I've always admired smart people, but I used to think that intelligence was the most important human trait. I now see that high IQs are relatively common compared to a more precious trait. That trait is courage, the ability to do something scary, and a willingness to risk personal harm to achieve an objective.
One of the best parts of working in the freedom movement is the chance to know and be inspired by some truly courageous people. Opposing the state can be dangerous. Standing tall while others bow can put a big target on your chest.
While the list of these courageous people would be endless, there are a few folks that have been particularly inspiring to me. I am particularly thankful for these individuals.
Professor Julian Heicklen, total badass. Julian has practiced civil disobedience for longer than most of us have been alive. He has fought institutional racism with sit-ins, confronted the absurd drug war with public pot smoking, and in recent years his pamphleteering efforts at courthouses promoting jury nullification have become legendary. This is a man who did two weeks at Riker's Island, just because he refused to identify himself to police after an arrest for distributing FIJA pamphlets on a public sidewalk. His quest to promote jury nullification has been wildly successful, but at great personal cost. He has been a huge inspiration for many.
Ed Forchion, aka "NJ Weedman." Ed has been a vociferous opponent of the drug war for the past decade. After an unfortunate encounter with the badged class in 2010, Ed was "caught" with a pound of marijuana in his trunk. Although offered a relatively mild plea deal, Ed chose to fight with everything he had, and attempted a forbidden jury nullification defense. After two trials, he was found not guilty of cannabis distribution. He invested everything he had in his defense against a ruthless prosecution with nearly unlimited resources. He finally emerged victorious. He risked substantial jail time to show the world that prohibition laws are wrong. He took all of the risk, but we all benefit from his victory.
Pete Eyre and Ademo Freeman, the courageous founders of CopBlock.org. Pete and Ademo, have had numerous clashes with badged "authorities" for peaceful behavior. Their habit of documenting the violent actions of government employees frequently irks those who would prefer that their deeds remain hidden from public scrutiny. They stand on principle, often at great personal cost, but their work has successfully eroded the illusion of government legitimacy. Numerous local Cop Block branches are cropping up everywhere to hold police accountable.
Michael S. Roberts, ExpressJet pilot. In 2010, Michael was on his way to work as a pilot. As he passed through a TSA checkpoint, he was instructed to submit to a new x-ray scanner. He refused. He also refused to submit to a humiliating "enhanced" pat down. Michael walked off the job rather than yield his principles. As the bread winner for his large family, Michael's stance was not an easy one, but his example inspired a global movement against the TSA. His struggle eventually won pilots a reprieve from invasive screening for now, but he continues to be a voice for dignified air travel for all.
Larken Rose, tax heretic. Larken first got my attention during his campaign to expose the fraud of the IRS. He challenged the IRS to prosecute him for strictly adhering to the law. He raged so loudly and so effectively, that eventually they did attack him and his wife Tessa. In what could barely be described as "trials" the Roses were prevented from making any substantial defense. They did however successfully expose the fraud of the IRS and brutish thuggery that passes for the "justice" system. After a year as a prisoner, Larken emerged as a prolific author, blogger and video producer. Unbeaten and unbowed, Larken is a relentless advocate for freedom.
I could go on and on. There are literally hundreds of other heroes I could point to as personal inspirations. Our movement is full of them at all levels. Sometimes working in the freedom movement can be dangerous. It can be expensive. It's often discouraging, but it brings out some of the most amazing, courageous people on earth. When I get to work with people like this, I know I'm on the right track. These individuals lead by example. They reflexively say "NO" to illegitimate authority. They stay true to their convictions, even when highly inconvenient. They inspire others and demonstrate clearly that courage is contagious.