Basics of Home Defense Readiness: Bandages, Beans and Bullets on a Budget

by Spencer Coursen, Coursen Security Group

When designing any emergency response plan, it is important to first identify the most realistic threat you are likely to face. Imaginations will always exceed budgets, so identifying and mounting a defense against the threat you are most likely to face will help manage your fear and your finances in equal measure.

I’m a fan of The Walking Dead as much as anyone, but the thought of zombie coming in through my windows on a some random Tuesday afternoon hell-bent on eating me alive, brings me about as much anxiety as the thought of a grizzly bear scaling a downtown apartment building intent on doing the same. It’s just not going to happen.

The Realistic Scenario

Why are we talking about Bunkers in the first place?

Anyone who’s walked through an airport in the last ten years, has heard, “Threat Level: Orange” which is a non-invasive way for Homeland Security to say, “Yes - there is a reasonable expectation for a violent terrorist threat to breach our borders.”

However, this next attack will very likely be a 9/11 style attack. Which is to say, a singular or coordinated attack all happening at once – not unlike the hours between 8am and 11am on September 11th. The intent of a terrorist threat is meant promote fear and panic rather than to engage in a continuous and prolonged campaign of direct action.

We as a nation, are also under continuous attack by the [Chinese] shadow warfare cyber tactics probing and potentially infecting our financial institutions, our water supply, and our transportation systems, in what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned as a “Cyber Pearl Harbor.”

Natural disasters also seem more frequent. Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy brought to the forefront of national attention just how devastating and time consuming these atrocities can be to endure.

Regardless of the crisis you may face, what all of these scenarios have in common is the challenge to your safety and security after the event has occurred. When the dust has settled, the winds have died, and the waters calmed, you must survive until “the return to normal,” and my hope is this helps you find the best way to do so.

For agreement in discussion, I am employing the term “bunker” in the same fashion I would employ “safe-haven” - a defendable place where you and your family can spend evenings in conditional safety and reasonable comfort.

Preparedness is Paramount

Preparing for what comes next, will prepare you for what comes before. Your mind and your body are finely tuned with each other, and stressors on the mind will have physiological affects, much as stressors on the body have psychological affects.

I was in a car accident recently, t-boned while driving down Venice Blvd in Los Angeles. The entire drivers side door caved in. It was a bad accident, and I’m lucky to have walked away unscathed from the wreck. I tell you this, because no sooner had their speeding car slammed into mine, when two things went simultaneously went through my mind. The first was a once learned and Army-instilled self-assessment of my physical condition telling me I was not hurt and to get moving, and the second was a mental re-assurance my car insurance was paid and up to date.

There was nothing I could have done to prevent the accident. There was no warning, and I had no opportunity to avoid, evade or escape the collision. Yet, I was in complete control over what came next, because I knew I had done everything up to that moment to prepare for this one.

My seatbelt was on having safeguarded my life, and my insurance was paid having safe guarded my livelihood. Had either of those two preparations not been previously handled, I would most definitely not have been in a physical or psychological condition to deal with the aftermath with rational logic and effectiveness. Additional stressors were not a factor, because I had taken the necessary measures to prepare for this very likely and realistic scenario.

What should I do first?

You are right here...right now. Stop reading this article for a second and look around. One second from now, your world and your life will change forever. Are you ready?

Safety First: Protect yourself and get to a safe and sustainable location. You will know your home and your neighborhood the best, so get there as quickly and as safely as you can.

Contact anyone and everyone while/if you still can. Let trusted people (friends and family) know where you are, where you are going, you’re physical condition as well as anything you may need. If you haven’t already done so, initiate your family emergency plan so that everyone knows where to go and what to do.

Take inventory: Who is with you and what you have on hand? If you don’t have what you need, decide immediately how important it is to have vs. the risk of retrieval. This will obviously be a situational-dependent statement, but as a rule: anything less than the life of a loved one, and you should prepare yourself to be without.

Triage: Is anyone hurt or injured? Require immediate medical attention? What do you need to do to ensure the health, welfare and safety of those in your charge tonight? Are you safe where you are? Can you safely move to a better location? You will need to determine the most important tasks often as priorities may shift at any given moment. (Always be thinking: Safety, Food, & Shelter)

Delegate: If you are of good enough fortune to be with others, utilize them to their full advantage. There is strength in numbers. Do Not try to do everything yourself.

