Refuse to Get Angry

Wendy McElroy, my favorite aggregator of news and opinion (find her site here) linked last week to Jonathan Turley’s article about rage rhetoric, which the author said has arisen from time to time in U.S. history, even as far back as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

It’s interesting that for all the bile those two men heaved at each other, they were friends who respected each other, to the point where Adams’ dying words are said to have been, “Thomas Jefferson survives,” not realizing that Jefferson had died five hours earlier. The raging rhetoric of the 1790s was forgiven, forgotten, or always understood to be just part of the game.

The best advice anyone can offer in times of rage rhetoric is not to get mad, because the politicians want you angry — for which “mad” is an apt synonym because anger is a short form of madness, which claws reason aside and replaces it with a blinding flame.

I have the same question about rage politics that I’ve always had about fear mongers, and I suspect the answer is similar. Why? Why do they want you to be afraid? Because they can offer you comfort and shelter in exchange for giving them more power, in exchange for your freedom. Why do they want you angry? Because you may do something foolish, like lash out, which would give them an excuse to exercise more power and take away your freedom altogether.

It’s crucial, then, when politicians are fanning the flames, to resist the urge to start raging, because an angry person, like a fearful person, is too easily manipulated.

“Refuse to Get Angry” is my mantra for these times, from the same arsenal where I found “Refuse to be Afraid.” Resist rage rhetoric, for the sake of your own peace of mind and for the sake of peace in general.

How the state deals with a clear and present danger

I see where old Uncle Joe gave a speech Sept. 1 — the anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland and the start of World War II — declaring that supporters of his predecessor present “a clear and present danger.” I knew that phrase had a precise legal meaning, so I looked it up.

It seems “clear and present danger” is a term lifted from a Supreme Court opinion, written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, that for many years was part of the test to determine when it is appropriate for the U.S. government to violate the First Amendment. In other words, the rights to free speech, free press, religious expression, assembly, etc., may be suspended in the face of “a clear and present danger.”

In 1969 the test was tightened to require the presence of “imminent lawless action,” but before that — when, for example, Joe Biden was studying in law school — it was OK to violate the Bill of Rights when “a clear and present danger” existed.

Biden’s speech, then, was a justification for the countless assaults on our inalienable rights that have been building for at least two decades and have escalated under the Biden regime. It’s all OK, folks, because we’re fighting a clear and present danger here, don’t ya know.

It was a campaign speech in which the alleged president intended to incite his political base but gave no clear explanation of what his handlers intend to do about this “clear and present danger,” but words mean something — that phrase means something — so we may expect a doubling down of the assault on liberty. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

I am sad for America. I am sad for the world. When I was young, I thought the concepts in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights were a beacon for humanity. They still are, of course, but the people now in power don’t believe in them.

Occupy your life

(“One of these days” I’m going to begin a systematic catalog of all the stuff I have written, so that I don’t forget pretty good stuff that I wrote, and so I can find it when — when I need it? When I want to remember what I’ve written? When I’m compiling a new book? All of the above. I found this again this week, from November 2011, and wished I’d remembered it when I was putting Refuse to be Afraid: Tenth Anniversary Edition or Echoes of Freedom Past together. But I’m glad I rediscovered it now, because it is as relevant as ever.) 

I am not one of the 99 percent – and neither are you.

I am not one of the 1 percent – and neither are you.

The masses are an invention. There are no “masses.”

We are each created equal – but we are not created the same. Neither are we created as a mass. The act of creation did not produce dozens of you; it created only you (or in very rare cases, it created you and your twin, or your fellow triplets, etc. – but even then, it did not create you exactly and precisely alike).

What does this mean?

It means that no generalization can be made about any single individual. You may make the observation that most people who believe X also believe Y, but you cannot conclude that just because a person believes X that it follows he believes Y. You may collect information that most people with dark skin believe A, but you cannot conclude that the dark-skinned person you have just met believes A.

We are not part of a mass. We are individuals. We are not factory-made components. We are snowflakes, in the original sense — no two alike.

We are connected, but we are not machines – nor is any one of us merely a cog in a machine.

It is easier to deny this and turn responsibility for our lives and decisions over to a collective unit or a corporate entity, but to do so is to let our lives become less than they can be.

It is easier for me to deny your individuality and to make assumptions about you based on what group I have lumped you into, but that is a way to avoid the work of getting to know you and understand you as the unique being we both know you are.

Each of us is a singular work of art, singular in the sense of being one of a kind. Each of us has within us the potential to make art, a special art that no one else can achieve quite the same way or with quite the same perspective.

