We can learn much from the common housecat. Take boxes, for example. There is nothing a cat loves more than jumping inside a box. But soon the cat realizes, “what am I doing in this stupid box?” Then, the cat jumps out in search of new adventures.
I have observed that most people tend to trap themselves inside various kinds of boxes, including little political boxes. Each political box contains all the “correct” views for the particular ideology to which that individual tries to adhere. An individual inside a “conservative” box generally adheres to the same beliefs as other individuals in other conservative boxes. The same can be said of people in “progressive” boxes. Unlike the cat, a person may stay in the same box year after year—maybe an entire lifetime—too afraid to jump out. People get trapped inside their political boxes for a number of different reasons, unable to see outside them even when the ideas they cling to are clearly untenable. That’s because they have grown comfortable in their dark little boxes, and they do not want to disturb that comfort—even if jumping out might allow them to see the light more clearly. The overall result is a decay and decadence of the political debate. So, people on opposing sides (in different boxes) end up talking at each other, rather than to each other, unable to understand the language of the other side and convinced that the other side is completely wrong, thoroughly delusional, and probably even evil.
Why do people allow themselves to get trapped inside such boxes? As with most human endeavors, the problem is group-think. I am glad to see this term coming into more common usage—probably thanks to Tucker Carlson’s regular use of it on his Fox News show. I have always liked the term, because it neatly and accurately sums up the deep-seated human longing to fit in. Most people are followers and conformists who are terrified of being seen as isolated outsiders or unpopular “losers,” so they adopt the beliefs that are most common and most popular among whatever group they find themselves in. This is related, of course, to the phenomenon of peer pressure. The group of peers might be a family, a community, a group of friends, a high school clique, a workplace, a professional organization, a social media group, a political party, or any other group of any kind.
It is a fascinating phenomenon. When people are in groups, each individual becomes more likely to lose his or her own senses of ethics and truth and his or her own capacity for independent, rational thought. A person by himself or herself is generally a rational, ethical individual. But put that person in a group, and those decent qualities are likely to get subsumed in the corruption and irrationality of the mob. The bigger the group, the greater the corruption. This is why most large organizations—such as government agencies, private corporations, organized religion, and professional associations—are inherently corrupt and dishonest. But remove any individual from the influence of any group, allow the individual to detox for a while, and chances are that he or she is a pretty decent and honest person.
Those have been my lifelong observations, at least. I have always hated groups of any kind for that reason. And I have always been a loner for that reason. I think for myself. I work for myself. And I do most things by myself. I do not fit neatly inside any box of any kind. And throughout my life, when I have found myself beginning to feel trapped inside a box, I break out of it and I move on down the road.
In terms of politics, my ideas have evolved dramatically throughout my roughly 50 years of political awareness (part of my 60 years of life). I refuse to get trapped inside a political box. I like to think that I have grown intellectually based on my experiences, and I hope that I continue to grow. Does this mean that I am some wishy-washy flip-flopper with beliefs as changeable as the wind? No! Rather, it means that I learn from my experiences and I adapt accordingly—the way any intelligent, thinking human being is supposed to evolve during life. One should not cling to old beliefs just because that is what one is used to or because everyone else around has those beliefs. An individual should constantly be thinking, evaluating, and re-evaluating. And an individual should never assume that he or she possesses all the right answers, that all opposing views are necessarily wrong, or that there is nothing else left to learn. There will always be new things to learn and corrections to previous positions to make for an open-minded person.
I urge all people to beware of trapping themselves inside boxes. Try to think honestly with an independent, open mind about the beliefs that you currently have. For the purposes of this essay, I am referring specifically to political beliefs (though this same exercise can also apply to any other subject matter). Are your current beliefs really your beliefs—positions that you deeply and profoundly have for logical reasons that you can clearly identify and succinctly defend? Or are they simply convenient crutches that you are leaning on because of the unconscious pressures of some peer group, such as, for example, your political party, your church, or your group of friends? Has this group trapped you inside a box? If you conclude that you’re trapped in a box, then break out of it now! Be your own person! Think for yourself!
