Peace, nonviolence and puppies

A little more about my journey through Bob Goff’s book Dream Big. As I mentioned yesterday, in response to the prompt “Are there some recurring themes in your behaviors and choices?” I wrote in all-caps, “PEACE. NONVIOLENCE. PUPPIES.”

I realized then that he may have been talking more about behaviors I want to adjust as opposed to themes that I often return to in my thoughts and writings, and so I pursued the question along the lines I pursued yesterday. But those really are three of my “passion topics.”

I really can’t think of a human activity more downright foolish than war. People — or more accurately their leaders or rulers — have a disagreement, and to resolve their differences they hurl their subjects at each other with a goal of killing as many of their opponents’ subjects as possible. That resolves nothing: Everyone still disagrees, and the only real results are resentment, grief, anger and a greater hatred than before the killing started.

My experience is that people want peace. Almost every transaction and interaction between humans is peaceful. War is an aberration and the most utter failure to preserve the peace. I started out confused by the whole concept, and I have become more virulently anti-war as time goes on.

Losing Red, the wonderful human being with whom I shared the last quarter century, has made me even more so. Hers was a peaceful death — or as peaceful a death as a horrible disease can offer — but the loss has helped me understand, in a way I hadn’t quite grasped before, just how devastating and complete death is. To cause the premature death of another human being, deliberately, is nothing short of insane.

I have written often of my admiration for Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus the Christ, with regard to their commitment to nonviolent solutions. 

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” Jesus said. “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone takes your cloak, do not withhold your tunic as well.” That’s hard advice to swallow, but it’s more likely to turn an enemy into a friend someday than killing that enemy and as many of his friends as you can.

And then there’s puppies. Do I really need to say more? There are dozens if not hundreds of writings and memes about how if you want to learn about unconditional love, pay attention to your puppy. The bond between puppy and human is one of the greatest examples to follow about how to love.

I was going to write “One of the greatest examples to follow about how to love your neighbor,” but a puppy can get pretty feisty if a neighbor or other stranger is perceived as a threat to those she loves. In the absence of a threat, though, there’s nothing like puppy love. If turning the other cheek doesn’t work, try handing your enemy a puppy. 

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UPDATE: So many people were supportive yesterday that I thought I’d do this for awhile. For Tuesday: “Write one thank-you note.” Done. “Write one paragraph of Jeep.” Done. “Write one paragraph of (other unannounced work in progress).” Done. I suspect pretty soon I’ll be regularly exceeding those daily minimums.

What a dream I had

There’s the signpost up ahead — We’re entering the zone where not much can be explained rationally. How do such things happen? Only through explanations beyond the grasp of the average human. Of course, what is “average” anyway, and for that matter what is “human”?

We have all been dropped into a giant Candid Camera show, or perhaps a giant spy-op if you prefer sinister motives. “What can I get away with today?” asked the sociopath in charge, and he directed his minions to give his latest experiment a try.

Oh wait, I just woke up a few minutes ago. It was all a bad dream, wasn’t it? There aren’t really people out there acting as if the government ruled us instead of the other way around. There aren’t really people who are mixed up about what “by the people, of the people, for the people” means. I was just having a nightmare, and freedom of speech is still rocking and rolling, and no one is abusing freedom of the press to the point where the press is a parody of itself. What a dream I had! I’m glad I was asleep and all that goofy stuff wasn’t really coming down.

It was weird, though — up was down, good was evil, in was out, freedom was slavery, and ignorance was strength. The scariest part was when people started talking as if war was peace, as if peace was abnormal and kindness was a weakness. The lunatics were in charge of the proverbial asylum, and if you noticed, you were accused of being a lunatic yourself or a dupe of a foreign power.

Phew! The dream was so real I didn’t realize I was dreaming.

When we live despite the urge to fear

[Drawn from the archives, June 17, 2020 – now THAT was a year! Also reprinted in Echoes of Freedom Past, one of my 2022 books.]

Fear is an ugly thing. It contorts the face, boils the gut, and manifests in every unhealthy emotion – anger, worry, hatred. Fear can spread across the land, a virus more deadly than any microbe.

“Fear is the mind-killer,” Frank Herbert wrote: It robs us of our reason, strips love and compassion from our hearts, and brings out the monster in us.

The children of fear are slavery, tyranny and war.

When we overcome fear, we rise.

When we rise, we turn our faces to the sun.

