The wilderness is both my sanctuary and my livelihood. The ardent and transparently destructive stance towards public lands by our current president and his administration has been troubling, to say the least. I’ve always been tuned into the political side of environmental issues—a “part time warrior” as crusty ol’ Edward Abbey put it—but the urgency of threats that face our public lands have increased my worry. Part time won’t cut it.
I don’t like politics. I’ve had three or four day spans where I was either out in the aforementioned wilderness or else immersed in work where I’ve tuned out the news for a while and admittedly, that constant, underlying, fatigue and stress was lifted. Ignorance is of course bliss, and the choice to remain oblivious simply isn’t an option. That so many Americans remain mesmerized by 45, despite his blatant dishonesty, greed, ineptitude, and narcissist arrogance is revolting—but that’s a subject for political columnists and psychologists. The fact remains that those who truly care about our nation are distressed at the potentially irreversible losses in scientific knowledge and leadership, public lands, and rational thought as a guiding principle.
I say this because I’ve really wanted to retreat to the wonderful 5 acres of mountain land my wife and I own and just be. I want to spend days hiking with my dogs, building trails, reading by the fire, waking up in the cool air, and maybe once in awhile binge watching Bob’s Burgers (hey, we’re not Luddites, we have Internet). And yet, I know that this is the precise time in history to not drop out. The wave of anti-intellectualism has come ashore, washing away critical thinking, replacing it with the same old stubborn but effective fear tactic of welding ugly ideas into the self identities of far too many citizens. This process is nothing new, but to see in manifest in a time and place where the average person has nearly unlimited access to facts, studies, and scientific truths is worrying. The misplaced pride that our president takes in being (literally) unfit, uninformed, and defiantly close minded has sadly trickled down into legions of individuals, primarily rural white Americans who have a very apocryphal vision of what this country once was.
So with this reality before us, I’ve decided to invoke wilderness strategies to think and act in these strange and troubling times. Much like being lost in the woods, inaction is fatal. One must be cognizant of their resources and harbor a genuine respect for predators. One must remain vigilant, focused, and utilize energy in the wisest way. One must realize the safety in numbers. And most importantly, one must dispatch the narrative of how we got here and train their attention on what can be done to navigate out of danger and into the margins of security.
We are in political survival mode. If ever there was a time to cast aside one’s political allegiances and do some soul-searching on the flawed but (mostly) well-intentioned ideals America was founded upon, this is it. To say we as a nation have lost our way is an understatement. We’ve all been forced to switch on our primitive brains and the choice is ours: do we engage this political predation and fight, or do we flee and buckle under the whims of men whose motivation is the transparent hoarding of wealth, deceiving ourselves that we are somehow part of the tribe that would sooner sacrifice us once they’ve bullied our vote and misled our hearts?
I need a nice walk in the woods to think it over.