A thinking person must be willing to at least consider things from different perspectives and to modify his or her opinions, when necessary, based on new experiences and newly perceived realities. Admittedly, emotional responses to experiences also play a role in changing views. People are obviously not purely cognitive beings. I’m 60 years old (as I’ve already noted), and I have avoided or broken out of many boxes throughout my life, thanks to my naturally rebellious, independent-minded attitude. I can best describe myself now as, generally speaking, a political libertarian who strongly defends the traditional, conservative perspective on the unique magnificence of the U.S. Constitution and the supremacy of individual freedom over the regulatory tyrannical state. Furthermore, staying consistent with that perspective, I strongly defend various traditionally liberal ideas, such as sexual freedom (I’m virtually a sexual libertine) and deep distrust of military actions in foreign lands (the last war we fought that we should have fought was World War II, unless you count the initial, justified ousting of the Taliban after 9/11). Having professed my general libertarianism, I must also acknowledge that there have been some recent revisions to my political outlook.
Allow me to share some details of my political evolution in the following text. This is simply a brief story of one thinking American who has been influenced by experiences, events, observations, and peers and other people. These influences have served to shape my views, which have changed from time to time. But they have not altered my core belief in individual liberty. Nor have they confined me into any box. If you’re close to my age, you might be able to relate to some of my story. Think of it as one case study of avoiding the traps of boxes.
Liberal to Socialist to Republican to Libertarian
I began to be interested in national and international events and politics during my early teen years. I started out, like many young idealistic people in the Chicago area, as a liberal (though the lower-middle-class, all-white neighborhood in which I grew up in the southwest suburb of Burbank was pretty conservative). I still have the autographed photo of Senator Ted Kennedy that I received in 1975 (when I was 15) after I sent him a letter telling him how much I admired him and his slain brothers, John and Robert. I also still have the signed letter I received from Democrat presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976 after I wrote him to express my support.
When I was in my 20s, during the 1980s and the Reagan era, I moved further left as I naively bought into the leftist propaganda I heard in college: “Reagan is a mean crazy racist trigger-happy old cowboy.” I joined the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)—the same group that New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would later make well-known. I used to go to sparsely attended meetings on the north side of Chicago, where I heard speeches by people like the leftist African-American Chicago alderman Danny Davis, and the socialist author of The Other America, Michael Harrington. (I bet those meetings are a lot better attended today.) And I participated in leftist rallies and marches downtown, such as a big “nuclear freeze” rally on Mother’s Day 1982. (I recall that my mother was really mad at me because I didn’t spend that special day with her. I later realized that my behavior at the time was typical of the essentially selfish, self-absorbed behavior of leftists.)
By the early 1990s (in my early 30s), I had my own house in far southwest suburban Lockport (near Joliet), and I was taking the train to downtown Chicago for my editor job at an educational publishing company. I had bills to pay, I was living in the “real world,” and I found myself shifting my political perspective to the Right—which was ironic, because I was working in a field that has long been thoroughly dominated by the Left. I was just about the only conservative-leaning employee at the three educational publishers I worked for before I started freelancing. That made me the butt of many generally friendly jokes, though it also led to a few heated arguments.
My shift to the Right was partly inspired by reading and learning the truth about Ronald Reagan. I found out that he was quite a good president after all, as well as a rather decent fellow. My rightward shift was also a negative reaction to certain leftist policies of President Bill Clinton that I didn’t like (despite the fact that I voted for him in 1992). It seemed to me that Clinton primarily catered to various minority groups and other segments of the population with which I could not identify. (By the standards of today’s radical socialist Democrat Party, however, Clinton has to be viewed in retrospect as a rather reasonable political moderate.)
So I started voting, by default, for Republicans in 1996—though my stomach was turned by the warmongers and country-club elitists of that party. The 2000s arrived with George W. Bush, whom I initially hoped would be an inspirational conservative leader like Reagan. But he let the neocons drag him into a stupid war in Iraq, which proved to be a disaster that destabilized the Middle East, leading to the further spread of radical, violent Islam throughout the region. Even worse, W continued the Democrat trend of promoting identity politics, giving special attention to particular demographic groups whose grievances were officially acknowledged by the leftist political/media/academic/pop-culture establishment. Once again, it seemed that no one in the government acknowledged the existence of regular middle-class working Americans like me.
