LRN.FM & Ian Freeman

First of all, I want you to write Ian Freeman:

Ian Freeman 34755-509
FMC Devens, Satellite Camp
P.O. Box 879
Ayer, MA 01432

Now, you may be wondering what the hell is going on with Free Talk Live and LRN.FM. There isn’t a simple answer to these questions, but let’s take them as we can and give the best overview we can.

Free Talk Live

When I was first incarcerated, Ian made the decision to began playing three shows pre-recorded and expanding Free Talk Live to be the Free Talk Live Network, thereby offloading a lot of his work onto other people to do the shows. We have further had no one doing Affiliate calls, because only myself and Ian were trained in that regard, and then our satellite provider GCN went out of business in early May.

To be honest, I haven’t been completely sure what role I would be needed to play in Free Talk Live, or what role Bonnie and Captain (who have done an amazing job over the last year keeping the show alive and well) foresaw me filling, and I’m not the type to come out and step on people’s toes.

Further, while in prison I had a growing number of epiphanies, which makes sense–in prison, all I really had to do, to occupy my time, was think about things. I thought about the missteps Free Talk Live has taken over the last few years, ideas that Ian and I had talked about a lot, and that we planned to fix–until those plans were derailed by the FBI raid that occurred on March 16, 2021 and the following 2 and a half years of torment within the system.

I’m happy to be back on Free Talk Live and back to doing the tech stuff for the show, and it seems to be a responsibility that Bonnie and I are sharing together, with each of us doing the things we’re best at. Meanwhile…

Free Talk Cast

I launched the Free Talk Cast on June 1, 2024 and it’s a project that I’m very excited to continue and to watch it grow over the next several months. We just released the third episode of the Free Talk Cast, so check it out! If you’re already subscribed to us on SoundCloud or Spotify or anywhere else, then you’re getting the podcast automatically, but I’d love it if you’d head over to the website and subscribe directly there.

But don’t we already have an audio archive?

Yeah, we do, and it isn’t going anywhere. We’ve been recording the radio show and putting it online and calling it a podcast, but, really, it isn’t a podcast. It’s a radio show being archived online. Well, now we have an actual podcast!


With Ian’s blessing, I’ve taken over management of LRN.FM. This isn’t actually going to change the website or anything LRN.FM is currently doing; instead, LRN.FM is becoming a manager of Free Talk Live, basically to give us an overall entity that manages Free Talk Live, Free Talk Cast, the LRN.FM Youtube channel, and the various upcoming projects like the video series “Libertarians On…” and the Free Talk Blog.

Honestly, that just seemed easier.


I’m not going to talk any about prison here. It sucked, and several people recorded my speech yesterday at Porcfest, so when that is available, I’ll put the link here. For now, though, suffice it to say that prison sucked pretty much exactly as much as you would expect it to suck.

LRN.FM Patreon

I launched a new Patreon, this one specifically for LRN.FM, and it’s primarily because most of these projects don’t involve the huge amount of overhead involved with a radio show, and the Free Talk Live Patreon is still trying to break even on the studio costs. It isn’t meant to be a competitor to, so don’t unsubscribe from that patreon. If you want to sign up for both, great, but I wouldn’t necessarily ask that. But if you support the Free Talk Cast and the new video projects, then sign up for the new Patreon for unique perks.

Aria’s Prison Blog #2: Being Trans in Federal Prison

No one dislikes the government more than I do (although some may equal my disgust with the institution), but even so it would be silly and unfair to accuse the BOP (Bureau of Prisons) of being anti-trans, in exactly the same way that it would be absurd to accuse the rain of malice because it erodes the hills. The water does not hold enmity toward the dirt; the rain only does what it does, and there are simply effects to that. In actuality, the treatment of the BOP in regard to trans people is both a stark contrast and an alarming analog to the conversion therapy camps that were more common in the 90s; by holding none of the enmity and sharing none of the intentions of the “pray the gay away” camps, the BOP is more subtle in its erasure of trans identity, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Just as the rain does not try to destroy the hillside, and is merely a result of weather patterns much greater in scope than a mound of dirt, so is the assault on transgener identity only an effect of a larger phenomenon: a widespread tendency to glance at a newborn’s genitals and map out large sections of their life for them, and then becoming irate and hostile at the suggest that an infant’s gentials may not be the best way of grouping adults into relationships, friend circles, or prisons.

