The things we believe in

(Title is a song by Orden Ogan, a great band that doesn’t get nearly enough love even in metal circles.)

In another timeline, this was the day I proposed. No, really. A few months ago, when I was still riding the high of getting a job, I let myself believe that. I planned for it. Today would be the day I drove 100 miles to the home of my beloved, got down on one knee, and asked her to be mine forever.

In this timeline, things went a little differently. I haven’t talked to her in over a month, and the reason is quite simple: I don’t feel deserving. Of her, of a relationship, of happiness itself. I haven’t for a long time, but the past few weeks have made that feeling (or lack of feeling, I suppose) grow by leaps and bounds.

I don’t believe in myself. That’s just a fact. Not only do I not, but I can only question those who do. Why? What have I done that would give you the impression that I’m worthy of that? Why would you think I have an upside? Because I certainly don’t see one.

The question I’ve been reflecting on lately, then, is a natural extension. Since I don’t believe in my own abilities or worth, what do I believe in?

I’m not a religious man. I think I’ve stated that often enough. I grew up in a very evangelical family, and that experience turned me off organized religion, although I still subscribe to a kind of “cultural Christianity”, as it is known. Growing up as an inquisitive, rational thinker, I studied faiths of various sorts, looking for the inspiration so many have claimed to find. What I’ve determined is that the metaphysical is not something that can be studied. It can’t be explained by reason or scientific methods, only personal revelation. As I’ve never had any of those, I consider myself an agnostic in the literal sense of the word: one who does not know.

I also call myself a humanist (in that same literal sense) because I truly have faith in humanity as a whole, in progress and the ability for us to overcome obstacles set by the environment or our fellow human beings. The past two years have shaken that faith to its very core, as I have seen more than half the population of this country, including some of my closest friends and relatives, abandon the notion of cooperation and the Enlightenment ideals I hold dear, replacing them with divisive hatred and prejudice. I continue to believe that we can be better if we all work together toward the common goals of liberty, equality, and prosperity. I am fast becoming a believer in the idea that we unfortunately won’t get to that point without a lot of bloodshed.

I strongly believe that knowledge is power. Learning opens doors. Hiding information harms us all. My brother and I often argue over that tired old thought experiment: What if we discovered aliens? Should the discoverers keep that a secret? He says yes, that the potential for mass panic is too great. I counter by arguing that the knowledge itself is worth it, that the benefits of understanding that we are not alone in the universe outweigh any possible negatives. Ignorance, in my opinion, is not bliss. It is a prison.

I wholeheartedly believe in the necessity and indivisibility of the family. I come from a broken home, and I long ago vowed never to create one of my own. Today, even this has become political, as the very idea of the family unit is under attack, so I must side with the political movement that supports healthy families over single mothers with a string of divorces, or hormone replacements, or eugenic sterilization. If that makes you think of me a bad person, so be it. I admit that some of my allies on this issue hold views I find repugnant. Politics, after all, makes strange bedfellows.

The last point I want to make here is related, and it is, in a sense, the belief I hold most dear. While I don’t believe in any divine purpose to human life (see above for my reasoning), I absolutely believe that we are born with one natural purpose above all: reproduction. Our first goal, as per Darwinian evolution, is the survival of the species and our genetic lineage. If we do that, we are successful biological organisms. If we don’t, we’ve failed. It’s that simple.

Maybe it’s too reductionist, but it does have its advantages. Cries of overpopulation have no effect on me, because I know that this planet is nowhere near its carrying capacity, and progress can only increase that limit. I see through the transparent attempts at population control via the “climate crisis”, the “pandemic”, and other nonsensical notions. Anti-family propaganda merely makes the belief more entrenched.

Belief is nothing unless you act on it, unless you are willing to accept its consequences. Thus, I must accept the logical conclusions to which my beliefs lead. I will not sign an NDA or attempt to gain a security clearance, because I believe knowledge should be available to all, not hidden away for only the eyes of the supposed elite. I will not do contract work for a public school that teaches the harmful ideology of critical race theory. While I support the legality of abortion, I would not consent to it in the case of a woman I impregnated unless she was in mortal danger. I would not accept or pursue a no-fault divorce, especially if children were involved. Finally, if I ever reach the point of knowing with absolute certainty that I am no longer able to fulfill my most natural purpose of fathering a child, I will commit to take steps to ensure I am not a drain on humanity’s collective resources—if absolutely necessary, that would include preparing to end my life by whatever means are available.

The ultimate expression of one’s beliefs is the willingness to die in service of them. Martyrs, crusaders, war heroes, and ideologues the world over have done it for lesser causes. Maybe I’m not yet ready to go that far, but I have been thinking about it. I have been wondering what, if anything, is worth risking my life. Freedom, certainly. Knowledge, most likely. But what else? What else do I consider that valuable?

All that was

(Title is a song by Ayreon that is more than just amazing: it actually fits my mood perfectly.)

It’s hard to think, harder still to act. Lately, the pressure has just been growing and growing, and it doesn’t seem like there’s any end in sight. I’ve come to the conclusion that the end of my journey is looming in the distance, coming ever closer with each passing day.

On some of those days, I’d almost welcome it. That’s how bad things are getting for me.

This isn’t only about depression. It’s not merely a reaction to the violations of human rights I, like billions around the world, have suffered in the past year and a half. No, this is a combination, a culmination, an amalgamation of everything that has happened in my nearly 38 years of life.

We are the product of our experiences. In my case, I’m the product of a world that never cared to care, and that world has worn me down. It has eroded my spirit almost to nothing, washed away my hopes and dreams in a torrent of tears, and drowned all but the strongest emotions. I’m not angry at the world anymore, because it’s nearly impossible for me to feel anger at this point. Instead, there’s just a numbness, an emptiness where such feelings used to be. So it goes for joy, desire, and self-worth, as well. I feel as if I’m nothing, but only because everything that makes me, well, me has been taken away.

I wanted to make the world a better place. To leave it in better shape than I found it, as the saying goes. Over the past few decades, I’ve had innumerable ideas on how best to do that, but the last few years have seen them coalesce around a few pillars.

