“The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.” — William Sloane Coffin
It’s been five years and counting since I decided to move away from the claustrophobic life of shoulder-to-shoulder skyscrapers, asthma-inducing smog and toxic fumes of roaring trucks rolling along congested city streets 24 hours a day; consciously avoiding areas populated by roving gangs gunning one another down for territory, together with vast tracts of suburban housing stretching to the horizon and beyond — reasons that all played a part in wanting to distance myself from the impersonal world that’s often associated with living in dense metropolitan environments.
It’s hard to imagine now that it took years — actually decades — before I made the determination to transition from living within that confusing maze of L.A. streets and avenues, often trapped in a spider web of freeways on my way to work, strangling the city in bumper-to-bumper traffic during what was ironically called “rush hour,” and listening at night to distant, sporadic gunfire while trying to sleep in my bed, to finally reside years later in my adopted rustic mountain community that I now call home; my only regret is that I hadn’t made my move much sooner.
Past and present events remind us of the dangerous world we live in. Violence rears its ugly head on a daily basis, screams the latest headlines, and no one, even children it seems, are invulnerable to its curse.
Although it is not my intent in this article to list a series of debating points on mental health issues as they pertain to gun policy in the United States — given recent news reports — this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to random violence in our streets and against our institutions.
My purpose is rather to reflect on advancing a conversation on the use of conflict resolution to hopefully find ways to ameliorate the tragic consequences of violence in our society.
Fortunately, excessive violence for the most part is rare in Plumas County, with a few notable exceptions.
Admittedly, violence can occur in any town or city, but I sense that our local schools are exceptionally safe places of learning, thanks to the ongoing efforts of teachers and parents.
It is my opinion that the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office and the CHP are well trained and committed to fighting crime, striving to keep us all safe, and use force sparingly and only when necessary to subdue a belligerent suspect.
As a reporter, I can attest with a high degree of certainty from meeting so many individuals during my many assignments that every first responder and community organization like the Lake Almanor Elks and local Rotary truly care about those they serve.
What I love most about living in this small rural community is that people here do what people do best, and that’s to help one another when times are tough, to watch out for one another, often donating when they can or volunteering their time to raise the quality of life for others. And not just during the holiday season or on Sundays, but throughout the year.
The weekly Sheriff’s Blotter notwithstanding, the infractions listed therein are mostly tame, mixed in with the occasional bear sighting and yes the random DUI or drug bust — compared to the high crimes committed daily in most big cities.
Where I live in Westwood, when I hear gunshots in the early morning, I know it’s the result of an active hunting season and not from a drive-by shooting.
What do we really have to worry about in our close-knit community? Not that much, really. Fires of course, or a serious traffic accident now and again. How about a major eruption of Mt. Lassen, perchance? I think not.
Yet our remote region is not entirely immune to global events. We are in reality still connected to nations and neighborhoods far beyond our reckoning.
Although we live in semi-isolation, we remain part of a global community in which the choices of world leaders can affect the quality of our lives and pocketbooks, despite our mountain seclusion.
As an example, just a couple of weeks ago, a worldwide threat assessment by the U.S. Intelligence Community was broadcast on TV, addressing members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence regarding major powers and regional aggressors exploiting complex global conflicts that are higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War.
The most immediate threat of conflict of course comes from North Korea, the panel of intelligence officials agreed, along with China, Russia and Iran seeking to expand their spheres of influence.
It was also added that at the same time, the threat of state and non-state use of weapons of mass destruction continues to grow as tensions within many countries rise.
These problems may seem very far away from our daily lives given our secluded locale between the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. After all, Kim Jong Un isn’t likely to target Chester for annihilation in the event nuclear war breaks out.
But we would certainly be devastated nevertheless, as food distribution would be imperiled, power transmission could be halted and other effects of a world war would touch every city and township in America.
That’s why the problem of conflict between individuals and nations alike needs to be addressed, and solutions found, whether it’s a local phenomenon like a school shooting or emanating from a global crisis.
I wish I had all the answers, but I’m willing to listen.