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I have lived in my current neighborhood for about four years now. On this earth, I have lived in 7 total states including the one I live in right now. I have traveled to different countries on a couple occasions and have lived in rather diverse neighborhoods growing up. I would say I’ve taken advantage of most opportunities life has given me when it comes to places I have been. There is a reason behind me saying all this. At an early age around junior high, I learned a little about libertarianism. Skip ahead a couple of years to high school. I was still a libertarian but there were some caveats, such as closed immigration with the current safety net and, well, I wouldn’t say I was for a national language but was not opposed either. Mind you, this was way before I became an anarchist.
Was this position a bigoted one? I don’t know. That is debatable. While I don’t mean to stray off into immigration, my point is more to the overall premise. I wasn’t actually saying or believing people of different ethnicity shouldn’t come in the U.S. or learn English because they were below me as a human or by any means that I was superior. Nonetheless, I had these views until I moved to New York to finish high school. It was here where those views completely disappeared. Looking back on them, I am glad they are behind me. With New York’s cultural melting pot, I was able to notice how many cultures mingled with each other. I lived in a Colombian neighborhood, but walking from street to street I saw those neighborhoods go from Colombian to Jamaican to Indian (dots, not feathers) to Korean. During those couple of years living in NY, I traveled outside of the U.S., and it was during those couple of years that I felt as though being around and experiencing different cultures made the race issue obsolete. People wanted to pursue their own interests, trade, and what you looked like or where you came from was not a matter. Sure, there are some bad apples, especially in NY (no pun intended), but from experience, I would say it is true that people mostly forget about race or it was never an issue to begin with. This brings to mind the famous quote by Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I whole-heartedly agree. Like Twain, I like to think that traveling, culture, and trade erases much hatred out of people’s lives, which is why I referred to my own such experiences above.
Some people’s lives aren’t as advantageous though, and some don’t share this stance, which brings me to the next part of this tale, my neighbor. As was stated in the beginning, I have been living in my neighborhood for about 4 years. One day about two and a half years ago, I was walking from the train when I heard someone playing their
guitar. Being a familiar song, and never having met him before, I came over and gave him kudos for how well he played it. We hung out for a bit, chatted, had a couple beers. This went on for a couple visits. Upon one particular visit, he went back into his house where for a split second I saw a red flag with a controversial symbol on it. The flag in question was the flag of the Nazi party. After a few moments of contemplating, I asked him about the flag and as it turns out, he told me he was a neo-Nazi, at one point living in Northern Idaho with the Aryan Nation.
We are still friends to this day. Did I ostracize him? Did I shun him? Was I combative with him because of his views? No. To all of the above. To be clear, I oppose everything he advocated and believed; however, my approach was quite the contrary to these methods you might expect a person to have used. He and I have indeed spent numerous hours debating on this issue, some times heated, however my demeanor towards him never changed. I still came over, I still played music with him, and I even threw back a beer with him on occasion too. Heck, during the holidays I even brought by some mead I made or brought him to a barbecue or two during the summer. As the months rolled by, I noticed a change in him. He was not as combative and occasionally when I’d come to his house to play music there would be other people there too. People who I mentioned this to called me crazy and dismissed my friend. They even said what I was doing wouldn’t work.
Fast forward to present time and sitting out on the patio with him I noticed that flag wasn’t there anymore. I asked him what happened to it and his response to me was that because of my help he had a “Derek Vinyard (American History X) moment.” He later said that since he moved away from the Aryan Nation to where he is now, I was one of a few people that was still friendly towards him, that still gave him the time of day. Whereas other people offered him nothing but spite or even vandalized his property, I did the complete opposite. As it stands now (and as a result), he has a fiancee, his family now visits, more people from the neighborhood come over to interact, etc. Through this path, other individuals wanted to be a part of his life where they didn’t before. This is a man who went from denouncing others due to their ethnicity, gender, and sexual preference to now being more open and welcoming to them.
