Reflecting on recent events and current affairs in general, Chris Valle aims for the heart of the matter, defines the war we’re actually waging, and how to counter it.
I’ve been putting off another longform yakety-yak, despite all of the provocation of current events, because I feel sometimes like I’m trying to put out little pop-up fires and failing to address central issues. There must be things, I say to myself, that anyone can do to “push in the right direction,” and affect positive change while (possibly as important as measurable results) feeling good about trying. I have read that politics, as it pertains to leadership and actually doing one’s job, is the craft of making people feel good about doing what must be done. Certainly as it pertains to sacrifice and service, but just as importantly to maintenance and care of a society and its values. Leadership requires reminding people of ideals and goals that can get lost or distorted.
We Are At War. Not With Al-Qaeda, Daesh, or the Bundy Bunch. I mean, yes, we are at war with those clowns, but they aren’t our biggest threat. In the Stone Age, a club or a sling was cutting edge weapons tech. Through Iron, Bronze, Jet, Atomic, etc., Ages, part of what helped define those times was the most serious strategic threat; and now in the Information Age, our greatest threat is Bad Ideas. Thermonuclear war is never off the table while the weapons themselves still exist, but while one-timers are still trying to join the nuclear club, the Cold-War era threat of mass annihilation probably got nuked by pure greed in the ’00s. The heavy hitters have too much (money) to lose to consider taking each other out anymore. Good news for the species … up to the point where we must then consider how rather than if we will continue. The war I’m talking about is decent people opposing the rising tide of brutality, hatred, anti-intellectualism, and the contamination of basic human values by religious and political cynicism.
There aren’t enough suicide vests, assault rifles, or dirty bombs to get us all, but there is an army of a-holes, nitwits and boneheads marching on our capitals with legislation clearly intended to deprive LGBTQ, women, black and brown people of some combination of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There are propositions, bills, apologist pandering, and dog-whistle bigotry being used to raise an army of selfish, hateful people. They would certainly topple from the inside the institutions and quality of life that we enjoy in a way no hijacked airliner ever could. We also must take direct action against the more hands-on, old school bad guys that still rape, kill, maim, and mutilate, but in doing so must acknowledge and reject the Bad Idea of trying to wade in and out-brutalize them as a mechanism for change. There is an abundance of examples set by other wealthy, advanced societies that demonstrate what we are fighting for: protection of the weak by the strong, the rule of law, fairness in trade and economic policy, education and the physical health of our environment, as well as our own bodies. We are not a great nation if we cannot do simple things, and we are cowards if we won’t fight for our principles. We will not have freedom and prosperity if we don’t fight for it. We will not have justice and dignity if we refuse to protect it.
Get involved. Volunteer. Meet people who are interested in doing the same. The idiots at the wildlife preserve in Oregon? Yeah, they didn’t get paid for that adventure. The people who are trying to tear our world down are often doing it for the love of the game, so you have to be willing to match that commitment. Fighting Bad Ideas means making the sacrifice of your time and energy to get educated and informed by multiple sources, seek out discussion and engagement, and most crucially CHALLENGE THE BULLSHIT. Don’t shy away from mixing it up with hordes of jerks and dimwits. Not to change their minds or to “teach them a lesson” … but rather to let them know that their outrageous rhetoric is going to be shot down, and that they are facing an opponent that is hardened, capable, and relentless.
“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas. Tyrants have tried to do that often before, and the ideas have risen up in their might and destroyed them.” —Helen Keller
[Photo by the author, Chris Valle @chrisvallephoto]