If anything can be done 70% as well as you, delegate that tasking to another. They’ll learn as they go, and getting something done is better than getting nothing done.

Where you live will determine what you need

Most of us surviving a crisis situation will be restricted to the

immediate vicinity of our homes with little to no power or communication.

Where you live will determine the necessity of what is needed for your specific situation. If you live in an urban environment, where daily deliveries to markets and groceries are required, then your focus should be on food storage more so than if you live in a more rural environment where you could feasibly live off the land in a hunter/gather capacity.

Dependence on machine-generated climate control is another factor to consider. Understanding the susceptible changes to the natural climate of your location should be factored when deciding where to bunker down.

What is a reasonable expectation of duration?

4 nights / 5 days of on-hand rations is a good rule of thumb. Emergency services are generally able to provide basic assistance within three days. However, having value-added goods on hand (Cigarettes and Alcohol) will afford you the ability to barter and exchange for necessities later on should the crisis continue indefinitely.

Who can I trust?

You already know the answer to this. If you’re thinking, “I think so,” then the answer is no. If you can unequivocally say, “Yes,” than the answer is yes. One may never know where loyalty is born, but the beginning of a crisis isn’t when you want to find out. Alliances start now. Community counts. Find like-minded friends and neighbors who live in close-proximity and start discussing the roles and functions of those who can provide varying and essential skills and services.

For example, if your neighbor has a generator, and you have a giant freezer full of food in your garage, talk to each other now and work out a system to combine resources should the time come. If any of your neighbors are Doctors, RN’s or Police, invite them over for dinner.

What should I have on-hand?

As I stated before, your own needs will be conditional upon your situation. What’s listed here is by no means the must have’s, but rather the should have’s for basic home defense and survival. I have listed them here in order of priority according to my own personal experience and practice.

1. Enough food, water and prescription medication to last you five days. Assume your water won’t be running or will be deemed unsafe. Buy one case of water for everyone in your family and stash it under the bed, in the basement or in the closet. (Somewhere out of sight and out of mind so you won’t use this cache as your go-to supply for car trips)

Water is the one thing you’ll always wish you had in abundance. Some of it you’ll drink, some of it you’ll need to boil, some of it you’ll use to bath. You really can’t have enough.

Your food on-hand should be shelf-stable and require no addition preparation. It’s likely the power will be out and if you’re living in an apartment or similar enclosed location, building a fire won’t always be possible. High calorie, high protein and complex carb meals will be the best. Watch some old-school cowboy movies for inspiration. Stock up on some cans of beans and beef stew, Beef Jerky and Trail Mix. Look into “Paleo Kits” too. Extreme athletes and Cross Fit enthusiast swear by them. I recommend you purchase at least one to see if you like them. On a budget, it’s much cheaper to modify and make your own. Local purchase the ingredients you like and vacuum seal individual single-servings. PaleoKit as shown: Cost $7

2. Have some extra bags of ice in the freezer, king-cubes will last you longer than the icemaker variety. Ice will help keep your refrigerator and freezer functional for a day or two after the power goes out. Fill up a few tuba-ware containers filled with water and freeze overnight. Keep as many frozen bricks in your freezer as you can. Ice does more than chill your drinks, there are medical uses (Blister Burn, splinter removal, oral numbness to treat tooth pain, and soft tissue injury to name a few, so having some on hand will prove beneficial to your cause.

3. A “go-bag” is -in layman terms– the bag you grab when it’s time to “Go,” as in right now -when the time required to plan, prep and pack will mitigate your chance of survival. The premise is such that your go-bag is always packed, ready and waiting with the essentials you will need to survive for two nights and three days in the outdoor terrain of your approximate location and in current local climate. No creature comforts; just the necessities to survive, contained in a packaged weight, affording you the ability to remain mobile. Keep in mind; your packing list may change throughout the year dependent upon the time of year, the season, your location, your medical requirements and your physical ability. You should be well versed in terms of your bag’s content, knowledgeable of item location, and organized for ease of use.

Everyone who is physically able to carry a pack should have one. Your own individual packing list may vary based on personal preference and necessity, but

the contents of the one below serves as an excellent tutorial on what constitutes essentials. If you only do one thing to prepare beyond your in-home food and water storage, this is it. This is what you need. Everyone should have one. Build or buy one today. Many pre-customized options are available on-line. As shown on Amazon.com Cost: $310

4. A fully stocked First-Aid kit is a priority requirement for any emergency action plan. One should always strive to have as much medical and trauma training, resources and equipment on hand as possible. Medical equipment can be cost prohibitive, but medical knowledge can be as cheap as a YouTube search. Being First Aid and CPR certified (or at least capable) could literally save a life one day, and could increase your own survival rate exponentially.