One is my writing, whether fiction, opinion, or fact. I’ve written over 60 completed stories and worked on 2 nonfiction books, including one that has reached a finished draft. I’d like to do more, because there are still a lot of ideas I’ve never had time to get around to writing. I just don’t feel I’ll ever have time. (Honestly, that would be the case if I knew I would live forever. Such is the life of a dreamer.)

Second on the list is, for lack of a better term, making. I mean this in the “maker culture” sense of creating, DIY, and so on. I have a 3D printer, for example, and a CNC router has been on my wishlist for a year or more. Making things interests me, and I’ve constantly looked for ways to use that interest as a positive force. That has taken me to a lot of different places, researching things like post-apocalyptic prepping or sustainable architecture. Not because I believe in the necessity of such things, but because they overlap with an interest. So they clearly have some purpose, right?

Closely related to this is the software angle. Specifically, I’m a big proponent of decentralization on the internet. I support the so-called Indie Web, the fediverse, and various retro-style applications and protocols such as Gemini. These are things that will help the world, if only they can gain traction. Resistance to censorship is vital today, as anyone who has ever dared to express an unpopular opinion on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube can attest. Technologies like cryptocurrency are also sorely needed; that’s another road I wish I’d had time to explore.

All of it, however, comes back to one simple thing: freedom. I believe in freedom, in the inalienable human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness expressed in the founding documents of our nation and the Enlightenment from whence they came. No one should control my life but me. That’s my firm opinion, and it’s the closest thing to dogma you’ll ever hear out of me. The vast majority of my depression, I’ve found, comes from the knowledge that I have essentially zero control over my life. And we have a term for people who have no control over their lives: we call them slaves.

Every single one of my goals, then, boils down to emancipation. Liberation for myself, liberation for others. Freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of religion. The power to speak one’s mind without fear of censorship, whether government or corporate. The ability to defend oneself, including defending ourselves from our elected officials, if necessary. Autonomy of body, mind, and spirit. Freedom of association, to choose those people we would prefer to align ourselves with.

Having no power over my own life, I cannot begin to tackle the larger issue of giving others that same power. I’ve tried. I do what I can, but it just isn’t enough. One man can’t take on a million.

In such dire straits, some turn to faith, but that’s another thing I can’t do. Faith is anathema to me, whether it’s a traditional religion or the new cult of scientism. I have to know. Or, if I can’t know, then I have to know that something is knowable. To do otherwise, in my opinion, is trading one set of chains for another.

No, I really don’t have an easy out. I’m caught, imprisoned, stuck in a place I can’t escape. And it’s my nature to be an escapist. Thus, every waking moment is painful. I can’t be who I am, who I want to be, who I was meant to be. That’s the kind of denial that hurts on every level, and it has taken from me until I now have nothing left to give. It seems that all I have left to hope for is to go out in a blaze of glory, with a bang instead of a whimper.

Defense mechanism

The pithy, meme-like definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result. By that standard, I am completely, certifiably insane.

I do the same things, fall into the same patterns, again and again. My days all seem to blur into one, the only breaks in the monotony coming when disaster strikes, such as the death of my cousin in July. Everything in my life feels to me like a downward spiral, as if I’m swirling around a cosmic toilet bowl, and some part of me sees that analogy as all too accurate.

All that should be fairly obvious to anyone who has read some of my earlier posts on PPC. Nothing new, really, except that I think I’ve finally reached the point of acceptance. If the path to becoming a better man, to reaching the kind of life goals I want from myself, requires battling my own inner demons, an apathetic family, and a hostile world at every turn, then I have to stop and ask, “Is it even worth the cost?”

History lesson

World War I is now over a century in the past, but we still remember it today. Four years of bloodshed, devastation, and misery inflicted on the entirety of humanity for the trivialities of a fading noble class. Millions of lives lost, countless others left permanently damaged in body, mind, or spirit. The entire world left upside down.

Some people see their lives as metaphorical warfare, and I often wonder which wars they’re talking about. The movie kind, almost certainly, the stylized tales of individual heroism. They see themselves as protagonists, as the lone wolf fighting off waves of Nazis, Communists, Taliban, or whoever their preferred enemy might be. In their lives, the bullets fly, but they never find their mark. Wounds are patched up off-screen, and the mental trauma is swept under the rug.

Not so for me. I feel more like an infantryman of WWI: nameless, faceless, with little hope for survival. I’m stuck in a trench, never truly gaining ground except to give it right back. Monotony and drudgery are enemies as great as the ones sniping at me, and harder to defend against.

Even the best soldier gets worn down eventually. Even the strongest man cracks under the constant pressure. I was never the best, never the strongest, so I sometimes wonder how I’ve held on this long. And sometimes I wonder if I have, or if I’ve already been broken beyond repair.

I consider myself at war in more than the metaphorical sense, however. As I see it, this whole country—no, this whole world is at war. It’s mostly a cold war at this point, this battle of good versus evil, liberty versus tyranny. We see occasional flickering flames, such as the present rioting in Australia and ongoing protests in France, but most of the war is being waged in the hearts and minds of our fellow man. We’re just waiting for our Fort Sumter, our Lexington and Concord, our Pearl Harbor or Franz Ferdinand or Dien Bien Phu. The moment in which our enemy, in this case the enemy of all that is good and just in this world, finally makes that fatal mistake and turns a cold war into a shooting conflict.

Last stand

But being a soldier is hard work, remember. We in America have been in a constant state of war for twenty years running, but the last few have seen that war turned against the common people, and the past eighteen months have seen the good guys take loss after loss on the psychological battlefield.

Early research into what has, at various points in history, been called combat fatigue, shell shock, and post-traumatic stress disorder gave a good upper bound for the time a battle-ready soldier could expect to be deployed in active combat before suffering a mental breakdown. That time works out to around 280 days; curiously, about the same amount of time as a pregnancy.

We’ve been under siege for twice that, and the numbers show that we’re all starting to break at a frantic pace. Depression is skyrocketing. The same goes for anxiety. General feelings of malaise, despair, hopelessness, and similar negative emotions are so common that it’s getting almost impossible to find someone who isn’t seeing the worst in each passing day.