It is simple, when a patient complains of a cough, for a doctor to prescribe some cough syrup, but nearly no doctor would do this, because it is myopic and narrow to treat a sympton rather than the underlying illness that causes the symptom. By treating only the cough, a doctor could easily miss the pneumonia, lung cancer, or asthma that is causing the patient to cough. Similarly, there is a Buddhist story where the Buddha is traveling with students when one of them is shot by an arrow, and begs the Buddha to pursue the attacker, so they might be held to account. The Enlightened One responds that he could do that, or he could remove the arrow and dress the wound, but he obviously could not do both. Similarly, shaking our fists angrily at the torrents or clouds that produce them has a tremendous opportunity cost and is a waste of emotional energy; instead, we could devote our time and efforts to halting the erosion, and then preventing it from recurring.

The issue at hand is not that the BOP maliciously denies transgender healthcare, because it doesn’t; the BOP fails to provide adequate care to transgender inmates, but it is because the society behind the prison industrial complex routinely fails the transgender population, largely due to apathy, although there is occasionally malice shown to these people who declare themselves to fall into the cracks of the social construct of gender, which, in the estimation of the bigoted, is sufficient for “everyone else,” and thus must work for all. It is the equivalent of telling a person who is cold to remove their coat because the speaker isn’t chilly, so how could anyone else be?

Even under the best of circumstances, being transgender is difficult. Transgender people already know in their hearts that they will never be indistinguishable from a cisgender person, but there are plenty of people who enjoy reminding trans people of that anyway, to say nothing of the myriad of minor, incidental, and accidental ways in which this is made clear to a trans person. No one ever said, “I’m going to make my life easier by dressing as the opposite sex,” because, despite bigoted claims to the contrary, such a monumental step serves only to make one’s life more challenging, at least for the foreseeable future, when it is less readily apparent that a person is trans at all.

Everyone has struggles, though, and it would be inaccurate to suggest that this is unique to trans people, or that the hardships of a trans person are unduly difficult. Rather than somehow being “worse” than the challenges other people faced, the tragedy of the trans plight lies in how utterly and easily preventable–and harmlessly so!–the difficulties are. In prison or larger society, it brings no risk or hurdles to anyone else for a person of any characteristics to present themselves as they need to in order to look in a mirror and be reasonably happy with the reflection.

The existence of transgender people, without a doubt, creates challenges for society that it is not equipped to handle, but putting trans women into a men’s prison and trans men into a women’s prison should be regarded at least as catastrophic to the involved people as placing trans men into a men’s prison and trans women into a women’s prison is regarded by those who have run out of real problems to deal with and so instead spend their time seeking trivialities about which they can be upset.

For more than a month, I have been waiting on basic items, not necessarily to reaffirm or bolster my identity as much to simply maintain it against the unrelenting, subtle forces that exist within a men’s prison to oppress, deny, and erase all non-masculine traits, with men’s prison obviously being the peaks of testosterone and toxic masculinit: emotions are not expressed, oether than anger. Imagine trying to maintain femininity in an environment entirely ruled by testosterone, much less attempting to enhance one’s feminine side such that behavior more closely matches the interior. Even if I had every resources that I’ve collected over the last decade in my life as a trans woman, simply existing as myself would be a challenge; with those resources denied me by policy, and with the meager substitutes taking now more than a month to reach me, the task is utterly impossible.

This shouldn’t be taken as necessarily the fault of the BOP, just as rain is not really to blame for the erosion of soil; rather, that it is this way is a reflection of social values. Though society increasingly recognizes the rights and needs of transgender individuals, the government always lags behind, and then always fails to actually meet the needs that are recognized–someone with a malignant growth will have to wait months to have it addressed, because the prison industrial complex is not equipped to act with grace and compassion. Given that this is the case, perhaps our first goal should be to not have the largest prison population on the planet, and, in so doing, we would lessen the hardship unnecessarily placed on all people, transgender or not, and that could only ever be a positive thing for us all.

