L. Neil Smith's
Number 233, August 10, 2003


A Culture of Freedom
by David C. Kopp

Special to TLE

I hear a whole lot of people complaining these days. So what, you say? People complain about everything, from home to work to social life, it's nothing new. Been going on since the dawn of time. So what's the problem? Well, it's not the complaining that bothers me, per se. No, what bothers me, what truly burns my posterior, is the people who are doing the complaining.

Let me digress for a sec. If you're reading this, chances are fair that you're involved in the modern "Freedom Movement" in some way or other. That very likely means that, at a minimum, at some point in your life, some government agency or other tried to take something away from you that you hold dear. Might have been your assets (the IRS has been known to do that sort of thing), maybe your guns (ditto for BATF), possibly your choice of recreation (DEA ring any bells?), or maybe your choice of transportation (DOT and NHTSA are not known for their customer service). Could have been any of a million things, but the point is, at some juncture you realized that things in our government are not as they should be, and you did something about it.

As anyone who has spent any time in this movement knows, there are many levels of involvement. Many of us got started by just writing a check to some political organization like the NRA, or maybe the ACLU. For some, that's enough, and they never go any farther. Others might join local political organizations and clubs, or perhaps get involved in personally tracking legislation and news on issues that are important to them. Some might lobby their legislators, while others might run for office. Still others will combine several levels of activism at once. Each approach has its good and bad points, as does each person. But at the heart, it's the involvement that matters! Everyone would agree that it's better to have folks involved and connected, aware of what's up, and doing something about it, than to have a bunch of apathetic losers sitting around a bar, drowning in their beers and wishing that things weren't so damned awful. Right?

Everyone would agree with that premise, wouldn't they?

Or would they?

I'd like to think they would, but apparently I'm nuts. Because, to return to my original point, it's the people in the "Freedom Movement" who do most of the complaining. And what is most of it about, you ask? Why, it's about their lack of company!

That's right, you heard me correctly. Apparently, those of us involved don't have enough assistance from others of similar persuasion. And from what I'm hearing, it's all because "those other guys" just don't do it right.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Allow me to elucidate ...

Did you know that Gun Owners of America (GOA) is much too extreme on most of it's positions to ever have any real political influence in DC? You didn't? Must not have been talking to the same NRA members that I've been talking too.

Bet you also didn't know that "The ACLU ... believes that the Second Amendment does not confer an unlimited right upon individuals to own guns or other weapons"1. That puts them somewhat at odds with the aforementioned NRA, don't you think? Aren't they supposed to be "Defending the Bill of Rights"2. Or is the Second Amendment the only right listed therein that isn't an individual one? Hmmm ... maybe the NRA is right?

But then, of course, the NRA doesn't really defend the Second Amendment either, do they? After all, they promote Concealed Carry of Weapons (CCW) laws, and any truly free individual knows that the government has no right to regulate your bearing of arms at all. So say the Libertarians, and who can argue?

Well, maybe the Republicans could. It seems that Republican President George Bush (the second) is poised to sign a renewal of the Clinton- era Assault Weapons Ban. It also seems that the new Republican definition of "shall not be infringed" has been amended to include the words "except by any law the current government likes." Only you can't actually see that written down anywhere, it's just understood. This would seem to many to be an entirely different approach to the Second Amendment for the Republicans, who in the past have tried to differentiate themselves from the Democrats on gun control. Boy, talk about bipartisanship! And I thought the two parties never agreed on anything?

But hey, at least some of the Democrats were against the shredding of the Fourth Amendment that accompanied the passage of the horribly misnamed "USA PATRIOT Act", while the Republicans voted for it en masse ...

And the beat goes on ...

Still don't know what I'm talking about? Better go read someone else's article than, because this one is over your head. And this has been just a small sample of the dissension that exists in the ranks of those fighting mainly for their Second Amendment rights. I'd move on to some other issues, but there are only so many trees.

So I ask you, my fellow Freedom fighters, in the slightly edited words of many a crusty DI over the years, "Just what is your major malfunction?!"