I have all of the above and more. I used to look at each day wondering what I could do, what I could make, and how I could make a difference. Now, though, I greet each morning with a sigh and a vain hope that it won’t get any worse. I can’t blame all of that on external factors, of course. Some of it comes from my own problems, problems that were exacerbated, not created, by current events.

Placing blame really misses the point. What’s more important is that I’m broken, I know I’m broken, and I accept that putting myself back together is beyond me. I’m a casualty of this war, make no mistake.

If I have to go down, let me go down swinging. That’s all I feel I can ask now. I doubt I’ll ever have children—another hope dashed in the past year and a half—so there aren’t a lot of reasons to keep fighting. What fight I have left, then, is in the defense of the ideals I hold most dear: liberty and justice for all, equal opportunity, the rights each of us has from birth. For the sake of those I love, I’ll fight in the name of those ideals as long as I can. Even if I can’t live in a world free from the evils of tyranny, maybe I can help make it so they can. It’s a small chance, but it’s all I’ve got, so I’ll keep on fighting for it until the bitter end.

I just can’t help but think that end is coming sooner than I ever expected.

No more heroes

(Not a song this time, but a game. A game I’ve never played, in fact.)

The world is a very dark place now. I don’t even mean that from the context of my severe depression. No, anyone can see that humanity as a whole is being forced into a period of fear, repression, and regression. A new Dark Age. Like the old one, this one has a religion at the helm, a cabal of priest-like figures issuing dogma and demanding that we bend our lives, our minds, and our wills to it.

This time, however, that religion isn’t Christianity, but something far worse: Scientism. The perversion of science in the past decade has, as we all know, reached its peak. The falsified data regarding the coronavirus that was released from the Wuhan lab led to the global spread of authoritarianism under the guise of a so-called pandemic that we now know is less deadly than the flu we deal with every year. The same forces are using the same sort of faulty data to push a “cure” that is quite literally deadlier than the disease. Those facts are indisputable by anyone who has taken a critical look at them.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, the apex of Scientism’s anti-science crusade. While they make a mockery of biology by discarding decades of groundbreaking discoveries, other fields are finding the same fate. Climatology is one of the biggest strongholds of the cult, as findings are routinely discarded or modified to fit the doctrine of global warming. Statistics has suffered, too, with techniques and equations being derided for no other reason than because they were used to illustrate the blatant fraud in the 2020 election. Genetics is in the process of being replaced by gender theory. Math is called racist because its results are objective facts.

This infiltration extends to the soft sciences, too, though it is harder to show what came from Scientism versus what was already present. Psychology isn’t much more than arguing about various shades of “dysphoria” now, but is that a passing fad or a sea change? The push for historical diversity even where there was none can be seen as wokeness or the usual tearing down of work done by the generation before.

Thanks to a complicit media, every part of our lives is currently under the sway of Scientism. In my view, this is exactly like the control of the Church during the Dark Ages, but with one glaring exception. At least Rome provided some benefits to devout Christians. The modern dogma offers only suffering, never redemption.

Heroes arise

It’s a trope older than movies, older even than books. When the darkness is at its fullest, that’s when the stars come out. That’s when the heroes show their faces. At that moment when all seems lost—modern screenwriters literally call it the “All Is Lost” moment—the good guys reveal themselves, or simply reveal their true power.

Since that trope, like so much else in the shared culture that is the West, has been co-opted by the same media whose purpose is to beat us down, the real heroes aren’t often seen. Indeed, we’re supposed to think they don’t exist, and instead give our praise to mediocre athletes, mediocre musicians ,and the occasional random drug addict turned counterfeiter. We aren’t even allowed to look to heroes of old, because all of them have been demonized, excommunicated by the cult of Scientism for the sin of living under a different moral code.

The media’s idea of heroes is like it’s idea of everything else: bland, uninspiring, and designed to appeal to no one while pretending to appeal to everyone. And that almost has to be deliberate. If we have no one to look up to except flawed characters who never truly prevail against the evils in their world, would we not begin to think that such evil in our world is inevitable?

Worse yet, the few actual heroes still around are vilified for taking a stand, because that stand is against the reigning cult. People like Mike Lindell and Jovan Pulitzer, Glenn Greenwald and Alex Berenson, Kyle Rittenhouse and Ashli Babbitt. Groups such as America’s Frontline Doctors. These are the closest thing we have to heroes, because they stand against tyranny. They stand for freedom and the future of humanity. They are willing to put their careers, their reputations, and their lives on the line for what they believe.

Not everyone can afford to take that kind of stand. We’ve become too integrated, too reliant on the very system we need to bring down. But tyrants always fall in the end, and the tide is slowly turning against those of the present day.

Protests in Denmark have succeeded in reversing the draconian restrictions of that country. Those in France are less effective, but attrition is starting to have an effect. The truckers’ strike in Australia, getting precisely zero mainstream media coverage here in the US, has enormous popular support.

Those are big news. They involve the fate of entire countries, entire cultures. One might think that, of the nearly eight billion people in the world, how can one man or woman do anything? But this neglects the local impact, which is no less important. Petty tyrants in your city, county, and state can also be defeated through the same means. Look at how many vaccine mandates had to be dropped at the last minute, as hospitals couldn’t deal with an immediate 20-30% reduction in staff. (I don’t see how, as they’re all pretty much empty, but there you go.) School boards everywhere are backing down as angry parents challenge mandatory mask-wearing for children who were never in any danger to begin with.

It’s a long struggle, but then the fight for freedom is eternal, and it must be waged anew by each generation. In the end, we as a nation and a species will emerge victorious. To do that, however, we need heroes. We need everyday heroes. The father taking his child to school without a mask. The woman willing to be fired rather than injected. The doctor who writes prescriptions for ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine…and the pharmacist who fills them. The researcher risking his career to point out that temperatures were higher in the 1930s. The geneticist who states that X and Y chromosomes do, in fact, exist. The historian who dares to tell the truth about America: that we are a nation found upon the ideals of liberty and justice for all.

