Editor’s note: I recently carpooled with Adam on a trip from Nashville to Atlanta to see a performance by Jordan Page. I asked Adam how he had come to his current political views and thought his answer–which centered on his time in the military in Afghanistan–was quite profound. I asked him to share his thoughts, which he has written up below. His full bio appears at the end of the article. For a similar story, see Joseph Fetz’s guest post on his time in the Navy. –RPM
by A.G. House
God bless America–the land of the free, and the greatest nation to ever exist on the face of the earth. Peace, freedom, and prosperity are part of what make America the world’s bastion of opportunity. America has the freest form of government, the best intentions for the freedom of people around the world, and the most sincere, trustworthy public servants who stand for the rule of law which protects our freedom and safety.
The above are all sentiments that we hear and sometimes blindly accept and even parrot. They are popular statements which usually bring cheers from the crowds who like the sound of what they hear. But, are these jingoistic sentiments even accurate reflections of America? As good as being told that we’re exceptional and made to feel part of an exceptional demographic (like “Americans”) may be, what part of the “greatness of America lore” is simply the wishful thinking of people with an affinity for freedom?
Time and again, we’ve heard politicians use the rhetoric of liberty to appeal to the voters who wish to vote for freedom–only to be disappointed when any given politician is then elected to office and we quickly realize that all that freedom rhetoric doesn’t seem to mean to the newly-elected public official what it means to you and me, or what we thought it meant to the candidate for whom we voted. Truly, American elections are a futile exercise in wishful thinking. These elections may also be the height of insanity, as we continue to repeat the process while possibly expecting different results. Maybe we go to the voting booth with the stars & stripes on our chest and the Constitution in our hearts for what we hope and wish it meant, but failing to realize we’re voting for illusions while the reality of the encroaching state only continues to balloon regardless of which new politician takes office.
Who could blame us for wanting the things politicians promise us when wooing the vote? A politician says, “America is the greatest country in the world,” and the crowd cheers. Who wouldn’t vote for that? A politician says, “I want America to remain the most free nation on earth, and with the strongest military to protect it.” Flags wave in approval and people get emotionally charged when we hear someone wants to help us be free, safe, and strong. Who wouldn’t vote for that? Isn’t it only human nature to want to be able to do what you want as an adult with your own opinions and ways of doing things? Isn’t it only natural for the human animal to want to feel strong enough to meet life’s challenges, and to be able to hold on to a sense of security (sometimes even if one knows it is a false sense of security)? Politicians on the campaign trail often speak in generalities which they know will appeal to the positive emotions of the voters, much like an emcee at a pep rally preaches to the home-team choir and raises all the fans and supporters to their feet for standing ovations with soaring but meaningless rhetoric like, “those pansies in Ruralville are going to piss their pants when they see the red and blue colors of the Urbanopolis Skullcrushers coming!” People then line up at the gates and spend money to watch their beloved team put the hurt on an opposing ball-club, and it’s not so dissimilar when politicians rant about how military and police personnel are going to “kick the bad guys’ ass.” If only reality were that simple and clear-cut.
It can be an earth-shattering proposition for one who is willing to challenge his/her own cognitive dissonance that maybe all the wonderful things we wish (and maybe were even taught at one time) that America stood for were actually true. First of all, it is important to understand that there can be a difference between loving your government and loving your country. It is in this vein of thought that we more accurately understand the sentiment that a patriot is someone who loves his country enough to defend his fellow countrymen from their own government (things may have been very different if the Germans had stood up to the Nazi state before it was too late to save millions of lives). It is not the symbols, buildings, entitlement programs, uniforms, military might, bureaucracies, and political parties which make America great; whatever “greatness” means, and whatever America has of it, comes only when decisions are made which respect the natural rights and civil liberties of the people therein residing. Very seldom does any politician or bureaucrat anywhere make such a decision. Whatever may be the level of “American exceptionalism,” it only manifests when the size, scope, power, budget, and authority of the state shrinks–and most of us have never seen this phenomenon take place in any meaningful way in American government in our lifetime. To the contrary, the recent history of America has been one of global military dominance and imperial overseas occupations, irresponsible budget-busting quick-fixes in classic corporatist fashion, endless new wars declared on the American people by our own government in the name of the “war on drugs” and/or the “war on terror” or whatever, and a massive unbridled police state to harass and intimidate the American people and throw us in jails and prisons for non-violent victimless “crimes” in record numbers rivaling any tyrannical empire to ever exist on the face of the earth. In the face of all the assaults on our freedoms by our own government on so many fronts, the patriot is not the one who stands with the latest whims of the mindless and oppressive state–the patriot is the one who stands with the people and our inalienable right to live free, to follow one’s own conscience, and to peacefully pursue each their own individual version of happiness without violating the same rights of others. To the true patriot, no man/woman is forced to bow before the president, a king, a flag, a god, or anyone/anything else. This is partially why the patriot whose work you’re reading right now has changed perspective so much, and why my patriotism leads me not to defend the State, but to defend myself and fellow freedom-loving Americans and our rights from the assault by the State.