When we turn our faces to the sun, we begin to live. The sun nourishes, warms, gives life to the dying. Without the sun, we die in darkness.

When we live despite the urge to fear, without loathing, without anger and hatred and all of that – when we stand instead of cowering, in other words – our spirits become invincible.

When our spirits are invincible, we have no need for the darkness.

The spirit of love is fragile and beautiful and strong and powerful all at once. It takes courage to shout love at the heart of darkness, but it’s lighter, more free, an antidote for terror, and healthier for the soul.

An ounce of love is more powerful than tons of gunpowder. Love slices souls more surely than the sharpest knife. Fear is a poison; love an elixir.

I would say that I loathe fear, and I do, but loathing is a byproduct of fear and the world has enough loathing.

Better to say that in my most sane moments, I set the anger and the hatred and the anxiety aside, burying them in a place where I am free to love and to live and to laugh and to cry with joy.

Liberty fable

And suddenly it was Friday, August 18, 2023, and the days had turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, and the months into years, and the years into decades, and here he was in the future, in a world that resembled where he had begun but somehow was mostly transformed.

It was not merely that the walls full of books and music had been transformed to fit — all of it — into the palm of his hand. His sharp 20/10 vision had deteriorated, and the world was fuzzy even after he put on his glasses. And what he saw with those reduced eyes was troubling.

This was not the world he had been told it was, where freedom was a universal goal — freedom to dream and to pursue happiness, freedom to speak and to speak truth to power without fear of reprisal. “Live and let live” was the quaint ideal, he had been taught to believe: Live the life you chose as long as you didn’t harm your neighbors’ ability to live the life they chose.

He saw a dark cloud pass over the land and wondered what had become of those ideals or even if they were ever real.

If there was to be a light, let alone a beacon, he figured he would have to shine it. He was growing old and tired, and his body assailed him with aches and pains and weariness, but no one else seemed to be carrying a flashlight or even a candle.

So he climbed to the stage and turned on his beacon and shone it on the emperor, who was revealed to be naked, shriveled and a buffoon. But then he turned the beacon on the emperor’s chief rival, and he turned it left, right and center stage, and nowhere was to be found anyone wearing even a scrap of clothing, let alone the armor of liberty. No, all of the caretakers were naked, shriveled and buffoons.

“Who will stand for liberty?” he cried. “Who will shout ‘Live and let live’ from the mountaintop?”

“Foolish old man,” said one of the foolish old buffoons from the stage. “The peasantry does not want to live and let live; that carries too much responsibility. No, the peasantry wants to be led, and so we lead.”

“Liars!” cried the old man. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — those are our birthright.”

“It is you who believes in lies,” said the naked buffoon. “What say you, my fellow peasants? Should we allow this liar to live and let live, or shall we take care of you all and show you how to live?”

And to the old man’s dismay, there arose a hue and cry of, “Show us! Lead us! Take care of us!” and nary a peep of “Live and let live,” so he retreated back to his home by the water, to rest his old bones and tend to his aches and pains.

But as he walked here and there, every so often a passing neighbor would whisper, “Live and let live,” and sometimes a note would appear on his door or in his mailbox, saying, “I agree with you” or “life, liberty, pursuit of happiness,” or simply “Freedom!” And he would remember that the light may be reduced to a flicker but it never dies altogether, and dawn always follows the darkest of nights. 

That time I got three votes for Congress

It was in the fall of 1992 that, while reporting for a Green Bay radio station, I interviewed Andre Marrou, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, and found my political philosophy.

“Both major parties want to be your parent,” Marrou said in the money quote of the interview. “Democrats want to be your mommy, and Republicans want to be your father.”

I don’t remember being vocal about how impressed I was by Marrou, but I had always made it clear I thought Ronald Reagan (“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”) was the closest thing to a decent president in my lifetime.

That November, while I was covering the election results, somebody in the clerk’s office, I think (I don’t remember who), slipped me a piece of paper that indicated three people had written me in as a Libertarian Party candidate for Congress.

Four years later I actually did run for the state Assembly as a Republican — not having the guts to run as a Libertarian — this was back when the Libertarian Party was actually somewhat libertarian — and thankfully, I earned less than half of the vote. God only knows what would have become of me if I had become part of the system.

Over the years my regard for government has continued to decrease exponentially. I was talking with a friend the other day about how somehow, so many senators and congressvermin become extraordinarily wealthy despite having never held an honest job and earning a salary that puts them in the upper middle class at best.

