Thursday, February 28, 2013

One Small Step

I doubt many of you out there want to hear about how I feel, but that's what you're going to get today. As always when the anniversary of The Fall is near, I become even more reflective of my life and experiences in the world as it is today.

Two days from now it will have been three years since all of this began. The end of the world, such as it was. Now we find ourselves past that end and into new beginnings. Hell, past even those. We're actively building a new society. Much like the old one, we fall victim to the bad choices and worse reactions that have plagued humanity since the first caveman realized a spear could kill his enemy as well as his dinner.

It's a delicate thing to try to explain, but I'm going to try:

We're changing. All of us. Everyone in New Haven, every survivor out there, is a dynamic being. We aren't solid things that endure and never change. We are shaped by the forces we survive and combat. The zombie plague and the sporadic threats brought against us by relatively small groups made us tough and reliant on each other. We knew then that the zombies were enemies to all, and even if there were more of them, we were different. We could think. We were people.

The marauders and other groups were smaller in number, and we always had the comfort that the majority of survivors opposed them. We reconciled ourselves to murdering them hand over fist because we knew they were that small minority who lost some essential human qualities when everything around them disintegrated. They were the borderline cases, people who were held in check by society, glued together by the pressure of the overwhelming majority pushing at them with laws and tradition and group morals. Turns out the few of us left after The Fall weren't enough to keep that going.

Now, things are different. Now we are embroiled in what can only be the opening stages of a war that may end civilization in this country as we know it. Our enemy, the UAS, aren't marauders. We can tell ourselves whatever we want, but the facts are there. These people are probably decent folk for the most part. Their leadership was and is arrogant, to be sure, but while we can fiercely disagree with their aims and methods, when you get to brass tacks they just want what the Union and the Westerners want. To live. To survive and grow. To have stability and safety.

That's the truth, and no matter how angry you are at the UAS, no matter how much you hate them for the things some of them have done, you'd better remember it. I have had the good fortune these last months to spend a lot of time dealing with my own problems. I've been so lucky to have supportive friends and access to all the help I could ask for the get my head on straight. I'm not there yet, and may never be. All of us are works in progress, after all.

Because I've been so introspective, I can more easily see the changes in others. War, and having an enemy of the magnitude represented by the UAS, has curious effects on individuals and groups. I see the light going out of people's eyes. I see my friends becoming more focused but darker human beings. Those who are the most angry about recent events are obvious in this way; they want to fight, to kill the enemy and to destroy the threat. But even people like Jess aren't immune. She practically lives in the greenhouses now, because the war effort means we need to be able to produce as much food as humanly possible. She's wearing herself out trying to ensure our well-being. She's worried about the fight to come and terrified that she will somehow fail her people.

I said that--all of that--to say this to each and every one of you: think twice.

I'm not claiming moral superiority here. I'm willing and ready to kill any enemy that attacks my home or my people, without hesitation and with absolute prejudice. It's not your willingness to fight or to put every ounce of your effort into assuring the safety and well-being of your people I want to caution you about.

It's getting caught up in the mob mentality. The UAS will come, that's almost guaranteed. They will probably mobilize in numbers that mean we'll have to destroy them or be destroyed. But on the off chance that things don't go quite that badly, I want you to remember that these are human beings. They're like us in a lot of ways. Things have gone far off the rails from an ideal situation, but I'm begging each and every one of you to remember the decency and open-mindedness that allowed you to take that one small step toward trusting strangers to create the communities we wish to protect.

Beckley is a small-scale example of this. Many of you don't trust him--and I wouldn't want him with a gun at my back just yet--but most of you accept that he might be genuine. The most common thing I hear about him is that he's the exception. That he's one of the very few in the UAS who might have seen the light.

But what if he isn't? What if Beckley is what he appears to be; an average guy? What if our enemies are so much like us that a concentrated effort might change the perceptions of not just a few, but many? Maybe thousands? Yes, they will probably come at us and we will almost certainly have to fight, but even then I implore you to keep an open mind. Every meeting of the two sides should contain the possibility for peace. What I'm asking is that you not forget Beckley's example when the time to act is upon you. I ask that you try to communicate when possible, to change the hearts of your enemies and show them the decent human beings I know you to be. It may not be possible in some scenarios, but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't at least say this. I know there must be others who want peace. I know you aren't as bloodthirsty and as driven by lust for revenge as some of you seem. I see the good in you, my people, my fellow survivors, every day.

All I ask is that you allow that light to come out more, so that others might see it and find their way.

I mentioned that one small step each of us took when our groups and communities began to band together. I would never ask anyone to do something I am not, powerless though I am to make you heed my words. So as of tomorrow I will begin counseling sessions with Beckley, who in his life before The Fall was a therapist. I will spend time with him as a human being and let him in on my deepest secrets and fears. I will open myself to his trust and hopefully he will do the same. It may not be defending the wall together with weapons in hand, but it's something. It's a beginning.

In the days and weeks and months ahead, there will surely be chances for other beginnings. If what we've built together has any meaning to you, then you'll remember these words when that chance is in front of you. We are better than the worst urges within us. We must move beyond the simple needs of survival and the practicality of the gun. We are growing and evolving as a society; it cannot be centered on violence forever.

This is my hope. It may be futile and naive, but I have always been as honest with you as possible. You are my friends and family, my fellow survivors. All I ask is that you accept the possibility that the enemy might have the potential to be the same.

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