Staff infection is both silent and deadly, and if you find yourself unable to acquire professional medical attention or prescription medication, it is critical you possess, at the very least, the medical know-how and resources to clean, disinfect and treat a cut, scrape, or sprain.

This standard First Aid kit is commonly found in commercial venues, but doubles equally well in the home. Cost: $25

5. Despite all of the technological advances of the past century, the best home defense option available to you is still a mid to full sized dog - especially one with specific [Sentry] training tailored to your needs. In addition to being naturally defensive of their owner, and territorial of their property, a dog can offer a companionship in an otherwise lonesome scenario. (Think; I am Legend vs Castaway) If you already have a dog (even an untrained small dog), you’re already ahead of the game. The yelp of a small pup directed toward an unwelcome visitor may be all that’s required to bring undo attention to clandestine activities and thwart their evil intentions.

6. In every home there should be an identified “Safe Room,” a last line of defense where you and your loved ones can safely barricade yourselves until help can arrive. There is literally no limit to the amount of money one can spend on the construction such a sanctuary.

For the rest of us, we have door wedges. These specific door wedges were designed by EMS units to keep the heavy industrial doors propped open during their rescue operations. As good as they are at propping doors open, they are even better at wedging doors closed. Jam one of these under a closed door and there is no way an intruder is pushing the door open. Added security if you wedge one between the door and the frame too. (Just make sure you’re on the side of the door that can see the hinges)

For a few dollars more, some door wedges also come with an alarm feature, but if you can sleep through an intruder trying to kick down the door, I’m not sure the alarm of a AA Battery will stir you from your slumber. Cost: $8.00

7. Today, all of our communication devices require a charge. Assuming an EMP was not the cause of the crisis you’re currently facing, your mobile devices will be critical to helping you negotiate your way to a better day. (Read: One Second After by William Fortschen) While a few commercial venues with back-up generators may be able to facilitate the needs of the few, they most certainly will not be able to cater to the needs of the many. So skip the Starbucks iPhone-charging line and invest in this universal solar-charging unit. Yes, there are cheaper versions available on the market place, but this one has been in my go-bag for the last two years and has never once let me down. Cost: $120

8. Take the time to go through all of the contents your go-bag has available, and identify anything inside you think you may need to use in your home. Purchase in duplicate to what’s in the bag, but do your best to NOT use what’s already provided. If you don’t already have the basics of a lights-out scenario in your home, then you should most certainly acquire the necessary provisions of matches, candles, flashlights, and batteries. Other items of mention may also include a multi-tool, a home improvement tool kit, survival literature, pocket-knives, pre-packaged meals such as MRE’s, or water purification tablets.

9. Employ aspects of deterrence works, in hopes of promoting transference. The pros of a home security system far outweigh any cons. The innovation available on today’s modern marketplace can match almost any imagination, and yet there are endless options available to work within the confines of even the tightest budget.

A good security system will alert, notify, and confirm the something/someone out of the ordinary with enough lead time for you to respond accordingly. More importantly, a positive security posture promotes one very important fact to the causal observer: You take your security seriously. At any given time, our friends, neighbors, and general passers-by are evaluating our actions, behaviors, and even our daily routines.

And we do this to others. We know which stores are safer than others, which stores we visit take their security more seriously than others, which office buildings are safer, which parking garages are more closely monitored. We even intrinsically know which streets are safe at night, and which streets we go out of our way to avoid. All of this observational knowledge is subconsciously remembered and categorized, and plays and important aspect in split-second decision making scenarios regarding our own safety and security.

In times of crisis, necessity sometimes lends itself to immoral action. Social predators, looters, and criminals of opportunity will always reveal themselves when social order is in chaos. Like lions stalking a herd of gazelle, they will evaluate the masses to identify the easy prey vs. those whom pose a challenge, a target drawn on the weakest and most vulnerable first.

However, criminals often act with childhood methodology in that hard work isn’t warranted unless there’s a guaranteed reward for their effort, otherwise only the least bit of effort shall be asserted. So, forget for a moment, that in this crisis scenario you face, there is no power and your system doesn’t work. The camera dome above your door or next and next to your window, says something succinct about your home, “Another target will be easier.”

