He Wouldn’t, or Couldn’t, Just Say No

This past Friday night, I slept through two tornado warnings – and the premeditated and unprovoked attack on Syria by the United States, Great Britain, and France. I awoke Saturday morning to the news, and surveyed the area surrounding my home, finding no damage – I can’t say the same for Syria.

Why couldn’t we mind our own business? Why must our solution, to everything under the sun, be acts of aggression, violence, intervention, where we have no right (legal or moral) to behave in such a way?

I have come to the conclusion that America’s wars of aggression are as common as tornadoes in the spring. Only our bombs do far more damage.

I am 54 years old, so I have witnessed countless initiations of aggression by the imperialistic United States against sovereign peoples all over the world. The justifications are always the same, I am always stunned that they are uttered with a straight face by these perpetrators of violence. And today, as always, I wonder why it is that the millions we have killed have no defender. No one to stand up and apply the same justice against us that we claim to have the sole right to administer.

I am disgusted and ashamed to be an American citizen. But, Howard Zinn was right, when he said, “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

Those who say Trump is a puppet are both right and wrong. He is a puppet, but he isn’t Putin’s puppet. He is a puppet of the Deep State. Just like his predecessors, Obama and Bush. The evidence of that is incontrovertible; so, much greater than the contrived evidence against Assad.

So, here, I take my stand. The US government does not act for me. Its will is not my will. Its purpose is not my purpose. I do not, and will not, abet its wars. And, today, I offer a dire warning to all of us who live in the United States of America: America will reap what it has sown. We can’t, and won’t, escape the Law of the Harvest: As you have sown, so shall you reap. America likes to think of itself as a “Christian” nation, but it has never heeded the words of Jesus concerning judging, “As you have meted out justice, so it shall be meted out to you.” Our days as a nation are numbered. Will we make it to our 250th anniversary as a nation in 2026? I highly doubt it.

Today, I weep for the people of Syria; and the people of Yemen, the people of Libya, the people of Iraq, the people of Afghanistan, the list goes on and on and on. And, I weep for my own country. But, justice will come to the United States. And when it does, I will weep no more.

Just Say No to War in Syria

The same refrain gets old after being repeated, like it has been, so many times. I am talking about every time Trump actually starts talking sense when it comes to America’s foreign policy; then, within days, some false flag attack (complete with pictures and videos of suffering children) brings tears to the Donald’s eyes, and all sense is thrown out the window in favor of a rash of violent rhetoric – and that generally leads to “the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air” and just in case you were wondering who is doing the aggressing, through the night, it is our flag that is there.

Yeah, I am not a fan of our national anthem, though it is a fitting anthem for a country which has been at war for 93% of its existence. As Randolph Bourne so aptly put it, “War is the health of the State.” And as every US president has stated in his “State of the Union” address, the State is alive and well. Too alive and well for my liking. Since, as I am typing this, war with Syria seems imminent.

Wait! Who am I kidding? War with Syria isn’t just imminent, it has been ongoing for a number of years now. All the president is trying to do with his tweets is justify further escalation of the war. If there is one thing we can always count on, Washington wants to escalate war somewhere and somehow.

And what are we going to do about it? Call Washington? Beg our president, our representatives, not to do it? Seems futile. They don’t represent us. They represent only those who profit from war.

So, am I saying we should do nothing? I always get accused of this. But, I would argue my doing nothing is actually doing something quite productive. Instead of pleading with the State to turn from its wicked ways (which it can’t possibly do, and still thrive), let’s all double our efforts to make the State more and more irrelevant to our lives.

This will involve some civil disobedience. And I don’t mean protests which devolve into riots, looting, arson, and other assorted violence. What I mean is living your life as if the State already didn’t exist. Because, quite honestly, I can’t think of a faster way to hasten its extinction.

What I am, of course, talking about is what individuals can do about States who want endless war. We can choose not to participate. Refuse to be a soldier. Avoid paying taxes which will inevitably go to fund it. Yes, I know that may mean drastically changing your lifestyle. But is anything less required of individuals, than our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor?

