2014 brought us some interesting highlights, and a few certainly stand out from a national news viewpoint: ebola, ISIS, missing Malaysian flight MH370, Obamacare, SoChi’s disastrous Olympic site, the ALS ice bucket challenge, the Nigerian schoolgirls, and, of course, Ferguson. Yes, there’s been a lot more than that, but those are among the moments that have most captured our nation’s group attention. I didn’t, you might have noticed, mention the deaths of Maya Angelou and Robin Williams, and both losses created frenzies of another kind in our fame-driven culture. And as we embark on a new year, I am overwhelmed by a feeling which has always created complicated, mixed feelings in me. I am left somehow torn between the joy of starting a new chapter and the sadness of knowing it’s really just one day bleeding into the next, debating between the happiness of a fresh start and the knowledge it’s really just more of the same, and I wonder: have we, as a nation, learned anything at all from the events of the past year?
Frankly – and I may be alone in this belief – it seems the nation as a whole has not only failed to learn anything but is continuing merrily on its way down a blatantly destructive path. If I were to take some of our year’s highlights and turn them into New Year’s Resolutions, this is part of what I’d ask of our nation for the coming year of 2015. Take these events, please, and learn something. Take them and grow. Please don’t simply continue on your way.
Be Grateful to Those Who Protect You
Yes, I’m starting with Ferguson, which could easily create one – or ten – New Year’s Resolution articles on its own. We here at USP have puzzled over the destructive behavior displayed not only in Ferguson but in cities all across the country, and the results haven’t given us any definitive answers regarding why people do what amounts to destroying their own backyards, looting their neighbors, and, for lack of a better term, defecating where they eat. You have read our articles and know we have spent significant time explaining the goings-on and working through the issues from multiple angles, and yet one thing cannot be answered: why bad behavior is being perpetuated. And it’s still being perpetuated: there was another riot a few nights ago after an officer had to use lethal force when a teenage boy – who was really more man than boy – threatened him with a 9mm handgun. It was, unfortunately, just two miles from Ferguson, and there was no use holding our collective breaths. We all knew a riot was coming, and it did. And then, during the riot, police had to use lethal force yet again when a man in the violent crowd waved yet another 9mm handgun at an officer. This was captured on video, and it was quite obvious the man was pointing a gun at the officer, and yet the irrational populace rioted even more. There doesn’t seem to be any real logic behind these riots, but one thing’s for sure: there is little to no gratitude for those who protect and serve. Not only that, there’s a spirit of hate.
When I was growing up I was taught police were my friends, yes, but also that they were the ones who took care of bad guys, which became a bit of a warning never to become a bad guy. My uncle was a police officer, and he was my favorite person, hands down. Perhaps because of that, my opinion on law enforcement began to take shape long ago, colored in part by my uncle’s words and continued today by the words of close friends who work in law enforcement themselves. It hasn’t really been that long since people respected the police and were grateful for the daily risks officers took in the course of each and every work day, but it’s fast becoming a distant memory. Rather than going on – and on – trying to diagnose the cause or discuss the trajectory, let’s get right to the point: show some gratitude to those who protect and serve. LEO’s – law enforcement officers – put their lives on the line every single day when they make that decision to put on their uniform, buckle their duty belt, and head out the front door. Today could be the day some person steeped in the hatred seen so wildly on display in Ferguson turns a gun on that LEO, cutting them down in cold blood, and it could happen at any moment: during a traffic stop, walking down the street, even sitting in Starbucks on a coffee break. It could happen, and yet all the LEO’s I know (and many more that I don’t) keep putting on their uniforms and heading out the door, because they’re going to protect and serve you whether you’re grateful or not.
You should be grateful.
Do Something REAL
Yes, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was great. It raised a certain level of awareness and got people involved – sort of. By the time I started hearing about the challenge on a regular basis it became clear many of the people excited about it didn’t even know what ALS was. (It’s amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It’s a neurodegenerative disorder involving terrible muscle spasticity and progressive weakness from devastating muscle wasting. It’s a horrible, drawn-out way to die. Learn more at: ALS.) When my daughter was challenged by a friend, it was evident none of her friends knew what ALS was, and neither did she, although she certainly did after I sat her down and explained it, in vivid detail. As great as it was to see this challenge catch on and as fantastic as it is that it did raise money for a worthy cause, the reality is that most of those challenges didn’t involve any money being donated or awareness being raised, it was just about making a cutesy/fun/dramatic video and getting attention online. Please do not misunderstand me. The ALS Ice Challenge was a good idea, and I hope it started some important conversations in households other than mine, and I also hope it raised money for research, but the sad truth is it did degrade into a series of thousands of let’s-have-fun-online movies. In 2015, let’s do something different: let’s do something real.
