Stemming the tide (by Billy Coffey)

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You could call Jimmy Henderson a lot of things—and many people have—but everyone agrees that above all, he is prepared. And in his mind we all should be, given the evil that lurks about.

Jimmy keeps an eye on all that malevolence. Drive by his house, and you’ll see no less than four newspaper boxes. His magazine interests range from the far left of the political arena to the far right, including such publications as Field and Stream and Backwoods Living. “Just in case,” he says. “Because you know they’re coming eventually. They’re coming for us all.”

In Jimmy’s case, They is the government (or some secret shadow puppet government, I can’t really remember which). He weathered the Carter administration well enough and barely got through eight years of Clinton, but Jimmy thinks he’s met his match with the current resident of the White House. He’s seen the documentaries and read the books, and he’s genuinely scared. So much so that Jimmy’s starting to worry that his Tea Party membership and flying one of those “Don’t Tread on Me” flags in front of his house just won’t be enough to stem the tide.

And he’s not alone. Lots of people are scared now. Bad times breed bad thoughts, and sometimes we see monsters where only shadows lie. For every person like Jimmy who’s convinced President Obama is about to bring down the country, there is another who thought the same about President Bush. There is an inherent distaste for government in most people. It isn’t easy for us to trust those in power, and I think there’s good cause for that. I also think the reason why our country has been so important for so long is because that inherent distrust was shared by the very men who created it.

But to be in power doesn’t necessarily mean to be in charge, and I think that’s where Jimmy’s confused. And I think his fear was born from a sense of powerlessness that can creep up on everyone when we begin to feel as though the world is crashing down. What frightens Jimmy more than black helicopters and government conspiracies is the simple fact that he thinks his voice doesn’t matter anymore. It’s being drowned in the deluge of spin and the shouting in the public square between parties.

It isn’t very often that I delve into the political in the things I write. It’s a subject that’s too touchy, and rarely is there anything of worth that can come of it. But I’ll make an exception in Jimmy’s case, if only because it’s something applicable to anyone, whether liberal or conservative or independent.

It is this:

In this country we have neither king nor queen, merely representatives of our own wills who must abide by the very laws we adhere to. Their jobs are just as dependent upon us as our jobs are upon their policies and committees.

If there is a tide that must be stemmed, it cannot be done through fear and anger or accusations and snipe. It is instead done in the privacy of the voting booth and in the sacredness of our homes. It is done in the raising of our children and the desire to end each day as better people than we were at the start of it.

Because what is true for Jimmy is true for me and for you—in the end, the future of our country doesn’t depend upon what goes on in the White House, but what goes on in our houses.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

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