Speakers Bring Ideas to Convention
by Ari Armstrong
[The following article originally appeared in the June/July 2001 edition of Colorado Liberty.]
April 24, 2007, Update: Shariar Ghalam's credibility as a source is in serious question. I apologize to my readers for unintentionally conveying information regarding Ghalam that I now regard as dubious. -- Ari Armstrong
Shariar Ghalam used to fly fighter planes for the Iranian airforce. Even though his country fell under oppressive rule, growing up "we had a ton of books," he said. "My father always planted a seed of doubt" when it comes to authority, he added. "That was a great blessing." At one point, Ghalam hid George Orwell's 1984 inside the cover of the Koran to avoid getting in trouble.
In the aftermath of the revolution in the late 70s, Ghalam's father was sentenced to death, as were others in the military, though he was never killed and eventually escaped to Paris.
Shariar also escaped to France with his brother, and two other brothers made it out later. "From the very beginning I knew I was coming to America," he said.
When Ghalam first read a copy of the U.S. Constitution, he thought it must be a joke. "There's no such thing as a country that would allow people to be that free," he thought.
One reason Ghalam came to the U.S. was the freedom to own firearms for self-defense.
Ghalam came to America with a love of freedom, yet he found reality did not always live up to the ideal. "Sometimes I felt like I went to the wrong America," he said. That's why he works to help restore our liberties: "I'm not one to give up." He celebrated the freedoms we retain; he said the Libertarian meeting would be illegal in other parts of the world.
"I'm from Iran," Ghalam said, "but I'm an American" in terms of ideas. "I was not born into liberty, I had to fight for it." He strongly denounced racism as a form of collectivism, saying, "What you make yourself to be is what you should be judged for."
The drug war should be fought harder, Ghalam used to think. However, he said Bob Glass eventually convinced him that the right to bear arms is under attack largely because of drug prohibition. He realized that both victim disarmament and drug prohibition arise from the same statist premises.
Ghalam urged libertarians, "Don't apologize for who you are. Be bold about it. There's no other country to go to after America." He added, "The worth of this life to me does not come from the fact that I'm breathing, but that I'm free."
BetteRose Smith and Joe Johnson sat on the panel about intrusive laws with Ghalam. Johnson said, "There are so many laws on the books that the police just ignore the dumb ones -- until they want to get you on something." Smith added, "In a lot of situations there is a catch-22; you can't help but break some law."
Larry Welshon and Desiree Hickson discussed alternatives to the government school system. Hickson homeschools her children, and Welshon helps run Alpine Valley School, which Melissa attends. Welshon said, "Initiative is welcome at our school. We have a real respect for private property and for the rule of law." Students help set policy there.
Melissa said she used to worry about bullies at her government school and she didn't have enough time to work on her own projects. "Who I am -- that's something I never seemed to be able to figure out in public school." Since she left that "authority"-based system, she said she's become more creative and reached a "better understanding of self." Hickson said homeschooling also helps children focus on their interests and build respectful relationships with others.
Linn Armstrong urged Libertarians to "win the hearts and minds of people." For example, he is active with the Pro Second Amendment Committee in Grand Junction in offering introductory firearms training classes. Thousands have gone through the class over the years. "Some believe media is the enemy. I view media as a tool," Armstrong added. He noted that his instruction program has earned extensive press.
Dr. Charles Barton, a philosophy professor visiting CU, Boulder from Australia, spoke about restorative justice, a program which is in some respects an extension of the libertarian concept of restitution. Restorative justice often encourages the criminal to meet with the victims in order to understand the impact of the crime.
The victims and other interested parties become involved in deciding how the offending party can make amends. Barton knows Bill Groom, a lawyer who is active in a restorative justice program in Colorado Springs. Groom and Ari Armstrong met while working with Christie Donner's Prison Moratorium Coalition.
Michele Poague, Elizabeth Bennett, and Debra Collins described how they used a gun for self-defense. Collins is active in the national group Second Amendment Sisters, with has taken on the "Million" Mom March. She used a shotgun to hold her violent ex-husband at bay until the police could arrive. Poague's home was broken into several times, so she got a defensive gun. Bennett also talked about how she arrived at her libertarian ideas.
Doug Newman discussed "how to relate libertarianism to the Christian community." Tom Parker and David Bryant discussed ways to use the internet for research and advocacy.
Norm Olsen, Carla Howell, and Dr. Shawn Elke Glazer discussed campaign strategies. Howell said that tapping into existing networks of voters is often easier than trying to locate current non-voters. One point of interest was how the Libertarian Party should relate to the other parties and political groups.
National Chair Dr. James Lark hosted a panel with Dolly Magno and Jamie Kent from the Auraria campus and Matt Zenthoefer from CU, Boulder. Lark remains active at getting Libertarian campus groups off the ground. Magno and Kent helped with the convention. The CU group recently hosted a talk with David Friedman and a discussion on civil arms with Ari Armstrong and Bruce Tiemann.
Ron Bain provided information on how to deal with the media in order to get positive press coverage. Dr. Gene Leverett, a veterinarian, and Jerry Sonnenberg discussed agricultural policy.
David Aitken hosted a discussion called "Voting for Dummies." One idea he discussed was run-off voting, which the Green Party has been touting in Colorado. The idea is to allow voters to rank the candidates so that the "wasted vote" issue becomes moot.
Steve Givot hosted discussions on building coalitions and better relating libertarian ideas in our conversations. Robert Brittain, MD, discussed the history of physician-assisted suicide.