Aria’s Prison Blog #1: Gulag Archipelago and the American State Religion

As observed masterfully in The Gulag Archipelago, everything changes after the arrest–rather, everything changes *during* the arrest. I had previously divided my life into “pre-New Hampshire” and after moving to the Granite State, but the arrest, the violence of the FBI threatening to shoot me, and the traumatic reality into which I was thrust that the illusion of safety had been ripped away became the new dividing point for me. While they searched my house for people and weapons, and as I stolld in only panties and a blanket as early morning wintry winds of New Hampshire swept through my house more efficiently than any strike team, I said nothing but held out hope that they were there for my roommate, not for me. This pipedream was soon smashed like my front door, as they escorted me into another part of my house, closed the doors, disconnected my cameras, and told me that I was under arrest.

There are a few subtle, but important ways that my raid and arrest differs from those recounted by Solzhenitsyn. The United States has watched the rise and fall fo empires and ideologies, and has learned from the mistakes of Hitler, Mao, and the USSR. It knows that Americans would never allow the secret arrests, lack of charges, and other silliness of the USSR. Like other Communist rulerships, the USSR wielded uncertainty and terror as its primary weapons, but Americans would never allow tyranny to approach in such a way. The “rule of law” is too critical to the propaganda of the U.S., and such behavior would undermine the one great conceit underpinning the entire monstrous system: because of Democracy, that blessed thing, we are the government, and we create the law, and, as such, we do these things to ourselves; they are not done to us, against our will, by an unaccountable terrorist regime, because we consent to this! Even if you or I don’t, *we* do, and somehow this illusory entity is able to act without our actual consent.

The weapons of the USSR have been replaced by the loaded gun that is the Democracy, “the majority!”, and as long as that illusion is allowed to persist, the Americans will do nothing. Anything so crass as the Soviet display where a captive audience was forced to clap for Stalin for fifteen and more minutes, and Americans would revolt. In the U.S., no leader is supreme, or above any other person, and yet *is* above every person, a priest in this religion called statism, this wretched cult, and any decree they make must present itself as separate from the flesh herald–the priest speaks, but only, we are assured, to relay to us the message from our god, the unimpeachable and unknown Majority. Any display of respect or adoration must be made to the institutions, to the Church, and to the god–to do otherwise, as Trump did (and, indeed, Trump partially shattered this American illusion for millions), is to threaten to derail the entire system, leaving us at the mercy not of a benevolent majority but a corrupt tyrant.

And how could Americans not fall for the ruse? Nearly all childrens’ cartoons and coloring books present the Friendly Policeman, only there to help old ladies cross the street and to protect the children. And really! Is there anything more absolutely absurd in our world than how closely linked in the cultural zeitgeist are police and firefighters? How might we react if firefighters searched around for problems to justify their existence, and campaigned to legislatures for new regulations to make fires more likely (and, thus, their need to exist, and, critically, their *budgets* ever greater)? But we learn as children that these thugs who exist solely to use violence against us, are still somehow our friends, and rare is the person who succumbs to this constant programming for 18 years, and then breaks free.

How to Write Aria in Prison or Send Money/Books

I will be imprisoned in the men’s satellite prison camp in Ayer, MA. Mail sent to me should be addressed like this:

Aria DiMezzo 34741-509
P.O. BOX 879
AYERMA  01432

Alternatively, you can also use this link to send money:

Here are details on how to send books, and the kind of books I would enjoy.

My Register Number is 34741-509. Thank you so much for your support. It’s going to be a long, miserable 18 months. I see the BOP lists me as male. It’s not surprising, given they’ve put me in a men’s prison, but it’s not encouraging either.

Sexualizing Children & Drag Queens

There’s been so much said about drag queens, trans people, and children, and I don’t really want to detract from any of that. I’ll start with a short video of Free Talk Live’s Tiktok, where a former co-host got really upset about the drag queen thing.