This, by the way, is why war is such a waste: Because thousands of artists and artwork are destroyed.

A Song to Sing

I gave my newest book the title Echoes of Freedom Past. It’s a book about reopening, reclaiming and restoring liberty in a post-lockdown world.

As the second-guessing that every writer experiences trickles along, I wonder if I should have named it A Song to Sing, after one of the blog posts that linchpins its theme.

The title I selected, after all, suggests that freedom is something that used to exist and needs to be brought back to life or, as the subtitle says, reclaimed and restored. And yes, it is so that the people of this world, and especially the U.S. of A., used to have more freedom than they do now.

But ultimately it is an optimistic book, because from the beginning it asserts what the Founders declared all those years ago: We are born free. Freedom cannot be granted by a master, or a government, or any other than our Creator. The only thing would-be masters and governments can do with freedom is take it away.

So yes, my short little book makes a case that our freedoms have been eroded, seldom more so than during the fear fest ongoing since the spring of 2020, but in the end it is about taking back our lives, emerging from dystopia, and generally work past the fear and reclaim what has always been there all along: our freedom to live the best life we can make.

It’s the most important book I’ve compiled since Refuse to be Afraid. And so I offer this little nudge to encourage you to invest a few of your dollars and an hour or so of your time. The book is still available digitally only at Amazon — I must get busy on that, mustn’t I? — or wherever paper-bound books can be found, for example here.

You can’t vote your way to freedom

Today is partisan primary day in Wisconsin, and this year both parties are hoping to unseat an incumbent they believe to be at least incompetent and more likely evil incarnate. Yes, I know, but you know how partisans are anymore.

Ron Johnson is a business guy who made pretty speeches back in 2010, when the Tea Party was just getting some traction thanks to Barack Obama’s plan to reshape America into a socialist utopia. Johnson’s speeches were so pretty that a lot of people thought he ought to run against Russ Feingold, one of Obama’s soldiers in the U.S. Senate. Much to Feingold’s surprise, Johnson won — and, because Feingold didn’t get the point in 2010, Johnson defeated him again in 2016.

Johnson always said he only wanted to serve two six-year terms in the Senate, but the party faithful talked him into running again this year. The Democrats had a lively five-way race going until about a week before the primary, when four of the candidates suddenly decided to suspend their campaigns and throw their support behind the most radical candidate. The party bosses apparently decided the only way to unseat Johnson, a perceived radical conservative, is to present the most radical liberal available as an alternative, and voters be damned.

Tony Evers was the incompetent superintendent of public instruction for eight years under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, whose educational reforms saved billions of dollars for local schools and infuriated his political enemies. But Walker lost a little of his luster during a failed presidential campaign in ’16, just enough for Evers to eke out a narrow victory in 2018 to become Wisconsin’s incompetent governor.

Evers’ response to the 2020 pandemic was typical. He said he didn’t believe it would be necessary to close the economy, and a few days later he issued an executive order closing the economy. He said it wouldn’t be necessary to suspend the April 2020 election, and a few days before the election he filed suit in an attempt to suspend the election. Wisconsin was one of the many, mostly Democrat-led, states whose governors held the economy hostage in a futile attempt to wrestle a virus into submission. Plus, it always helps the opposing party in a presidential election when the economy has tanked, so Evers was all too eager to tank the economy.

The Republicans campaign to succeed Evers has been the opposite of the Democrats’ approach. Instead of stiffing the voters in a show of unity, the three main GOP candidates for governor are fighting tooth and nail for the voters’ attention, including some nasty attack ads that should give Evers some ideas in the fall. These candidates were all kids when Ronald Reagan was president, and they must have missed his 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not criticize another Republican.”

You may guess from the tone of my analysis that I identify as Republican, and truth be told I did for the longest time. It would be more accurate to say I lost faith in the Democratic Party long before I lost faith in the Republican Party, and I think it’s a waste of effort to apply faith to any political party.

I don’t talk or write about politics much anymore, largely because I believe in finding reasons to be optimistic and I try to encourage the best in people, and nothing makes me pessimistic and discouraged faster than spending five to 10 minutes listening to what passes for political discourse in these times.

My view on politics and government these days is that it’s foolish to believe life is going to improve if we could only elect the right people. You may argue that government can be a force for good or a force for evil, but the main point is that government is an instrument of force. I believe that no one has the right to initiate force upon others, and so I advocate for solutions that don’t involve pitting the force of government against my fellow humans.

So, political junkies, enjoy the conversation tonight about what the Wisconsin results mean. Having gotten my view of politics and government out of my system, I will be back tomorrow talking about anything but.

