Road Trip ...
Published: June 24th, 2013
By: Ashley Babbitt

Quite a few events have been taking place in the “news” lately. Be it the Oxford elections last week, updates on the protests in Turkey, the protests in Brazil last week, the COO of Golden Artist Colors, Inc. speaking before the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, there are preliminary talks of bringing a homeless shelter to Chenango County, the Supreme Court’s decision to essentially disregard the Fifth Amendment and – apparently while I was away – Edward Snowden was charged with espionage. At any rate, there seems to be a lot going on all over the place.

Here in the Chenango County “bubble,” people have become comfortable. Sure, you folks get mad about certain things, but what do you really do? Tweet about it, submit a short rant to ‘30 Seconds’ and wait for the right “Woman from South New Berlin” to respond to “Man from Greene’s” comment about Obama? Or there’s fracking, taxes, fireworks, conservative versus liberal, welfare ... I could go on, but I won’t - because what are you doing? Complaining isn’t going to get you anywhere. Sure - you’re outraged because welfare recipients aren’t drug tested ... well, do something about it. I’m saying to literally take action.

At any rate, there are certain things I am passionate about, and I decided to jump into my car this weekend, drive from Norwich up through Vermont, and into northern New Hampshire.

A few weeks back I learned of the Porcupine Freedom Festival - referred to as PorcFest - in Lancaster, N.H. (no, it is not a direct bacon reference ... I don’t even like bacon ... crazy, I know). The porcupine has been used as a libertarian “mascot” or symbol if you will - as the porcupine is an animal who harms no one if left alone, but will defend itself if need be. As a lover of a great many things, I knew this was something I had to check out for myself. I quadruple checked to be sure I had bug spray, and high-tailed it out of town ... well, I guess 30 mph isn’t really “high-tailing” it, but I took off.

Now, if you know me at all, you’ll know I have a horrible internal compass, so naturally I got lost - even with the use of a GPS, but that is part of the fun.

At any rate, I arrived at PorcFest safe and sound. There were more than 1,000 people I had never met in my life. Now, I’m a pretty introverted person and tend to keep to myself - that’s not to say I don’t love people, because I do - but I really prefer observation before self-inclusion, so this was a pretty big step outside of my comfort zone.

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A little bit about PorcFest, so you know what I decided to “get myself into,” if you will. PorcFest is an annual week-long event of the Free State Project. There are camp fires, panel discussions, presentations, movies, live talk shows, dancing, singing, music, food, parties, all around liberty-oriented conversation, and a whole bunch of other events. I was only able to make it for the weekend, but I’ll stack it as one of the best times I have had in a while. I had the opportunity to meet with and speak to some of the most fantastic, interesting and intelligent people I have probably ever met - and that is not an understatement in the least.

I had the privilege of a “liberty guide” if you will, who introduced me to a number of activists who are determined to see liberty in our lifetime. I had enough conversations with folks I made connections with that left me with a plethora of content I could - and will - write about, but each is deserving of its own due diligence. My emphasis instead here is to urge you to get out of your comfort zone.

As I stated before, I’m not too much of a social butterfly. After driving for a total of eight hours - I was lost for two - I stepped out of my car into unknown territory, had an absolutely terrific time, and can honestly say I didn’t want to return to Chenango County. Yes, this place is home, and I love it for that. At PorcFest I met people who devote their lives to action. Did they sit around and complain about things they didn’t like within the government - absolutely. But you know what? Before, during and after the festival, these folks actually get out in their communities and make change happen. Even more impressive, many left the places they called home for years of their lives to move to an area where they could potentially make a change.

I met activists who stand for something - to put it simply I’ll say freedom - and are so passionate and wholeheartedly believe in what they do that I couldn’t help but be in awe of not only their accomplishments thus far, but their drive to continue.

I shook the hand and said hello to Governor Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate for the 2012 Presidental election. He served as governor in New Mexico from 1995-2003 and during that time vetoed more than 750 bills ... that’s pretty impressive in my book. He’s climbed Mount Everest as well as many other mountains. He said a few words around the campfire Saturday night concerning an activist he knew (as did many of the others at the festival) who fell victim to cancer all too soon.

There was a “Soapbox Idol” event, where contestants were able to rant about anything they wanted for a set amount of time, and judges then declared a winner. Topics included civil disobedience, issues regarding open carry versus concealed carry, the importance of police accountability and lawfully recording their actions, and a number of other liberty and freedom oriented rants. Someone even “freestyled” during the tie-breaker off the top of his head.

I’ve never seen more firearms in my life. I had never touched or even held a firearm before Saturday. Ever. In N.H. guns aren’t as “scary” as people seem to think they are here. While I was surrounded by a large, large number of people openly carrying their firearms, I never once felt nervous, threatened, or feared for my life. Not one bit. Just the simple observation of these peaceful folks who happen to exercise their rights was downright fantastic.

People introduced themselves to one another - strangers meeting strangers and swapping ideas, sharing stories and events ... it was great; something I would certainly do for an entire week next year, so long as time permits.

In one of the first columns I wrote here at The Evening Sun, I mentioned Rich Paul, a N.H. activist who was found guilty by a jury of his “peers” and was sentenced to jail time for a victimless crime. He is currently in jail in Keene, N.H. After leaving PorcFest, I made a stop in Keene, and took part in a sign wave outside of the jail where he is serving his time. I stood on the side of the road sporting my shirt about jury nullification, holding a sign about the same topic, and waving at cars driving by ... that was pretty cool. There are also pockets of time where Paul can have visitors, and that’s something I may like to do as well.

I met many folks who made the move to N.H. as part of the Free State Project, and admire a great many of them who are doing their part to see liberty in our lifetime.

I walked up to people I’ve never seen before in my life and may never see again and had intelligent, thought-provoking conversations about anything you could think of.

As a sidenote - learn how to maneuver in a traffic circle. Seriously. They’re efficient if used correctly and dangerous if not.

So yes, this weekend I had a half-hour long absolutely intelligent conversation with an anarchist openly carrying a firearm around a campfire (actually this happened many times), and surprisingly don’t think I’ve ever felt safer.

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I guess my overall point here is - stop complaining about what you’re not happy with ... step out of your comfort zone and do something.

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