Are you, the reader, beginning to see the point? When someone comes across a bigot, it is usually natural for that experience to rouse certain emotions of bitterness in you toward that person, even hatred. In certain cases, it causes impulses and somewhat keen jerk reactions. Many eschew interacting normally with individuals who hold these views and lash out with ridicule and malice. Some even use passive aggressive means by attempting to make the person uncomfortable. Sure, they can work but are these ways the only way? They certainly are an effective tactic in silencing hateful opinions, and I won’t say they should never be used; but I definitely wouldn’t use these methods as my first choice, and I would argue that it can be unhealthy or do more harm than good. What is fairly unique about my encounter with this individual is that I did not use hate to combat his hatred. I still treated him like an individual, despite my grievances. To be clear, I hate bigotry. As a matter of fact, I go as far as saying that bigotry is bullying and that discriminating on the basis of race, gender, or sexual preference is the same to me as doing so for someone being poor, wearing glasses, and so on… thus, I hate bullying. What I hate more than bullying though is hate altogether.
Ron Paul spoke of us being able to achieve more with peace than we ever could with war, so why does this not apply on an individual basis for even something as bigotry? We all know the saying about attracting more flies with honey than with vinegar. Why is this so different? I could have lashed out at this man. I could have joined the countless number of individuals who fought his intolerance with intolerance of my own. I chose peace, not war. Again, ostracism has its place, and not every person’s mind can be persuaded the way I did with his, but as libertarians we should never accept a unilateral path for changing minds, combating things that we are against, or bringing about positive change. It is actually quite contradictory that an alleged proponent of the free market would be so keen on attempting to dictate how an entire movement should interact with others. One of the core concepts of liberty is to allow for maximum innovation from as many actors as possible, to allow each individual to decide how they will spread freedom and promote ideas in the world. Niches are everywhere to be filled, so it is counter-productive to mandate a one-size-fits-all solution, which many do when they insist on using ostracism or a combative method.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I sometimes think even us libertarians forget this. That is, the key is to not have race, class, or gender be a part of one’s core identity. If I chose to break it down, I would say I am a “cis” half-Colombian, I was born in a lower income house, and I am a child of divorce- yet I don’t identify as any of those things. I identify as an individual who happens to have certain traits that are comparable to those of some and differ from those of others. What I look like or where I come from matter no more to me (less, as a matter of fact) than the fact that I enjoy listening to Pink Floyd. Once the state is gone, bigotry naturally diminishes. There will be little need to pursue the end of bigotry if there will be no power behind it. It will naturally dissipate because it is fruitless without force.
Many individuals oppose these means I have decided upon. This applies to libertarians, too. Libertarianism is a political philosophy. Even if it’s a moral philosophy about nonaggression, that’s still irrelevant to bigotry except to say you don’t get to beat me up for being a bigot or for being a member of a certain social group. As a result of my views written here, some libertarians may accuse me of rubbing shoulders with bigots, being an apologist, and so on merely because I take an uncompromising stance on defending the rights of all individuals regardless of their beliefs or social preferences. Some go so far as to suggest that to be a good libertarian I have to conscientiously bash “bigoted” individuals, while others will denounce me as not a libertarian at all if I don’t want to expel them from society. While I don’t want to create a divide here, I will quickly state that I find this attitude is every bit as unbecoming of any self-proclaimed libertarian, and harmful to spreading libertarian idealism, as bigoted thinking or bigoted speech is. I don’t want hatred around me, so I can sympathize with some of their animosity, yet how can you persuade someone to be tolerant with intolerance and expect anything but intolerance and hatred in return?
In conclusion, hatred is indeed a powerful emotion, but it’s important to channel it into a positive effort in order to show the beauty of a new idea to someone. As kids, we are taught not to hit or steal. Later, some people forget this lesson and steal directly or even use a third party to do so, such as those who advocate for the State. However, these vices were taught and learned, and just like bigotry, they can be unlearned. Consider the market and government. Many reading this now hate the government, rightfully so. Yet, it is difficult to persuade someone who loves the state to love the market instead when you show nothing but hate to them. Just like it is difficult to show someone the beauty of culture with use of your own variety of bigotry. I don’t suggest that we all must do it this way, not at all. While hatred is a dominant force, and ostracism has its place, we can and should try to channel that energy to show these individuals the allure of the market; the nexus of exchanges by humans with rational thoughts about means and ends. Likewise, we should apply this virtue to promoting our ideas about culture. So, when anyone asks how bigotry can be handled in a free society, I want to be able to tell them and encourage them that despite disagreeing with these positions, it can be dealt with the same way libertarians deal with any other issue: through peaceful interactions.
“Hatred is my muse,” said Rothbard. Indeed. It was definitely mine.