I’ve always envied folks who have self-righteous confidence. An unwavering sense that they’re always the good guy in the story, an agent of justice. Who instinctively scream at perceived unfairness, rush head on into it, attacking it with little forethought and certainly no regret.
That’s never been my automatic response — to nearly anything, really. It takes a lot of conditioning to make me despise something or someone (although to be fair, I have managed to dislike a few people). Instead, I’ve found myself mostly hanging back, taking in the scene, measuring what I can. Making calculations. Even when in crisis. Especially when in crisis. Meditating in an emergency.
Folks who are natural berserkers often consider people like me cowards. Especially when they’ve decided I’m an impediment and therefore the target of this day’s rage. Because “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.” And I’m not with anyone, really. Not officially. I take a while to qualify an army before I join it and prefer not to formally enlist at all.
Others have considered me more of a tactician, or perhaps, a diplomat. Occasionally, a bard.
But I’ve never been much of a crusader or an eager warrior. I pick my battles carefully, and when I enter one, I approach it using whatever method that I think will have the most impact. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong. But either way, I can accept the outcome. Whether it’s victory or defeat. Whether I win the day or fall flat on my face.
In general, I’m driven less by glory or a sense of duty and more by whether or not something seems like it’ll work. Maybe not right away, maybe not for a long time, but eventually.
Most of my strategies are long term. When it comes to planning, I favor longer-term successful actions over quick doomed missions. Even if those longer strategies are full of disappointment or setbacks along the way, on the way to being fully implemented.
I take the long view. Some people love this about me; others hate it.
But it’s really the only way I can be.
I’m not willing to view every battle as all or nothing. My one opportunity for a blessed crusade. A manifest destiny that requires me to gloss over the finer points of why we’re even fighting, to pedestal unvetted “allies,” and debase unknown “enemies.”
Attacking Phantoms and Killing Real People
I don’t relish the fight. And yet… I’ll often stumble upon situations where I really want to help. Realities that bother me. A lot of pointless suffering that’s feeding itself, telling itself comfortable lies over and over, getting worse with every iteration of Telephone. Usually these lies start out as honest mistakes but quickly become wrapped in sanctimony, cries for purity, and thinly veiled appeals to vanity.
Not on just one side, no. Not in just one group. One nation? No. It’s everywhere, in every army. It’s not us or them but us and them.
Cutting through the crap, I’ve never seen an army that doesn’t have a few soldiers who don’t even know why they’re fighting. Who are in danger of having their own internal bonds of unquestioning loyalty be their very demise.
We think we know each other, but we don’t. We barely know ourselves. It seems like most days we’re all just attacking phantoms of one another and yet still managing to kill real people when we do.
And this pointless confusion calls to me far more loudly than any passionate general’s rallying cry to arms. This confusion is the one thing I can’t walk past, can’t sleep through. It’s everywhere, and it’s so loud. So thick. So constant.
I know I’m outmatched by it — that the scope of the misunderstanding will likely outmatch my abilities as an interpreter to make even a perceptible dent. But it’s caught my attention, resonating at a frequency that’s stopped me dead in my tracks, and whether I want to or not, I can’t let it go. I have to do something.
I Don’t Know What Kind of Fighter I Can Be, But I’m Here
I’ve always admired the fighters, while knowing I’m not really one of their kind. That I’m a terrible soldier. My ideals are too flexible, my expectations for other people too low.
But I want to help.
I knew very early on that I wasn’t destined to be the normal kind of fighter, the one I’d see in my storybooks or in the movies. The white knight. Or the superhero.
But there has to be something I can do.
Much of my life has been devoted to figuring out what kind of fighter I can be.
I’m not good at being angry. Attacking people. Raging. I’m not adversarial.
I don’t know what kind of fighter I can be. But I’m here. And I’m not going away.
I’ve been through shit, but I’m not in pain anymore. Haven’t been for a long time now. I don’t want medals for the battles I’ve seen. I’m no hero for surviving. The battles I’ve fought weren’t even ones that I bravely joined, but ones that found me while I was just trying to live.
And instead of poison flowing through my veins, there’s light. I’m not sad that any of it happened, but happy that I survived.
True, I’ve seen a few bad times, but I don’t have much in the way of deep wounds, any aching scars. No resentment.
I don’t have much to offer an army, really, when you break it down.
All I really have are stories. So I’ll tell them.