Free Talk Live’s Ian and Aria have a discussion with Conan about #Drag and dragqueens, and why anyone cares what other people do. #fyp #foryourpage #lgbtq🏳️‍🌈 #lgbtq

♬ original sound – Free Talk Live

Watching that episode, it repeatedly becomes clear that Conan doesn’t have any idea what happens at drag shows, nor is he interested in learning about what happens at drag shows. He has imagined the Worst Possible Thing happening, and he pretends that is what happens at drag shows, and then he becomes upset about it. This is not uncommon. From what I can tell, it is what most conservative people are doing in regard to drag shows, as no amount of telling them that drag shows aren’t inherently sexual gets through to them.

Drag shows and movies have a lot in common. There are definitely some highly sexualized movies, such as “I Spit On Your Grave” and “Jennifer’s Body.” There’s also that movie where Sharon Stone flashed the audience with her crotch, and the movie “The 40 Year Old Virgin” has a plot that is entirely about sex and getting laid. However, the existence of these “adult movies” that are highly sexualized obviously doesn’t mean that movies are inherently sexual, and it would be absurd to make such an argument. Just because Jennifer’s Body exists doesn’t mean that The Brave Little Toaster is inherently sexual, and everyone knows this except Brother Jebediah, the most prudish of all Amish people.

Earlier today, I was tagged in a video on Twitter featuring the child drag queen pictured here, with the person who tagged me saying that I’m always asking for evidence of sexualized children, so there it was. While it’s a bit weird to think of this grown adult going around and searching the Internet for sexualized children, the video, of course, was posted to Twitter by LibsOfTikTok. For those who are unaware, LibsofTikTok scours the Internet for sexualized images and videos of children, and then posts them to Twitter. For some reason, this isn’t viewed as obsessive, crazy, and tremendously fucked up. Instead, there are about two million people following this, presumably to see the vast collection of softcore child pornography that they have put together. At least, that is what they allege is going on here. I’m not convinced this stuff is sexualized, and that’s the point of today’s article. However, if it is true that these pictures and videos are inherently sexual, then what we have here are 2 million people who shouldn’t be allowed within 500 feet of a school.

The teen pictured here isn’t wearing a particularly revealing outfit. During spring and summer, it is routine to see people of all ages wearing significantly less clothing than that, and, of course, there are child and teenage cheerleaders who deliberately make it a point to wear more revealing clothing than this. For that matter, the dancing wasn’t especially provocative either. The most revealing part of the outfit was the back, which had a few strings stretching across it, but I must have missed the memo where society decided that backs were sexy.

Different people are aroused by different things, though. There are plenty of people out there who can masturbate to pictures of feet, so what I call the “Can I masturbate to this?” test isn’t foolproof, but, as a general rule, one can find out if something is “sexualized” by asking the question of whether one can masturbate to it. James Joyce wrote many letters about how turned on he was by farts, but no rational person will suggest that farts are inherently sexual, just as no rational person would suggest that all movies are inherently sexual.

This raises the question, then, of what is sexualization? What is sexualized, if the image of the teen above is not sexualized? The answer, believe it or not, is that nothing outside of sex itself is actually sexualized. Even if the drag queen above was completely naked, it wouldn’t automatically be sexualized.

Pavlov’s Dog

“Pavlov’s Dog” is a phrase referring to an experiment conducted in the 19th century where a man rang a bell before he fed a dog. It didn’t take very long before the simple act of ringing the bell would excite the dog and cause the dog to salivate hungrily. The dog had come to associate the ringing bell with eating. This is a phenomenon called conditioning, and it’s extremely useful today for training dogs and for countless other purposes. I carry treats around constantly to reward my dog for good behavior, because psychology has shown that rewarding good behavior is a more effective way of training than rewarding bad behavior, and it is consistency in this that causes her to be very well-behaved.

While we may not like to think of ourselves as easily trained, the simple truth is that we are easily trained. In my early 20s, a friend of mine bought a new vehicle that dinged incessantly if the car was in gear and the driver wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. In time, to make the annoyance go away, the friend began putting on his seatbelt as soon as he sat down in his vehicle. Within a very short time, my friend had been trained to put on his seatbelt.

