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Jim Bouchard, the author of Crazy, Angry, Libertarian, argues that there is no point in someone’s life where they can so radically change to say that they’ve “become” a Libertarian. However, each of us goes through a series of events or circumstances that shape our opinions and worldview to accept Libertarian Philosophy. Through this growth process, it is possible, and often likely, that we will have a culminating event that does affect us in such a manner that we can suddenly come to the realization that we always were a Libertarian, and just never realized it. This is the story of my moment.
I don’t often talk about my service in the Military, because as a politician and an activist I aim to have people focus on my ideas, and my policies, rather than my accomplishments and my titles. Yet when I was younger, that uniform was something I wore proudly, and a culture I embraced and exuded at every step. I grew up in a very conservative household, Joined the Army at 18, attended a regimented Military Academy for college, and was being fast-tracked into a career in law enforcement. I spent my weekends in college interning at the local police department, or on assignment from the national guard, whether operational support or emergency response. From Blizzards and Hurricanes to regular security details at public events, I proudly donned the uniform and carried out the duties I was assigned. So it should be no surprise that while most of my college friends celebrated the 4th of July with Beers and Barbecues on the Beach of Cape Cod, I spent mine volunteering as a member of the security detachment for the 4th of July fireworks in Boston.
But in 2013, there was something special about this event that changed everything. Just weeks earlier, I was also among the soldiers stationed in Boston to provide additional security and crowd control for the Boston Marathon. That was a Patriots day that began the reshaping of my future. After the elite runners had finished, and the crowd was at its peak with amateurs finishing their marathon, and spectators celebrating the holiday, 2 explosions ripped through the heart of Boston’s proudest event, an act of terror that broke the heart, but strengthened the spirit of the city. Rather than heading home that afternoon after the marathon ended, we spent the next 2 days on high alert, with joint patrols of Military, Boston, and Massachusetts State Police officers securing the sites of the bombings and slowly coming to terms with what we had witnessed all the while ignoring the bloodstains on our boots. The people of Boston came together and rose above the tragedy, and the culture of pride drove the winds of recovery. The tragedy was short-lived before business was back to normal in Boston -at least until the 4th of July.
It wasn’t witnessing a terrorist attack that changed my life, and it wasn’t being party to a militarized occupation of the city of Boston for 2 days. In fact, that experience temporarily served to reinforce my cultural bias of the need for a security state. Those experiences drove home my desire to serve and protect, and defend my home and my family from the threat of terrorism at all costs. But that only lasted a few weeks. When the call came for volunteers to serve on the security detail at the 4th of July fireworks, I was the first name on the list, and made sure I would be available to do my duty.
On that particular day, there was a show of force like I had never before seen. I was the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of a contingent of 40 soldiers manning checkpoints on the bridges to the Boston Esplanade, and one of 10 such contingents throughout the city. There was also a strong presence from not only the Boston PD but also surrounding cities and towns who sent officers in for the details. We had TSA Agents searching bags at our checkpoints, and roving patrols of FBI, DEA, and ATF canine units mixed in throughout. for surveillance, the State Police had deployed mobile camera units at every bridge crossing, and ensured that no one could move freely in the area we were securing without being searched or watched. A news reporter the next day quipped in their article that it felt like there were more military and police guarding the fireworks than there were people actually enjoying them.
In the mid-afternoon, I was walking a patrol between the checkpoints, ensuring that the soldiers under my command had plenty of water, and were doing alright in the summer heat. As I turned around a corner, with my fresh Lieutenant in tow, ink not yet dried on his college degree, a man was seated in a lawn chair in the middle of our path, blocking anyone from walking past him. This alone would arouse suspicion even if it wasn’t a high alert event, but then I noticed he was reading a book. As I looked closer I could see this man sitting there in front of us, a silent form of protest, reading George Orwell’s 1984, the dystopian epic about an oppressive government surveillance state depriving its citizens of freedom and privacy. As I chuckled to myself, the Lieutenant asked me what was so funny, and I just shook my head as I remarked at how we had become Big Brother.
In the name of security, and the comfort of it’s theater, we had stripped freedom from the very cradle of the American Revolution. Boston, the birthplace of patriots, had become succumbed by fear and capitulated to the deprivation of their own liberty. It was at in that moment that I decided that I could not in good conscience reenlist in the United States Military. It was in that moment, that I came to a profound understanding of what liberty was, and how much of it we had willingly surrendered. It was at that moment, on July 4th 2013, that I resolved to cast off my own chains of ignorance, and embrace freedom at every grasp. It was in that moment, at a celebration of patriotism, that I decided to revel in its history. And it was at that moment, that I realized that I was a Libertarian…
It was that defining moment that drove me to reject the conservative teachings I had been raised on. It was that defining moment that drove me to reject the Military Culture I had embraced. It was that defining moment that drove me to change the trajectory of my entire life. I’m no longer working in or working towards a career in law enforcement, but rather endeavoring daily to end the war on drugs and stop the persecution of disparaged minorities in our country at the hands of police. I’m no longer striving for a long military service record to be proud of, but rather fighting in the trenches of public policy to end a foreign policy hell-bent on endless war and suffering around the globe.
I’m a Libertarian because I have had that moment in my life, where I came to realize that Liberty matters, that freedom is not guaranteed and that oppression can take many forms.
I’m a Libertarian because I realized someone needs to be a voice that strongly stands up to oppose gun control at every turn, but also encourages education and a chance to shift our culture away from glorifying the violence that is consuming it. I’m a Libertarian because someone needs to demand that we end the drug war, and decriminalize possession and use of all drugs- so that we can end the systemic cycle of incarceration that plagues our impoverished communities and disproportionately targets minorities. I’m a Libertarian, and I’m angry enough to be that angry voice calling for the withdrawal of all US troops from overseas, and an immediate end to conflict and war in our lifetime, because all people, not just Americans, deserve to sleep peacefully at night.