What Assad allegedly did is none of our business. It isn’t in my interest, much less my country’s interest to overthrow him, or drop some bombs on his country. We have quite the history of regime change operations, and they have all ended badly. This one won’t be any different.

State actors have proven they cannot be trusted to ever learn the lessons of history: That violence always begets more violence. But we can refuse to participate in their violence.

The Root Is Violence

After my blog post on “The March for Our Lives,” my son told me there had been another shooting – at YouTube. He told me we need to do something about guns. Did he read my blog post? I think not. Anyway, I told him the root cause of the problem is violence. And, that the violent person chose to use guns is incidental to the problem of violence. Guns are merely tools. They can be used for good or evil. What we should be addressing isn’t guns, but violence, which is the root of the problem.

He didn’t like my answer. First of all, because he thinks violence is too systemic, it can’t be dealt with. Guns (on the other hand, he thinks) can be dealt with. I explained to him that there are far more guns in our country than there are people. They are too prevalent, and there is no getting rid of them. That genie is already out of the bottle. There will always be a supply of them, making them illegal won’t matter. Because, where there is a demand for something there will always be a supply of that thing. If guns can’t be possessed or purchased legally, they will simply be possessed or purchased illegally.

The conversation went on for a whole lot longer than I am covering in my brief paraphrase. He insisted that making guns illegal would probably reduce the amount of gun violence. I insisted that we can’t know that, but even if it did, at what cost? He really couldn’t have read my previous blog post. I went on to talk about cutting off branches, while leaving the root intact. Violence is like crabgrass. Are you familiar with crabgrass? It is very hard to eradicate. I hated it in my parent’s garden, when I was a child. You inevitably break some of it off, leaving the roots to spread.

My son is right about violence being systemic. It seems, as I told him, to be wired into our very nature as humans. While I think of myself as a pacifist, it sometimes seems that nearly every other human being is just looking for an opportunity to be violent. Our culture glorifies violence. I am not talking about the entertainment industry, which I think is only peddling what they know sells. So, you won’t see me wanting to ban movies, or TV shows, or video games, because they are violent.

I am thinking more of how the State glorifies violence. How it promotes war. And we honor those who “serve” in the military, awarding them with medals, parades, holidays, statues, monuments. And the more violence they have perpetrated, the more prestige they earn.

So how do we deal with violence? Well, we get rid of the one institution which thinks it has a divine right to commit violence – the State.

That, also, wasn’t a satisfactory answer to my son. You might think that living with me for all these years would have influenced him more. But, I raised my two children to think for themselves, and he is making real progress, actually. There was a time when he thought FDR was great. Our discussions over the years have always been good ones. I point out his logical fallacies, and he points out mine. Still, there will come a time, and probably sooner than he will care to admit, that he will realize that anarchism works. It worked, for example, when I was “raising” him and his sister.

But that is an aside. How do we get rid of the State, the single greatest purveyor of violence in the world today? Here, my approach may differ from many.

My method is based on what I learned from Lao-tzu over the last few years. “Let it be.” Evil thrives on opposition. If you don’t give it something to oppose, it will disappear all by itself. I don’t confront the State. I simply ignore it. I don’t flaunt how I live my life. I don’t crave attention from the powers that be. I simply live my life following my own code of ethics. And I do what I want. I get away with that, because doing what I want harms no one; and harming no one keeps me from being noticed. I kind of prefer to be ignored. And so should you.

But does ignoring the State actually work to curb violence? I guess that depends on your perspective. It isn’t hard to look and see the State’s violence being perpetrated like always, only with greater magnitude. But what exactly do I expect to be able to do about violence on such a grand scale? I am only one person. All I can expect to do is to effect change within my own small sphere of influence. So my mantra is, “If you don’t want to see violence in your world, be the change you hope to see.” Don’t set your sights on greater spheres than you can possibly influence, merely don’t practice violence in your own small part of the world. It is simple, really.

Too simple, for those who think that is doing nothing; and we really have to do something. But that, I have always thought, was Lao-tzu’s whole point. Doing nothing, out does doing something. When I busied myself with doing something, there was always something more to be done. I never ran out of things to do. Something was always left undone. But when I do nothing, nothing is left undone. We only need to, wait for it, let it be. That is laissez-faire.

