What’s Wrong with Your Politics

This is something of a retro post given I wrote it about a year ago, but didn’t feel good about sharing it for fear of miscommunication. I’ve since thought more on the subject and reworked my communication, I hope you can appreciate the endeavored pursuit of good and peace.

Politics. Everyone’s favorite subject! At least until someone disagrees with you then all of a sudden we need David Attenborough guiding viewers through the scrap. I’ve been thinking about the us-against-them politics, anti-black, anti-white, anti-cop, anti-”theotherside” movements in the U.S. I do wish to state clearly that in no way do I defend, appreciate, or respect the extremes of any of these viewpoints and this is only a caution against a particular way of thinking, speaking, acting, and feeling.

It seems that today’s movements (political and otherwise) are defined by what they stand against rather than what they stand for, they define themselves by decrying the existence or practices of others. I am of the opinion that this ultimately engenders spirits of hate, aggression, and accusation due to the fact that the individual becomes the enemy rather than the intellectual concept. It is no different than how for centuries militaries have striven to paint their enemies in as vividly evil pictures as possible in order to mentally survive the terrors of war.

Turning issues into us-versus-them can most definitely assist political and social success in the short term, but it also means that you must strip the issue of all particulars only targeting the most basic human emotions hate or love. There is no caring or understanding. One can either inspire from a standpoint of love or a standpoint of hate and unfortunately hate is the easiest and simplest power due to its more visceral nature. Pair that with the impersonal nature of social media and you have the U.S. today, racked by anger and division. People who pick a side are automatically subjected to hate by those those ideas they now oppose and when one tries to withdraw from expressed opinions they are ostracized for not caring or perhaps considered arrogant for their aloofness.

I asked myself, what made movement leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilberforce different? I think the answer is that they called us to something bigger and better than ourselves, pointed us toward a greater good. Wilberforce was not anti-oldwhitemen or anti-politician instead he voiced his belief in humanity and directed us to acknowledge Africans as our fellow human beings rather than pieces of property. Dr. King was not anti-south or anti-police instead, he painted a picture of his dream of all standing by the American creed that all men are created equal. Rather than calling out for chaotic anger, they both pointed us to the beauty and righteousness of brotherhood and sisterhood.

Paint the picture as pitched battle lines and all you will be left with are entrenched sides and cold inhuman interaction. “Good, they should be afraid.” “Too bad.” Congrats, you’ve told everyone who might disagree or maybe just had a different experience that you do not care about them. The reality of life is that the world can be dark and it is full of evil men like Weinstein and racists alike, but it is equally true that hate and aggression only beget more darkness. Stand up for what is right! But do so in ways which include and show respect and love to your fellow men and women. What are you trying to do, out-hate your opponents?? #chooselove

Pursuing Hope

Recently the judicial system in which democracies have placed so much hope decided against life. I’m sure many of you saw the story about Charlie the young baby who was determined to be unfit to fight for due to his terminal illness. This story made me incredibly mad for several reasons including the disregard for his parent’s, the giving and caring of thousands around the world, and the commitment of the U.S. doctor who offered to help. However, I want to focus on what this decision says about life apart from hope.

How many of us are daily exposed to stories of war, violence, and hatred? That’s fairly easy – all of us. How much trauma does the world experience every hour? How many people are suffering from the darkness that is ever present seeking to tear us apart? We live in a world where such concerns are a daily focus and such thoughts fill our minds casting down our high visions and mangling our goals. So what keeps us fighting and striving? Why do we continue to march into conflict and set visions and goals? Hope.

Now, in this world full of death and destruction Charlie’s parents were fighting for life, goodness, and hope and were withstood by those same institutions established to preserve, protect, and sustain life. What might possibly cause an individual to decide against life? A lack of hope in something bigger and better for little Charlie. Because those who decided against his life cannot comprehend loving and fighting for something as weak and broken as little Charlie. They try to justify and make it sound acceptable by saying that he is dying with dignity, but is that really fighting for Charlie or is it making a statement about his quality of life and right to live?

Why would someone vote against Charlie? Only a decided lack of hope in something higher and better, something which says there is more to life than a perfect body and mind. Something that justifies life as more meaningful than the perfection of physical attributes or what we in our humanity may value. Who are you to say that all that composes Charlie is his “imperfect” body and mind? Who are you to say his life can have no meaning here on earth? Who are you to say his parents cannot give their all for his life?

Saying no to Charlie’s life is to say no to precious life in the middle of a world torn by trauma and death. According to such rules at what point do you draw the line and say life is worth fighting for? Who is to say that those who made the decision are not too old or expensive to care for? To make such decisions in such a way is to play God, no matter how many agree with the decision. Life is precious and worth fighting for in all its forms, shapes and sizes. Is your life not worth fighting for too? History is filled with stories of imperfect people having a positive impact on the world around them because they had hope and shared with with the rest of us.

How Life and Career Cannot Go Together: Part 2

I ended up at college Fall 2012, and pursued my degree while working an average of 25-30 hours a week. My senior semester I was only taking one class and working full time in security. I started working out consistently second semester sophomore year and put on 25lbs. Apart from some of the more normal things in life, everything I did was oriented towards my goal of going into operations.

