L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 154, December 31, 2001
YEAR OF TERROR ENDS
Half A Lifetime Ago
by Robert J. Cruze Jr.
Special to TLE
One month ago I turned 32. Just think; half a lifetime ago, I was only 16. I think about that age every so often, and about how much I've changed, particularly when it comes to what I used to believe back then -- more precisely, what I was told to believe.
I believed that our country could do no wrong, and when it did do wrong, it did so for all the right reasons.
I believed that politicians were basically honest and decent folks. After all, they wouldn't be voted into office otherwise.
I believed my teachers always knew more than I did; they'd have to be in order to be teachers, right?
I believed that authority figures in general were more competent and moral than the rest of us -- how could they attain positions of authority otherwise?
I believed that we were a free people because our government allowed us be free, out of the goodness of its heart, and was perfectly justified in taking that freedom away in times of "national emergency" or "crisis."
I believed that our government would never deliberately harm it's own citizens.
I also believed that when the politicians talked about some kind of "crisis." it really was a crisis (ditto for "national emergency").
I believed the President, the Commander-in-Chief, would never put American military personnel in harm's way abroad in order to draw attention away from uncomfortable issues at home (the movie "Wag the Dog" was still over a decade in the future).
I believed that the government had a responsibility to protect us from ourselves -- even if it was from something we were doing with our full consent.
I believed that there was such a thing as a free lunch.
I didn't believe that, day in, day out, the news media was bombarding me with half-truths, outright lies, and statistics, all in the guise of "facts," in order to manipulate me and shape my beliefs. I also didn't believe that our self-appointed "guardians of the First Amendment" had their own political agendas.
I believed that a celebrity's opinion on a political issue held more weight than a non-celebrity's opinion -- after all, if someone can read a cue card without drooling, they must know what they're talking about, right?
I believed that authority should be respected.
There were several contradictory beliefs I held, but was unable to see the contradictions until I was older...
I believed that FDR was the greatest President we ever had, because, in a time of "crisis," he illegally seized control of the nation's economy, ramped up the military-industrial complex, and manipulated public opinion to squash his opposition. On the other hand, I believed Hitler was the most evil leader of the 20th century because, in a time of "crisis," he illegally seized control of his nation's economy, ramped up the military-industrial complex, and manipulated public opinion to squash his opposition.
I believed that when federal agents abused their authority and acted outside the Constitution, they were "just doing their jobs." Yet, I believed that the Nuremberg tribunal acted correctly when they ruled that "just following orders" was not an acceptable defense.
I believed that it was a travesty of justice in Iron Curtain countries when people would be dragged from their homes in the middle of the night because they chose, of their own free will, to practice a politically unacceptable religion or political belief in the privacy of their own home. Conversely, I had no problem with the DEA serving "no knock" warrants in the middle of the nights, dragging people from their homes because they chose, of their own free will, to smoke some politically unacceptable grass in the privacy of their own home.
I had a lot of half-baked beliefs when I was 16, but fortunately, by the time I turned 17, I started to develop doubts, which led to questions. I also developed a small, but vital sense of cynicism -- that prevented me from accepting non-answers like "because we say so." Over the next 16 years, I threw question after question at these beliefs and crumbled them away. Events like Waco and Ruby Ridge helped scatter the crumbs. Also, because so many of these beliefs they pound into your head when you're young are interconnected, when one falls away, it weakens the others that much more. Needless to say, I no longer believe these things.
I'm glad I'm not 16 anymore ...