10. Despite the fact that movies and television will have you convinced otherwise, a weapon will not be required or necessary for your survival in nearly every conceivable crisis you will realistically face. However, as a former soldier I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t have a weapon as part of my own emergency action plan. If you decide to include a weapon in your inventory, please familiarize, and train yourself to the fullest extent possible, and employ safety, rational thought and sound moral guidance in all aspects of it’s use.

With all aspects considered, my final recommendation is the Mossberg 500 JIC. Mossberg revealed their understanding of emergency preparedness to heart when naming their Model 500 “JIC,” which stands for “Just In Case.” A shotgun such as this serves many masters. It not only acts as a psychological deterrent to the Social Predator when they hear the unmistakable chuh-chik of the slide chambering a round, and being honest, you don’t exactly have to be surgical when firing it either.

This weapon is equally effective at dropping the bad guy, or the flock of ducks flying overhead for dinner. This weapon is lightweight, easy to use, and gets the job done. Just in case you really find yourself in need (or want) of a versatile and dependable weapon, having this on-hand will serve you well. Cost: $479

Everyday a school day...

Your individual list of needs, wants and desires may be completely different than mine, but what’s most important is that you’re forward thinking to a scenario you can help frame and manage before you find yourself whiplashed by the harsh reality of whatever unfortunate predicament life prescribes.

One advantage of advance preparation is that you afford yourself the extra time needed to get yourself ready both mentally and physically for whatever tomorrow may bring. Preparation requires forethought and action, and if you’ve read this far, you have already improved your odds for a successful outcome. Real life is different from little league tee-ball. No participation trophies here. Big Boy rules are in effect. Expect the worst, and hope for the best. Know that problems will arise, and when life breaks bad it often finds you when you are least expecting, and most ill prepared.

Remember that survivors and winners have something in common; they both visualize victory, even when hope seems forsaken, and the odds are stacked against you. Champion Poker Player, Jack Strauss embodies this philosophy with one of his key quotes after winning the World Series of Poker, “I had a chip, and a chair, so I knew I had a chance.”

Hard work and sacrifice must be accepted as your reality. In the end, your commendation for action will not come in the form of applause or congratulations, and certainly not a trophy, but rather in knowing that you and your loved ones will sleep in peace some future night because of your preparation today.

As I’m signing off, an email alert pops up with the subject line, “Zombie Kit.” I smile a little, and then stop. Like the Mossberg, maybe I should include this too. You know, Just in Case. Cost: $349

My fellow supporters,

It is with a heavy heart that I must make a sad announcement today. The time has come to press pause on the dream of Beto for president. It's not the end of the Beto dream. It's just pressing pause for a while, like pausing a Foss CD. The dream will keep right on spinning, until we return to it and press play again. I mean, look at Bernie Sanders. That guy's almost twice my age and he's still running for president. That means you can look forward to Beto running for office for decades to come. I have found there is tremendous joy and freedom in running for office and never winning. All the travel, Vanity Fair cover stories, food and free beer, with none of the hassle or responsibility of having an actual job in elected office (or any job at all). It's really great.

With the exception of myself, no one has supported Beto more faithfully and true than you, the fans. I'd also like to thank my wife Amy for continually raising our children so that I can travel this great land in my never-ending quest to find myself (and also to connect with you, the fans). From attending my very hip and not-at-all contrived jogging town halls, to slapping those trendy Beto bumper stickers on your hybrid-SUVs, to steadying tables all over America so I could jump on top of them and yell and jab the air, to clicking "like" on all those Facebook videos of my dentist visits – you perpetuated this Beto dream way longer than it had any right to be perpetuated.

So, I'm sure you're now wondering – what's next for Beto?

Other than pursuing my career as a solo rock recording artist, I believe the best way I can serve America and bring true justice to this great land of ours is by stealing from the rich and giving to those who fall in the sweet spot on the intersectionality charts. Except I won't steal from my billionaire father-in-law, only because getting my family cut out of the will would not be in America's best interest. You need a Beto who is independently wealthy via his wife and so do I. Plus, as you know by now, from following the 2020 presidential campaign so closely, the only acceptable status quo in America is leaving the wealth of Progressive elites alone. Everyone else's wealth is fair game, including the middle class. It's the right thing to do.

You need a Beto who is independently wealthy via his wife and so do I.

