I Am the Enemy
by EE Borton
My cousin is young, intelligent, witty, and kind. Her presence commands your attention and she has the ability to light up the darkest room. She’s an educator in the D.C. area with a passion to teach the next generation that they can become whatever they can dream. If she believes it in her heart, she shows it in her actions.
She’s driven to make this world a better place by teaching children to respect each other, to be tolerant of different opinions, to heal rather than hurt. I’m proud of her for all those things…and I am the enemy.
I am everything she’s teaching them not to be. In her eyes I’m short-sighted, stubborn, and intolerant. I voted for a monster and support policies, executive orders, and laws that would lock the doors against the rest of the world and throw away the keys. I’d rather stand at the border with a gun than a brochure. I can’t argue with her. I am all those things.
She doesn’t understand that I wish I wasn’t. She doesn’t understand that I don’t have a choice. I am who I am because of what I’ve experienced. She is who she is because of what she hasn’t. I thank God every day for that fact.
She doesn’t understand that I don’t want to carry a gun. I’d rather spend money on traveling the world instead of spending it on supplies, equipment, and training to protect my family against anything looking to hurt us. I’d rather be comfortable around strangers instead of profiling them.
She and I don’t see eye to eye on many subjects and I hope it stays that way for the rest of her life. If we ever do, it means that she witnessed something horrible, something horrible happened to her, or she did something horrible to protect life. It’s why I don’t get angry with her when she doesn’t understand me.
It’s easier for her to be passionate, outspoken, and public about her opinions and ideology because they both hold hopes for a better, safer, more tolerant world. On top of that, she’s young enough to believe that the change she wants to see in the world can happen in her lifetime. Me, not so much.
It’s more difficult to voice my opinion that you need to put more rounds downrange so you’ll be more effective in a gunfight. It’s more difficult to voice my opinion about stockpiling food so you don’t get stabbed for a can of beans at the grocery store after the power has been out for a week. It’s more difficult to voice my opinion about closing our borders until the rest of the world can prove they’re not exporting terrorist.
She holds her opinions because she sees the best in people. I hold mine because I’ve seen the worst. Neither are wrong. I could call her naive and inexperienced, and she could call me paranoid and dismal. We could get angry and call each other ignorant, but we don’t.
She knows I’ve experienced bad things in bad places. I know she hasn’t. I can’t get angry at her for that. I can’t get angry at anyone for that.
I can’t get angry with her for wanting more money to be allocated to the Department of Education than the Department of Defense. I can’t get angry with her for wanting immigrants to feel welcomed at our door instead of locking it. I can’t get angry with her for wanting things to get better instead of fearing that it won’t. If I did get angry, then I’d earn the right to be called ignorant.
The right side of the media defines her as a millennial snowflake looking for handouts who wants to save the world with cat videos and free hugs. The left side of the media defines me as a xenophobic misogynist who hates poor people, loves guns, and wants to push the button to turn the Middle East into a sheet of glass. There are a few of those extremists out there, but the media focuses on them so we all hate each other. It makes for better news if we’re divided and angry.
In order for me to change my cousin’s opinion and ideology to match mine, I would have to wish something bad would happen to her. In order for me to change anyone’s opinion and ideology to match mine, I would have to wish something bad would happen to them. That’s the influence and power of experiences that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.
I don’t have a nightstand or furniture near my side of the bed anymore. Not long ago I had a vivid nightmare in that weird place between being asleep and being awake. I was reliving an experience that caused me to duck for cover. When I threw myself to the ground, I cracked my skull on the corner of my nightstand. Confused, injured, and staining the carpet with a pool of blood, I had trouble recognizing that I was home. I was safe.
I wish I had been alone, but I wasn’t. I scared the hell out of the one person I never wanted to scare. She approached me with caution because that’s what I told her to do when I have nightmares. I told her to make sure I’m awake and that I recognize her before she gets close to me. Some of you will know why I told her that. Some of you will recommend a therapist.
Regardless of the reasons, they happen because of experiences. Experiences that my young cousin will never be able to understand. Experiences that make me who I am and why I have opinions different from hers. The reasons are why I prepare for events that she can’t comprehend, but are more real to me than anything she sees on TV or on her phone.
I don’t carry a gun with the hopes of using it. I don’t store food and water with the hopes of needing it. I don’t profile strangers with the hopes of being right. I do all those things with the hopes of being wrong. If I use them, it means that others are suffering.
If someone is carrying a gun with the hopes of using it, I believe they shouldn’t have it. If someone is storing food and water because they hope the event comes when they need it, I believe it means they know others will be starving to death. If they profile strangers with the hopes of being right, they’re looking for a fight where nobody wins. Trust me, nobody wins when you’re looking for that fight.
I believe those are the preppers the media seeks out to put on TV. I believe those are the preppers who make the rest of us look like we’re crazy. If you prepare because you hope something bad is going to happen, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
There’s a good chance my cousin will be involved in the next peaceful march on D.C. for whatever reason she holds relevant. She’ll be unarmed and the furthest thought from her mind will be Islamic terrorist driving a van through the crowd. She’ll stand there in horror and disbelief as they jump out and kill more people with homemade knives until they’re gunned down by police. That could never happen, right? I mean, when is the last time that ever happened?
She lives her life in green. She doesn’t check the corners when she walks into a convenience store or unfamiliar room. She doesn’t keep her head on a swivel when she’s pumping gas. She doesn’t carry a gun, let alone keeping it on the inside of the booth in a restaurant or the wall-side on a train. I wish I could live in green, but my experiences force me to live otherwise. That has nothing to do with her, or her beliefs.
I recognize that my cousin and I are in that middle space between the left and the right. I believe most of us live in that middle space. We have more common ground and more room to compromise than what the media forces down our throat every single day. They want another civil war. They want to divide us so they can be the first cameras recording the first kid to die in a war they’ll never admit to starting.
My cousin is putting herself out there with her energy and resources to change the world for the better. I’m using mine to prepare for her failure.
Which one of us is right?
Other EE Borton contributions to MSB:
About Eric E. Borton:
Served six years with Naval Intelligence in North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Middle East. As a civilian, he served thirteen years with a rescue helicopter service in Atlanta, Georgia, where he currently resides. He is the author of the Post-Apocalyptic series WITHOUT.