Avens O'Brien is a second-generation libertarian residing in Los Angeles, CA. She spends an enormous amount of her time working for a digital media startup, and the rest of her time on numerous pursuits of passion: she tends to participate in fun antics and adventures (which she then writes about) as well as pretending to be really smart about politics and philosophy. She's an agitator of ideas, a doer of things, and contributes regularly for DL Magazine and Thoughts on Liberty. You can find all her writing on AVENS.ME.
I turned 27 this past Friday. The night before, I had the good fortune to attend the unveiling of the new Tesla Model D. Friday night, a small group of incredible people I am so grateful to call friends gathered for dinner to celebrate my birthday. On Saturday, I went to the premiere of a new documentary called The Culture High (which I recommend highly). On Sunday, I spent the better part of a day playing with my adorable little niece-of-the-heart. It was an amazing weekend. I am tremendously lucky for all the incredible events and people in my life.
I haven’t done a formal update about my life in quite a while. I guess now is as good a time as any. I’m calling it The State of the Avens, because we all know I’m a little too obsessed with politics and nerdy references. Continue reading The State of the Avens→
Wednesday night during an interview, I was asked to describe my writing style. I gave a little explanation about how I tend to speak from personal experience, I try to make the jumble of thoughts in my head accessible to other people, and to be conversational about it. I don’t ever want what I write to be difficult to read.
I started stewing over how this became my writing style, and hours later, I decided that blogging about the way I blog was not too meta for my own blog. So here’s my attempt at explaining it. Continue reading The Interpreter→
I was born and raised as a feminist by my mother, who is exactly 40 years older than I am. My mother went to college in the 1960s in New England, where she tried to open a bank account but they wouldn’t let her unless her husband or father co-signed as an account holder. She wasn’t legally allowed to have a credit card until 1974. She got married in 1975, and legally, she had no right to refuse to have sex with her husband until the late 1970s in some states (and 1993 in others).
The featured photo above this post can be found in Ashton Pittman’s beautiful photo essay here.
Today is May 31, 2014.
Five years ago today, Dr. George Tiller was assassinated. He was shot point-blank through the eye on a Sunday morning, in front of his family & his congregation. He was at his church, where he was serving as an usher. There were children and families there.
Dr. Tiller was no stranger to the violence of the most extremist anti-choicers – his clinic was firebombed in 1986, and he was shot five times in 1993. He was wearing a bulletproof jacket the day he was killed, which he’d been doing since 1998 due to threats.
He operated his clinic out of Wichita, Kansas, where he’d been performing abortions since the 1970s after hearing about a woman dying from an illegal procedure. He was known for being one of the only doctors in the US to perform abortions in the third trimester.
He performed numerous abortions to save women’s lives and often performed abortions for women who discovered their child would be born with severe or fatal birth defects. He was constantly pressured through violence and protesting to cease providing abortions, but he never caved to their demands, and someone murdered him for it.
There are now only four abortion providers who offer abortion services after 21 weeks in all of the US. They are under constant threat from violent anti-choice activists.
Today I make a donation to my nearest abortion clinic, in Dr. Tiller’s name. He will continue making a difference in the lives of women, every time he is remembered for his strength, courage and conviction.
In the US, since 1993, eight people have been killed by violent anti-choice activists. Since 1991, there have been 17 attempted murders, and since 1977 there have been more than 6,400 reported acts of violence against abortion providers, including arsons, bombings, kidnappings, assault, death threats and arson.
There are people who are legitimately pro-life.
The people committing these acts of violence certainly aren’t.
On Wednesday, my Facebook friend Antony Davis posted an excellent comparison in a status update that I had to share because I thought it was too good to ignore:
“Liberals see government as a complement to community. Libertarians see government as a substitute for community. So when liberals say “government should care for the poor,” and Libertarians say, “government should not care for the poor,” they are both saying that we should care for the poor.”
He posted a comment afterwards that I also thought was too good to get lost on a Facebook Timeline:
“This is the sort of thing we must stop doing: liberals characterizing libertarians as heartless, and libertarians characterizing liberals as brainless.
To be complete humans, our hearts and brains must work together. Without the former we are machines. Without the latter, we are mere animals.
Some Liberals are indeed brainless, just as some Libertarians are heartless. In both cases, they are minorities who should be ignored.”
