I am thinking about shooting. Probably not in the way you think I am thinking about it. I am thinking about shooting as an exercise in discipline over power never before held in my hands. Two weeks ago as I enter my third year as a pistol shooter, I nailed a one foot circle about 25 yards away six or seven times in a row. I hesitate to raise my own assessment from "I don't suck" to "I'm pretty good". I think I'll say that "I'n not bad at all". But it's an entirely new skill, and I'm a sophomore.
In my approach to becoming a shooter, I was as my readers may know, powerfully affected by Bill Whittle and Eric S. Raymond. Whittle let me know I was a sheepdog, one not afraid of meeting violent offense with violent defense. Raymond let me know I take responsibility for life and death into my own hands. I have yet to be tested in the streets of the town where I live, and because of some regulations I am restrained from an avenue of defense, but I have decided to take the path towards these skills and responsibilities seriously. That was for me. But it's not all about me.
The most important thing about gaining this skill is the appreciation I have for other people who have it and the recognition of us as a force. Essentially, I can recognize other people who see the same foolishness in video portrayals of shooting pistols and rifles. I can separate the fact from the fiction and determine how much plot narrative of our entertainments depends upon entirely magical powers of weapons. I'm not the only one who sees through the curtain. And so I have a new brotherhood. The brotherhood of those who have the obligation to take the shot, and not miss. I don't want to be one obligated to make the shot. So I have not sworn an oath to defend the Constitution against all foes. I have not trained to stand on that wall. But I am in their minds and they are in mine. We are united in purpose, it is only our duties that separate us.
The night is dark.
Today I am trying to express something that is both private and should ultimately be shared. It is the encounter within my family on three separate occasions of The Wolf.
- My niece encountered The Wolf in a dark alley in Washington DC. She had no time to be clever although she clearly is. She is a raven, the cleverest of all birds, and although she was in his jaws by random fortune or Providence, managed to escape. I have not yet spoken to her and yet I know her feathers are back in place.
- My mother has been entertaining The Wolf over the telephone. He calls from Nigeria and keeps her dreams of unimaginable wealth alive. She has beggared neighbors and friends in service to these dreams and has decided that we, her children, are spoiling things. Her bills remain unpaid and we must intervene when the lights get turned off next month lest she freeze to death.
- My brother wrestled The Wolf to the ground last week and injured his right hand. I saw him last night and he is recovering nicely and has returned to duty as an LAPD officer.
You have certainly been transfixed by the brazen and deadly actions of The Wolf in Paris as the world's media went on full alert and piped high definition narrated video into your devices. Suddenly people are remembering Boko Haram. Then Mali had its moment yesterday. Some college kids are pissed that murder and mayhem has shouted down their whining. November is a remarkable month you might say.
Is it? I say it is not. The Wolf is always with us and it doesn't matter which guise he takes, what manner of attack he plans or fulfills. What matters is what we are prepared to do when he visits his hungers upon us. My poor mother doesn't even recognize him for what he is, but her blindness is not unique. It is the same blindness that administrators have to the actions of The Wolf on and near college campuses. It is the same blindness that blames America for being such a delicious piece of mutton, hiding as it does behind our massive force of GPS coordinated, nuclear tipped, shock and awe sheepdogs. That blames their discomforts and fears on the very fact that sheepdogs exist, not sheepdogs but fearmongers, warmongers and who uses 'monger' but those upon soapboxes?
Because of the close call with my niece, I've been thinking of Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks all week. These are stories we know well, but perhaps not so well as we think. Did Little Red's grandmother get eaten? Wasn't Red told not to go through the woods or talk to strangers? Did Goldilocks get eaten, or wasn't there a rescuing woodsman in both stories? I definitely remember a woodsman with an axe. That was the story I told my children, assuring them that I was wearing the red plaid and holding the blade for our family. I can do that for my children, but I don't think there's a woodsman in every nursery rhyme, and The Wolf does manage to eat enough to reproduce.
I am thinking about shooting as an exercise in discipline over power never before held in my hands and in particular in appreciation I have for other people who have this skill and the recognition of us as a force in defense of the Constitution. I wonder if I will ever have to swear that oath. The Wolf has not suddenly appeared but I have only recently, gradually and practically prepared.
So there's the abstract. Here are three branches of a specific tree you can nail me to if you so choose.
Point One: Fluency
It is motivated last night by Doc speaking as he unwrapped his injured hand. He said that the gun is a language he doesn't have to use 99.99% of the time. But he is fluent. I'm not even going to say that we all should be. The Grey Tribe knows who it is. When the saliva drips from the fangs and the breath is hot on their necks, the fluent will speak up. I'm a free man and I love to write and speak and communicate, it is my life force. The overwhelming majority of my life, English and French and Spanish and a half dozen computer languages have sufficed. But make no mistake, I'm literate and fluent in Gun. I'll sign up and speak Gun under oath if I am called. I don't think it's likely, and I don't watch The Walking Dead for fun. I simply practice.
Point Two: Survivability
Here's the second point in reiteration of Eric Raymond's point #3: The Universe doesn't care about motives. We recognize The Wolf by his behavior. Not his philosophy, nor his religion, nor his facial features or place of origin. Like Little Red Riding Hood, we walk through the woods with no preconceived notions in our basket of goodies. It is only at the last and final moment, upon the declaration that we are about to be eaten, do we act. I simply refuse to be eaten. I simply am not thinking about naming the enemy. My enemy is The Wolf, he needs no further introduction. I will be the good that survives.
Point Three: Perpetuity
The greatest thing about the poem by Lewis Carroll is that it begins and ends on the same note. 'Twas always brillig. 'Tis brillig today. This is human experience and always has been and always will be. Carroll's is a tale of the men who warns his son to take up his sword against this world's dangers. Yes people need to be reminded, but maybe people decide to be blind and deaf. One can pretend to be confused by the nonsense words, but they don't obscure, they universalize. What remains is the simple human responsibility. My niece must watch her back. I must take care of my mother. My brother must arrest the bad guy, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.
Now I have my vorpal sword in hand, not seeking any manxome foe, I rest by my Tumtum tree and stand a while in thought...