I was recently at a social gathering where it was determined that I am a “great American.” This was based almost entirely on the sole fact of my status as a combat veteran. I almost countered these baseless claims on a few occasions, but it got me wondering about how to even go about doing so without completely alienating these folks. There are certainly many individuals who would suggest that this is exactly what should occur. However, my goal is the education of others rather than simply “putting them in their place” and, in the process, losing the ability to mold and enlighten them on the path towards liberty.
You see, individuals who blindly place the term “great American” upon another person for simply having participated in an event such as war do not rely upon facts or logic for their ideology. If this were actually the case, they would recognize that the military is roughly a representative cross-section of the general American population, and that crime is an included metric. Not a single person bothered to ask whether or not I had “served honorably” or if I had spent my military years in prison. More likely, this question never even dawned on them as being relevant. Once again, someone who puts blind faith in something must not only disregard any pertinent details, but must wholly discredit facts to the contrary.
What this means for those of us who are liberty-minded and properly challenge the subjugation of peaceable individuals is that we must not simply “put people in their place” by flatly countering these types of faith- and emotion-based claims, but that we must appeal to their emotions. You cannot gain respect by discounting an individual’s deeply held beliefs and it is impossible to convert a person ideologically without respect.
So where does this leave us? In situations like this, try to avoid reinforcing their claims through deflection. Find a distantly related concept with which they hold liberty-oriented ideals and slowly draw the connection to the original topic. Planting seeds of doubt in the underlying premise of “government equals good” will eventually work its way into the realization that the military is simply another faction within government and abides by the same logic. Keep in mind that this must be a long-term approach. Nobody becomes a diehard statist in a day, nor will they realize the greatness of individual liberty in a single conversation. The goal is to slowly wear away at the foundations.
So the next time someone calls you a great American or suggests that certain guns need to be banned or any of the innumerable other claims by statists, avoid that topic and find common ground from which you can build the case of liberty. I can assure you that even the most fanatic statist reveres individual liberty at some level. If every statist was continually and gently pushed in the right direction, étatismewould quickly find its well-deserved grave.