And, contrary to what you have been brainwashed to believe, laissez-faire has worked every time it has been practiced. It just isn’t practiced as often as it has been accused of being practiced. Laissez-faire gets blamed whenever our interventions go badly, as they always do. They will say, “We didn’t intervene enough, or we waited too long before intervening.” That isn’t laissez-faire. No, what caused the problem was we intervened too soon, and too much. It would have been better to have let it be. For, whatever evil we felt we needed to confront would have sorted itself out, if we had simply let it be. In other words, it isn’t the fault of laissez-faire that your escalation of violence caused violence to escalate.

Having said all of that, I know my approach, my method, leaves something to be desired. And I could remind you all “desire” is a problem you are going to have to deal with on your own time. Look, I know my own sphere of influence is quite small. I never know whether my blog posts are read by more than a handful of people. I haven’t even managed to convince my own flesh and blood “just live and let live” is always the best course of action. But I am convinced that slow and steady wins the race in the end. And anyway, I am not trying to change the world. That would be biting off a whole lot more than I could ever chew.

Still, I am impacting my own little corner of the world. I know that is true, because as far as my own life is concerned, I have nothing to complain about.

I begin each day knowing I won’t be initiating any violence today. And I end each day knowing I didn’t initiate any violence today. Put simply, I practice minding my own business. And I would recommend you all do the same thing. It makes for a good night’s sleep, every night. Yes, the State is still alive and well, as far as appearances go. But its impact on my own life shrinks and shrinks and shrinks. And when enough of us leave it behind (i.e., stop propping it up) and, otherwise, get on with our own lives, wholly independent of it, it will soon enough collapse under its own weight.

At least that is what I think. And writing down what I think is the purpose of my blog. You, of course, are free to disagree. You probably have an entirely different approach to ending the State, and/or curbing violence in your world. And that is just fine with me. In fact, I think the more diverse methods we all use, the merrier we will all be. If you want to engage me in discussion, or argument on any of this, I welcome the opportunity for dialog. Until then, and as always, have a great day!

The March for Our Lives

This is now my fourth attempt at writing on the “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington DC. My first attempt got scrapped because I thought the tone was snarky. The second attempt got scrapped because I thought I was sounding patronizing. And the third attempt failed in its attempt to prove the old adage, the third time’s a charm, true. Snarkiness crept its way back in. And, I was dogged by this nagging doubt that anything I have to say is going to actually change anyone’s mind on the topic of gun control.

Interestingly, I didn’t feel that way when I was writing about abortion, last week. And while I don’t know if I changed anyone’s mind on that subject (I didn’t get enough feedback to make that determination) I was driven, while writing, by my own change of mind on the topic. Hey, if I can change my mind on something, then anyone can, right?

That is my theory, anyway. But, I have never changed my mind on the subject of guns. And that, I think, has been putting up hurdles for me, while I attempt to take a step back from all the hollering going on, on both sides, to write a rational blog post.

Is it better to just remain silent? I certainly have that right, for now.

That is why I initially remained silent after the Parkland shooting. Yet another shooting in a gun-free zone, where people aren’t supposed to bring in guns and start shooting the place up. I remained silent, while smelling something fishy about this particular shooting.

It was clear (to me, at least) that this wasn’t just another school shooting. The students mobilized much too quickly afterwards (the bodies were still warm). There wasn’t the usual lag time, which we should expect, owing to shock. While I don’t doubt we all deal with stress, and loss, in diverse ways, I can’t think of another example of this kind of immediate response. That it was choreographed, and probably weeks in advance, seemed likely.

No, I am not suggesting that I subscribe to some “conspiracy theory” about the shooting. It is just that I wish the narrative we are presented with, what we are told should pass for reality, didn’t make conspiracy theories seem quite so plausible.

And here I am with my fourth attempt to put down on “paper” what I am thinking in my own mind. With any luck, I will succeed after trying and trying, again and again.