Therefore, from this day forward I will henceforth be known as Beto Hood. You will be able to join the cause by purchasing official Beto Hood merch soon at Beto Hood dot com. Together, with my band of merry men, who will be known as "merry non-binaries", we will roam the land, righting all the wrongs and bringing about all the social justice that Donald Trump refuses to let you have.

Beto Hood and his Merry Non-Binaries will live on the road. And in the woods (in eco-friendly, fully sustainable treehouse yurts). And in the shadows. We will skateboard and learn archery and rappelling. We will become proficient in hand-to-hand combat. We will become experts in all weaponry except guns, since guns are the evilest weapons. We will care for all the animals of the forest. You already know my affinity for squirrels. Not only will we continue to rescue all the orphan squirrels, we will train them in petty thievery and nimble sabotage. We will affix tiny helmets on them, fitted with tiny Go Pro cameras to live stream their heroic exploits on Facebook. Side note: my colonoscopy next week will also be live streamed on Facebook and available to rent on iTunes.

Using the skills I honed as a college graduate scaling the gates of UTEP, Beto Hood and his Merry Non-Binaries will scale the gates of America's richest and steal from their grotesque wealth. Jewelry, high-end electronics, precious antiques, art, women's shoes – nothing of value will be off-limits. Drawing on my experience while my father was a county judge, we will live above the law. It will be dangerous work, the Lord's work as some people say. But totally worth the risk.

Also, we will not wait for Constitutional amendments nor judicial overreach to get rid of America's AR-15s. We will steal those too. One by one. Using very large versions of those stretchy sticky hands that come in cereal boxes, we will literally be able to snatch these vile guns right out from under the noses of the monsters who own them. Then, with our literal mountain of confiscated AR-15s, we will melt them down and use the metal to build a flotilla of sturdy watercraft, called Beto Boats (trademark pending). Families will be able to use these Beto Boats to save themselves and others when the rising waters of climate change overtake our cities in exactly ten years.

Who needs the presidency? I have big, bold plans for a bright future as an outlaw hero.

Who needs the presidency? I have big, bold plans for a bright future as an outlaw hero. So, don't cry for me, America. Beto will be just fine. Dropping out of this race is nothing that another months-long, head-clearing road trip won't cure. And after that, I'll start shopping for some tights.



[NOTE: The preceding Memo was a parody written by MRA writer Nathan Nipper – not Beto O'Rourke.]

Ryan: Making of an Ant Queen

Photo by Kevin Ryan

The embattled, Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning author Liu Xiaobo wrote that "Life is priceless even to an ant."

An ant colony can only survive for a few months after the death of its queen. On average, queens live 10 to 15 years. Some, up to 30 years, one of the longest insect lifespans, hidden deep within the colony, protected, unable to use her wings because she's a little bigger than she used to be.

Plus she's very busy.

The majority of ants are female. Wingless, sterile worker ants. They build nests, they forage, they hunt.

Theirs is a far briefer life than the queen's, ranging from a few weeks up to a year. But they see more of the outside world than any other ant.

The bigger they are, the farther they travel. And they release pheromones along the way so that they have a trail home.
Drones — winged male ants whose primary function in life is to mate with the queen — die after mating and rarely make it out of the colony.

Then, there are the soldier ants. They protect the colony and attack.

To quote philosopher Bertrand Russell, "Ants and savages put strangers to death."

They go on raids.

The attacking colony rarely loses, so most colonies flee as soon as an invasion begins. But they sometimes remain and fight.
Ants on both sides of the battle die in droves.

Henry David Thoreau describes an ant battle in Walden: "On every side they were engaged in deadly combat, yet without any noise that I could hear, and human soldiers never fought so resolutely."

If the attackers succeed in overtaking a colony, they pillage the eggs. Some are eaten, fed to larvae. But others become victims of slave raiding. Meaning that the victors return home with their enemy's unborn, feed them, nurse them. Then, when the eggs hatch, the victors force them into slavery.

Often, the slaves even develop an allegiance to the colony which ransacked their home and enslaved them. They'll even help raid other colonies and either die pointlessly or help with the seizure of the next generation of slaves.

Sometimes, however, the slave ants rebel.

In the words of Persian poet Saadi, "Ants, fighting together, will vanquish the lion."

Flying ants, both male and female, leave the colony to form another colony. Once they find a suitable place, the males's wings fall off and they mate to their death. Then one or more of the females becomes queen.

