of it wasn’t really his fault. Some people find it hard to let go of old ideas and it may be a little scary for them when they find out they had been misinformed or dis-informed by people and institutions they thought they could trust. For some people, once they realized that they have been lied to for years, their whole world seems like it’s collapsing.
So if you have been a Libertarian for a while trying to gently inform newcomers that much of what they have been led to believe is bullshit, be nice about it. To newcomers who don’t know much about our beautiful philosophy— you need to educate yourself. If you also went to public schools and watched corporate media, you have probably been misinformed / dis-informed. You need to read books and listen to podcasts by great Libertarians. They will point you in the right direction.
I told you all that to tell you this. My fellow Libertarians, be nice and kind to everyone, especially each other. Be especially patient and understanding to new members of the party whether they are little “l” libertarians or big “L” Libertarians. Our party is too small for infighting. We can’t afford to lose anyone. If you are mean to people, members or not, we may lose people we desperately need. Help them in their journey by explaining what we stand for and what Libertarianism is all about. If recent events at the party have got you upset, please don’t go. We need you. Again, we are too small to have people leave the party. I would ask you to remember why you became a libertarian in the first place. If some of those reasons were that you were tired of corrupt politicians and the failure of the two-party system, then those things haven’t changed.