I came to hate Bush and the whole Republican Party establishment. I turned to independent political figures—and to libertarianism as a general political philosophy. I was attracted to political outsiders like Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Ron Paul (and later his son Rand). I liked these personalities because they seemed to be independent thinkers, not firmly wed to the propaganda of either major political party. That’s the same reason that Michael Savage became my favorite radio personality. He’s a much more independent-minded, free-thinking individual than the highly predictable, GOP-always-right Limbaugh and Hannity. These days, Tucker is kind of like Savage in that way.
I’m a fiercely independent-minded person. In the early 2000s, I began working for myself as a freelance writer and editor (specializing in science, medicine, current events, history, and cultural issues), and I wanted to chart my own course—professionally, personally, and politically. Unfortunately, Ventura and Schwarzenegger proved to be big phonies and disappointments. But the Pauls and their libertarian ideas continue to appeal to me, because at least they form a coherent, logical platform that recognizes the value of individual liberty.
Sex and Religion
I’ve noted that I’m something of a sexual libertine. (Dr. Savage has also identified himself in that way.) Sex is the most basic human impulse, and it cannot and should not be repressed—as long as the relationship is among consenting adults. I have counted among my friends and acquaintances people from just about every point along the sexual spectrum—from strippers and escorts/hookers to homosexuals and transgenders. I came to know some of these people from my professional work as a writer on topics of human sexuality and American culture. I came to know others from personal recreational activities. The key point here is that all of these people are simply people with a desire to live in freedom and do what they want to do without government interference. Isn’t that a right that everyone is entitled to? Speaking of boxes, you certainly cannot force someone into a sexual box in which they do not naturally belong. One’s sexuality is a highly personal and essential human liberty.
I realize that many of the readers of this fine website are members of organized religions that object to sexually libertine lifestyles on moral grounds. I hope you can at least respect my right to my own beliefs on this issue. I was raised as a Catholic, though neither of my parents were very religious. I stopped going to church right after I graduated from St. Albert the Great elementary school in 1974. I reject all organized religions as corruptions of spiritual truth. As with politics, I believe that one should craft one’s own beliefs on religion and spirituality based on personal experiences, observations, and evaluation. According to my thinking on this matter, combined with my education in science, the tenets of most organized religions are illogical, as well as rather shallow. So, I have developed my own spiritual beliefs, which focus on the profound unknowable wonder of the cosmos and nature. The human mind cannot begin to grasp or understand this profound wonder, and organized religion, in its attempt to do so, trivializes the concept of God.
But those are just my beliefs. You are welcome to your own beliefs, and I will fight for your right to practice your religion in whatever form you choose (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, American Indian faiths, Wicca, whatever). Freedom of religion is another highly personal and essential human liberty. Although I reject Catholicism, my best friend is a devout Catholic and AK-47-toting woman named Cari. She’s the coolest person I know. As they used to say in the 1970s (my favorite decade), “whatever turns you on.” That pithy little saying is applicable to religion, sex, politics, music, art, hobbies, work, and any other human pursuit.
Along Came Trump
As the 21st century progressed, I came to realize that pure libertarianism is a somewhat weak, flawed, and unrealistic ideology. It can allow people with ill intent to walk all over you. For example, if you allow the Internet corporate giants (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc) to do whatever they want, as pure libertarians contend, what is the result? It is the frustrating result that we are dealing with today. These powerful, cynically “woke” companies ban or restrict the free speech of conservatives and dissenters (from Alex Jones to Milo Yiannopoulos to Stella Immanuel), and they warp the information that is made available to the public. This is censorship from the private sector that is as bad and stifling as that promulgated by any totalitarian government regime. This is not acceptable to me.
