Civil war? I doubt it

Everyone’s talking about it. It’s in vogue. It’s the “it” thing. You would think we are talking about a new gadget or the newest Tesla. But, no, we’re not. 

We’re talking about this. 

Civil war. 

Yes, it’s a possibility—but so are Martians landing on Earth. Civil war is possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. 

This morning my wife listened to a podcast where the CEO of Whole Foods said that what he most feared in the near term was a civil war. Then, she asked me if I felt the same. 

And, the truth is, I am scared. The idea of a war on domestic soil where citizens, neighbors, friends, family take up arms against each other should send the fear-shivers down anybody’s spine. 

But, when I stop to think about, I’m less afraid. 

Here’s why. 

Those who really believe that civil war is probable are underestimating how difficult it is to mobilize a group of people willing to fight for a cause. Normal citizens don’t usually want to go to war, get bullets shot at them, feel like they don’t have a place to rest. Then add the additional complexity of fighting within and against their own country and countryman makes it all the more improbable. 

The Civil War, back in the 1800s, made sense. The Southerners had their livelihood, wealth, and way of life threatened (I’m not defending slavery at all; abolishing it was right; I’m just outlining the core reasons the South rebelled). And they all lived in a similar location or same region, where they had an overlapping culture. In other words, they had an existential cause and other characteristics that made mobilizing to fight the federal government easier. 

But it wasn’t easy. 

Mobilizing a war machine is never easy. And, I mean, anger and QAnon and white supremacy and Evangelicals do not hold those characteristics that the South had when Lincoln was the president. As radical as some of them may seem, I don’t think that they will be radical and organized and overlapping enough to actually band together to create a hierarchy or even some sort of loose coalition to begin a war. And I doubt that most of them would lay down their lives for Trump or some other cause.

Some livelihoods are at stake. Unions and blue-collared workers do feel threatened. And many of them will vote for Trump. And they may think that their salvation will come from Trump, but I am still skeptical that they will be able to form a war-making effort. 

People will fight, but I doubt they will make war. 

See, I believe there will likely be violence. The frequency of it will probably grow and escalate. There will be more protesting with higher amounts of violent clashes. That could and probably will happen no matter what happens after November. But, that doesn’t mean we will have warfare. 

You see, civil unrest isn’t the same as a civil war. 

Look, I get it. We’re all afflicted with worst-case-scenario thinking these days. How can we not? With a historic election, our countries weakened standing in the world, the rising of new world powers who want to take our country’s lunch money, a recession and deep economic uncertainty, and, not to mention, a pandemic, its easy to think negatively, pessimistically. The times seem apocalyptic.

But it’s not the apocalypse. Or, at least, I don’t think so. 

And I won’t say that a civil war is impossible. It’s not. It could happen. But we can’t live in the mindset of worst-case scenarios. Living in fear is no life. And it’s certainly not reality. 

One more reason I think this way is the stock market. It’s a pretty good gauge for where people’s minds are at and how they see the future. Investors are betting their money not just on today but also on tomorrow. And, as the market continues to climb, it appears they believe the world is going to be ok. Of course it’s not a crystal ball. But it is an indicator. The future is always murky, but it’s good to read the signs. And the market is signaling everything is going to keep chugging along. 

No, everything won’t be ok. There is much work to do to heal all of the fractures our country is experiencing. There will be unrest after the election. But it needn’t stay that way.

But being afraid of a civil war won’t help. We need to change our mindset from one of fear to hope. Better yet, we can find ways where we can take responsibility. 

And if we want to worry about anything, I think we should be worrying about this. 

How we can better care for our neighbors.


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A Way Towards Prosperity and Peace

Worrying is such a waste of time.

Your mind is consumed with all of the things you can’t control: the future, the pandemic, your kids.

You’re not doing anything productive, moving the needle in any positive way. You’re just wallowing in the unknown.

Instead focus your thoughts on the present, what you can do right now. Do the things that matter, that can make a difference.

Do your work the best you can. Learn something to better yourself a little bit everyday. Stay vigilant and care for your health. Teach your children, love them.

For example, if you blog and want to become a successful blogger, stop worrying about how you’re going to get there. Start writing a post that will change someone’s perspective, improve their day, make them laugh.

Focus on today, the things you can control. If you pray, pray. And let the future sort itself out.

And you’ll likely be surprised by what the tomorrow will bring. You might even become rich.

If anything, you’ll have more peace.


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Keeping perspective in crisis: This too shall pass

Yes, I’m afraid. But my fleeting fear rests on this fact: This too shall pass.

Coronavirus should be taken seriously. We shouldn’t just keep on hanging out with all of our cohorts, sharing food, drinks, laughs in a crowded space, spraying respiratory droplets all over each other like we’re watering the lawn. Gross, but true.

Yet, we can’t live in fear either. Perspective is needed. There have been other epidemics and pandemics. And some of them have been incredibly deadly: AIDS (2005-2012) killed 36 million people, Spanish flu (1918) 20-50 million, The Black Death (1346-1353) 75-200 million. And humanity has survived them all.

So in those quiet moments, when it’s easy to get swept up and think the darkest thoughts surrounded by darkness, where we only see visions that make us tremble, remember this: the days will not always be dark.