*

It felt odd, any time I sat with a roomful of media, a few hundred journalists from all over the world, as they simultaneously, silently, decided "Yep, that's newsworthy. We should hammer that."

It wasn't like everyone turned to each other and said, "Let's agree on the narrative."

It was an energy.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Like in Houston, at the third Democratic Debate, after Biden misused the word "record player," you could hear chatter spread through the room, people muttering the words "records" and "record player."

In Houston, the media watched the debate from a gymnasium around the corner from the auditorium. So I could contrast the crowd's reactions with the media's reactions.

Nearly every time, there was a disparity between the two. The media were more relaxed — during the debate at least. The audience enjoyed any mentions of identity issues. There were a lot. But the media barely reacted at all.

This was a good thing, probably.

*

It's impressive to see how politicians force their stump speeches into a new form, depending on the context. How they say it like an epiphany.

That night brought the opposite for the ever-fledgling Kamala Harris. I could not believe it. Was this the same woman who'd made Iowa hers, just a little over a month ago?

All night, she was so loyal to the tactic she'd premeditated that she didn't realize it wasn't working, like she kept putting on a puppet show on some busy sidewalk.

At one point, she declared, proudly, "We're not talking about Donald Trump enough."

The most talked-about man in the world, perhaps in our country's history.

In five weeks, she became an entirely different candidate. Her latest version resembled a Xanax-fueled stepmom. It was like she was transforming into Joe Biden.

She kept laughing at her own jokes. And the entire media room cringed every time.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Amy Klobuchar's pre-formed jokes and half-zany dad jokes fell short every time, too. Most of the media saw Klobuchar's long rants as a chance to chat with a neighbor or jet off to the nearest bathroom, which was likely a locker-room full of plastic flight containers and padded camera cases and journalists who curse like sailors.

During the debate, the press was stoic. So if a candidate got a reaction from them, it carried a certain authenticity.

They laughed at things that the audience ignored or disliked or didn't notice. In part because the audience didn't do a whole lot of laughing. But the media laughed like professionals laugh. In-jokey and staid yet ready for anything unexpected.

They loved it when Booker said the thing about "Let me translate that to Spanish … 'No'." And Yang's opening handclaps. As well as Pete Buttigieg's reaction to Yang's raffle.

The biggest laugh of the night in the media center, surprisingly, was when Yang said, "I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors."

*

Early scientists believed that ants adhere to a complicated hierarchy, which biologist E O Wilson compared to the Hindu caste system. The idea was, ants and humans have a lot in common, and ants belong to a society divided by class and determined by labor.

In the Wealth of Nations, father of capitalism Adam Smith wrote: "It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people."

Ants have been organized into colonized societies since the Cretaceous Period, 140 million years ago, when dinosaurs still dominated the Earth. All of that changed 74 million years later. Which was about 66 million years ago. When a comet slammed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula, resulting in the KT mass extinction.

80 percent of all plants and animals died. The ash and dust and debris polluted the air, blocked the sunlight, transforming the Earth into a dark, frozen wasteland full of asthma.

Insects, carrion-eaters, and omnivores all survived. Any purely carnivorous animals starved to death, while mammals and birds fed on insects and worms until the earth repopulated itself with more animals that could be eaten.

The K-T Mass Extinction ushered in a new era of life. Species that had lived in constant retreat from predators were suddenly able to form more elaborate purposes.

After these lifeforms thrived for tens of millions of years, certain mammals started to become vaguely humanlike.
Early humans popped up about 300,000 years ago.

Meaning, ants have existed for 140 million years, which is 139.7 million years longer than humans.

For reference, if you counted to 300,000, it would take you roughly three-in-a-half days. To get to 140 million would take about four-and-a-half years.

Humans only began developing language about 100,000 years ago.

Yet we're the ones with libraries and governments and ABBA and iPhones. What did ants have? Other people's sugar?

*

Before the debate, I wandered out of the gymnasium and onto bustling sidewalks with makeshift security fencing on each side. And hopped over the massive yellow tubes that belonged in E.T. and pumped cold air into the building. Past dozens of police and security, through an elaborate weave of temporary checkpoints and wires bigger than a fire hose.

On the street, I passed a group of six-or-so teenagers flipping DELANEY signs around like those cardboard "WE BUY GOLD" banners which actual people bob around while dressed as Elvis or Lady Liberty or a Banana.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

The sun cast a delightful orange over Houston, glitter in the humid air.

