Some Reasons I Stay Optimistic

I tend to end even my most vicious political essays in an optimistic way. It isn’t that I am bubbling over with hopefulness. I don’t always see a bright and shiny future for this country, and I do fear our nation’s spasmodic reaction as the fascist garrote tightens and begins to cut. I stare into the 21st century abyss just like everyone else, and like everyone else, I find it variously depressing, terrifying, or both.

But in the past six months, since Republic Broadcasting Network asked me to do a radio show, I have talked to some people who inspire optimism and faith and remind us that individualism, intellect, heart, and humor thrive in this country. Perhaps they demonstrate that these qualities are even encouraged by the cursedly interesting times in which we live.

For those who may not have heard my radio program — fair warning! I don’t know what I am doing on air, and am quite the amateur. One Saturday night not long ago, I got busy with something on the farm and literally forgot about the live program, got on air with seconds to spare, unprepared and out of breath. Thank goodness they don’t pay me!

But I am paid, in ideas, perspectives and the wisdom of my guests and listeners who call in. In looking back at the shows I have done so far in 2005 and 2006 — four related themes have emerged: Iraq and war, deconstructing imperial neoconservatism, ideas on government, and ideas on resistance. What follows is a guide to what I have learned, with links to the conversations we’ve had.

Iraq and war: I’ve spoken to soldiers who fought this war, like Jason Christopher Hartley, Al Lorentz and Tomas Young. Al Lorentz is a man I’d written about earlier, a hero hated by the Pentagon. I read Jason Hartley’s Just Another Soldier: a Year on the Ground in Iraq about what happened to him when he blogged from Iraq and his truth didn’t match the Pentagon’s "truthiness." I watched Tomas a few weeks later when he appeared in a 60 Minutes segment about injured Iraq vets. When asked the question of whether we should stay in Iraq, Tomas Young was the only injured Iraq vet who looked the interviewer firmly in the eye when he answered. He was also the only injured vet on the show who said American troops should come home now.

I talked to the intrepid reporter Dahr Jamail, whose blog and articles capture what’s happening in Iraq as accurately and as fairly as I’ve ever seen. I also had the honor of speaking to Monica Benderman, wife of Kevin Benderman, currently doing time in Army prison for requesting conscientious objector status after a tour in Iraq. I spoke to Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson of Military Families Speak Out and, and heard their tragic stories and what they are doing about the war in Iraq.

Deconstructing imperial neoconservatism: Sounds intimidating, and I had some powerful minds on board to help me out. These included the wonderful Ray McGovern, co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and Dr. Leon Hadar, author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East and other brilliant analyses. I spoke with Bill Blum, author of several masterful books on American and the CIA, including Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. And of course I spoke to John Sharp, editor of the fantastic Neoconned and Neoconned Again! volumes.

Ideas on government do interest me, as long as they are libertarian. I had the most wonderful conversation with Lew Rockwell, author of most recently Speaking of Liberty. I spoke with another contributor Brad Edmonds, whose archives are filled with anarcho-capitalism and tips on good food. I talked with the founder of the Future of Freedom Foundation, libertarian Jacob Hornberger. And of course I spoke with 2004 Libertarian Presidential candidate Michael Badnarik, who is currently racing for a seat in the House representing the 10th Texas District. And this Saturday I have Jim Bovard, discussing his latest book, Attention Deficit Democracy.

I don’t just speak to libertarians and anarcho-capitalists, of course. People who understand the problems government creates, designs, and exacerbates are also welcome — and these include former Bush appointee Morgan Reynolds, talking about what physically and organizationally happened on 9-11. Also the dedicated and wise Winslow Wheeler, whose The Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security and work at the Center for Defense Information are helping many people understand how national security really works. I spoke with William Clark, author of Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar, and many things became much clearer. I had the honor of speaking with Darlene Fitzgerald, author of the just released Bordergate: The Story the Government Doesn’t Want You to Read about blowing the whistle on corruption in what is now the Department of Homeland Security.

Ideas on Resistance: Every single one of my guests has ideas on resistance, and each is putting them into practice in a variety of ways. Whether they are reporting the facts, provided reasoned analysis, challenging the system, marching in the streets, sacrificing careers and years of their lives — each is a resister, a conscientious objector, a rebel. A few guests, like Dr. Andrew Bard Schmookler and novelist Mike Palecek, author of Looking for Bigfoot, are likewise inspiring. I loved Mike’s novel — it’s about resisting as well as seeking — and Dr. Schmookler works to create dialogues of resistance at his blog and in his writings.

I don’t know if I will move in new directions. As I said, I don’t know what it is I am doing with this program — by the way, it’s called American Forum. What I do know is each week unfolds with someone arriving on Saturday night to answer my questions about things I care about, and what I am learning is keeping me optimistic.

This week, on May 6th, I am scheduled with Jim Bovard — longtime Lew Rockwell contributor and wonderful speaker, researcher, writer, you name it. It’s 9 to 11 p.m. EST; you can listen live here and even call in and talk to Jim yourself! It’s all good!

Our theme music is definitely not "Don’t Worry, Be Happy." We are worried. But we are also happy to be still free to talk about what’s real, what’s bad, and what we’re going to do about it. Join us!