Perhaps this is an opportunity to do some business with the Divine. Global crises seem to make those opportunities more opportune than they would have been if everything was bright. But God is humble and takes us no matter what draws us near so long as we do.

But no matter what state your soul is in or if governments start to close down borders, schools, or our favorite eateries and pubs—this too shall pass.

All of the epidemics and global crises that have hit this world have passed. And like a morning mist, they disappear years later as we forget them almost as if they never happened.

We are living through grave and difficult times. It is extraordinary.

But the dawn is coming.

It may get darker before we see the light. But it will come. And it will scatter the shadows before you.

And we will be eating and drinking together, laughing again and sharing our respiratory droplets freely without care, in the days to come.


To pass this time, I’m reading:

  1. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It (affiliate): Top FBI negotiator, Chris Voss, shares his secrets and tactics of how he won negotiations in life and death situations so that we can negotiate everything from our salaries to getting our children to do what we want. I haven’t finished this yet, but it’s been an incredible read so far. His stories alone are worth the read. But the concepts are simple but awfully useful. This book is a great investment.
  2. The Great Gatsby (affiliate): Beauty—that’s why I read this book repeatedly. Fitzgerald, the author, paints spectacular pictures with words that stir the soul like an ocean breeze as you stand gazing at the sun dipping into the shimmering watery horizon. If you want to draw your mind away from anything awful, read this.
  3. The Four Loves (affiliate): Love is life. Yet, it’s so hard to define. Good thing C. S. Lewis does it for us in this seminal work that gives us a deeper understanding in this essential element of living so that we might all live better each and every day, with or without a pandemic.

Just because it’s scary outside, doesn’t mean we can’t cultivate beauty within. Books and beautiful words do that for us, friends. I hope you fill yourself with them.

Lots of love to you.

John

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Dealing with the fear of Coronavirus

You’re thinking about it; I’m thinking about it. Let’s talk about it. What is it?

Coronavirus. 

A couple of nights ago, I was sitting in this ramen shop waiting for my friend, when I heard it: Coughing. Two women seated next to me coughed with this dry wheezing kind of cough. Maybe you would have been fine with it. I wasn’t. I cringed. And I tried to scoot away, hoping they wouldn’t point their mouths in my direction and didn’t notice my slow methodical scooches. It was silly but real. 

The friend I was waiting for showed up. We caught up and the conversation floated to the topic du jour. As we slurped on noodles and broth, he reminded me that he was going to Hawaii this week for vacation (I know, hard life). His plan was to meet his in-laws, who live in Australia, to enjoy a couple of weeks in paradise together, basking under the warm pacific sun with leis around their necks, sipping on umbrella drinks while his kids played on the silky beach, surrounded by guys twirling torches, dancing. Ok, so some of that was exaggerated, but not by much. But now, COVID19 is causing his in-laws to second-guess going. 

I asked him if he was worried about traveling, adding that I would be worried. “Oh, we’ll just wash our hands,” he said straight-faced. He noted that there hadn’t been any confirmed cases there, and he goes by the data, not fear. 

As much as I admire my friend’s stance, I don’t agree with it. To be clear, I agree with data and find his courage stirring. But I would be more cautious.

But I will admit that my caution looks more like fear. It’s probably because it is.

And I hate the fear I’m feeling, the I-think-anyone-who-has-a-dry-cough-has-a-deadly-virus kind of fear. It’s an overarching dread I feel like there’s a zombie apocalypse coming and I can’t do anything to stop it. It’s awful. 

Maybe you’re feeling it, too. 

When I feel that way, I pray; I also, like my friend, wash my hands twenty times a day and make my wife and kids do the same. But when I’m not lathering up, I ask God to help me fear less. I pray for the people in China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, the world, my friend who’s traveling and all the other people I love. And I ask for protection, wisdom, and help. It helps. 

Watching a video of a World Health Organization doctor also helped. He reported on his findings from a trip to China he was just on, sharing that the Chinese government was able to curb the spread of the virus with success. Knowing this isn’t the zombie apocalypse also eases my fears. 

No one knows where this global story is going. Trying is futile. And I’m not saying I have all of the answers. I don’t. I’m just a guy writing this blog post in his underwear with huge headphones on.

But I do urge you to be cautious and take this seriously, without giving into your baser fears. I think the distinction is whether or not we are being reactionary and deeply emotional.

Fear makes the world the enemy and bases decisions on worst case scenarios. I’m not saying you shouldn’t draw out worst case scenarios. I am saying that you should not make decisions off of them, since very rarely do they happen. That’s a fear-based mindset.

Whereas caution is more mindful. It takes into account the potential dangers, even the worst, but it doesn’t overreact. It makes measured choices and plans. It protects without making everyone the enemy. It’s vigilant without being violent.

Believe me; I’m not pointing any fingers or judging anyone who’s living in fear because this guy (me) has been doing a lot of worst-case-scenario-ing these days.

This is serious. And I know that I’ve sprinkled humor in this post. But I did that to give you a little delight on a sour subject. Humor is also a coping mechanism for me. 

Laughter is medicine. 

I’d love to know how all of you are thinking about this and hear from you. Please reach out. 

In the meantime, I pray that this finds you well, safe, and healthy.