Little things like this are happening all the time to us, and most of the time it goes unnoticed, but governments around the world and shadowy, evil corporations are spending untold amounts of time and money figuring out exactly how to train us to be exactly what they want us to be. That, however, isn’t the purpose today’s article, so let’s return to the subject of nudity.

As I said, the teen could be completely naked and it wouldn’t be inherently sexual. Just as Pavlov’s dog was conditioned to associate the ringing bell with food, so have humans come to associate nudity with sex. Because everyone is clothed all the time, we have created a mystique around nudity, such that any nudity at all is exhilarating and feels forbidden to look at. This is why young kids are so excited when they stumble on their parents’ porn stash–even though they are too young to feel sexual arousal, they are looking at something that has been forbidden to them, and for that reason alone they like it.

As we get older, though, we begin to associate nudity with sex. We look at naked people when we masturbate. We get naked in order to masturbate. With few exceptions like showering, the only time we see naked people in person is when we’re about to have sex with them. Of course, orgasms cause the release of all sorts of fun chemicals that act as rewards to our brains, and we come to associate nudity with the pleasure of those chemicals.

Emotional Responsibility

With all this being the case, a person’s sexual arousal in response to a video of a person dancing is that person’s own responsibility. This is true of all emotions. Emotions are internal reactions to external stimuli, and no one has the power to make anyone feel anything. I don’t have the power to make someone angry; only they have that power.

Now, they may be reckless with that power. Indeed, most people are. Most people allow themselves to be readily and easily manipulated by giving strangers power over their emotions, but frivolously allowing other people to control my emotions is, again, my choice, even if it is a choice I’m making without realizing it. You can do whatever you want to try to elicit an angry response from me, but I and I alone have the power to make myself angry. This is true of all emotions. You can’t make me angry, sad, aroused, or happy. Only I can do these things. You have the same control over your emotions. No one can make you angry, sad, aroused, happy, or anything else unless you give them that power over you.

And if you give people the power to control your emotions, then you give people the power to control you. Control yourself and control your emotions. Don’t let other people control you. You alone determine how you feel in reaction to things. Just because you’re aroused doesn’t mean the video is sexualized.

A Letter to Free Stater State Reps

Hi! I’m writing about HB-619 and the effects it could have on trans people in the state of New Hampshire, children who are struggling to understand their identity, and, perhaps most importantly, the impact voting for this bill could have on any attempts to appeal to people outside of the “straight white Christian” demographic. I think you’ll agree that variety is the spice of life, and I have yet to meet any libertarian who thinks my presence in the liberty community has been detrimental; there are many trans people out there like myself, regardless of what NY Post and viral videos of people screaming at random Gamestop employees would have you believe.

Chance are pretty good that you know me. I can’t say that for certain, because I’m sending this to every free stater state rep that I can find, and I am generally awful with names. That said, I do remember many of you, and I hope that you remember me–and I sincerely hope that you’ll do me a favor and listen honestly to what I have to say on the subject of kids and transgenderism.

I saw Jeremy Kauffman on Twitter today say that he would never call it “gender affirmation therapy” and that he would instead call it only “genital mutilation.” Jeremy is my friend, and I hope he takes my response into consideration, but this is precisely the level of ignorance that we are dealing with on this subject–almost no one who isn’t trans themselves even knows what “gender affirmation therapy” even is. They conjure in their imagination horrible images of ten year old children being convinced by the school that they are trans, and having their penises mutilated into vaginas and countless other terrible things.

That stuff isn’t happening.

It is widely accepted in the medical and psychological communities that Sexual Reassignment Surgery / Gender Affirmation Surgery (note: not gender affirmation therapy) is not suitable for anyone under the age of 18. In fact, medical professionals routinely point out that only by “going through puberty naturally, as a male” can a person even have sufficient… “material…” to work with when going through sexual reassignment surgery.

Instead, the common practice for people between the ages of 10 and 17 who suffer from Gender Identity Disorder (formerly known as Gender Dysphoria) is to put them on GnRH agonists–puberty blockers. Please listen to me here. I know what I’m talking about, and you know I’m not a leftist motivated to lie to you so that I can corrupt your children or whatever. I’m just trying to help you understand the issue and understand what is actually happening, rather than taking extravagant headlines from tabloids and Fox News and assuming they are actually accurate.