Why am I trying to do this? Anyone who knows me, or is familiar with my blog posts, knows how offended I am by violence of all sorts. As I cycled through the verses of the Taoteching over and over again, Lao-tzu offered me myriad opportunities to talk about the virtue of non-aggression, and how abhorrent violence and the tools of violence (e.g. guns) are. Yet, Lao-tzu understood, and I understand, that in dire necessity the use of tools of violence can be justified – when we are forced, and as a last resort.

That is the whole purpose of the second amendment to the US Constitution. Our founders understood that the right of the people to keep and bear arms must not be infringed. It was a necessity, if they were to guarantee a free state.

Already, many of my potential readers have tuned out.

I read, just yesterday, that retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has said that the second amendment is antiquated, a relic of the 18th century, and should be tossed in the dust bin. And, I have heard, so many times, “No one needs an ‘assault’ weapon.” And, “How can anyone expect to stand up to the power of the government’s military prowess?” Try telling that to the “insurgents” which have been keeping our US military at bay for going on seventeen years in Afghanistan; and the people of many other sovereign countries who haven’t greeted us as liberators, much to the surprise of our country’s leaders. No, our founders understood that dire necessity would justify that the people keep and bear arms, just as people do in other countries, otherwise we won’t remain a free state.

The second amendment was never meant to be about hunting, or defending your property against thieves, or defending your school against lone gunmen, though those are certainly legitimate uses for guns. The second amendment, along with the other amendments which make up the so-called Bill of Rights, was written, and included, not to grant rights, but to restrict the government from infringing on our rights.

Many people don’t understand this today. Though it is vital to our freedom that we do understand it. It was the great fear of our founders that people would later misunderstand, and think this was a listing of our rights. What the founders were concerned with in agreeing to the Bill of Rights is that our natural rights would be protected from government encroachment.

We used to know and understand this. Amendments were added to the Constitution to protect the rights of the people. Amendments were added which banned slavery, which ensured voting rights, not just for a select few, but for all, regardless of the color of our skin, or our biological gender.

But our history has also witnessed amendments added which allowed the government to encroach more, rather than less. I am thinking of the amendment which allowed the income tax, and the amendment which banned alcohol consumption. At least we later came to our senses and added another amendment overturning prohibition. I am still waiting for the amendment which will overturn the 16th amendment.

The point I am trying to make is that amendments, especially in the Bill of Rights were designed to rein in government. Not to grant us a select number of rights. And the 9th and 10th amendments make clear, this isn’t an exhaustive list of our rights. They are only meant to restrain the government.

I am no Constitutional scholar; but I was required, back in high school, to pass a test on the Constitution, proving I had a basic understanding of it. They still require that, don’t they?

Getting back to the issue of guns, I am not going to start citing statistics to support my argument that guns prevent more violence than they inflict. That gun violence has actually gone down as the number of guns has proliferated. That the nations with the most guns have the lowest crime rates. I also won’t be citing statistics about the places in my own country that have the greatest degree of gun violence, the cities where guns are the most restricted. Nor will I cite statistics about the reality that gangs armed with illegal guns are the ones committing the most violence. I won’t cite the statistics because both sides have cherry-picked statistics where numbers have been manipulated to make their arguments appear valid. There is a reason Mark Twain railed against “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics!”

I hope that my first three attempts to write this blog post managed to get all the snarky and patronizing out of my system enough to write a thoughtful analysis of the situation. That you can agree or disagree with me, as you will. But any accusations that I was just throwing mud are self-evidently refuted.

I do want to address these students who, we are told, mobilized themselves to march to Washington “for their lives.” I listened to some of the speeches. And the students are right about a number of things. They are right that the adults have failed them. And they are right that enough is enough. But they are wrong when they blame guns.

It wasn’t the fault of guns. It was the fault of the young man who used the guns. And, it was a failure of law enforcement. I could respect these students, if their march on Washington was to complain that law enforcement failed them. That would be legitimate. Law enforcement did fail them, from the local level right on up to the FBI. Nothing short of gross incompetence was involved. And heads should roll because of it. That is what these students, marching for their lives, should be demanding.

