The thumbnail for this blog post is pretty bleak, but that's just the first of many metaphors.
The ice giving way to the water underneath is another I find rather apt, as we are getting a glimpse at many attitudes and passions that were previously subsurface. Given the new President's speech that highlighted unity, ice reforming back to water and becoming part of the pool again could be another. A hundred people will have a hundred different thoughts about what Mona Lisa was thinking about, but we all agree she's smirking.
I think that we can all agree that no matter what you want to take from the fragile ice floating on a still stream during Inauguration day in Missouri, we can all agree that the pool, the ice, the stream itself; it's all water. It's all made from the same stuff. Which begs the question about what metaphor that serves. Are we all made from the same stuff? And if so, would it be more proper to have a fluid nature or to freeze steadfast into a solid surface?
Masturbatory poetic inquiries aside, there are a lot of shapes on the horizon that look like question marks. I spent the morning walking a mostly frozen streambed with my dogs and enjoyed an area devoid of people and cell reception for a little bit. I was raised a country kid with a dog, a 22lr bolt action, and the reward of free time earned by completing my chores. Traversing the places that muck up your boots centers me.
I was smart enough to bring a little notebook. It caught some of my thoughts, here they are refined.
A lot of us are pretty worried about potential legislations that come from one of the parties controlling both the Executive and Legislative functions. Which, fair enough, but the biggest ones are going to be cultural.
More than ever, it's likely a good time to keep a level head and have a mind for clear, concise communication. There has been a lot of scuttlebutt about inquisitions and witch hunts. It's as popular as ever for large companies to start dumping anyone and anything to do with firearms or political thoughts on one side of the house or the other.
Social Media is a godsend for the context-less revisionist. When one realizes that platforms like Twitter, Parler, and Facebook serve more as repositories for evidence to serve prosecution against you (whether that be in the court of law or public opinion), one quickly starts to see the forest through those trees. And the forest doesn't look healthy.
I won't make any bones about it, the self reliance community is overwhelmingly conservative. It is what it is. Think what you will, but I've voted third party since I could vote. The hill I want to die on isn't one with someone else's name on it. I've voted equally Libertarian or Green for my whole adult life. Which isn't uncommon among third party voters. But I say this so that when I tell you that I think there is validity to the inquisition of ideological purity, that you know that I'm not another Info-Wars-consuming idiot who's just repeating conspiracy theories. Of course, this idea is up for debate. And please do, I encourage ideas to withstand the crucible. Not being a classic liberal or conservative myself, one would think I wouldn't be worried about it, but I am still. Foremost because I write in the space of preparedness and firearms. I will not be asked for my consent to be lumped in with 3%er types in the wider media. Likewise, it is indicative that neither side is yet ready for this message of unity. When a lion takes over the pride he'll kill the offspring of the previous leader. There are no confusions of loyalty within the pride.
So what can we do? Well, here's advice from just some guy (me).
Funny enough, this has been the topic of some ribbing between a few of us. Just this past week I started going off about a satire article before Aaron rented a backhoe and excavator to dig deep enough to find me in comparison to how far above my head the joke went. It's a good reminder to view things with a grain of salt and enough distance that when you're presented with the absurd that you can react with a chuckle and not spiked blood pressure.
Humor is a coping mechanism many of us have used. ISG is pretty steeped in guys with military or law enforcement experiences. When you're in a dirt foxhole and the rain starts, about the only thing you can do that's helpful is laugh about it. With the referenced changes, there are going to be situations that seem crazy to us. Those same situations are likely going to be entirely out of the control of any sole citizen.
It's easier said than done, but there may be ways to make lemonade from the lemon tree of political strife. Sisyphus is a hero of mine. While he was King of Corinth, he used his wit to cheat death not once, but twice. In punishment for escaping his fate, Zeus cursed him to roll a large boulder up a hill for the rest of eternity in the depths of Hades. Once that boulder neared the top, it would roll and tumble all the way back to the bottom forcing Sisyphus to start all over again - forever.
Some find this a sad metaphor for the grind of life. But find the opportunities to smile here. Sisyphus is never painted as anything other than the most shredded dude to ever work out. If he sold fitness tapes you'd bet your ass I'm buying them. The greatest gift I could ever give Sisyphus would be a stopwatch and ask him just how fast he thinks he could do it again. He'll never reach the top, but he'll be happier every time he beats his previous record. Is this not what we do with our shooting or lockpicking skills?
The Tool of Cynicism
Everyone knows that you want to use the right tool for the right job. Cynicism is certainly a good tool to have in the bag, but 2020 called for it so much that folks started to see it as the round peg to try and fit into every triangle or square hole. With as many different viewpoints as we contain in 50 different states, the case for one-size-fits-all solutions gets weaker all the time.
Cynicism is really at the heart of self reliance. It's a mindset of forecasting just what can possibly go wrong. The optimistic mindset is plain unhelpful in that task. Cynicism helps us fill in the gaps in our knowledge, gear, and community by analyzing just what sucks about it. It's an aspect of self awareness that is indispensable for anyone who wants to take objectivity into their entire mindset.
