Previous entry: Part 1

Somewhere between the first gulf war and until the past few years, I became withdrawn from news and world events. Much of it was due to my contempt for television news and mass media (the last straw for me was when television crews were on the scene to show us Tonya Harding running down the street crying after her car had been towed, shortly after the whole Nancy Kerrigan affair.) I had also entered into a new phase of reading and learning, and chose the study of ideas and theory over the discussion of – and reaction to – events.

9/11 shook me out of my theory tree house for a while, and brought me back to watching television news and discussing current events. Like everyone I knew, I struggled with the questions: Why do they hate us? What motivates these people to hijack planes and fly them into buildings? I was angry and did not know how to react to what appeared to be a new paradigm of threat to our safety. I remember posting on a web forum some inane, propagandistic comment that I had probably picked up from some talking head in the news: This is a new kind of war, our enemies could be living among us. We must be diligent, they are attacking our way of life.

Soon, the President was on our television screen proclaiming that we would scour the ends of the earth, find those responsible, and bring them to justice. I’ll always remember where I was – at a pub in Memphis. The music was playing, we were all enjoying our beer and conversation. Suddenly, the music stopped and the TV was patched in to the audio system. The crowd watched and listened as George W. Bush made his announcement. As he concluded, the crowd cheered. We were going to war against terrorism. We would get our revenge.

I paid attention to the news as we quickly routed Afghanistan, listening and waiting for the news of Osama Bin Laden’s capture. In the ensuing year or so, my interest waned as the conflict went on. Then the drums of war started beating to invade Iraq. I started watching again, listening to the claims of Sadaam’s involvement in 9/11, his support for Al Qaeda, and his weapons of mass destruction. By this time, I was beginning to ask more questions and not feeling so comfortable with government claims, as I read conflicting opinions on the threat posed by Iraq. When the invasion of Iraq commenced, I tuned in and watched, but I remember feeling much different than I did in the first Gulf War. As the Iraqi invasion and occupation wore on, I once again withdrew from participation in the debate.

Looking back, I realize that the with all the complexity of the events, the claims and counter-claims, all of it was just too much to digest. I listened to the talking heads and how they would criticize the American people for their lack of understanding of geography and world events, how we are all ignorant about the cultures and histories of other countries until we’re at war with them. I watched as the talking heads themselves scrambled to pose as experts on the Iraqi culture and politics – the Shiites, the Sunnis, the Kurds, the Ba’athists…At some point, I think the average Joe simply goes along, willing to leave the complexity to the experts. My own reaction was to feel that something was going wrong, but I didn’t feel I had any control. Once again, I withdrew interest. My personal life was filled with complexity, buying a business and building it. I had plenty to keep me busy.

My aforementioned phase of deep study in theory led to one of my guiding principles in life: That for any set of circumstances, there is no shortage of answers. Everyone has a solution, they are many and conflicting. But there is usually only one key question.

Sometime in June, 2007, I decided to look up the 2004 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, Michael Badnarik. I had voted for him in 2004, election politics (from which I had traditionally distanced myself) was stirring again, and I wondered if Badnarik was going to run in 2008. I found his website, where I read that he was putting all of his efforts into seeing that Ron Paul was elected President. My first question was “who is Ron Paul?” I searched the web, and was led to a YouTube video of the May 15th Republican debate.

Ron Paul addressed the one key question: Why do they hate us? This began a whole new phase in my understanding of government and war.

Next entry: Part 3