Choosing teams? Why?
Everyone has a reason, but almost no one else thinks it’s good enough. At least that’s the perception that almost kept me from writing this.
I did it. I traveled.
I’m writing this from Laramie, Wyoming, five feet from my girlfriend who is busy completing her Ph.D in ecology. During weekends, we hike, camp and fly fish for trout in the mountains.
Don’t mistake the tone of this, I am not making light of traveling during a pandemic. I weighed, prepared then printed my boarding pass. Still, someone who has never met me will wish me the virus, or blame the spikes on guys like me because in their eyes, I am not taking it seriously. Cruel, but I get the point. Who would knowingly put themselves at risk, or who is so self-absorbed that they feel entitled to go fish. Well, I guess that’s me. I’m the enemy. I’m one of those guys. I’m on that team. There’s no difference between me and a guy with a slight cough going to a nightclub.
We’ve reduced life to an equation, if you do this, then you are that, and are therefore the enemy. The problem is no one lives in that simplistic, nuance-free reality where it’s 100% go or 100% no. Life is messy. It’s complicated. It requires a level of responsibility and trust. Without either, it’s chaos.
In a time in which we need unity, it seems that any and every conversation is doing the opposite. I long for the good old days when people argued about whether or not to shoot forkies, if trekking poles are “sissy sticks” or whatever else pops up on Facebook hunting or fishing member groups. I’d love to shake my head at some of the inconsequential bickering between hunters and anglers. That’s what we do when we’re not doing what we post. Eventually we laugh it off or otherwise move on. But things are different now. Even with the opportunity to recalibrate on a mountain hike or trolling for salmon, it’s difficult for even us Alaskans to escape the politics of the pandemic and cultural failures.
I’m not here to debate economics, travel or advocate for masks because I am a simple-minded outdoor columnist. For real information by a professional, follow Dr. Anne Zink on Twitter. I know my role and lecturing outside of my field is not it.
What I do know is this, you know that person who refuses to back down from an argument about why Sitka is better than Kuiu or fly fishing is too pretentious, or using a rifle is too easy and real hunters hunt with a bow? You know, stuff that doesn’t really matter, but when backed into a corner they defend their stance ferociously? There are people taking stands because they’d rather do that than join the ranks of the holier-than-thou crowd. If self-righteous, condescending criticism never changed your mind, what makes you think it will change someone else’s? Unless it’s not about changing someone’s mind. Maybe it’s just about feeling justified in being mean.
I thought about this a few days ago doing what I usually do when I do my best thinking — fishing. If I want a new, better normal, am I helping or am I hurting the cause by how I act, and am I more concerned in how I mitigate risk or what other people think of me?
We’re going to have to get through this together.
Teams are good, except when they’re not.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.