I was recently asked to explain a bit about my political evolution by a certain economist who was part of the inspiration for the piece of writing you’re now reading. Though my over 20 years of habitual obsession with learning about all things political could fill volumes, I gave a few brief high points which helped me see things from a different angle which I will touch on here.
While serving with the 173rd Airborne in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan 2007-08, I became keenly aware that the police were not always the well-meaning and respectable public servants we all want to believe are trust-worthy and with the best intentions. As much as some may want to give the patrolman on the ground the benefit of the doubt, it is irresponsible and even dangerous not to keep a watchful and critical eye on the people we send out in uniforms with badges and guns to enforce the laws on the peaceful American people whose rights are supposed to be inalienable. In Afghanistan, the Afghan National Police are the prime policing force but most of the officers have committed or at least have been accused of crimes.
You need not look far to find examples of Afghan police setting up rogue checkpoints to shake down peaceful unarmed travelers for money, even stealing basic essentials, and forcing travelers to perform sexual favors for safe passage. If you were an American soldier who was expected to protect your “ally” Afghan National Police partners in the event of a village uprising against your police allies, how might you feel knowing that the uprising may have something to do with Afghan police stealing from and raping villagers under the color of law? Putting on the uniform comes with responsibility to protect, serve, and exercise restraint of force. Regardless of any difference one wants to use to poke holes in this American/Afghan police comparison of apples and oranges, the fact still remains that humans with uniforms, badges, and guns in America are just as susceptible to becoming drunk with their authority as humans with uniforms, badges, and guns in Afghanistan. This realization has opened my perspective from the one learned as a child to respect police officers as friendly professionals, and to remember that narcissistic megalomania is drawn to positions of authority and power such as might be found wearing the colors of the government’s own “gun-toting gang of the state.”
Another eye-opener for me came when first returning from Afghanistan to my post in Italy in August of 2008, at the height of the TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program] debacle and 2008 presidential race. Though I hadn’t yet taken a lot of interest in understanding the particulars of how monetary policy works in the United States, I understood enough to know that a massive inflationary injection into the market by the Federal Reserve’s “quantitative easing” was blatantly contradictory to every principle of free market capitalism and sound monetary policy imaginable. Just on the surface, it was morally reprehensible to me to see that people who had worked hard and made sacrifices to squirrel away a little money for retirement for many decades were going to have their nest-eggs broken and scrambled and divided out via the value lost by the ensuing cost of living increases. I was glued to the news over the course of several months watching in horror as politicians who had previously claimed to believe in free markets and capitalism came out in defense of TARP and other bailouts which nobody who has a basic understanding of free-market capitalism could possibly reconcile.
When the MIAC [Missouri Information Analysis Center] report was released, which was a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document identifying returning war veterans as high risk candidates for domestic terrorism, it felt very much like I had entered the Twilight Zone and trapped in a real-life version of George Orwell’s 1984 or some other dystopic alternate reality. Talk about a slap in the face to millions of service-members who risked life and limb to “fight terrorists.” If 2+2 = 4, then does 2+2 actually equal 5 if the government passes a law that says so? Or, does 2+2 = 4 regardless of what ridiculous law some foolish bureaucrat passes? While I was doing what I believed to be my part to defend the chance for freedom of my country in a combat zone, the political elites who sent me were literally auctioning off our freedom on the government block to the highest bidder for personal gain (follow the money), and calling me and the other people fighting a war for our country possible enemy suspects.
My childish and naive illusions about American exceptionalism and unparalleled freedom have only been further challenged since then. One of the most recent and unbelievable turn of events in my opinion is the arming of Al Qaeda in Syria by the United States government. It is absolutely unconscionable to me that the Obama administration (with the help of Republicans like Senators John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), & Bob Corker (TN) I might add) is literally handing over small arms and other weapons to Al Qaeda in Syria while Al Qaeda is in a hot war with the United States and are still exchanging gunfire with American soldiers all over the globe in places like Afghanistan. As much as I admire the honorable intentions of many who consider joining the military, and I don’t consider it my business to interfere in such a huge personal decision, it seems to me that now may be the time for anyone and everyone in the military to be a conscientious objector. When the commander-in-chief is giving guns to the guy shooting at you, you may want to reconsider working for that commander-in-chief, as he is a treasonous oath-breaker possessing no integrity or moral authority with which to lead.
If one still insists on defining patriotism in blindly obedient and collectivist jingoistic terms, you can count me out. On that definition of “patriotism,” I’m a proud seditious enemy of the State. But, if one defines patriotism as a passion for the shared freedom and liberty of all of humanity (even from corrupt oppressive governments), then color me patriotic.
A.G. House is an Afghanistan war veteran and former licensed minister (UPCI), who has become an outspoken skeptic, peace advocate, and involved himself in many other issues which he believes affect the individual freedoms of the people whose constitutional rights he took an oath to defend. He currently resides in the heart of Tennessee with his companion dog “Liberty,” where he is recovering from PTSD, enjoys the therapeutic hobbies of gardening, creative writing, playing drums in the heavy metal band OUTLAW SERENADE, and other forms of artistic expression \m/