Does anyone really believe that we are going to woo people over to our side from the vast ranks of the unaware, when we can't even agree amongst ourselves that diversity of opinion, thought, approach and action is a good, and even necessary, thing?

I have actually had fellow gun owners tell me that they won't bother trying to explain freedom to "yuppie CCW holders" anymore, because they got blank stares when they were holding forth about The Federalist Papers and their impact on colonial political thought.

I have actually had fellow motorcyclists tell me that they won't bother trying to recruit members for our state level motorcyclists' rights organizations, because they got an argument once when they were trying to explain to some poor ignorant schlep that his use of a helmet should be a personal choice and not a mandate of the government.

I have actually had fellow libertarians tell me that they won't encourage anyone to participate in the political system anymore, due to the rampant corruption and flouting of the rule of law that is common today, despite the fact that such a withdrawal serves primarily to leave the field of political battle to those with less concern for our freedom.

Don't we all realize that not everyone has reached the same point in his or her journey to freedom as we might have? Don't we all understand that not everyone is able to (or would even want to) expound on the ethical and moral underpinnings of the founders' philosophy, just as not everyone can perform open-heart surgery, or rebuild a car engine?

So, my next questions are, who amongst us came into this movement with a full-blown and flawless understanding of our founding years, our Constitution and the philosophy underlying it, and the intent of the men who wrote it? Which of us were born into the world with a perfect understanding of the problem, and the perfect solution for fixing it? Who really knows the sure path to true freedom, right now, and is willing to share it?

The answers, from all the complaining I've been hearing, would appear to be "All of us". But since I think we're all bright enough to realize that isn't possible, the true answer to all of those questions is probably more like "None of us".

Since we obviously don't have all of the answers ourselves, how about we start cutting each other a little slack? We all had to learn to crawl before we could run marathons, and I figure it's only fair if we allow the newcomers to our ranks to have the same time and opportunities to learn. We are the ones who must teach them, just as our predecessors taught us, and we must always remember that if the student is failing to learn the lesson, than we must look first to the lesson for the flaw, and only last to the student. When you find yourself wishing for a hammer to get your point through that thick skull in front of you (and you will), think back to your own beginnings. Were you such an apt pupil that your teachers never despaired of you? Didn't you think you knew it all then, too? Looking back, don't you realize how little you really did know? Don't you realize today how much more you'll know in the future?

Take the time to lead people to your way of thinking, rather than shouting at them to come on over or else! Progress at anything takes time and patience, and a willingness to bear the burden for as long as it takes. Bringing people to freedom in baby steps may not be as personally gratifying as the sudden look of comprehension that occasionally dawns in the face of a former unbeliever, but it's a damn sight more likely to happen. Never forget that most folks have been conditioned all of their lives to believe that they are already free, and that it's a very, very difficult task to free people of their illusions. Most of us should already know this lesson well, since most of us were once victims of the same conditioning. As a very smart man once said, "... all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed."3 Take that to heart, because truer words have rarely been spoken.

So get on out there, find someone who you think just might be hopeless, and take at least the same amount of time with that person as your mentors did with you. Take that person from the place they are now (not the place you want them to be) and move them, gently and patiently, in your direction. Take as long as it takes to accomplish your goal, and do so with the satisfaction that, when you're done, you'll have brought another person into the culture of freedom. In the end, every single addition to that culture is worth the effort.

Why, you ask? Because if we don't do it, no one will. And if you all think we don't have enough company now, well, guess what? Unless we take care of that problem, it only gets worse. And then who suffers? That's right, my friends, we do!

Besides, no one ever solved anything by complaining!

So knock it off, and get to work. Our culture of freedom is depending on it.


1. ACLU policy statement on Gun Control, [link]

2. Statement on the banner of the ACLU's home page, http://www.aclu.org/

3. Thomas Jefferson, "The Declaration of Independence", http://lcweb2.loc.gov/const/declar.html

Copyright © David C. Kopp, 6-12-03, all rights reserved. Contact the author for permission to reproduce.

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