And the time may soon come when we are called to defend those ideals in a more physical, more lethal manner. In that case, we’ll need the other kind of heroes, the same kind that our children are being taught to hate today: Washington, Patton, Lee, and all the great leaders from the bloodier times of our past.

When a true believer in his cause assassinated a prominent leader who had forcibly taken his people’s property, denied them the basic rights of law, and waged a brutal war solely because those people wanted to be left alone, he uttered three simple words: Sic semper tyrannis.

Thus always to tyrants.

Human pride

June, as everyone not living under a rock knows, is Pride Month. It’s that special time of year when corporations across the country dress up their logos with the rainbow flag that gains colors faster than a box of crayons and spread vague, virtue-signaling one-liners about how they stand with certain people against hatred. Oh, and there used to be marches and stuff, but then Valentine’s Day used to be a Catholic saint’s day, too.

The original purpose of Pride Month wasn’t that bad…at least in theory. As a social movement to increase awareness of alternative lifestyles and relationships, it served a purpose. Of course, since the Oberfeller decision a few years ago, that purpose is now superfluous. Gay marriage is legal across the nation, the ultimate expression of acceptance. And that case also set a precedent: sexual orientation is considered a protected legal category under the 14th Amendment, so the entire “gay rights” agenda has been fulfilled. Equality is here. There’s no need to fight for it any longer.

Thus bereft of a goal, Pride Month has been left to a rather confusing pair. Commercialization is the fate of all holidays, really, so it’s only natural that a month-long celebration of once-forbidden love would find itself in the corporate crosshairs. But the movement was always geared towards the political left, so we now see the curious juxtaposition of anti-capitalist progressives on June 1 “standing with” the very global corporations they were threatening to boycott on May 31.

Both sets share the same desire, however, so it’s not entirely unreasonable to see this temporary alliance of convenience. For these groups seek to divide us for their own gain. Progressives thrive on conflict, as we know; their whole worldview is based on class warfare, on setting us against each other. Corporations, of course, are only out for short-term gains, but those most immersed in the “pride” culture tend to be the ones with captive markets and virtual monopolies. They can’t very well lose market share, but a few tweets can reach the small segment of the populace who would otherwise ignore them, and that’s just modern PR.

But using this month as a reason to incite further divisions in society or, worse, to cast those who are tired of the force-fed propaganda as hateful and loathsome, is a tragic miscarriage of justice, to say the least. Much like Black History Month, what was once a celebration has become an inquisition. It’s anti-human. It’s anti-equality. It is, to put it simply, a perversion of everything the various equal rights movements were founded upon.

Instead of worshiping what sets us apart, we should begin to embrace what we have in common. We should take pride in being human, because all of us share that. Whatever you believe, whatever you look like, whatever attracts you, you are human. You are one of billions, yet still unique in many ways.

Not only are you human, but so are other people. Everyone you love, everyone you know, is a human being, just like you and me. In a world where dark forces seek to dehumanize us at every turn, to fit the entire population into a number of mutually-exclusive categories solely to set us against one another, it’s important to remember that we are better than that. We can do better.

Within the last decade, we proved that by ending a restriction, a limitation of rights defined as inalienable, that had been in place for over 200 years. None of us is lesser because of who we love, and that statement is now the law of the land. True, we may not always live up to the ideals we express, but that is no reason to reject them. No, we must do better. We must strive to reach them, while knowing we will never quite attain the perfection and utopia we long for.

We are human. Our reach will always exceed our grasp, but that should not dissuade us. The pride we should celebrate is not that which separates us, and certainly not the idea that some of us deserve more because of who we are. No, our pride is in the knowledge that humanity can grow, that each and every one of us can contribute to that growth if we all work together.

Progress doesn’t care if you’re gay or straight, if you’re black or white, if you’re male or female. All that matters is being human. The only entry card to the clique of progress is your humanity. As corporations aren’t people, they’ll never understand that. As progressives stand against unity, they will always fight it. But we know the truth.

In this month and every month to come, be proud. Be human.

Dear agony

(Title for this post is from the Breaking Benjamin song of the same name, whose refrain you’ll see as soon as I finish this parenthetical.)

Dear agony,
Just let go of me
Suffer slowly
Is this the way it’s gotta be?

The simple answer to your question, Ben, is…no. No, it doesn’t have to be that way. But only if something good happens to give you a little bit of hope.

Over the past few weeks, it has.

For fifteen long months, I had suffered. I had all but given up. I’m not afraid to admit that. There were nights that I cried myself to sleep, days where I would hide in my room, not wanting to do anything but sleep. And if that sleep turned into the more permanent sort, well, I wouldn’t have been opposed. At least then the pain would stop, right?

Now, I honestly feel like a whole new person. While I’m sure a certain man in northern Virginia wouldn’t mind taking all the credit for that, it wasn’t just the job that gave me hope. No, landing that position merely gave me the spark. As I’ve said often, if I could get just one good thing to happen to me, all the rest would fall in line. And it might be doing precisely that.

The world still sucks, as we all know, but things are getting a little better. The ranks of those who question the narrative are growing, and they have grown large enough in my humble state to start putting the brakes on our slow decline into tyranny. Better would be throwing this train into reverse and getting us back to liberty: banning mask mandates, banning vaccine passports, opening schools and bars and sporting events. In short, living our lives, instead of cowering in fear. But any progress is good, even if it’s so slow that snails are outrunning us.

That is one belief I hold dear. Progress is good. Progress has given us immeasurable benefits, and it will continue to do so as long as we embrace it. Not everything new is progress, however. Anyone who has grumbled over an app update or yelled at a voice menu knows that all too well.

True progress is that which improves the human condition: longer lives, healthier lives, more freedom, more resistance to the ravages of nature, and so on. Unfortunately, it’s so often the case that we are told these things are bad. We’re defying the will of God or poisoning Mother Earth or whatever.

The worst of this sort of thinking became popular last year, when elites and their hangers-on parroted the line, “Nature is healing.” In effect—and, in some cases, in words—these people made the claim that we humans are a pathogen, and the made-in-China coronavirus was, in fact, a natural response to our overreach in some nebulous way. Of course, the same people say the same things about weather disasters, so you can’t take them seriously, but the sheer idiocy of such a statement never fails to annoy me.

