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Andrew Henderson

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When your country isn’t worth fighting for

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I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio – a city that hasn’t won a professional sports championship since 1964. Oddly enough, ever since I was a kid, people there have been bemoaning that they haven’t won a professional sports championship since 1964. The people still support the teams – often to great extremes – despite their failures.

Frankly, I never saw the logic in teams. The fact that my parents chose to live in Cleveland when I was born is no more a reason for me to get excited than selection via throwing a dart.

To some, this is an odd choice. How could I not support “my” team? I’ve always been an independent thinker and don’t like falling nicely into neat little categories someone else pre-selected for me.

Sure, I may cheer on that team against one I’m equally apathetic about. That’s easy. However, when it comes to matters of life and freedom, I get more serious. I don’t want to support a team that taxes me to death and deprives me of personal and economic freedom just because it’s the “easy” decision to make.

Because I’ve seen teams that are just as good – even better – playing during my scouting trips around the world.

Imagine you’re renting an apartment. The landlord is a jerk, but the place looked nice when you moved in. Since then, broken appliances haven’t been repaired, you’ve got a roach problem, your neighbors throw loud parties every night, and the landlord is going to raise your rent substantially when the lease expires. Sure, the location is nice. But you can’t take it any more.

What do you do? Do you stage a rally outside the apartment complex to present your grievances? Do you write letter after letter to the landlord encouraging him to change his mind, or meet with other tenants to get them to join forces with you?

No. You find a new apartment.

If you’re a successful person in a western country, chances are your government treats you the same way. The endless sums you pay in taxes gets you little thanks; you’re still not paying your true “fair share”. Government wastes your money and is annoyed when you complain. They’ll put you and everyone else under surveillance because they know what’s best. And they’ll fix that pothole near your house or the busted streetlight whenever they damn well feel like it, thank you very much.

Yet so many people – especially in the United States – seem to romance the notion of “stay and fight”. They believe that putting their country back on the right path is the noble thing to do. One day, they claim, they’ll stand up and take to the streets to fight their tyrannical government.

Yet government in places like the US is already largely tyrannical. It’s not “around the corner”, as Barack Obama says glibly; it’s here. Yes, things could get worse. But what happens then? What happens if and when the country you are so loyal to becomes the Roman Empire, or Rhodesia, or Nazi Germany, or Burma?

First, don’t think your country is too good to follow that path. There’s nothing magical about a patch of dirt that prevents it from such ends. The Roman Republic was just as prominent and successful as the United States. Look what happened.

Second, if things get bad, you will have wished you got out. Even if they don’t get that bad, why would you want to participate in a society where you have been marginalized? Where your vision of liberty and low taxes and self-reliance is frowned upon?

There are places elsewhere that already share that vision. No fighting required. You could land there tomorrow and start a life in a country whose values you share – without taking to the streets.

I believe seeking freedom can be a lot like dating. It’s never a good idea to go out and find someone completely lacking in the things you want out of a relationship, thinking you will change them. Change is hard. It takes a long time. And if the people calling the shots don’t want it, you may never get it. In your lifetime.

To the contrary, when dating, you want to find the person who best matches your desired values. In that vein, I say that when you want freedom, you should seek it out, not the other way around. Find a place that suits your values and settle there. Don’t try and re-create your vision of a country that once was when you find yourself in the minority. Don’t waste your talents fighting an entrenched bureaucracy that has set your fellow citizens against you to support their existence. Go where you are treated best and feel best and make your life there, free from adversity or anger.

Because all you’re really fighting for is a manmade set of borders. The borders aren’t the problem; it’s the culture. Borders are fungible. Freedom, even the concept of “America”, can exist wherever it is welcomed.

To me, a country is a mass of land defined by its borders but also by its culture. The borders part is simple; they really haven’t changed very much in our lifetimes or over the last hundred or so years. The culture part is where things get tricky.

Living in a place where your fellow citizens are asleep – like the United States – is like living in a funhouse. There’s always a case to be made for why things aren’t really so bad. Police armed to the teeth with weapons and ever more frightening surveillance technology? That’s there to keep you safe. Higher and higher taxes and fees with less and less accountable government? We need those to have a “civilized society”. Endless wars to “liberate” sovereign nations? Hey, they want to be just like us anyway.

At the end of the day, your country is just a collection of ideals that change over time. What you call “America” has gone from being a haven of self-reliance, individualism, and freedom, to a collectivist nanny state where dissent makes you an outsider.

Just what are you going to fight in this system? You could be like the guy who flew his plane into an IRS building to protest taxes. Does that sound like a reasonable plan? Of course not. Yet I keep hearing people talking about “taking our country back” – no matter what.

I’m all for firearms rights but waiting atop your roof to pick off paramilitary forces coming to haul you away and take your stuff doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time. Not only do I not advocate violence, I don’t know why you’d want to tolerate that when you could be sitting in Panama running a profitable business and drinking mojitos after work.

I’d rather not give up my mojito time because a bunch of other people told me I was “uncivilized” for not wanting the tax-and-spend and surveillance state voodoo they claimed would magically make the country better – and then made it worse. You shouldn’t either.

I don’t begrudge those who have a sense of loyalty to their country. Many have died defending true freedom and their sacrifices are noble. But when your country stands for freedom in name only, you have to make a choice.

Do I stay and fight or do I leave and prosper?


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