Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 732, August 4, 2013

The mission of the Privacy Party would be to get
government out of everybody's lives and shrivel
the damn thing down to the size of a peanut.

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Black and White Stripes Forever!
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

One of my favorite e-mail correspondents forwarded a message to me lamenting that the American eagle, and the spirit it represents, is gone.

Author Robert A. Heinlein once observed: "The American eagle eats carrion, never picks on anything its own size, and will soon be extinct."

Benjamin Franklin wanted our national symbol to be the turkey. He regarded it as a noble creature and didn't mean it as a joke. It was one of the few times the good Doctor Franklin was wrong. I knew a farm family once, who tried raising turkeys. If it rained they had to get them under cover, fast. Otherwise, they'd look up, gaping, to see where all that water falling on their heads was coming from, and drown.

By the thousands.

On second thought, maybe Ben was onto something, symbolically. That turkey behavior sounds very much like the American electorate today.

The libertarian movement seems to have chosen the porcupine as a symbol. It never starts a fight but always finishes it. Problem is, the porcupine has a brain about the size of a pinto bean, and can be accurately compared to a slow-moving pointy rock. At that, I suppose it's a lot better than the Hollow French Woman in New York Harbor that the porcupine-bright National Libertarian Party has adopted as its logo.

Personally, I've always rather liked the skunk as a national or party symbol. They have a negative reputation they don't deserve at all. Skunks are highly resourceful organisms, and very, very smart. And they carry the ultimate means of self-defense, something that even wolves and mountain lions respect and give the widest possible berth to. My favorite mental picture is the little guy standing on his front paws, his back legs and tail high in the air, letting the enemy have it.

But I suppose I'm peculiar. If there's distance enough between my nostrils and the source, I rather enjoy the odor of skunk. I find it bracing, like opening a jar of fresh horse-radish, or taking a bite of pepperoncini. It's also a welcome reminder that, although I live in a suburban setting, there are wild things around me. Our neighborhood is also home to foxes, raccoons, enormous barn owls, bats, rabbits, and the occasional mule deer visiting the town, probably to shop at the mall.

The one bad thing about the skunk is that the poor little guy doesn't live very long—maybe two years on average. It doesn't seem right, somehow. A pet skunk will partner up with your housecat and the two will get into trouble together, prowling the countertops and getting into cupboards and drawers. Skunks are as clean as cats, and have more useful front paws. If I had the money to invest in life extension research, I'd use skunks rather than lab rats or guinea pigs.

But I have digressed. as I usually do.

If the United States had emulated the skunk for the past 237 years, instead of that cheesy near-buzzard on our national seal—the same symbol of imperialism that the Romans marched around the planet with—we'd likely have avoided a lot of unnecessary wars. We'd probably have a cure for cancer or the common cold, or have developed fusion power or the faster-than-light star-drive because the guys who would have achieved all that didn't die at Bull Run, San Juan Hill, the Argonne, Midway, Pork Chop Hill, Khe Sanh, or in Iraq, Kuwait, or Afghanistan.

We'd also be a whole lot richer and better-respected than we are today.

Elsewhere in this issue, I've proposed the formation of a new political party—sort of—to make up for the many shortcomings of the Libertarian Party and keep the spirit of the Tea Parties rolling along.

The skunk represents precisely what I have in mind for such a sort-of-party. It's the very embodiment of the all-important Zero Aggression Principle. It's highly intelligent, like most Libertarians seem to be. It's always thinking. It works exactly as hard (and not a bit harder) as any predator ever has to. And it takes excellent care of the little stripers it brings into the world. Like the porcupine, it never starts a fight. But if you've ever owned a canine who was unfortunate enough to tangle with a skunk, then you appreciate that the little black and white critter knows even better how to finish one.

I like that in a critter—or a party.

Don't you?

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