Get actively involved in a charity. One of my favorites for supporting deployed troops is Adopt-A-Platoon and two of my favorites for supplying service dogs to veterans are Paws for Purple Hearts and Paws and Stripes (I’ve been aware of and writing about the latter for much longer than it’s been the subject of a TV show; my support has nothing to do with their television appearances). And if you’d like to donate to a cause that raises funds to support our soldiers, head over to the Boot Campaign. There are others, of course; these are just meant to get you started. And there are countless ways to get involved; you don’t have to donate money. Donate your time by volunteering for a fantastic charity such as the Snowball Express, which provides support for the children and surviving spouse of our fallen service members. Can you knit or crochet? No? Can you follow a ready-to-make blanket pattern? Sure you can! Then donate blankets to The Linus Project. Believe me when I say those blankets mean a great deal to the recipients.
Whatever you do, find a way to make a real difference. It was fun making those ice bucket videos; now it’s time to do something actively; directly. Get involved, and make a real difference, whether in your community, for our service members, or for something else entirely. Just get out there and do it.
Learn to Protect Yourself
This one covers more than one or two of the year’s news highlights. Between ISIS, ebola, the Nigerian schoolgirls, and, yes, back to Ferguson, there have been ample examples of why you must be capable of protecting yourself. And not only should you be able to protect yourself, you should be able to protect those you care about, too.
Protection is about many things, including making sure you have non-perishable food and a decent supply of bottled water in your home. We’ve had enough hurricanes and serious snowstorms to know it’s quite possible you could end up stuck in your home without access to fresh food or water for unknown stretches of time, and one of the most ridiculous things I’ve witnessed has been people wringing their hands wondering why the government has yet to arrive to save them. Save yourself, people! I find myself shouting it at my television sometimes, and it’s true. People need to be far more self-sufficient. If you were forced to get by on what’s in your house tomorrow, what would happen? If you were, God forbid, the victim of a home invasion tonight, are you armed and able to defend yourself?
This is about food, water, medical supplies, and, yes, weapons. As a gun writer I’m going to go ahead and gloss over the former and dive right into the latter: weapons. Our Second Amendment rights make us a unique nation for many reasons, and those rights should not be taken for granted. If you have a gun, you should know how to use it – safely – and if you plan to get one, please enlist the assistance of a proficient friend or range instructor to make sure you stay safe as you learn the basics. Guns are weapons, yes, but they are also tools, and the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is, yes, a good guy with a gun. Gun rights proponents such as myself say that because it’s true, and the statistics back us up. There are numerous classes you can take to increase your skill level and learn new tactics. But – and it pains me somewhat to say this – there’s more to self-defense than firearms.
Classes to help you protect yourself exist in a wide array from ju-jitsu, which I took for some time in college, to karate to kickboxing to your garden-variety self-defense classes. There are many options, and maybe it’s high time you took advantage of them. Even just staying in good shape helps you defend yourself. And don’t forget to include your kids, especially if you have a young daughter who will soon be or is already going out with friends or alone. Your daughter needs to know how to fight back effectively, so find some classes to make that happen.
Don’t be a victim; be a fighter. Don’t be the sheep; be the wolf. Arm yourself with the knowledge, skills, and, yes, weapons, to defend and protect yourself and your loved ones. There’s no excuse for being helpless; the tools are out there, now use them.
Be Realistic. Thank a Real Hero.
All death is sad; all loss devastating in its own way. But it never ceases to amaze me, the widespread trauma and big, gulping tears seen in the days surrounded deaths like that of Robin Williams. While it’s sad he’s gone and the fact that he committed suicide is unspeakably tragic – and will hopefully start some important conversations about that topic – you didn’t know him. And not only did you all not know him, he never did anything to protect you or your freedoms. Do you know who did? Soldiers. Soldiers who have been severely injured, maimed, crippled, and killed fighting for this nation; fighting for you.
If you do just one thing in 2015, do this: thank a soldier. When you see a soldier, sailor, Marine, or airman in the grocery store or at the gas station, take a moment from your busy day to say thank you. I have thanked Vietnam and World War II veterans who have, after some conversation, confided they hadn’t been thanked before, or not in years. Do your part to show how thankful you are to our men and women in uniform for their many sacrifices. Saying thank you takes only a moment and the effects can be far greater than you think.
To the active duty service members and veterans reading this: thank you.
2015 is upon us. How will you make a difference this year?
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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