“Jack,” Trent said, “When I was fourteen I was a man. Had to be. Well, it looks like your father dying has made you a man, too.
“I’m giving you this Sharps. She’s an old gun, but she shoots straight. I’m not giving this gun to a boy, but to a man, and a man doesn’t ever use a gun unless he has to. He never wastes lead shooting carelessly. He shoots only when he has to, and when he can see what it is he’s shootin’ at.
“This gun is a present with no strings attached except that any man who takes up a gun accepts responsibility for what he does with it. Use it to hunt game, for target practice, or in defense of your home or those you love.
“Keep it loaded always. A gun’s no good to a man when it’s empty, and if it is settin’ around, people aren’t liable to handle it carelessly. They’ll say, ‘That’s Jack Moffit’s gun, and it’s always loaded.’ It is the guns people think are unloaded that cause accidents.”
Louis L’Amour, The Mountain Valley War
This isn’t just about guns or the current uproar over the reaction to the Orlando shooting. This goes deeper than that. It goes to the very heart of much of what is causing so much political and social turmoil in the US today.
Every time some public death happens (and I mean public; thousands of people die, many of them violently, every day, and never get a single line on the news), there is an outcry about how something must be done to prevent it happening again. Then there’s even more vociferous outcry about what must be done, and how, with proponents and opponents flinging all sorts of opprobrium at people they’ve never met and will never know over it.
The underlying problem with this vicious cycle of political opportunism and social division isn’t even a matter of politics, money, or philosophical differences over the role of the State in everyday life. (Don’t get me wrong, those are definitely factors; I’m just saying that there’s a deeper problem involved.) It is a matter of understanding of the matter of life itself.
Our wealthy, affluent, Western society has reached a point where a large portion of the population is so sheltered that they see safety as the default setting of life, and any danger is an abberation, something that shouldn’t be. They seem to believe that their lives would naturally go on forever, if just the right, utopian Things Are Done. They think that life is supposed to be safe, easy, and comfortable. These are the same people who accuse the likes of Larry Correia of “wanting people to live in fear” because he advocates for people to be armed and trained to use their weapons to preserve their lives.
Life isn’t safe. The one constant of life is that it ends. Everybody dies eventually, and you don’t get a vote in how it happens. You could live to be a hundred, and die of old age, or you could die tomorrow due to a car crash, a freak medical condition that had gone undiagnosed, a natural disaster, or a violent confrontation. You can either face that fact, mentally and physically prepare yourself to deal with what you can deal with, while accepting that eventually you’re going to die anyway, or you can live in terror or denial. One is paralyzing. The other is delusion.
We have, as a society, become so separated from this basic reality that we have people terrified of tools and loud noises, while other people are so disconnected from the real risks of life and the real world that they do stupid things like wandering off the trail and falling into an acidic hot spring in Yellowstone National Park.
Life isn’t safe. The real world is fraught with risks. This isn’t a call to be afraid, it is the opposite. In the immortal words of Herger the Joyous, “Grow stronger.” Get out of your bubble of concrete, computers, and safe spaces, realize and accept that sooner or later you are going to die, and learn to embrace the tools to thrive with that danger, instead of embracing wimpiness, rejecting responsibility, and shunning the strength of our forefathers. Nothing you do is going to make life easier or longer. Harden up and learn the tools and skills to survive and thrive.