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The other morning Nick and I ran up to a lake near the Colorado border to fish. It was cool, calm, and just about as perfect as a dawn can get, the kind of morning when your soul saddles up alongside nature while your mind frivolously forgets everything causing anxious unrest. Around midmorning we beached our boat near the dock to take a break on shore and noticed an elderly gentleman struggling to load his fishing boat so, per the code-of-the-west, we offered to help. Once the boat was loaded and pulled over to the side of the ramp, we stood around chatting as fishermen do after coming off the lake.
On first appearance the elderly gentleman seemed like a rugged outdoorsman with a sort of sixties hippy vibe that perfectly aligned with being a Santa Fe liberal. His worn Cabela’s hat stood in contrast to his gray ponytail, protest T-shirt, and leather sandals. Like any good outdoorsman though, he was quick to relay stories about all the bass he’d landed and the even bigger ones that got away, and true to script, he held his techniques, locations, and tackle options carefully guarded. There at two types of outdoorsmen, the kind who descend down from their urban lairs with no real respect for nature or conservation, and those who treat nature like an extension of their soul; who practice safety, environmental stewardship, harvest responsibly, and leave no sign of passing in their wake.
Our new friend eventually concluded we belonged to the second camp and began to reveal his secrets, first by pointing out the best locations on the lake for bass, and then working through his tacklebox indicating which lures were best for which situations. There is a language among fishermen that includes an unspoken oath that any secrets revealed are not be passed on to anyone in the first camp.
Another trait serious fishermen share is that once they come off the lake in midmorning, they’re done for the day and not in much of a hurry to tackle whatever mundane chore awaits them back home. Soon our ten-minute talk about fishing became a thirty-minute discourse on life and the current state of affairs, particularly in the era of COVID. With language that could rival the most erstwhile sailor, our new found friend was soon tongue-lashing the Governor for her misguided handling of the COVID crisis, the obvious ways she was in over her head, and the blatant way she treated New Mexican’s like plantation slaves just to advance her political career; and that was just his opening salvo.
He next railed against the racist rioters who destroy monuments and statues before pivoting to the painfully obvious need to clean up places like CHOP-town Seattle with the full force of the military to, as he put it, “teach those punks lessons on civility their crappy parents failed to instill.” It confused me somewhat that this obvious Santa Fe liberal spoke with such harsh rhetoric. In fact, it would be days before I put his soliloquy into proper context.
Wanting to steer our conversation back toward the mundane, I asked if he was heading up to the cleaning station? That led to several more rants about our “dump-ass governor,” who’s too busy vying to become mindless Joe Biden’s VP to put cleaning stations at lakes for sportsmen. He opened the live-well in his boat to show us his bass swimming around the tank.
Non-fishermen probably don’t realize the implications of what he revealed. In most states, including New Mexico, it’s illegal to leave a lake with live fish and water still in your tanks. The reason is to prevent anglers from carrying bacteria from one lake to another, and to prevent transferring species of fish to lakes where they’re not native. To many New Mexico trout lakes have been ruined by people stupidly stocking bass, Northerns, perch, or some other species in it and killing off the native trout. The liberal fisherman from Santa Fe assured me he had neither nefarious goal in mind. No, his intention was subtlety more profound. “To hell with the stupid-shit governor and her lame-ass laws,” he proclaimed. “When she demonstrates any level of competency or leadership, I’ll consider following the rules, until then, I clean my fish at home.”
As I said, it took days to put my perplexing conversation with the liberal hippy from Santa Fe into proper context, but now I think I have. My fisherman friend stirred a conscious awakening in me that I have since confirmed with more conservative confidants; a subtle but growing consensus that government is failing us in so many ways we’re all quietly but quickly approaching a tipping point toward open anarchy.
In an honest moment of reflection, I admire the liberal fisherman for taking a stand against an increasingly repressive regime run by incompetent buffoons too stupid to rationally rectify their blunders. He chose to protest not by destroying property that was not his, not by disrespecting people who risk their lives to keep us safe, but by quietly signaling his unwillingness to compliantly go along any more in the most profound way he could.
In an honest moment of reflection, I realize that I too have begun my own quiet form of protest that tips every so treacherously toward anarchy. It began in simple measures, like learning to scan a store clerk’s eyes for a negotiated simpatico regarding our common desire to discard facemasks for the duration of our interaction, all the way up to openly discussing with like-minded compadres the criteria required to compel us to slip into the forest to harvest an elk for food.
In a moment of honest reflection, I’ve come to understand my fellow outdoorsmen, my compadres, and my confidants who are all quintessentially creeping, every so silently and ever so steadily toward open disdain for governmental overreach and mismanagement. That collectively we are all starting to wonder about that fine line separating the racist rioters who destroy with wanton disregard for the mandates of a civil society along with the violent vermin who topple statues without regard to history or context, and the rest of us, the majority of Americans who are loyal patriots that have had enough and increasingly feel the need to push back.
The lunatic left is currently having their say in our cities and streets and soon the radical right will counter. That’s an ebb and flow we’ve been so conditioned to that it borders on boredom. What concerns me is laissez-faire liberals and cautious conservative in the ideological middle who represent what Richard Nixon called the “silent majority,” are learning from the lunatic left that nothing in society is sacred and good government is as much a thing of the past as reruns of Mayberry. Middle America is learning there is no longer a line that cannot be crossed. And so, where does that leave us?
It leads me to openly wonder and worry about the unintended consequences of government overreach, of government repression, and of antigovernmental anarchy.