Adam Kokesh, former Iraq Veterans Against the War activist and a very early guest on Gary’s and my “Shared Sacrifice” podcast, was arrested Tuesday (July 9) in Virginia on gun and drug charges. Jillian Rayfield’s quick write-up of the arrest at Salon carries the headline “Gun-rights activist reportedly arrested for firearm, drug possession.” In addition to the arrest, the article mentions a provocative video by Kokesh, who, in my experience, certainly likes to call himself a revolutionary and say provocative shit. Among the drugs he was arrested with were mushrooms, which puts him in interesting company.
But Adam Kokesh is much more than a “gun rights activist” and Kokesh’s arrest does not make him your typical gun nut down the street. Mr. Kokesh has some profound political insights, and has put his body on the line both as a soldier and as an anti-war activist. He engages people on the left and counts among his friends several hard-working progressives. He accepts disagreement and criticism in his social network discussions, and is capable of nuance.
Kokesh is a smart libertarian–with blind spots, sure, as he would accuse egalitarians of having, but willing to talk and listen. People on the solid left agree with libertarians on questions of state power, and many on the left subscribe to the mantra I once heard circulated among the old SWP: “As long as the cops have guns, we need them too.” Not exactly the liberal-ordered-liberty pro-gun control crowd. Kokesh’s contingent and the left share the same assessment of that administrative ideology.
I think libertarians have blind spots about economics, often suffer from conscious or unconscious attacks of race-itis, and concentrate on 25% of the problem while celebrating and strengthening the other 75% of the problem. But while I think Ron Paul made a terrible poster child for an out-of-the-box presidential campaign, I think we should be careful about celebrating the lock-up of Adam Kokesh–and I’m not suggesting Jillian Rayfield’s post is celebratory, but I can hear the liberal chorus warming up.
We can debate the ideology and correctness of an open carry march on D.C. In my opinion, Kokesh would lose that debate, and I get the impression he’d understand why he lost, even if he didn’t admit it. But the fact that, now, nobody remembers Kokesh’s brave unfurling of an anti-war banner during a 2008 George W. Bush speech, instantiates the inability of media and the colonized public sphere to describe the complexity of current radical politics.
I don’t know Kokesh well enough to know what’s in his mind and heart, but we should obviously remember (1) that he’s innocent until proven guilty and (2) that even if he’s “guilty,” it’s within the parameters of a profoundly skewed and unjust legal system with absurd drug laws and only perhaps slightly less absurd firearms laws. At the very least, the phrase “first they came for the libertarians” ought to be in the back of progressives’ minds.