This is something that I’ve noticed for a very long time (as in: my entire life) in the corridors of communication between and about liberals and libertarians: a lack of understanding of each other’s terms. To top it off, it often feels like there’s a willful desire to be misunderstood.
* * *
So, in the interest of terminology: I’m going to start by telling you that I dislike calling liberals “liberals” for dozens of reasons (one being that I refer to myself as a Classical Liberal) but I’m going to go ahead and accept the term here as being somebody who wishes to advocate progressive policies by government with the intended consequence of making a more equal and just world in their eyes. That’s the general definition I’m using here, for clarity’s sake. Some of my libertarian friends prefer the term “statist”, which also displeases me, as it’s tremendously divisive and doesn’t foster respectful communication. So, “liberal” is the word, and the working definition is as stated above.
The word “libertarian” in this instance is going to apply to anybody who is at least aware of and somewhat guided by the non-aggression principle (the NAP).
Now that we’re defined our terms, let’s talk about how we respond to them:
An excellent example here is the knee jerk reaction of libertarians to the liberal proposal that “we should do something” is immediately equated to a proposal that the government must do something. If a liberal ever says the slightest hint of “but, how will we help the [insert oppressed group here]?” a libertarian instantly assumes that government is the proposed answer (it might be) and rails against that with such fervor that it scares the shit out of the liberal.
Last week, Senator Rand Paul was interviewed by David Axelrod, and spoke about the polarization in America over abortion. He talked about how he believes the country is “somewhere in the middle” on abortion and needs to be persuaded before abortion can be made illegal. His stance is surprisingly gentle considering his March 2013 introduction of the Life at Conception Act, which never made it to the floor of either the House or Senate.
The trouble I find with this whole “polarization” discussion is that there’s really just one group that doesn’t wish to compromise at all. They’re the ones who claim we want “abortion on demand” and try to ban emergency contraception. They’re the ones that hold up signs at clinics with pictures of dead fetuses, as if that represents what most abortions look like. They’re the ones that don’t rush to condemn domestic terrorism against abortion providers, even when that violence murders doctors.
But when you look at the public opinion polls and talk to people, reasonably, you’ll find that most people, even those opposed to abortion, aren’t actually like the people I just described above. Out of civility, I’ll refer to that whole group by the name they call themselves: pro-life.
In the interest of non-hysteria, let’s note that most pro-life individuals often support the option to abort in the instances of incest, rape or risk to life of the mother. And let’s also acknowledge that even pro-choice individuals speak out against things like “partial birth abortion“, which has been banned federally since 2003 (it was already illegal almost everywhere, but the “party of small government” apparently loves redundant laws), and nearly all pro-choice individuals defer to medical standards of viability when discussing acceptable restrictions.
Many years ago, a woman named Eileen sat on her front porch and looked over the chain-link fence at my strange family and our friends, all dancing around a Beltaine Maypole in a nice suburban neighborhood of Manchester, New Hampshire.
Despite our peculiar activities, I suspect it was the smell of delicious food on the grill that finally convinced her to wander over and inquire as to the reason for our celebration. She got a bit of an education on Druidism that afternoon, and made fast friends with our group.
Eileen became a frequent visitor to our home, a close friend of my mother’s, and even the emergency babysitter if my family needed someone to watch me. She was the perfect example of a good neighbor. She and Mum both loved flowers, and the space between our yards became gardens in the spring & summer of irises, lilies and roses. Continue reading Count It All Joy→
But he’s dead now, and though his church and family is still around and may protest more funerals and cause more ruckus, he’s dead, and there’s one less bigot in the world. This appears to be a plus for humanity in general.
So what to do, to mark the occasion? Protests, celebrations — all of that is fair. Does he deserve the peace and quiet he refused to allow so many others at their funerals?
The world has plenty of hate. I don’t want to add to it. I want to improve something, try to make things better than Fred Phelps ever did.
My first official job was as a Sales Representative for a company called Wilson’s Leather. I was a teenager and I loved my job, I loved my managers, I loved all of my co-workers: we were an awesome little family. My store manager was a man named Colin, who has taught me more about work ethic and sales and customer service than anyone I have ever met, and my continued success in sales environments is very much due to his influence. Continue reading What Fired Felt Like→
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” – Anais Nin