In our concluding conversation with Matthew Kahl, founder of Veterans for Natural Rights, we discuss the current political climate in the United States, the international War on Drugs, the dangers of tribalism, and how military veterans are uniquely equipped to speak truth to both state propaganda and would-be revolutionaries.
Thanks again for speaking with us Matthew. The film From Shock to Awe starts off with this very powerful Thich Nhat Hanh quote that says that those who have been touched by war are the “tip of the candle” and best equipped to bring peace. You echoed that near the end of the film, saying that it’s up to veterans to help end war as a viable and accepted political tool. I found that to be so powerful, and I wonder if you could speak on that a little bit.
Absolutely. Our government was originally conceived of simply to ensure the natural rights of its citizens—the personal freedoms, individual liberties, and natural human rights that we are all born with. We’ve gone far, far astray from that, and now we’ve gone into nation building and nation toppling and we’ve even declared war on our own population with the War on Drugs.
This mindset, this perpetual war is leading to all kinds of ugly consequences for this nation. Local police stations have MRAP’s (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected military vehicles), and I don’t know too many local police forces that really need a mine-resistant vehicle. We’re setting them up to literally be the enemy. There’s a reason you keep the police forces and the military separate, because if you militarize the police they are going to end up thinking of the people they are meant to protect as the enemy. And that’s where were at as a nation.
We have declared war on the entire rest of the world with the war on terrorism. It doesn’t matter where it is, wherever it pops up we’re going to be there. Our government is essentially at war with every individual in the entire world, and it’s metastasized beyond belief. The founders would probably be aghast at what has happened in America. We have gone so far astray.
My organization Veterans for Natural Rights is dedicated to those same founding principles—personal freedoms, individual liberties, and natural human rights. Those are the only things that our government should be trying to ensure and protect. I raised my hand and I swore to support and defend the constitution against all enemies foreign or domestic, and I’ve never really been relieved of that oath. I spent some time fighting wars against what I was told were our enemies, and when I was over there I found that the vast majority of those people just wanted to be left alone.
If you’re not hurting anyone else, just leave people alone. I would like to see that be our founding principle and mission as a nation again, simply to protect individual freedoms, personal liberties and natural human rights. If we can do that, then we can cut out all the rest of the bullshit. Bring everyone home.
If we really want to honor the veterans that we made, don’t make any more of them. Don’t put more people through this and don’t break the rest of their lives just because you want to pursue an economic interest in another nation. It’s the height of irresponsibility to send our youth off to war to fight and die and perhaps be broken for a lifetime and not care for them when they return. And that’s what we’ve got with the VA. They are not willing to give people the freedom to try and fix themselves. Right now, if people use cannabis there are still doctors in the VA who will label you with “cannabis use disorder”, even though you are just trying to medicate your issues, trying to do what they can’t because they’ve failed.
With psychedelics it’s the same thing. You admit to your VA doctor that you’ve taken psychedelics, and wow, you’re probably going to be looked at very differently from then on out, and your access to any of the other things that the VA has to offer might be curtailed.
I think that there’s also this massive issue in the United States with tribalism. Anybody who is not in your tribe is the enemy, and that’s just another extrapolation of the perpetual war mindset. We are always at war with the “other”, whoever they may be. There’s this oppositional undercurrent in America, and it doesn’t matter if you are straight or gay or trans or whatever, you feel that everybody else is trying to persecute you just for being yourself. And that’s not really the case. We have lost sight of what it means to just let people be in America, and let them do whatever they want to try the best person they want to be.
I would like to see our country overcome its reliance on perpetual war as a political tool. I would like to see us focus more on the defense of our nation and protecting individual rights, and that would keep us out of conflict with a lot of different people. We have this absolutely asinine overreliance on trying to tell everyone else how to live their lives, and you can’t do that. You’re automatically setting yourself up for failure and a great deal of conflict, and that’s not what we’re supposed to be.
We’re supposed to be the nation of freedom, the shining light, a beacon for the rest of the world to follow. It’s such a shame what our nation has come to and right now unfortunately the people stepping up trying to change the system don’t seem to have those principles in mind. I really wish that combat vets, especially, would step up more to become leaders because I think that no matter who you are, doesn’t matter if you got out as an E4 or got out as an E9, you’re a natural leader for the simple fact that you volunteered your life for a principle. You’ve volunteered your life for something as simple as, “I don’t want anybody I love to have to be subjected to war, so I’ll sacrifice myself and I will go out there and I’ll do this just so that my kids will never have to see it.”
I see some very disturbing things in our country right now. Some people are literally advocating for some kind of revolution. I’ve seen what that does, and I don’t want blood running in my neighborhood streets. I don’t want that for my children or my family. I don’t want mass killings, deaths, rapes—these are all the results of war, and it doesn’t matter how sanitized you make it, they are all still there. People are literally asking for that, and I would much rather avoid it at all costs. I understand what it does to a nation, and it would literally bring us to our knees and destroy almost everything that we’ve worked so hard to create for hundreds of years now. We have provided by far the best life for our citizens that has ever been provided for any citizen of any country in all of history. We are incredibly sheltered. Nobody calling for war really knows or understands that war does these things: war is brutal, hard and ugly. That’s the only reason that people would be asking for it.
I think that we need to overcome war as a political tool, and we need to teach people how to be peaceful again, and that quote by Tich Nat Han says that. If warriors come back and are allowed to tell their truths, then maybe we can teach people to never resolve conflicts with violence again.
Profound and beautiful; I couldn’t agree more. One thing that psychedelics show us is the relationship of the external to the internal. I imagine that once we start to rein in our foreign policy and our aggression to the rest of the world, that might have an effect inside of our borders as well—we would be less at war with each other.
I agree so much also about those who call for revolution having no concept whatsoever of what that actually means. Most people are living a sheltered life in a society that feeds us misinformation, propaganda, and media that incentivises outrage. We have some people who get offended by microaggressions and feel so oppressed by minutiae, but they don’t know anything about the War on Drugs and how they and their community—and like you said, the whole world—is under the thumb of true oppression, which is this lack of access to natural medicines, monolithic support for a corrupt pharmaceutical system and other corporate interests, creation of a brutal black market, and lack of the basic right to cognitive liberty—to do what we will with our consciousness, especially by natural means. It would be so great with all of this revolutionary energy and all of this tribalism, if the tribe could be seen as the human tribe and the oppression seen as the actual oppression: unfair drug laws, unchecked environmental destruction, and perpetual wars against plants and people.
Exactly; couldn’t have said it better. This is a tragedy in our lifetimes, and anything that we can do to dial it back and start respecting individuals again is where we need to start.