Source: R. Thomas Risk

Where were you on July 20, 1969, when Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first human beings to walk on the moon

Where were you on April 19, 1995, when Timothy McVeigh and others unknown took out half of the Alfred P. Murrah building with an ANFO bomb? 

How about September 11, 2001? 

Here’s another one.  Where were you when your governor or mayor first announced a lockdown?  How did you react? 

On March 17, 2020, I was minding my own business in my favorite locally-owned eatery/boozery, when the hostess announced that our mayor had ordered the establishment to close, effective the following day (an order, I would soon learn, based solely on CDC guidelines which stated in bold print that they were not to be construed as a directive).  I turned to the equally befuddled patron next to me and said, “This is not the America I grew up in.”

Weeks later, I muttered the same sentiment to my truck’s radio when it told me the deep-state buttinskies had bamboozled President Trump into extending the CDC guidelines.

Decorum forbids me to retell the profanities I spat at the television on September 9, 2021, when President Scold-and-Run chided: “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.”

It takes precious little time for confusion to turn into anger.  Most of us don’t like getting angry, and for good reason: we know from either playing or watching football that it’s usually the player who hits back that gets penalized.

As we watch the Marxists blitzkrieg our country on all fronts, it is apparent that our elected “representatives,” in an act reminiscent of Mayor Olly Perkins’ retreat to Madame Orr’s House, have decided to sit out this fight.  I suspect these circumstances are making a lot of us angry.

What do we do with this anger? 

For the last three decades, mental health professionals have raked in tidy speaking fees and book royalties milking the concept of emotional intelligence, aka emotional quotient (EQ).  The central idea is to take a breath and name the particular emotion you feel, after which you are better able to control it.  The notion is embodied in this observation by Wayne Dyer, Ph.D.: “The essence of greatness is the ability to choose personal fulfillment in circumstances where others choose madness.” 

My high school wrestling coach was more succinct: “Don’t lose your temper; use it.”

“Exercise self-awareness” may be apt advice for averting a road-rage incident or preventing a lover’s spat from ending in a split-up, but we may be on the verge of Armageddon here, right?  We need more than a situational solution.

What do we do?

A friend at that esteemed drinkery posed the same question.  The default response you’ll likely hear from any male who grew up during Sly Stallone’s cinematic prime is: “Stockpile the ammo and take care to save that last round for the unthinkable.”  But what I voiced was yet another query, “Find the courage to be that student who stood before the tank in Tiananmen Square all those years ago?”

As the methanol flowed, my fellow bar denizens eventually reached a consensus on the Rambo option, including the fair 98-pound-barely-old-enough-to-be-serving-spirits barkeep.  (Though Robert’s Rules of Order does not require the bartender for a grog-house quorum, unanimity is never a bad thing, even if the tapster’s motives are purely mercenary.)

While the prospect of a glorious death may be palatable among cronies who are a wee bit lit, suffering is a far less copacetic proposition.  Who among us would have the guts to face Orwell’s rat-cages?  Or the fortitude to endure the torture these soldiers did in North Vietnam’s Alcatraz?

No one really knows until the predicament arises.  I sincerely hope none of us is put to that test.  Still, great minds of the past have shown us how to steel ourselves.  Consider the guidance of Col. Jeff Cooper:

“A free man must not be told how to think, either by the government or by social activists. He may certainly be shown the right way, but he must not accept being forced into it.”

Weigh this advice from the legendary W.C. Fields:

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”

Each of these remarks is a call to independence of thought, a celebration of the inviolability of one’s own headspace — a quality depicted by William Wordsworth in an 1807 poem titled “Character of the Happy Warrior,” wherein the author extols the man who “makes his moral being his prime care,” is “skilful in self-knowledge” and “whose law is reason.”

Where will we be forced to draw our line of no trespass?  The sports arena?  The airport?  The grocery store?  The office?  Our doctor’s waiting room?  Our most beloved alehouse?  The neighborhood park?  Our front door?  Our bedroom?

Before that decision point arrives, might I propose that we indulge in some preemptive psychic maintenance?  What I suggest is that we pause to take inventory of what many refer to as our first principles. 

What values do we hold dear, and what are we willing to sacrifice for them?  Let us recommit to those ideals. 

Whom do we cherish?  Let us strengthen those bonds. 

Have we allowed our daily rut to shove aside those things which once held meaning for us?  Let us reclaim them. 

Have we had it up to here with the mask-Karens and the vax-shamers and the race-baiters?  Let us refuse to allow the propagandists to dupe us into requiting their hate.

It is up to us to maintain our mental health, and to fortify our resolve, as we undergo this pivotal juncture in history because, to paraphrase radio host Todd Herman, no one is coming to help us.