Gender Affirmation Therapy (again, not surgery) consists of a wide variety of things. Most importantly, it is a therapeutical measure meant to make a person more comfortable with their own body. Gender Affirmation Therapy, at ages 10 to 17, typically consists of referring to the person by the pronouns and name they prefer. That simple, basic act is what constitutes the bulk of gender affirmation therapy. By using the pronouns of the gender they prefer, you are affirming their gender–hence its name.

One step on the transition is certainly sexual reassignment surgery, or gender affirmation surgery. Gender Affirmation Surgery is just the latest, most politically-correct way of referring to “bottom surgery.” We all know what this means, and I won’t go into details, but no one is doing this on people under the age of 18. Here’s a quote directly from Boston Children’s Hospital on the subject:

All genital surgeries are only performed on patients age 18 and older.

No one in the United States is performing this surgery on people under the age of 18. So let’s make that our Square One. Let’s make that the basis on which all of our other arguments are built. There it is, right there, from one of the premier hospitals in the United States, that this is not happening to people under the age of 18. This fear you have that children are getting sex changes is completely unfounded and as unfounded as the Satanic Panic of the late 90s that led to the wrongful incarceration of the West Memphis Three. Unfounded, baseless, and wild speculation about what horrible things could happen was the very same thing offered to us when people sought to justify the Covid-19 lockdowns and forced mask-wearing. We didn’t accept unfounded, baseless, and wild speculation about stuff that was not happening then, and we should not accept it now. Reject these wild claims as nonsensical, baseless, click-bait bullshit meant to get a reaction from people on social media, and not anything that is actually happening in the real world.

Since we have established that nothing like this is happening to minors in the first place, did libertarians not spend the last 2 and a half years loudly proclaiming, “My body, my choice!” and denouncing the Democrats as hypocrites for (rightly) applying this saying to abortions and then refusing to apply it to vaccines and masking? Did we as libertarians not insist that our medical histories and medical conditions were between ourselves and our doctors, not between ourselves and the government, or between ourselves and Wal-Mart employees acting as agencies of the government?

We are supposed to be the rational party; we are supposed to be the consistent ones, and I urge you to be consistent today: my body, my choice.

In regard to schools and what schools are teaching–abolish the worthless things. Pull your children out of the public school system if you don’t support what they are being taught, but banning this subject or that subject is not doing anyone any favors. The School Choice and voucher program was the correct approach, and I would implore you to continue seeking remedies that are compatible with a free market of voluntary interactions. Do not now turn to the state to force your ways onto others. Given that this has already been demonstrated to not be about sexual reassignment surgery for minors (which no one is doing anyway), the way forward is clear.

So I urge you: strike this down loudly and clearly as nonsensical, fearmongering propaganda.

How To Avoid Awful Decisions

While I should be returning to Free Talk Live this upcoming Monday, I used to do a fair bit of writing. Somewhere between working a full-time job and being able to express myself on radio, however, that mostly fell aside, except for a few things written here or there during special circumstances (like my bid for Cheshire County Sheriff).

For those who prefer to live instead of vigilantly watching a 24 hour-a-day news cycle whose chattering has little-to-no actual impact on their daily lives, the big news of the year (thus far) is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and it’s important to discuss this topic. By a wide margin, the response people most desire to see from the United States and its European allies are sanctions against Russia–sanctions that I am against, because sanctions are not an alternative to war; sanctions are a prelude to war.

Let’s stop for a moment and consider sanctions. The stated goal of sanctions, as confirmed by even the most double-talking statist, is to squeeze the people of a nation such that they pressure their government to change course. Already, we see a strong reason that any rational person should condemn the use of sanctions: rather than punishing the people who are responsible for the transgression, sanctions deliberately seek to punish people who are innocent bystanders. 