My contemplations of the past year or so gave rise to technetism, but this anti-human religion gives it an enemy. And I feel it gives me a higher purpose, something beyond writing novels and computer programs. Common sense dictates that I reject the nihilism and doom-saying of the environmentalists, the pandemic fearmongers, and all those who stand in the way of progress.

However, a negative philosophy is no philosophy at all; this is my biggest criticism of atheism, and it fits here, too. It is perfectly fine to say that you don’t believe in something, but far more fulfilling if you can find something you do believe in. If you have to make it yourself, then so be it. Every movement began somewhere.

I choose to believe that humans are an inherently positive influence on the world, and on each other. We build, we create, we invent. We solve problems. We come together and make something greater. Yes, there are individuals (and large groups) standing in our way, blocking our progress. Impediments have always existed, though. They’ll never truly go away. What we can, and must, do is overcome them. The best way to start, in my opinion, is to be more sociable. Shake hands, hug, get close to one another again. Take off the masks and let people see that we are human beings.

There’s still a lot of agony out there. For me, it hasn’t all gone away over the past few weeks. But now I have enough positive influences in my life to see the sun peeking through the clouds. Now I have a reason to fight that extends beyond myself and those I love.

Maybe that’s all I needed.

May it be

(Yes, it’s a pun. You’ll just have to get over it.)

At the start of April, I felt I had nothing and I was going nowhere. It’s just that simple. A long time ago, I decided I wouldn’t sugarcoat things here, so I told the truth as I saw it: I began last month aimless and, to put it simply, hopeless.

Since then, things have taken a turn for the better. I have a job as a full-stack developer—basically what I was already doing, but with the added bonus that I’ll be paid for it now. My relationship with the woman I love is slowly but surely picking back up, and I believe it’ll soon reach new heights.

Best of all, Hamilton County at last rescinded its illegal mask mandate a few days ago. Now that this human rights violation is gone (a year too late, if you ask me), I can actually go inside again. I mean, I could before, but only if I went up to Dayton, which doesn’t have nearly the commercial variety of Chattanooga. Now, though, we have finally been allowed to regain one of the vital freedoms, the inalienable rights, we lost last year.

We still lack others guaranteed by the Constitution. Freedom of speech is useless if you’re blocked from using it at every turn, as anyone who criticizes the regime on Facebook or Twitter (or who tries to start an alternative) will quickly discover. Freedom of religion and assembly both normally require being in proximity to other people; Zoom calls just don’t cut it. The right to privacy (enumerated, in part, by the Fourth Amendment) has been in mortal danger for two decades, no matter which party claims to be in power.

To be sure, other places have it worse. Most other English-speaking countries are effectively country-sized prisons at this point: Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are the most notable. The Pacific states get to suffer both lockdowns and riots. Compared to the sheer horror of other places, rural Tennessee really isn’t that bad.

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot more philosophical. I attribute this to my precarious mental state, my disdain for the way things are, and maybe even the first wisps of middle age, a phase of my life I’m approaching far too quickly.

I won’t say I’ve become religious, because I still find most forms of organized religion to be far too controlling and irrational for my tastes. If I wanted that, I’d turn on CNN, not TBN. But I, with a little help from those closest to me, have been discovering a kind of spiritual side of myself that was buried deep within.

(One of the few perks of getting older is that you get to use a few certain phrases to start sentences. Here’s one of them.) For decades, I’ve wanted to make an impact on the world, a change in the way things are that bring them closer to how I feel they should be. I don’t believe I’ll ever be the kind of thinker who deserves to be named alongside Thomas Paine, John Locke, or Baruch Spinoza, three of my favorite Enlightenment-era voices, but I do feel I have something to contribute in that vein.

I’m calling it technetism: literally, belief in creation. Because that is what I believe in. Creation over destruction. If I’ve learned anything from the depths of the past year, it’s that. What I value most strongly as a person, as a human being, is the positive power of making something. Whether that’s a computer program, a garden, a baby, a house, a scientific discovery, or a new social order, as long as you’re creating something, you’re adding to humanity as a whole. If you only destroy, by contrast, you’re taking away from all of us.

Creation, then, is the central pillar, but not the only one. It’s flanked by two others that, to me, also represent fundamental aspects of being human: learning and exploration. Without knowledge, we can’t make the right decisions; learning is the way we acquire that knowledge. Exploration lets us grow our worlds and add to our experiences, ultimately with the goal of sharing them through creation, even if that creation is merely the making of a new friendship or a lifelong relationship with, say, a soulmate living 100 miles away.

All three of these qualities are sorely lacking today. Too many people are seemingly against the whole idea of learning, closing their eyes and their minds to anything but the propaganda doled out by their favorite news outlet. Exploration is actively discouraged from childhood, and actually illegal in many places at the moment, because our society has chosen the wrong path in prioritizing safety above all else. And finally, we have all seen the sheer destruction that has wracked our country since last May.

Someone has to stand for what is good in this world. It might as well be me. I’m a man of principle, and I will stand up for what I believe is right. I will speak out against the evils I see in society, and those bent on destroying it. I do this not to make enemies, but to remind you that we can all be friends.

We have more in common than we realize, because we are all human. Deep down, we all have that spark of creation within our hearts. It doesn’t matter if you think it came from God or evolution or whatever. It doesn’t matter if that heart is inside a white body or a black one, a male or female. We are creators. We are explorers.

I, for one, am going to act like it.

Year of hell

(The title isn’t from a song this time. Instead, this very appropriate name comes from my favorite episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the most underrated of the Trek series.)

One year ago, I was free. One year ago, I had hopes and dreams. I believed I had a chance to succeed, to achieve some of the life goals I’ve had for decades. I lived in a country where this was possible, if unlikely for one such as myself. I was depressed, yes, but I felt like I could see the light, that I could reach it, if only I tried hard enough.

A lot can change in a year.

