Messenger (Bag) of War

If you let them, some of the good habits you pick up in the military will stay with you for a lifetime. You may also gain perspectives that can function as a workable template for many situations. Not every situation, but many. Viewing every situation in terms of conflict is unwise, but conflict is all around us, and if we want to avoid it, it’s best that we try to understand it.

As we travel the pixel universe, we get the impression that there are many “wars” being fought in virtual reality. The war on drugs continues, and we have the war on terror, the war on poverty, the war on oppression, the war on the virus, the war on “anything we don’t like.” Every challenge must be overcome with a “fight.” We bypass dialogue, understanding and compromise and default to “war.” Even things that must be changed are fought before they are studied. People who spend their careers talking are now considered “warriors.” It soon becomes clear that most people who wield the language of war, do not understand war at all.

Let’s not jump directly into the fight. We’ll do some reconnaissance first.

My dad was a navy man, and he always had an away kit packed and ready with an assortment of items, including tightly rolled skivvies like you would find in a sea bag.  I still roll my t-shirts the same way. (If you roll them exactly right it will eliminate most of the wrinkles.)

As a former Marine, my bugout bag contains more metal and polymer-based items than textiles, including items that will guarantee a permanent social distance if necessary. There are also seasonal items that change with the weather, as you never know how long you might have to sit in your car on the side of an icy road, or how far you might have to walk.

As we entered the undiscovered territory of the plague years, my bugout bag spawned a more portable version for the inevitable trips for business or groceries, which, we must admit, are a bit more serious than they once were. Defensive perimeter enabler? Check. Steel bottle of cool spring water? Check. Leatherman, lighter, flashlight? Check.

Recently the kit has included a spray bottle of alcohol, spare masks, a zip lock with latex gloves, and a pair of mechanic’s gloves. There is a small spray bottle of colloidal silver we use to spray eyes and masks.

I digress. After growing weary of the plastic shopping bag overburdened with my road kit, my wife purchased for me a vintage military messenger bag. Heavy canvas, brass fittings…OK it’s a purse. A man bag, if you will. But if I slapped you with even the empty bag, you probably would not get up for a while.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a man who wants to carry a purse, a man-bag or a paper sack, but I still prefer to call my container “The Arsenal of Freedom.” Like it? Doesn’t that take you back? Sounds like “Patriot Act” or George W. Bush’s “Clear Skies Initiative.”

“I’m ready to go when you are. Do you have your sunglasses?” “Got them. Do you have ‘The Arsenal of Freedom?’” That’s inspiring conversation to hear around the house when you’re getting ready to drive to the dump! Even Alexa would be impressed, if her 8 microphones were plugged in. (They are not.)

A bugout bag, an away kit, a man-bag, a purse:  These are all just words to describe similar things, but things that might be motivated by different intentions or burdened by different baggage. I’m not going to slap you with my messenger bag, but isn’t that just the kind of fantasy video game thinking that permeates the national discourse and inspires an underemployed and over caffeinated coffeehouse client to throw a rock at a police car?

I might call such a rock thrower a “man bag,” or worse. Some would call him a “social justice warrior.” We’re talking about the same guy, but my intention is to describe a rudderless movement doomed to collapse under its own weight with a lot of collateral damage, and someone else has the intention of describing a bright shining ideal (surrounded by a lot of clouds and haze).

You see it, don’ you. I know you do. Words begin to lose their meaning when they are wielded as weapons, and the pixel universe has become a battleground of words and the intentions behind them. That battlefield has been mined with political correctness mines, and in the fog of war there have been casualties caused by “friendly fire” when some of the combatants stepped on their own mines or their weapons blew up in their faces.

For example, a particularly destructive but extremely popular weapon is the word,“racist.” Racist is a useful work when it is used as a surgical laser for cutting out diseased tissue, but too often it’s used as a grenade. As a grenade, it never wins battles, but when it is lobbed into a conversation and blows up, it harms indiscriminately. The intended target will probably not be fooled into engaging in dialogue again. Thus the battle is never won, but the conflict continues.

As you can see, a template of military perspective can bring some understanding to the word wars. Words can and do harm, and they have helped to start real wars ever since humans developed language. But allowing that template to become part of a dominant paradigm creates a lot of unnecessary unhappiness while making people vulnerable to the most contemptible manipulations.

Look what happens when you remove the template of the language of war from your view of this-moment-right-now.  Wow, more foolish arguments on the television. Let’s just turn it off. I’m sure glad I don’t live where those videos were taken…didn’t they show the same ones yesterday? It surely is a beautiful day outside.

Eventually, we can learn to recognize straight away those headlines and conversations that promote a skewed version of reality. Any headline or conversation that makes use of the language of war, unless it’s about a real war, is probably not unbiased – or completely factual. We can safely skip over those offerings that add toxins to our precious time.

Then, if there aren’t any protesters coming up the driveway and no actual battles being fought in our front yard (which includes the vast majority of Americans), we can concentrate instead on what our family, our neighborhood and our community needs right now. We can filter words for their functionality, and where meaning is needed, we get to assign that ourselves. And you know what? This canvas bag thing holds a lot more stuff than a grocery sack.

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