Before anyone reading can spout off with silly platitudes about all governments ultimately requiring the consent of their people in order to take action, let’s rewind to the United States in 2003, and re-evaluate how much it actually mattered whether you or anyone else wanted war with Iraq. We can also go back further, to World War 2, when FDR won re-election by campaigning on how he had “kept the United States out of World War 2”, only to almost immediately involve the United States in World War 2.

We can’t evaluate the past too closely yet, but we will be doing so, because I have no doubt that people are out there, shaking their heads (if not closing this tab) and mumbling “Japan dragged the U.S. into World War 2, not FDR!” or some nonsense like that. We’ll revisit this shortly, because the attack on Pearl Harbor didn’t happen in a vacuum, and neither did the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Back to sanctions, though. I oppose sanctions because they, by definition, target and punish innocent bystanders. For obvious reasons, I oppose military intervention. Escalating a conflict to include more combatants has never made a war less destructive or deadly. The time has long passed (if it ever actually existed, and considerable historical evidence suggests it never existed) that wars were fought on battlefields between armies.

That is how we prefer to think of the Middle Ages, after all, and even more modern wars, such as the Revolutionary War and the American Civil War. We imagine them as two armies neatly opposed to each other, ready to smash into one another with bows, swords, guns, and bayonets at the sound of a horn, trumpet, or the waving of flags. While things like that probably happened, the next part of the story rarely gets told. The victorious army went on to ransack the nearest village, looting its treasures, killing its men, and raping its women–punishing the innocent bystanders whose only “crime” was being extorted into paying the taxes with which kings paid their soldiers.

There was considerably less raping and looting in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, more recent conflicts paint a much bleaker picture of the human condition. World War 2, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam, the War in Iraq–these histories are written in the blood of the innocent as much as the guilty. If we could send the U.S. army into some barren field so that they could shoot at the Russian army, and the Russian army could return fire, until one or the both of them were destroyed, I would have no problem with it, because these members of the military volunteered for that idiocy. I would object to it no more than I object to boxing or MMA. If someone wants to enter an arena and beat the hell out of someone else, and all parties consent to it, then have a good time. If they knowingly agree that death is a possible (even likely) outcome, I still have no objection.

Let the stupid play their stupid games and win their stupid prizes.

War, however, is not equivalent to boxing. In boxing, both parties have consented. A quick look at the numbers shows that, for every member of a military that was killed, two civilians were murdered during World War 2. While World War 2 is garish for countless reasons, it remains one of the best examples we have of why war is so horrific–and it’s appropriate to think about today, with many calling a possible war with Russia “World War 3.”

So if I oppose war and I oppose sanctions, what do I think should be done?

I Don’t Know

I have no idea what “should” be done to end the situation peacefully. I can’t even begin to imagine scenarios where the situation could be ended peacefully. But, and I can’t stress this point enough, I don’t have to have a working solution to point out that your solution is immoral and ineffective.

This seems to be what I encounter most online. “Oh, so you have no plan? You have no idea? And yet you want to criticize sanctions? Sanctions are the best plan we have, moron!” and things of that nature.

Let’s imagine this asinine, childish mindset in other circumstances.

My girlfriend and I are preparing to go out for the evening. She has suggested we go to the local gun range dressed as scarecrows with targets on our chest, and to then stand perfectly still in the area at which people will be shooting guns. Although it would be very easy to come up with better evening plans, let’s assume for a moment that I can’t think of anything else we could do. I don’t require an alternative to say, “That’s stupid, and I’m not doing it.”

Let’s imagine that my shed has caught on fire. Nearby, we have a 5-gallon jug of gasoline. That I don’t have a water hose handy doesn’t mean that my friend’s suggestion of throwing the 5-gallon jug of gasoline into the fire is a good one. Nor does it mean that my failure to suggest “calling the fire department” as an alternative means that we must throw gasoline on the fire.

It’s very easy to see how childish these arguments are. That, because I have no solution that isn’t “sanctions” or “war,” we must therefore go with a stupid, destructive, immoral option. “Doing nothing and coming up with a rational, effective plan” is a viable option. We may not have forever to delay before we come up with the idea of “calling the fire department” about a burning shed, but I can guarantee you that throwing a jug of gasoline onto the burning shed absolutely does not buy us more time in which to think.