Now, I live in a dystopian nightmare. I haven’t been inside a business in a full year, apart from five seconds inside the America’s Best store in Hixson last May. I went in to get my new glasses. I’d gotten the prescription in February, but then I had to find the money to pay for them. By the time I finally managed that, the whole world shut down, with the notable bastions of intelligence in Sweden and South Dakota. So I couldn’t actually pick up my order until businesses were “allowed” to reopen.

But it wasn’t that simple. As soon as I walked inside, the cashiers demanded a temperature check, so I walked right back out. My mom, who took me down there (can’t drive without glasses, remember), is less allergic to authoritarianism, so she submitted to the illegal medical exam long enough to retrieve what I had already paid for.

Since then, I’ve mostly stayed at home. And that’s most certainly not because I believe that’s the best way to combat a virus.

No, lockdowns don’t work. We have proof of that. You only need to look at the places that didn’t imprison their entire citizenry for months on end to see the real numbers. Similarly, masks don’t work. That’s why I haven’t worn one since December 2019, when I thought I had the flu. (As it turns out, I had the Wuhan coronavirus. You know how I know? Because it was listed as the flu and an “unknown pathogen” on my release papers.) As I haven’t been sick—in the physical sense, as I know I’m seriously mentally ill—since, I’ve seen no reason to restrain my breathing, trigger my anxiety, and curtail my liberty in that manner.

Well, you might think, what about the vaccine? Uh-uh. First off, it’s not a vaccine, because the purpose of a vaccine is to provide immunity to a virus by stimulating the body’s immune system. The Moderna and Pfizer mRNA treatments don’t do this. They don’t prevent you from contracting the Wuhan virus. They don’t prevent you from spreading it to others. They barely alleviate the symptoms. What they actually do is even worse. Ask Hank Aaron. Ask the nurse from Chattanooga who passed out on live TV. Ask the women who’ve had miscarriages, the perfectly healthy men in their 30s who have suffered serious injury or even death.

The virus has an overall fatality rate of around 0.02%, and essentially no reinfection. (Wait, 0.02%? Don’t the official numbers say 0.26%? Yes, but those are heavily inflated. Per the CDC’s own report, only about 6% of deaths can be traced to the virus itself. The rest are due to comorbidities: preexisting conditions such as obesity, heart problems, kidney failure, etc. Since comorbidities aren’t counted for vaccine deaths, we need to compare apples to apples.)

The mRNA “vaccines” cause serious harm in about 5% of cases, and death in as many as 0.4%. We don’t know the exact figures, because they rely on voluntary reporting, and no one wants to point out that Emperor Fauci has no clothes. However you look at the data, though, it doesn’t lie. On the whole, getting the virus is actually safer than getting its supposed cure!

And that’s merely one more truth the world has decided to deny in the past year. But there are many more.

  • Lockdowns are ineffective. They achieve nothing in terms of slowing the spread of an illness, unless you go to the extremes of a certain communist dictatorship and weld people’s doors shut so they can’t go outside. As sane countries are supposed to respect things like basic human rights and dignity, citizens will go outside. And they should, because the fastest way to end a pandemic is to reach herd immunity.

  • The Chinese virus isn’t even a pandemic. Take away the overinflated death counts, where suicides, overdoses, car accidents, and murders are attributed to a virus simply because the victim tested positive in a flawed procedure three weeks before the time of death, and it never reached the CDC’s defined threshold of pandemic status. That’s when approximately 5% of all deaths are caused by the pathogen in question; only by counting every death under the sun were we able to hit that mark even at the peak last April.

  • The makers of the “vaccines” have ulterior motives. Notice that they are indemnified against all liability, and they’ve received billions of taxpayer dollars. These treatments have bypassed the normal FDA requirements, and why? The virus isn’t another Spanish flu. It’s not smallpox or polio. It has killed fewer people than tuberculosis in the past year.

  • People are suffering. The single-minded focus on this particular virus has caused irreparable harm to our society and our populace. Suicides are at an all-time high. Childhood trauma is rampant. Depression and anxiety, as I know all too well, can make plenty of people wish they were dead, or at least not living through this.

  • The media is not on our side. For twelve months, they have parroted the talking points of a specific segment of the political spectrum. Andrew Cuomo was a hero when he sent infected patients to nursing homes a year ago, killing thousands of elderly men and women. The governors of California, Washington, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and many other states have acted in a way more appropriate to the old Soviet Union, if not the feudal era. And not only have journalists not called out these gross abuses of power, but they have lauded them every step of the way.

Twelve months ago, even expressing these ideas was heresy of the highest order. You were instantly branded a denier, a skeptic, an alt-right fascist terrorist. You were called racist, sexist, or any number of other hateful epithets.

Now? Oh, it’s even worse. But some people are waking up. There’s a strong anti-mask movement that isn’t hard to find. The worst government abuses and excesses are finally getting pushback. Alternative social media platforms are gaining in popularity, especially now that the big players—Google, Twitter, Facebook—have deemed scientific accuracy and a love of personal liberty to be violations of their terms of service.

It’s been a rough year. In twelve months, I’ve gone from cautiously optimistic to suicidally depressed. The only thing that gives me hope is the knowledge that I’m not alone in this. Anyone who has taken any time at all to think about what we’re being forced to endure feels the same way. We don’t want a “new normal”, where children aren’t allowed to play, where handshakes and hugs are illegal, where you’re a prisoner in your own home unless you agree to undergo experimental genetic modification. No, we want what we had. What was taken from us.

This “pandemic” isn’t worth the name. Compare the total death counts in the US from 2019 and 2020. Shouldn’t those “500,000 coronavirus deaths” show up there? Look at the flu stats for this winter—rather, the total absence of them. Look at the mental health crisis sweeping our nation, and tell me stopping what amounts to a bad cold is worth that cost. Spare a thought for the record number of suicides in the last year.

Because there were a lot of days where I almost joined them.

If you want something done right…

For my entire life, I have had to rely on others. And never have those others failed me more often than in our system of representative government. Whether in Chattanooga, Nashville, or Washington, the past two decades of adulthood have taught me that those who claim to rule in my name do not have my best interests at heart.

