Today I’m going to break one of the first rules of blogging, I’m going to talk about myself. I’ve been regularly writing posts on this blog for over two years now and so far I’ve never really explained how I came to be a gun rights activist or a libertarian even though I’ve been asked numerous times. I believe being a gun rights activist and a libertarian are strongly tied by my high level of psychological reactance. Taking orders isn’t something I do with grace and when somebody tries to force me into a course of action I do not wish to take I often react by doing the exact opposite of what is desired. If you tell me I can’t do something there is a very high chance I’ll do it just to spite you.
Guns are devices I’ve had a strong interest in since I was a wee lad. Part of my interest likely stems from the constant fear mongering my school teachers used to instill fear of firearms into the student body. Since they were basically saying guns are evil and scary I wanted to shoot them, and being my mother grew up around guns (her dad was even a firearm safety instructor) I only had to convince my father to allow me to purchase a firearm. He agreed on the grounds that I enrolled in a firearm safety class, which I gladly did and the rest is really history so far as my fascination with firearms is concerned.
This in of itself is likely of little interest to you and if you’re still reading let me assure you that the more interesting part is coming up. I’ve always had strong libertarian leanings even before I knew a term existed to describe my beliefs. The idea that people could simply command others because they had been granted some arbitrary authority never sat well with me. My eyes weren’t fully opened to the potential power had for abuse until my 10th grade year of high school.
While I don’t remember the exact dates the following occurred it was sometime after April 20th, 1999. The only reason I am able to pin down that date is because it was the day of the Columbine massacre, the event that directly lead to one week of hell for myself. The principle of Caledonia High School at the time was a man named Brian Doty (yeah I’m using names, no reason a piece of shit should gain anonymity just because this event is ancient history). Doty wasn’t a terribly effective principle and embodied many qualities that define most politicians. That is to say he didn’t have a spine and was able to maintain his disgustingly high salary (for that area) through fear mongering and politicking.
After the Columbine massacre Doty decided to demonstrate to the parents of Caledonia that such a tragedy wasn’t going to happen under his watch. Considering Caledonia has a population under 3,000 and everybody knows everybody else there was little fear of such a tragedy happening but that never stopped a power hungry asshole from drumming up fake concerns. What Doty needed was a scapegoat, a kid to be the victim in his dark play. It was no secret that I was a gun owner and enjoyed the shooting sports greatly nor was either uncommon as large number of students lived on the surrounding farms and enjoyed hunting deer, turkey, and pheasant. Still I had the primary requirement for Doty’s scheme, I owned firearms. Another bonus was the fact I was relatively quiet and kept to myself a majority of the time, which was one of the characteristics that was used to describe the Columbine shooters. Thus I was given the role of scapegoat in this horrendous play.
One week of my life was turned to absolute shit. During one gym class I was called to the office, a rare occurrence for myself. Upon arriving at the office I was met by the principle, a police officer, and my mother. Let me take a second to bring up the fact that throughout my school career I had never been in serious trouble and only had detention once for having my gym cloths stolen from my locker (somehow that translated into being my fault, I have no idea why). Knowing this you can probably understand my shock at seeing an armed police officer standing in the office waiting for me.
Upon entering I was commanded to take a seat and then handed a piece of paper. Looking at the piece of paper I recognized it was an assignment I had handed in as my signature was at the top of the page but wasn’t given time to read it before being asked, “Is this what you really think?” Still not sure what the piece of paper was I quickly skimmed it and recollected it was a poem I had been forced to write for an English class and the poem, in classic Christopher Burg fashion, was about war (you might make me do something but I’m going to fight it tooth and nail, even if that fight involves doing the assignment about a subject considered undesirable to the teacher). I was never given time to respond to the question before Doty started laying on the conspiracy that was supposedly afoot.
The accusation he made was pretty straight forward, there were rumors floating around that somebody was planning to perform a Columbine massacre at Caledonia High School and all fingers pointed to me as the killer. Yes me, Mr. Nonaggression Principle was being fingered as a future killer in a massacre that was to befall the sleepy town of Caledonia. The rest of the meeting was mostly a blur as I tried to wrap my head around the charges facing me. I was let go and allowed to return to class, something that seemed strange considering the accusations being made against myself. It was later that day that several students started harassing me about my supposed plot. To this day I’m not sure if the rumor was first started by Doty to bolster his position or by fellow students who wanted to incite drama. In the first case Doty was merely drumming up fear to bolster his position and in the latter case he was given a story that fit the narrative he desired so he ran with it forgoing any investigation into my person before bringing the accusations. Either way I was fucked.
Sarcastically some of the students in one of my classes said, “Please spare me!” Irritated at the statement and my situation I simply said, “Sure, whatever.” This response taught me a valuable lesson, be extremely careful about the words you use because somebody will likely try to twist them into something else later. Day two of my adventure found me back in the principle’s office. Doty asked me, “Some students came to me and said you promised to spare them.” What he really meant was, “Some students said you promised to spare them and that proves to me you’re planning on shooting up the school!” My protests against the accusation being made went unheard and I was once again told to return to class. For me the week followed a predictable formula starting with being called to the office, being accused of saying or doing something I never did, and being sent back to class.
