"There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper, and it would vanish -- it was that fragile. And I fear that it will not survive the winter."
-- Emperor Marcus Aurelius Caesar, in Ridley Scott's Gladiator
In our time, there is a dream that once was, and is no longer there, much like in Marcus Aurelius’ Rome. The founders of the United States of America had something like this in mind when they separated themselves from the British empire. Even in its flaws, their great plan was noble, and for a time it seemed to work. Then something went terribly wrong. Why did it go wrong? Because there was a government, and lots of it, and I want to get as far away from it as possible.
Late into the night on December 24th, I set out on the road headed for Keene, New Hampshire. It was to be an 800-mile journey with long hours and seemingly endless freeways. The purpose of the trip overshadowed any notion that the task at hand would be arduous or unworthy of the attempt. I was going to New Hampshire to explore the nature of the third American Revolution (yes I said third) The American Civil War was the second, and although a failure, was a response to government becoming more vast and intrusive.
The Free State Project is a very simple idea that basically asks those people who believe in freedom and liberty to move to one place where they can be amongst like-minded people, and hopefully reverse the trend that is larger and more powerful government. The idea is to get at least 20,000 people to move there, to join in the activism already taking place, or begin their own. Once 5,000 people had signed the pledge, a vote was taken, and New Hampshire was chosen as the location.
My arrival into Keene was somewhat anticlimactic, as I'd driven all night, and had not slept. So at first I was too busy being tired to admire the scenery around me. This would soon change, as I'd no sooner driven into town and posted on the online forums that I was there, than welcomes and offers to assist me began coming in.
The immediate observation one can make about New Hampshire is that it is very nice and clean. The small neighborhoods are quite attractive around the town, with the rural outlying areas being even more picturesque. Every place I visited appeared to have come right off a postcard.
Having just arrived in town--on Christmas Day, no less -- I was invited to a gathering of Free Staters. After getting the directions and making my way to the party, my trip to New Hampshire really came alive, and I in many ways also came alive for the first time in my 28 turns around the sun.
I was welcomed into the midst of about fifteen liberty-loving strangers, who made me feel like I had known them for years. There was no mistaking that these were “my people" -- a revelation I'm sure many others have felt upon coming to the area. No longer was I isolated, nor was I made to feel as if I were crazy. All in just the first fifteen minutes of the evening.
As the gathering dwindled down, one person suggested going to the jail and singing Christmas carols. Most of those who were still at the party were willing, and after the plan was posted online, others wanted to join us. Altogether, ten activists got to the jail. I was humbled and amazed at the manner in which this took place. Here were people, many of whom have already lost or sacrificed enough themselves, going out of their way (and the jail was definitely out of the way, by about 15 miles) on this holiday occasion to show their support to other people whom they may not even know -- at the time, only one other activist was in the jail.
After about 25 minutes of singing, the activity dispersed just as quickly as it had originated, serving the purpose of demonstrating that criminalizing people who have not actually harmed anyone is wrong. I returned to my hotel room. The day’s excitement had kept me awake despite not having slept the night before, but now it was time to rest. I would need even more energy for what was yet to come.
Having gone an entire day without sleep, I woke the next day about 5 pm and soon had invitations from several activists to do something or other. Keep in mind that this was my second day in Keene, and other activists are already assimilating me into the local scene as if I had lived there for years. I don’t even feel that welcome in my own hometown, and it’s about 1/6 the size of Keene.
The people I was hanging out with took me to a place called Abunara. This is a social club that offers food, hookah, and a relaxing atmosphere. It is also fast becoming the prime social scene for Keene activists, particularly on Sundays, but for this night the place was quiet. We enjoyed a few games of chess, ate some good food, and most important, discussed politics and local activism. I was having an all-around enjoyable night--with people like me!
After parting ways with these folks, I returned to the hotel again. Before I went to bed, I called friends and family back home and was already relating my experiences to them as if I had settled into town permanently. It was becoming quite clear to me that I had to try to make the move much sooner than I'd originally intended.
Sunday would prove to hold even more excitement than my first two days in town. Upon waking, I wanted to drive around some and get a feel for the area around Keene. I’m still not quite sure where I was driving--somewhere out in the country--but it was picture-perfect. New Hampshire is a terrific place for those motivated by the outdoor life, with many trails and scenic areas. I returned to the hotel with plenty of time to spare, as one of the activists had asked about interviewing me for a podcast, in which I told a bit about why I was coming to New Hampshire. Shortly after this, it was time to head to the Social Sunday gathering, and I made my way downtown to Abunara.
Anyone who has read the online forums that describe Social Sundays in Keene is only getting one aspect of the event. Sure, Social Sunday is a gathering of Free State activists to socialize, play games, and discuss politics and ideas--but it is far more! [It is an experience like no other-- There were nearly twice as many people at this event as there were at the Christmas party, all of similar ideology and energy.
For nearly six hours I played board games, argued politics, discussed business ideas, and most important, felt at home. Abunara is a very Free State - friendly establishment, and will no doubt be the site for many discussions of ideas and plans for the liberty movement in New Hampshire. As the night was getting late, I headed back to my hotel room and crashed onto the bed once again, exhausted by all the excitement and energy of the Free State!