“They get rich and we get dead,” my friend said. I couldn’t have said it better.

But 30 years ago, three people tried to send me to Washington, D.C. That might have been fun.

Good for nothing

Try as I might, I can’t think of a reason to kill you. That is to say, I can’t think of circumstances that would justify taking the life of another human being.

I suppose if you were to attack me with deadly force … but even then I’d like to think I’d try to defend myself with something less than lethal.

War is just about the most foolish institution humans have ever concocted. As the song says, “What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”

War doesn’t convince your enemies to see it your way. If anything it creates more enemies in the people who had no quarrel with you who have lost friends and family at your hands.

War’s only purpose seems to be to reduce the surplus population. One should be wary when people who believe the planet can’t support this many humans start talking about the need to wage war against this country or that country. One might suspect it’s not about ideology or freedom or democracy as much as it’s about indiscriminate killing.

You can raise money for fighting and killing and to make sure the other damn fool dies for his country, as General Patton once said, if that’s what you like. Me, I’m going to lay down my sword and shield down by the riverside and study war no more.

Accustomed to infringement

One of my daily stops around the interwebs is Kent McManigal’s “Hooligan Libertarian” Blog, where  he regularly points out the folly of putting your faith in the gang of criminals and thieves who aim to plunder our productivity and run our lives. He often focuses on the ongoing attacks on our right to self-defense, as he did the other day:

“If you are in favor of government at any level having any power to make any rules whatsoever about weapons you are the opposite of ‘pro-Second Amendment.’ You are completely anti-Second Amendment without any wiggle room.

“Worse, you don’t understand that the natural human right to own and to carry weapons doesn’t come from any document. Documents (and legislation) can neither give rights nor take rights away. The two available options are to respect rights or to violate rights, If rights are touched in any way, they are being violated.”

The late Pat O’Donahue, a reporter I respected immensely, made a point of saying that this U.S. holiday is called Independence Day for a reason, and he fiercely chastised anyone who called it “the Fourth of July.” The celebration is about the Declaration of Independence, not the calendar, he would say.

Kent is passionate about the Second Amendment; I am passionate about the First.

If you are in favor of government at any level having any power to make any rules whatsoever about religion, speech, the press, peaceful assembly, or petitioning the Powers That Be, you are the opposite of “pro-First Amendment.” You are completely anti-First Amendment without any wiggle room.

I once told our congressvermin that I consider the Federal Communications Commission to be an unconstitutional agency because the Founders prohibited interference of any kind with freedom of the press, whether the journalist’s press is made of wood and steel, radio waves or digital bytes. He looked at me with utter incomprehension. He advocated for reinstating the “Fairness Doctrine,” which infringed on the electronic press’ right to determine its own content.

Three years ago, every governor or local tyrant who imposed limits on the right of people to gather in groups of 10 or more infringed on a basic human right — “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

The school administrators who suppress prayer or student Bible study or hijabs are violating the very first clause of the First Amendment.

And don’t get me started on “hate speech.” Oh my goodness, some ignorant people say the stupidest and most hateful things — but if we criminalize their speech, they remain ignorant and they hide their stupidity. Better to let them express their ignorance openly and leave the rest of us free to respond. You can’t put shackles on free speech and still call it free.

I know I am spitting into the wind. The First Amendment has been under attack since a few years after it was first passed, from the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1797, to the Espionage Act of 1917, to the USAPATRIOT Act of 2001 — and the FCC was created in 1934 — so we are accustomed to infringement.

As a lifetime journalist, I am appalled by what has become of my chosen profession. The watchdog has become a lapdog; the people’s curb on the runaway power of an oppressive state has become a cheerleader for oppression and a powerful censor. As an advocate for free speech and a free press, however, I can only exercise my own right to condemn their choices; any attempt to muzzle or regulate the “mainstream media” would have the inevitable effect of also muzzling and regulating those I consider the real journalists, who continue to chip away and report the truth.

I am ever heartened by the belief that none of this can ultimately deprive us of our rights, because, as Jefferson wisely observed, these rights are “certain,” “unalienable” and “endowed by their Creator.” In the end the rights remain, even if tyrants violate each and every one. They were not created by a government, and neither can a government erase them, though it may constantly try.

And so I celebrate the day in 1776 that the Declaration of Independence was unveiled to the world. Its eternal concepts are battered and worn, but they continue to resonate with free people everywhere.