On Wednesday evening I attended the monthly Future Farmers of America (FFA) meeting. Granted I had no interest in ever being a farmer but the person charged with running the local FFA chapter was the father of my best friend and it got me out of school a couple days a year. After the meeting my friend’s father asked how I was holding up and that was the first time I can remember outright lying about my feelings. People suffering from depression will generally hide their feelings and tell their friends and family all is well when asked. This was the only time in my life that I can remember actually being depressed and replied by simply saying all was well. My friend and his father both assured me that they knew this entire mess was a misunderstanding and would eventually blow over. For some reason this short interaction made an impact on me and I remember it clearly to this day.
Unfortunately I do not remember the exact dates of this entire mess as it happened too many years ago and I never wrote anything about it down at the time (something I greatly regret). The day before the supposed shooting was to occur I was called into Doty’s office one last time. During this meeting he explained that it would be best if I didn’t show up to school the next day considering the plan that was afoot. At the time his request seemed extremely odd but looking at it today I understand his desired goal. If I didn’t show up for class on the day the shooting was to occur it would create more concern in the student body. They would possibly worry that I hadn’t showed up the class yet meaning I was planning on showing up at a later time to kill everybody. His request was sick and nothing but a power play as far as I can tell.
Regardless of the reason I decided to go along with the request. I explained the entire situation to my parents and two things were decided; first I would not attend school the next day and two my firearms would be held somewhere more secure than my bedroom. My father contemplated storing my firearms at his shop but decided against it because doing so may attract the attention of his employees. In the end my guns were moved from my bedroom to my parent’s bedroom. What this was supposed to accomplish I never understood but it satisfied my father who was doing his best to help. The next morning my mother and I went to La Crosse and spent the day away from Caledonia so if something did occur I wouldn’t be in the town and thus couldn’t be implicated. Needless to say nothing happened and all returned to normal the next day. What pissed me off then was the fact I was never given an apology nor was any statement made to the school expressing the fact the entire mess was a misunderstanding. For two years this single event haunted me as students made jokes about it and I was pegged as an accused killer.
This even opened my eyes to unbridled power and the dangers that accompany it. Doty wanted nothing more than to cement his position as school principle and that was made easier by exploiting the tragedy that befell Columbine. He sacrificed me in order to demonstrate his alertness to potential crises and his willingness to do whatever it takes to prevent them. In all honesty nobody paid attention to his actions and parents weren’t asking for his removal beforehand so he made my life hell for nothing.
I learned many things from this. First authority is dangerous and unchecked power is even more dangerous. When somebody is able to subject another to hellish conditions without fear of punishment little can be done to prevent damaged lives. Libertarians understand this and thus work to reduce the power government officials hold. We believe all should be equal under the law, allowing those in authority to break the law means no recourse will exist for their victims. I also learned how incredibly petty people in power are and the distances they will go to maintain that power, no matter how little they hold. Likewise those with power will go to great lengths to obtain even more power. The phrase, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” is entirely true.
Another lesson I took away from that event is the fact firearm owners are a persecuted minority. We’re the scapegoats used by people in power to frighten the masses into surrendering more power to those in authority. If a firearm owner is being persecuted nobody is likely to come to his or her assistance nor will accusations being made against him or her be verified before being repeated. We’re pawns in the politician’s game and our only backup is each other.
This singular event changed the course of my life. It was a big damned wakeup call. My respect for authority was poisoned, any chance of me playing the political game was entirely stifled, and I no longer had any fear. How did I lose my fear? Easy, once you’ve made it through a traumatic event you realize fear is irrelevant, if something bad is going to happen it will happen and if it’s not going to happen it won’t happen. There is no point in worrying yourself with the what ifs, simply prepare yourself as best as you can to deal with potential scenarios.
My high school career took a huge nose dive as I stopped caring about my grades. I went from regularly being on the honor roll to holding a B-/C+ average. In my mind there was no point in trying to excel because the only reward was being punished for somebody else’s gains. Thankfully this attitude didn’t follow me into college and I was able to do well in my studies of computer programming and computer science.
So if you were ever curious about how I came to be a gun rights activist and a libertarian there is your answer. Truth be told my journey to becoming both was far more complex but that singular event was what primarily set me on the paths. It also shaped my unwillingness to convict somebody of a crime without proper evidence and trial. I’ve been falsely accused of wrongdoing without any supporting evidence and I swore to never do that to another human being. I will always err on the side of innocence when a person is accused of ill, everybody is innocent until proven guilty.
I’ve gone on long enough about this and it’s unlikely anybody is still reading. For the few that are I’ll close by saying this: there are lessons to be taken away from all experiences in life be they good or bad. Try to keep an eye open for these lessons even when the worst befalls you because the lessons you learn in the worst of times are likely the most important.
This post also marks the end of 2011. Enjoy the end of the year and the beginning of next, I’ll see you again in 2012.