At 20 I was finishing college early, had my foot in the door with private security, and was working armed security for a second company.

At the beginning of 2016, however, I began to question if a life dedicated to operations was something for which I was willing to sacrifice all my other interests and desires.

I knew it meant pushing off a family, some of my sports activity, and pursuing my intellectual interests. I began applying to other jobs to see where they might lead and at one point ended up at an unrelated event hosted by the Daniel Morgan Graduate School where I was eventually offered a job and a Master’s in National Security.

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I accepted.

 This brings us to when my idea of fighting the good fight and affecting change in the world began to wither. The more I worked in and around D.C. and interacted with the shakers and movers of the world, the more I realized that – the world is a messed up place run by, comparatively, messed up people.

I thought that maybe I could circumvent this by starting my own security/contracting company and actually began exploring this very seriously. However, I again ran into the problem of still needing to eventually partner and deal with people who did not share my same values.

Which meant I was back to square one – what did I want to do with my life? No matter how hard I tried, worked, or fought, there would always be war with people dying and suffering somewhere.

My motivation dropped significantly early December 2016 and for the last several months I’ve had about a million ideas of what I could do, all of which went nowhere.

 It was even difficult to remain consistent with my fitness regime – something I had maintained throughout most of college, even when I was working 45-65hrs a week at times. I talked with my dad, my mom, my friends, and others. I prayed, I thought, I read, I watched motivational YouTube vids – nothing filled this new void in my mentality.

And then on Sunday May 21 the thought came to me – maybe it is okay to have my work life be separate from my pursuit of this mission and rather have that pursuit of goodness and nobility manifested in my daily and personal action and interaction.

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The world is a more complicated place than it was during the time of the Greeks, the Romans, the medieval time period, the American revolution, and to some extent even WWII and the Cold War.

Today, we don’t live in isolated parts of the world where the actions of one man can dramatically alter an entire country or region. 

Goodness, righteousness, and nobility are still worth pursuing, but we should not measure our effectiveness by the position we hold or the career we choose.

Focus on your personal action and interactions as those are the areas where you  can affect true and lasting change in people’s lives.

And yes, your choices will subsequently affect your business and career decisions, but this is different from having your entire career defined by that pursuit. You will not find lasting satisfaction in what amounts to a temporary pursuit, because the world will continue to spin on.

 Obviously some are gifted with their career being oriented towards such grandiose goals, but are they changing the world or just affecting the lives of the comparatively few that are reached?

No matter what your job or career, the same holds true for you. It’s okay to have a career that isn’t about changing the world, just remember to continue to pursue higher things in your personal life.

Your life cannot be defined by your career, but should be defined by who you are as an individual.

Be focused on walking in goodness, righteousness, and nobility and you will meaningfully impact the lives of those around you.

How Life and Career Cannot Go Together: Part 1

Hopefully Part 1 will give you a little more background into my thinking and journey in pursuit of my career and help set up the dichotomy between work and life I wish to draw.

 Back in 1999 when I was five years old, my parents tell me, I went around talking about the “campaign”. The concept was as clear as can be in my little mind and I scribbled with pen and paper, before I could actually write, making plans for the campaign. Needless to say I’ve always been someone with a mission in life – or at least saw themselves as having one.

A decade later I was progressing through high school unsure about what I wanted to do with my life. I loved a ton of different things from various sports to math to airsoft to reading. It was quite a struggle trying to figure it out.

todd-quackenbush-997At one point I sat down with a family friend who told me that he thought I had a strong desire to help others, but also a desire for family and community and needed to try and find something where I could combine those passions.

A few weeks later I was in a class on Western Civilization reading Andrew McCarthy’s book The Grand Jihad as we reached about 630 A.D. In that book were a few stories of terrorism and this caught my attention and throughout the next year or so I read dozens of books on terrorism and the Middle East.

Growing up my heroes had been Lord Brocktree, Martin the Warrior, Luke the Warrior, and others from the Redwall Series. G. A. Henty captured me with Winning His Spurs, In The Heart of the Rockies, Beric the Briton, In Freedom’s Cause and many many others (I read the majority of his 70+ books).

Eventually I found my way into the Greek stories of love and war, heroes and villains and the awesome Spartans. As I grew older I read about America’s wars: civil, continental, global, and the heroes and villains of world record.

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Essentially, growing up my mind was filled with thoughts of the fight between good and evil, nobility versus dishonor, righteous causes, courageous exploits, and honorable sacrifices. As I  read about terrorism and atrocities committed against innocent and helpless men, women, and children those same old stories resonated in my heart and mind. I decided that I wanted to be in a position where I could say no to what I viewed as one of the most physical manifestations of evil.

I determined going into operations would probably be the most effective way of accomplishing this mission, but first I wanted to get my degree in an area that would give me an understanding of how the intelligence and communication channels worked so I could better understand how that translated into action in the field.

I considered enlisting, but was told that was a bad idea, considered West Point, but went to a regional promotional event and five minutes in, knew it wasn’t for me. I ended up applying to only one school – Patrick Henry College and their Government: Strategic Intelligence Program. 

Part 2 coming soon. I promise!!