Like any good American, I’m ready to take matters into my own hands. Thus, it is with no small amount of trepidation that I say this:

I, Michael H. Potter, hereby declare my intent to seek the office of Representative for Tennessee’s 27th House District as an Independent in the 2022 General Election.

Democrats in this state’s offices are feckless, powerless. Republicans are willfully ignorant of the plight of the common Tennessean. I intend to stand for everyone in the 27th District, no matter their party affiliation (or lack thereof). No matter their race, sex, religion, ideology, or heritage.

If you live in Soddy-Daisy, I’ll represent you. If you live on Signal Mountain, I’ll represent you. Red Bank, Walden, Mowbray or Flat Top or Lookout Mountain, and anywhere in between: I’ll represent you. Because we are all Tennesseans. We are all Americans.

In the coming weeks, I will open my candidacy at MHP For Tennessee, and I will begin to grow my presence on alternative social media platforms that respect our rights as Americans.

For today, I would like to say that my platform is strictly defined by the Constitution of the United States and its associated amendments. To that end, my primary goals as your representative are as follows:

  • A statewide ban on all government-ordered mask and vaccine mandates related to COVID-19 or future minor pandemics, to be replaced by public education regarding infectious agents that is based on science rather than politics.

  • A requirement that any electronic voting machines used in Tennessee use open source software whose contents are available to the public, with independent security audits performed before and after any election.

  • A repeal of certain laws that disfavor local, in-state small businesses and cooperatives in favor of national or global corporations, such as the anti-municipal internet laws preventing all Tennesseans from benefiting from investment by local power companies.

  • The binding declaration of our great state as a sanctuary for the rights guaranteed by the First and Second Amendments, including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to assemble peacefully, and the right to bear arms.

  • A focus on returning civics and critical thinking skills to our children’s education throughout the state, to combat the spread of harmful and anti-American doctrines such as Critical Race Theory.

  • The creation of public-private partnerships to emphasize skill-based training and hiring, thereby giving more Tennesseans entry or reentry into the workforce without the great expense of a college-level education in fields which have little need for it.

  • A continuous vigilance in pushing back against federal overreach, whether legislative or executive, by exercising our state’s powers of self-regulation under the Tenth Amendment.

The Shotgun Divorce

It’s very rare that a country splits in two. Korea did it (with the help of a war), leading to a case where one of the most advanced countries borders one of the most backward. Scotland almost seceded from the United Kingdom a while back; alas, that didn’t pan out. South Sudan might be a good example, if not for the fact that it’s now one of the poorest places in the world.

In modern times, there’s really only one positive data point for a country splitting: Czechoslovakia. The nation was born from Communism and the ashes of the World Wars, but it always had tension. Maybe not as much as its Yugoslav cousins, but the Czechs and Slovaks almost seemed destined to split.

That split took place in 1992. Less than 30 years ago, and not long after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Berlin Wall, and the rest of the Cold War icons. Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic (now somewhat officially known as Czechia) and Slovakia—not to be confused with Slovenia, an entirely different place. Relatively speaking, it was a peaceful parting of ways. Even the popular name for the momentous occasion sounds affectionate: the Velvet Divorce.

The United States is fast approaching a point where our internal divisions are too great to overcome. We’re reaching critical mass, and the highly disputed elections of 2020 only brought that into sharper relief. Texas legislators are talking about secession, using the state’s inherent right to revoke the treaty which brought it into the Union in the first place. No other state has this option, and quite a few Constitutional scholars think Texas doesn’t, either. But that didn’t stop them in 1861, and it might not stop them 160 years later.

Another option

Let me preface all of this by saying that even the possibility of Texas leaving the US is very, very remote. Secessionists always speak up after an election. It’s just that they’re a lot more vocal now, for reasons which should be plain.

Especially in the so-called red states, like my own Tennessee, people are growing afraid. Afraid to speak their minds, afraid of losing their jobs, their culture, or their lives simply for having the “wrong” political opinion. That fear, if it remains at a high level, could lead to some drastic action.

But is there a better way? I think so.

A couple of months ago, after the affidavits, hidden-camera videos, and taped confessions began to come out, the state of Texas sued six other states. The rest of the US jumped in, all but Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Alaska (if I recall correctly) taking sides. Under the Constitution, only one court can hear a lawsuit where both parties are states: the Supreme Court.

That has been tried before. In the late 1800s, the states of Kentucky and West Virginia were drawn into the most famous blood feud in American history. A posse from Pike County, Kentucky, wanted to collect the reward on “Devil Anse” Hatfield (my third cousin, three times removed) and members of his family, all of whom were, at the time, living deep in the forested hills of West Virginia. Barely a generation removed from the Civil War, the issue of states’ rights was still fresh in the minds of those in power in either state. Anse’s brother happened to know the law well enough to use it against his family’s pursuers, and he had connections. In the new America of Reconstruction, he wanted to argue, were law enforcers from one state allowed into another, or did they need to contact their counterparts across the border? What about warrants? Rewards?

The feud was mostly resolved before the case could get anywhere, alas, but others have gone before the Supreme Court in the decades since. It’s not common; we get state-on-state action on average once every few years, and it’s usually for something trivial like where to draw a border.

And the Texas case wouldn’t get to change that, because the Court threw it on dubious grounds of a lack of standing. That was, in essence, the main problem of the election suits, a Catch-22 in the legal system. In almost every case, judges ruled that the plaintiffs’ arguments didn’t have merit because their objections should have been brought up before the election. Of course, those same judges would have thrown the cases out in October, too, this time saying that no harm had yet occurred. Honestly, it’s a clever way of punting.

But it means that we have an issue where some states are seeking redress from other states, and the only court with jurisdiction is refusing to hear any arguments. What to do? Secession looks more promising, given these legal hurdles, right?

I’d agree to that. However, I do think there’s room for a more amicable parting than what began at Fort Sumter. Following the best example of a national breakup I know (and the very familiar proclivities of my fellow Americans), I call this option the Shotgun Divorce.

He said, she said

Like any divorce, who gets what is one of the first things we have to consider. In this case, it’s somewhat simple. We want to peacefully divide the United States into two parts, loosely based on the majority political opinion. We can go by state for most of it.