I am in great distress, as I fear for my nation that common sense, and a clear reading and understanding of our Constitution are going to be relegated to the dust bin. And we won’t remain a free state.

Once again, I want to encourage my followers to give me feedback on this blog post. I certainly put plenty of effort into it. Let me know what you think. And, as always, have a great day!

For my first blog post, post-Taoteching, the subject is Abortion

For my first blog post since discontinuing my daily commentaries on Lao-tzu’s Taoteching I have decided to tackle a very difficult topic to discuss. Abortion. I was inspired to do this because of a dialogue I got involved in on my personal Facebook just last week. Before I get into it, I want to add this caveat: This is a very emotional issue for some. I personally think women confronting an unplanned pregnancy are dealing with a tragic circumstance. And whatever they choose to do about it, it is a heart-wrenching decision that they are having to make.

Now, to begin with, I need to preface with just a little bit about myself. My followers know me as libertariantaoist. And I am a libertarian anarchist, and a philosophical taoist. I want to write this blog from my unique libertariantaoist perspective. However, there are some other things you all need to know about me, as well. I am not a woman. I am a man. Some think that men don’t have any right to speak on this issue, that it is strictly a women’s issue. But it takes two to tango, and being the father of two, now adult children, I think I have as vested an interest in talking about this issue as anyone. My two children, a daughter and a son, they mean everything to me. They were my reason for being for all the years I was raising them. And I did raise them, as a single parent, from their preteen years. I home-schooled them too. But that is enough about me for now, let’s get into the heart of this, shall we?

Abortion. I used to be staunchly pro-life. No abortions, no exceptions. I was involved in my local community, protested outside abortion clinics, hassled state politicians, even traveled to Washington DC, back in January of 1993 for the March for Life on the anniversary of Roe V. Wade. My credentials in the pro-life movement were extensive.

But, unlike some, over time my positions on various things have changed, as my convictions, my belief in the primacy of liberty, have solidified. I don’t have time to go into everything which changed my mind on this issue. I don’t even know if I know them all. But one thing has stuck with me. It was thinking about Patrick Henry saying that he valued liberty over life. That really resonated with me.

Anyway, I began to realize that if we really cared about the life of the unborn, we should be providing more choices to women who found themselves in the tragic circumstances of having an unplanned pregnancy, not fewer. I realized that some of the most vociferous opponents of abortion were also opposed to all forms of birth control. These pro-life people were really anti-choice. And being a libertarian, I couldn’t be anti-choice.

Still, I don’t consider myself pro-abortion. I wouldn’t want abortion to be anyone’s first choice when it comes to family planning. I just can’t reconcile forcing women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term with living in a free society. And I want to live in a free society. And not just free for me, but free for all.

So anyway, for me, the issue is about offering more options to women faced with the prospect of an unplanned pregnancy, not less. What I want more than that abortion is not an option, is that it is not the only option. If women have more choices, ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies from happening in the first place, like fuller access to a plethora of birth control options, and making adoption a more viable option. But, of course, I am not suggesting these things should be paid for by taxation. I don’t think the government needs to be involved in this at all. That would kind of defeat the whole, “we don’t need no stinking government” narrative, wouldn’t it?

And, by the way, I also think men should be made to bear more responsibility in this whole thing. Once again, not by force of government. I am thinking of contractual obligations here. It takes two to tango, as I said earlier. Yet the brunt of the responsibility falls on women when it comes to what to do once she gets pregnant. Women need to have recourse to more options, once again, not less. I am already imagining the men’s rights activists raising heck with me. Perhaps I will have to address men’s rights in another blog post. So hold on there guys, I will get to you later.

You probably have already noticed I have only casually mentioned the life of the unborn in all this. And that is the real issue for a lot of you.

In my discussion with one person on Facebook, he wanted to know two things about my views. Is the fetus a human life, and if it isn’t why shouldn’t abortion be plan A, the first choice, for women facing an unplanned, and unwanted, pregnancy? The second question was when does life begin?

My answer to the first question: One of the reasons I don’t want abortion to be anyone’s first option is because abortions aren’t a simple procedure, and sometimes things go wrong. Horribly wrong. That is why we need to be expanding choice, options, rather than restricting them.