This point must be beaten into the ground, because peoples lives are on the line here. We are watching a burning shed, and some of us are saying, “Give us more time to come up with a solution.”

Meanwhile, the hysterical are freaking out, and the only thing they can come up with is to throw gasoline on the shed, because “at least it’s doing something instead of standing around thinking!”

Yes, making the problem worse is definitely “doing something.” I can’t disagree with that. But if you are arguing that we must impose sanctions because we must act–now!–then you are simply saying we don’t have time to think of working solutions, and instead have to do the first thing that we come up with, which is throwing gasoline onto the fire.

American Hubris

If we woke up today, and “some country called Russia” had “invaded some country called Ukraine” and there was no historical context, no geopolitical maneuvering, and no subtle machinations, then things would be easier. However, as alluded to previously, these events, like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, did not happen without context.

FDR had done everything in his power to manipulate Japan into attacking. Supplying Japan’s enemies with weapons and money, hitting Japan with embargoes… The United States may have been a non-combatant prior to Pearl Harbor, but it’s historically ignorant to suggest that the United States wasn’t on the side of the Allies. It unequivocally was, and was doing everything it could to avoid combat while taking part in the war. FDR did not keep the United States out of the war prior to Pearl Harbor; he merely kept the United States out of combat. This is not to say that I think the Japanese attack was justified; whether it was justified is irrelevant.

To properly understand the situation in Ukraine and Russia, we don’t even have to look back to the Cold War, to the 60s and 70s, or even to the 80s or 90s. Our task is much easier. We just have to look back to 4 years ago, under President Trump, and consider one very simple, oft-repeated phrase:

“… colluding with Russia.”

Language is important, and it reveals a lot without people really meaning it to. There are countless ways for me to describe hitting my hand on my desk. Here are just a few:

  • I accidentally smacked my knuckles on my desk.
  • I slapped my desk in excitement.
  • I banged my hand on the desk.
  • I drummed my hand on the desk.
  • I pounded the desk with my fist.

In all of these examples, I “hit my hand on my desk.” Yet each of these statements paints a very different picture than the others.

No one ever accused George W. Bush of “colluding” with Tony Blair. No one ever accused the United States of “colluding” with Mexico and Canada. “Colluding” isn’t something that one friend does with another. One colludes… with the enemy.

While “…with the enemy” isn’t part of the literal definition of “collusion,” “…with the enemy” is likely to be one of the most popular follow-ups to the word “collusion.” Even “conspiring” doesn’t have the adversarial implications, and this is why Trump was never accused of “conspiring” with the Russians, even though “conspiracy” is part of the definition of “collusion.” It was never an accident that the word “collusion” was used, over and over, without fail.

That reason is that the overwhelming majority of Americans–civilians, military, and politicians alike–consider Russia to be an adversary. Throughout my life of watching events play out, it has repeatedly struck me that Putin has described the United States as Russia’s “partners,” and I laugh at the notion that the average American would characterize Russia in such a fair way.

The United States looks down on Russia. Even if Americans did not consider Russia to be an enemy (which it does, at the very least unconsciously, hence the overwhelming reliance on the word “collusion” to describe anything Trump may or may not have done with Russia), they would never consider Russia to be an equal, just as they do not consider China to be an equal, and never will.

The United States has deeply embedded in its cultural zeitgeist “We are the best. Everything we do is just. We can do no wrong. We are better than everyone else.” When you add that arrogance and disgusting conceit to the reality that Americans also view Russia (and China, if we’re being honest) as enemies (or, in the case of China, at the very least a potential enemy), a situation was created between the United States and Russia that caused Ukraine to be the rope in a global tug-of-war.

So no, I don’t have a solution to what is happening in Ukraine right now. I will say, however, that the situation was almost entirely created by the United States being unwilling to treat Russia as an equal and as a partner, rather than as an enemy. Ukraine is, sadly, the one paying the price, rather than the politicians who created this mess. But that’s always the case, isn’t it?

It’s always the innocent bystander, and never the government, that is killed.