I want a stronger, tougher, more muscular political approach to counter the abuses of the Left. In 2016, I was attracted to Donald Trump, who seemed to offer this type of approach. Trump was a political outsider and a unique character who came along at just the right time—just as both parties had become so obviously detached from, and contemptuous of, ordinary Americans that ordinary Americans had nothing but contempt for them. During his administration, Trump has had the guts to publicly stand up for certain things that are unquestionably true but politically incorrect—truthful things that lots of regular people think, but that few in the political class have the courage to defend these days. I can cite these 12 examples:
1) the superiority of traditional American and Western values
2) the exceptionalism of the United States (as it was constitutionally founded)
3) pride in American history, including the right to honor Southern heroes
4) the dangers of illegal and excessive immigration
5) emphasis on the economic well-being of the middle class
6) concerns about threats to conservatives’ free speech
7) defense of law and order and the police
8) calling out the corruption and cowardice of the political establishment in both major parties
9) calling out the hypocrisy, lies, and America-hating of the Left, including politicians and the “fake news” media
10) defending the rights of gun owners, Christians, and other commonly condemned conservative people
11) wariness regarding foreign military interventions
12) mistrust of international organizations and international treaties.
Unfortunately, Trump has failed to deliver on some major promises (not surprising, considering the extreme hate and opposition that he has had to deal with), and he has exaggerated certain accomplishments. His imperfections have been magnified since the start of the coronavirus hysteria and the rise of the BLM-Antifa communist revolution. In my opinion, Trump should never have allowed fascist Fauci and the other “experts” to talk him into shutting down the economy, and he should have been much tougher on the America-hating rioters. As a result of these and other weaknesses—on top of the endless attacks from the Left and the overall leftist brainwashing of the American public—I believe, as I’ve made clear in previous essays, that Trump and the Republicans are headed for a whopping defeat in the November elections. Considering the ongoing, accelerating, major cultural shifts occurring in this country today, this historic defeat will permanently lock conservatives out of power at the federal level.
Trump was the last opportunity the United States had for meaningful political and government reform. He gave it his best, but the odds were stacked against him. So, that opportunity is now gone. Where does that leave the United States? Where does that leave me and my political outlook?
My Latest Evolution
In the latest jump in my political evolution—inspired by the insane socially pathological events that have consumed America in 2020—I have become a secessionist. I would love to see a New America established for Right-leaning citizens—separated from the communist/fascist strongholds of the big urban areas that unfairly dominate American culture today. I have spelled out my reasons for this position in previous Intellectual Conservative essays, including at:
See also: https://www.ajsmuskiewicz.com/downloads/freedom-of-1970s.pdf
In short, I want a new post-secession America to be a country based on the original U.S. constitutional principles and a muscular form of libertarianism, in which government power and regulation are strictly limited, and personal, individual liberty and freedom are vigorously protected for all citizens at every level. However, if you advocate traitorous America-hating ideas (as do, for example, BLM, Antifa, CNN, MSNBC, certain college professors…), you will be punished by the law. Punishments may include lengthy imprisonment, steep fines, or permanent exile. The corrupted court system will not be allowed to interfere with justice in these matters. Although, as I’ve suggested above, we have to stay open-minded about different ideas, and we should acknowledge the possible legitimacy of opposing views from other people, it is essential for our survival today that we completely and firmly reject the dangerous communistic ideas that are currently on the rise. Let the communists stay in their dirty little boxes, and let us toss those boxes right into the sea of shame. In the New America, those traitors will not be allowed to pervert the right to free speech for their own diabolical purposes—as they have done in the present USA.
That, in a nutshell, is where I am today in my political evolution. I call it “muscular libertarianism.” No traitors allowed. This approach is especially important in these days of ascending fascism and communism, foisted on the public in the guise of protecting people from the alleged horrors of a virus and “systemic” racism.
This is where my decades of personal and political evolution—together with my observation of current events and my study of history—have led me. It is the perspective of one thinking and feeling American as the year 2020 continues to de-evolve into the most frightening episode of Twilight Zone that Rod Serling never made. My evolution will certainly continue, guided, as always, by my interpretation of the principles of freedom, liberty, and truth.
As you deal in your own way with the troubling events of the day, do not let anyone trap you in a dark box. Politicians are not providing us with adequate answers today. So, you have to break out of all political boxes in search of your own answers. You have to stay smart, stay free, and always live in the light!
I would like to end this essay on a positive note. So, I suggest that you boost your spirits with a gloriously inspirational and joyous expression of American liberty and natural freedom, courtesy of Mr. Rob Zombie:
A. J. Smuskiewicz is a free-thinking American and a freelance writer living in Lockport, Illinois. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is at: https://www.ajsmuskiewicz.com.