My answer to the second question, on when life begins, was and is, I don’t know. I used to believe the whole “Life begins at conception” narrative. And if you insist on believing that, then nothing I will say will probably ever convince you to moderate your views. It is a convenient belief. It saves you a whole lot of trouble. It is very cut and dried. I understand that. That was one reason I used to believe that way.

But then I spent some time thinking, and reasoning, and I came to realize life isn’t as cut and dried as we would like it to be. It simply is more complicated than that. So now, “I don’t know” will have to work, cause honestly, I don’t know. Somehow, I think viability outside the womb has to be a consideration. And medical technology is coming a long way in that regard.

I want to take a time out here, and consider the taoist side of things. I am libertariantaoist, after all. So what do I think is the taoist viewpoint. I don’t purport to know the official Taoist viewpoint. Or even the viewpoint of a majority of Taoists. There is a reason I choose to always list myself as a “small t” taoist. My viewpoints are my own.

As far as Lao-tzu is concerned, I haven’t the foggiest idea what his stance on when life begins would be. Namely, because I have never read anything purported to be written or said by him, which addressed this issue. I know he loved babies. Newborns were one of his favorite go-to metaphors for practicing the Tao. Second only to water. But he said nothing about babies in utero. That may or may not mean that he believed babies aren’t babies until they are born.

And by the way, “Babies aren’t babies until they are born” is just as convenient a belief as “Life begins at conception, period.” It saves one the trouble of having to think about that growing blob inside its mother. Having said that, “Babies aren’t babies until they are born,” may, in fact, be the best legal definition. Consider the natural rights we are all endowed with “by our Creator.”

When are we endowed with these natural rights? Is it at conception, or while we are still in utero? Or, is it at birth? Whenever I have heard any discussion of natural rights, the answer has always been, at birth. I am no legal scholar, but I think trying to extend natural rights to people before they are born presents us with a Pandora’s box full of troubles we will later regret opening.

Just consider the implications of this reality: According to the American Pregnancy Association, studies reveal that anywhere from 10-25% of clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Notice that is just the clinically recognized pregnancies. What are the legal implications of these “deaths.” Did the baby die of natural causes? Or is someone, perhaps the mother, at fault? Did she faithfully do everything necessary (prenatal care) to ensure the life of her unborn child, whose rights are now to be protected by the government? Who gets to decide exactly what these necessary things are? Are we really going to put women through the agony of a court trial to prove their innocence, when they are already suffering enough because of the miscarriage? Talk of a miscarriage of justice!

Why did I ever decide to tackle this difficult issue? I guess the real reason is because when faced with uncertainty over when life actually begins, and comparing that with the certainty of liberty being infringed upon, I know where I must make my stand.

I understand how emotional the arguments can be on this issue. I have witnessed those emotional arguments countless times, even taking part in them. They often devolved into shouting matches. I hoped I could take a step back from all of that, and present a rational argument, not for abortion, but for more choice, and against any restrictions on liberty.

I wish every baby was a wanted baby. I wish every pregnancy was a joyful circumstance for both the mother, and the father, of the child. But that isn’t the case. And wishing won’t make it so.

I don’t want any woman to ever feel like abortion is her only option, but because I can’t reconcile forcing women to carry their pregnancy to term with living in a free society, I can’t be in favor of banning it, either. In a free society, we should be offering women more choices, not fewer. Placing any restrictions, laws crafted by bureaucrats with all sorts of legal hoops a woman has to jump through before she can get an abortion, are an infringement that I can’t justify; simply because, in a free society individuals, not society, get to decide what is best for themselves.

I am probably rambling by now, so I will end it here. What I am hoping with my blog posts, and not just this one, is to elicit thoughtful discussion. Let me know what you think. What giant gaping holes did I leave in my argument? Do you have the definitive answer to when life begins, and I am just too stupid to see it? Any other concerns? If there is enough feedback from my followers, perhaps I could continue this discussion with some dialogue from those who wish to be part of the discussion. If not, I will move on to something else. Thanks for reading through this. I hope it was thought-provoking. Have a great day!