Oh! Where are my manners? If you grok what I’m saying here, I did assemble a little book this year about freedom, individual rights, where this country is going and what a better course might be. It’s called Echoes of Freedom Past: Reopening, Reclaiming and Restoring Liberty. It’s available as an ebook and in print-on-demand, so you can find it digitally on Amazon and in paperback wherever fine books are found.

A happy Declaration Day

Fifty-six folks signed a document 246 years ago this week, declaring that we are created equal, endowed by our Creator — not by a king or a congress or a dictator or a parliament, but a Creator — with certain rights, inalienable rights, that is to say, rights that cannot be taken away.

Those rights include — but are not limited to — a right to life, a right to liberty, and a right to pursue happiness. And when governments, which are supposedly here to make sure those rights are secured, do not do that job, or threaten those rights, or even infringe on those rights, well, then, they declared that folks have a right to leave that government behind and establish a better one. 

Of course, people in power being used to wielding power, signing such a declaration could be considered tantamount to suicide, because the governments of the day did what governments always do to people who challenge their authority: They sent as many men as were available to kill as many people who believed in the declaration as they could.

We live in a time when the government is again treating these certain, inalienable rights as if they are privileges that they may grant or withhold. Heck, they even refer to them as “constitutional rights,” as if the rights were granted by the Constitution, rather than our Creator.

The Declaration of Independence has a whole list of offenses that King George III committed against his American colonial subjects. Some of them are awfully familiar:

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

“… imposing Taxes on us without our Consent”

“… depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury”

“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Now, I am not enamored of the thought that the government could send people out to kill us all, but I’m also not enamored of the idea of violating basic human rights, such as the basic human rights that the Constitution explicitly prohibits the government from violating. You see the dilemma.

The “good” news is they probably don’t want to be seen as killers, either, which is why they seem to be working so hard to incite a civil war, to make people so angry that we go out and do the job of killing each other without bloodying their own hands. I hope and pray it doesn’t come to that, but so many are so easily fooled by these tricksters.

The best way to thwart these tyrants is not to rise to the bait. When they rant and rave and buy TV commercials and newscasters to tell us how we need to hate each other, instead let’s embrace each other and say, “Hey, we disagree on a few things, but if we talk it over, maybe we can find some common ground and work out some solutions together. Obviously the people we supposedly elected to fix things would rather fight, but this is a big beautiful country and there’s plenty of room for all of us to live together in peace.”

Clearly if we refused to hate each other and found ways to work out our differences, it would drive our so-called leaders crazy. But for them, it’s a short trip anyway.

in loco parentis

© Wee Keng Bee |

My “Aha!” moment regarding libertarianism came in 1992, when I had a chance to interview Andre Marrou, that year’s Libertarian Party candidate for president, when he visited St. Norbert College in De Pere outside Green Bay.

Oh, I was already well down that road. I was enamored of Republicans like Lee Sherman Dreyfus, governor of Wisconsin 1979-83, who said the role of the federal government should be limited to “defending our shores, delivering our mail and staying the hell out of our lives,” and Ronald Reagan, president of the US of A 1981-89, who said, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

But Marrou finally focused my attention on the fact that neither major party was especially inclined to champion liberty. In fact, he said, both parties want to be our parents. Republicans want to be our stern disciplinarian father, and Democrats want to be our mommy, watching over us from cradle to grave.

That crystalized the concept for me, as I began to realize our divide is not between “left” and “right,” or Republican or Democrat. Our divide is between those who believe the primary responsibility for our lives lies with the government and those who believe in individual rights and responsibilities.

The parties differ over what aspects of our lives the central government should control, but they are in lockstep agreement that the central government should control our lives. They don’t trust us with the responsibility. 

“But without government you’d have anarchy! chaos!” is the standard response. That’s literally true, seeing as the root of the word anarchy is the Greek anarkhia, or “without a ruler.” Most of our problems seem to stem from someone deciding s/he ought to be the ruler of the roost, the city, the nation, or the world. Grownups don’t need a parent; we are more than capable of ruling ourselves.

A little search engineering found disagreement about whether governments killed 160 million, 170 million or 262 million people during the 20th century, and the mayhem didn’t let up just because we switched millennia. With that kind of record, I might be willing to try anarchy for awhile. In any case, I dare say the ruling class tries too hard to be our parents.

– – –

These thoughts are among the reasons I collected a few of my writings on this subject into a little book called Echoes of Freedom Past: Reopening, Reclaiming and Restoring Liberty, now available at a bookstore or e-merchant in your neighborhood. I’m always timid about self-promotion, but the early comments have been positive and so I would be remiss not to mention it.