When presented with news about a politicians and actors you don't like, don't be so hasty to pull the ol' 7 Iron out of the bag. Yeah, it's the club you hit with best on the driving range, but when you're only 10 yards off the green you're going to find yourself struggling to make that poor tool you insist on using actually accomplish any of your goals.
The same instance of thought that told me to bring a gun also saw the possibilities that a notebook could bring. It doesn't all have to be doom and gloom, obviously. I'm glad I remembered, else most of my little musings for this article would have been lost. Both equipment choices were contingencies in nature, even if they served opposite purposes of the glass half-full/half-empty debate.
There's criticism to be had here. To the right is what I had on me for that hike. You'll note that I didn't bring anything medical, no knife, and no shock collar for the dogs. There's a lot that could have gone wrong that I didn't bring the right stuff for. However, I wanted to wear my fleece lined running pants, and not having all those tangible reminders of just how much shit goes wrong everyday on my person was pretty freeing. It gave me the headspace I needed to write this section.
Use that in-born doubt you have as a scalpel, and a finely tuned one. It shouldn't be a fertilizer spreader for you to coat a neighborhood with.
Cowboys vs Indians
My favorite logical fallacy is 'false dichotomy.' In a nutshell, it's when an argument is presented as if choices were limited to an either/or dynamic. You've met the sorts of people that think everyone has to be either conservative or liberal, no if/ands/buts. Of course, we know that the gamut of political thoughts is a pretty damn varied one. As such, those who want you to pick a side of the aisle, to be neatly categorized, fall into a fallacious mode of thinking.
Hyperpartisanship is a huge soapbox of mine. It leads to the most cancerous of outlooks. It takes quite a lot ego to declare yourself a Cowboy and subsequently start deeming anyone who disagrees with you an Indian. Considering the history we have in the USA with Native Americans, I don't think this metaphor is insensitive. Long seeded in our cultural DNA is this ability to draw lines and declare those on the other side subhuman. This tactic predates us, but inhabits us just the same.
There is a laundry list of colorful names we've invented for the enemies of past wars. Kraut, Jap, Haji, Charlie, Hun, etc. All nicknames purposed with removing the humanity from that person you're pointing your muzzle at. It's a sad reality, but it was a necessary feature of what one has to do in such circumstances.
But those circumstances are war. To do this with your neighbors, to dehumanize them based on a label, is to sew that discord of war into yourself. A Trump sign on a lawn can make someone stop seeing their neighbor of the last 10 years as the person that always lent them eggs when they ran out. A Biden sticker can sour thoughts on a coworker someone's had for the last few years that always shared an office joyfully. Momma always told us to criticize the idea, not the person. Suddenly Momma is the one telling their kids not to talk to people in MAGA hats.
Putting yourself in a daily mindset that you're surrounded by enemies in your hometown is a slippery slope. When you make a bogeyman out of a cop or a professor you'll stop seeing them as people that can be reasoned with and you're left with delusions of monsters that haven't yet found their way under your bed.
It Takes a Village
Putting humpty dumpty back together wasn't a military task. Hooves and iron gauntlets don't have the nuance and dexterity to deal with eggshells. The King fucked that order up.
I love plate carriers and AR builds as much as anyone else, but the gear one needs to raid a hut in Kandahar isn't going to get much use in bridging these cultural divides. Folks like to muse about the second Civil War as if they're pondering where sandbags would best be stacked in their living room.
If you ask me, the struggle will be felt with software, not hardware.
And as such, we need to make sure our operating systems are robust. As with any collection of information, it's also made stronger with a network. You're going to need that ability to interface with others in your life and further.
All code is a language, to include social code. Everyone you meet is not going to have the same outlook as you. I bet you can think of at least one guy you know that gets almost belligerent at the mention of Joe Biden. What do you think of when you imagine him flying off the handle at the presentation of something that's incongruent with his world view? Do you admire his inability to keep his cool? I don't imagine you do.
Our wider public discourse features a lot of hostility. We are doing ourselves a disservice in this. Approach every person as though they've got something to teach you and you'll be surprised what you learn. If you've decided that "no conservative knows anything" then you're doomed to wade in the same insular hugbox of confirmation bias forever.
Learn to call a spade a spade, but don't neglect the ability to see and identify diamonds, clubs, and hearts. Depending on the flush you're going for, each one can be a villain or a hero.
There is likely going to be a long period of side-picking. Movements these days are devised with names that can be shared in a neat hashtag. There is no room for nuance in a space like that. If you want to bring that sort of detail and consideration back into the fold, the onus is on you to be the change you want to see. One extreme is claiming a monopoly on patriotism and truth, the other demands apology without any mechanism for forgiveness. The false dichotomy is that these are the only camps with which you have to pitch your tent.
This isn't the plea for civility from a generic store-brand centrist. A centrist I certainly am not. It's the wishes of a dude that wanted to spend a day of anticipation and doomsday declarations walking his dogs.