  • One nation, call it the Republic of America (ROA), will be the “red” states of Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Alaska. In addition, the supposedly blue states of Arizona and New Mexico are closer in culture and politics to nearby Texas, while the eastern half of Oregon is very unlike the socialist stronghold of Portland; a fringe movement to secede is gathering steam there, so we’ll allow it to join the ROA as the new state of Columbia. (I’d considered doing something similar in the Midwest, forming the state of Superior out of northern Minnesota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.)

  • The other nation, which we’ll name the Democratic States of America (DSA), comprises California, Washington, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, western Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, and Hawaii.

The United States also has a number of outlying territories. With the exception of Puerto Rico, which is already on the path to statehood and would join the DSA, these can fall under joint rule for the time being. They include Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas Islands, the US Virgin Islands, and a few “Minor Outlying Islands” that barely have anyone living on them.

The District of Columbia is a special case for a few reasons. One, it’s the national capital, so awarding to it one party is almost like calling them superior. Two, it has a significant “civilian” population that is overwhelmingly Democratic, so not giving it to the DSA isn’t entirely fair. And three, the Constitution expressly prohibits making DC a state. This is a conundrum, and I think the best course of action is to declare the federally-owned parts of DC neutral territory, while reverting the rest of the District to Maryland.

This arrangement isn’t perfect by any means. The ROA has significantly more territory, though its not as densely populated as the DSA states. Those, however, are split in two: the West Coast is separated from the East Coast, Midwest, and New England. Maybe we could call that punishment for the jokes about flyover country? The only other option that comes to mind, short of a stretch along the northern or southern border, is three countries, but that seems too complex.

Dividing the spoils

Our fractured country is more than just land, though. A modern nation-state has a whole host of rights and responsibilities, along with interactions on the world stage. So we also have to look at how the Shotgun Divorce would affect these.

As we aren’t part of any super-national organizations like the EU, some of it is easy. We obviously need to convince other countries to accept the ROA and DSA as separate entities, but most would be ready to support one or the other, enough that we wouldn’t be left in limbo. Thus, we avoid the fate of Palestine, Catalonia, Tibet, East Turkestan, and Transnistria, all of which, despite fulfilling the basic requirements for nationhood, have their very existence questioned by world powers, and thus are relegated to a status best described as occupied by a foreign country.

Trade deals could be made with either party, or both, and many of the current treaties can remain in effect. The ROA and DSA could apply for individual status in the UN, WTO, and other global organizations. On the other hand, some might be unpalatable to one side: the ROA probably wouldn’t want membership in the WHO, for instance.

What happens to the USA’s current status would have to be decided on a case-by-case basis, I think. Things like our permanent seat on the UN Security Council are hard to reconcile with the breakup I’m describing.

And that leads me into one of the most important domestic matters. What happens to the US military? Other federal organizations (FBI, CIA, DOT, etc.) would split into two, one for each side, but the armed forces comprise such a large and important part of our nation’s budget and focus that we need to consider its fate carefully. The bases aren’t too hard: they go to whichever side they fall into. The personnel, on the other hand, may need some reassignment.

Freedom of choice

This can tie into the meat of my argument: freedom of choice. It’s not enough to divide the United States into two groups that aren’t quite as united. That doesn’t solve the problem. Red states still have significant populations of Democrats, progressives, and even socialists in their major cities. Rural parts of blue states are full of gun-toting, God-fearing Republicans. Simply cutting along the lines gives us more discontent.

Instead, the divorce agreement needs to include a provision for free movement. Obviously, this starts with semi-open borders: minimal checkpoints along the new boundary between ROA and DSA, with no passports needed to cross from one to the other, but some sort of ID required at the official border crossings. Both sides also have to allow immigration from their counterpart, and here’s the kicker. Not only do they allow it, but they pay for it to start.

For a period of one year, the respective governments of the new nations would provide for families who wish to move to the “other” side, paying at least part of the cost. This can come in the form of a stipend for moving expenses, a tax rebate given to those who plan to leave, or whatever else works. The key is that everyone is given the choice. They’re not rounded up and kicked out, nor are they forced to live under a political system they find repugnant.

Now, this doesn’t mean that there is entirely free movement between the ROA and DSA. If we did that, it’s all for naught. So there are some checks. For one, you must live and work in the same country. For another, dual citizenship isn’t allowed. If, for example, this red-blooded Tennessean wants to marry a woman from newly-Communist Virginia (I don’t, by the way; my future wife already lives in my home state), then one of us will have to change sides. I move to the DSA, or she comes to the ROA, but something has to give. In a very meta twist, divorce would have to allow us to regain citizenship in the original country of our birth.

The greater experiment

The Shotgun Divorce is just a thought experiment, really. It has almost zero chance of ever happening, especially in the way I’m describing it. But if it did, I believe it would be better for everyone involved. True, the road would be rocky at the start. The transition from one United States to two would cause headaches for everyone, and even some of the tiniest questions have no good answers. (Who’s allowed to have a .us domain? Does shipping from DSA Washington to ROA Texas count as international? And would the USPS have to deliver?)

The positive advantages of this sort of breakup are twofold. One, it devolves power: with approximately 50% of the country, mostly those politically opposed to you, out of your way, your vote counts for twice as much. That brings us closer to the ideals of the Founding Fathers, most notably government that stems from the consent of the governed. For four years, nearly half of Americans refused that consent; now, the situation’s the same, but it’s the other half denying the legitimacy of the administration. With two countries, two governments, two presidents, this problem goes away.

Does that solve all the problems? No. Does it create more? Most likely. But it would give us the chance to run a true Great Experiment, and that’s the second advantage of my proposal. We almost never have the opportunity to use scientific methods in social situations. This would be one such opportunity.

A proper experiment requires a control group. The ROA/DSA split provides it. No matter which side of the divide you find yourself on, you can look at your new country as the continuation of the USA, while the other is an experiment in governing the way your enemies want. And maybe their way is better. Maybe your side will falter, while theirs enters a new golden age. Or maybe it’ll be the other way around.

We won’t know until we try.