What We Owe Ourselves Alone



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By Claire Wolfe, June 28th 2014
JPFO writer contributor, © 2014.

Being criticised hurts. Different types of criticism hurt in different ways and obviously some form of criticism are helpful and others are just destructive. But the sting is always there.

Criticism that's justified hurts because we have to acknowledge that we screwed up.

Criticism that's justified, but delivered in a public place or a nasty manner, is complicated. Do we get mad at ourselves or at the person putting us so rudely on the spot? Both? Either way, it can send the blood pressure soaring and the mood plummeting.

Criticism that's 100% unjustified can be especially hard to take when we're vulnerable. (I blush to admit that I still feel a sting of injustice over an incident in the fifth grade when a teacher humiliated me publicly over something I didn't do.)

We gun owners get a lot of the latter kind of criticism from people who hate us. They don't know us, don't know the facts about guns, don't want to look at the real issues. Yet they subject us to a constant barrage of insults like "terrorist," "racist," "gun nut," "murderer," and "violent moron," along with other slights.

Of course we know we're none of the things they call us. So we can sometimes stand back and smile because we realize that name-calling signals desperation. People who have winning arguments don't need to scream insults at their opponents.

But one thing that hurts, really deep down, is to be criticised (or punished) not only wrongly, but in fact for our best traits, our bravest actions, our most staunch convictions.

Being damned for our best

Unfortunately, being unfairly targeted because of noble traits or actions is part of the human condition -- especially when our best traits move individuals to challenge capital-A Authority.

How many religious reformers over the centuries have been defamed as heretics and suffered the torments of hell simply for pointing out corruption in churches? It's common for such people to be accused of everything from baby-killing to weird sexual practices just to discredit them.

How many whistleblowers have been called disloyal, had their private lives exposed, and lost their jobs and reputations before finally being acknowledged for uncovering valuable truths? (Some die without ever receiving the gratitude that's due them.)

How many artists have been insulted, scorned, and left hungry because their pioneering work went against a powerful establishment or was simply too new and different?

How many pioneers of science have been ridiculed or even forced to denounce their own discoveries?

How many freedom fighters have been damned as traitors? How many who opposed tyranny and oppression have been defamed and accused of outrageous misdeeds they never committed -- before being deported, gassed, shot, hanged, or sent to the gulag?

Being insulted on Twitter pales by comparison.

Only one of the many perjoratives being flung at us today has the potential to really harm us. That word "terrorist" that's being flung around so casually is too close to being used as an excuse for making punitive laws against us. If the influential hysterics currently accusing us of "terrorizing" the country ever make their inflated opinions stick, we are in big trouble. Because once the public believes anyone is a terrorist, they also generally conclude that said terrorist can be imprisoned or even killed without due process and deserves virtually anything the government chooses to hand out. No sympathy given.

Be glad that we still appear a long way from becoming official, legal "terrorists" merely for asserting our right to bear arms.

Our duty to ourselves

Our mothers might remind us that "Sticks and stones will break our bones but words will never harm us."

True, Mom. But that doesn't mean that the words flung at us don't sting. The vicious words hurt worse because we know that we're guardians of life, not murderers. We know that we're knowledgeable and intelligent, not cretins. That we've studied the issues. That we're welcoming to people of all races, creeds, and walks of life. We know not only that we are the very opposite of what the hoplophobes call us, but we know they're damning the best that's within us -- the strength of character that moves us to take responsibility for our own lives and the lives of innocent others.

If they had their way, anti-gunners would have us surrender our principles, our independent thinking, our readiness to defend life, our courage, our integrity, our intellectual honesty, our ability to act decisively. They would have us become lesser human beings.

And they'd think that was a good thing.

Of course, we're not going to change to suit the hoplophobes. The most they can hope for is that we and the culture we represent will die out. They can hope to see us all dead or in prison. They can hope to see millions of formerly law-abiding gun owners turned into the "violent felons" they sometimes say we are. (They'd be very surprised once the real violent felons are free to rampage without our opposition.)

No, we're not going to change for them. And given the widespread new interest in shooting among young men and women, our culture isn't likely to die out to suit our opponents. We will prevail. Most likely. But fates will have a say and there will be "interesting times" ahead as we who uphold our rights face down those who know that rights must fall before they can rule.

Whatever happens, we must never -- even when things look bad, even when the news depresses or infuriates us, when new laws loom on the horizon, when new threats to our freedom and well-being emerge, and when the cruel words continue to sting -- lose sight of the fact that we are what we are because we fulfill a prime duty to ourselves.

Robert Heinlein expressed that duty well (as one of the commenters on my blog pointed out recently): "Do not confuse 'duty' with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.

"But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible."

Heinlein was talking about people who demand more of your time and attention than you can afford to give, but same rule applies to anybody who tells you that their wants and needs are more important than yours or that you should become more like them or adopt their values. It applies especially to people who try to degrade you, not based on your faults but on your best virtues.

Such people might tell you you have a duty to society or civility or the rule of law to change who you are and what you hold dear. What they really want is to reduce you. To diminish you. To control you.

They disparage the best within you because they want you to forget that your highest duty is owed to your highest self -- you, an independent individual, that most feared, unpredictable, and ungovernable of all things.

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Claire Wolfe hit the Internet back in 1996 with 101 Things to do 'Til the Revolution, which was followed by several other books. She came to the attention of JPFO's founder, Aaron Zelman, and became one of his main writing partners for seven years. Together they authored The State vs the People and the young-adult novel RebelFire: Out of the Gray Zone. She is the author of The Freedom Outlaw's Handbook (successor to 101 Things), writes a monthly column in S.W.A.T. magazine and blogs regularly at Backwoods Home. The Claire Wolfe Archive

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