Those kids were having a blast with those signs. Laughing so hard they had to stop occasionally and slap their legs.

On the other side of the fence, some of the most powerful people in the world were readying for battle, and these kids could not have cared less.

*

The protestors had gathered just outside the gates of the campus entrance.

Far as I could tell, it was me and no other journalists present. The rest of the media were in the gymnasium, preparing for the debate or networking or already on-air. Once they got into the media center they stayed put. For many reasons, I assume.
The air collapsed under a wave of heat unique to Houston.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Gnarled blockades served as borders on both sides of the street. Locked into steel fencing, flanked by rows of police cars with their lights on but their sirens off.

Worse than the humidity, and more intense, was the energy bouncing out of the protestors on Cleburne Street. The opposite of suction energy, shoving out with tension and panic and elation.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up" blared from a Bluetooth speaker. I envisioned a slow zoom from above, beginning with the top of my head and rising, up and up and up. Drawing in the greater scene. Up past Trump's message-board plane. A panorama of city, then county, then state, capturing the topography and nuance of each snapshot of nature.

The higher the camera rose, the more I resembled an ant. One more wingless worker or obedient soldier rushing from place to place on a mission.

And when you got far enough above, you saw the colony that each of us belongs to.

Then it shrank like a passing bobsled, and Earth itself resembled an ant.

The scale of it is daunting.

For thousands of years the sky has filled humans with romance and humility and wonder. A restive impulse that strikes when we gaze up at the moon, the stars, the galaxy, the quiet.

But at ground level, I was a man in the throes of a great human drama. And my job was to document it as neutrally as possible.

The 120-odd protestors on the south side of the street spilled onto the sidewalk and into a lawn, and they chanted as the Trump plane groaned overhead.

They were crowded together, and they were all fighting for different causes. Lots of contradictions under the same banner.
Next to a group of Beto supporters with pro-choice t-shirts, several women chanted

We.
Want.
A pro-life.
Dem.

Chaos itself occupied the south side of the street. The protestors weren't sure how to handle it. So they chanted and sang and probed for the problem. Like so many tiny creatures hauling an orange slice.

Across the street, facing that horde of supporters, two men gripped pro-life signs.

They were the counter-protestors. Their barricade was far wider than needed. The grass around them looked sad, like the trail a dog makes along the fence when it wants to escape.

Behind the two counter-protestors, a mini-bus covered with photos of aborted babies, tangled fetuses, severed and indistinguishable chunks.

Photo by Kevin Ryan

Photo by Kevin Ryan

I squinted and gasped and felt downright unwell.

Two days earlier, my wife and I found out that she was pregnant with our first child.

At the very moment I stared at images of tiny human shapes contorted and grey, our baby was the size of a pea.
A few weeks later, we'd see its heartbeat pulsing like a strobe.

I'm not making a statement on abortion. That's not my job as a journalist.

It's more my admiration for the impeccable depth of life. The timing. How messages and symbols confront us all the time, with unmatchable creativity.

Because there I was, literally in the middle of two opposing factions. Again. In the divide. Tangled into so many dichotomies. Life and death. Freedom and oppression. Order and chaos. Activity and stagnation. Creation and loss. Art and nature.

And I had once again remained in the middle.

This brought me tremendous satisfaction. It signified personal and journalistic success.

It was also a bit ridiculous.

As a reporter, I never wanted to pick a side. I already had a side. My side was America, and Ireland. My side was humanity.

My side was life.

New installments of this series come out every Monday and Thursday morning. Check out my Twitter or email me at kryan@mercurystudios.com

"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak.Not to act is to act."
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The cost of discipleship can be daunting and few people are willing to sacrifice and stand in the face of evil to do what they know God is asking of them. The "Bonhoeffer Angel Award" is awarded to someone with the vision and courage to act when others only talk, to dig in and listen to the whisperings of the spirit when others turn a deaf ear. It is only fitting the inaugural award go to the visionary founder of Mercury One, Glenn Beck.

The award was presented by the Board President of Mercury One, David Barton and CEO of the Nazarene Fund, Tim Ballard. There was a touching video tribute as well including the likes of Penn Jillette, Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Joe Liberman, Congressman Loui Gohmert and Rabbi Daniel Lappin.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:

Glenn will be hosting the annual Operation Underground Railroad gala Saturday, November 2nd with keynote speaker Tim Ballard. If you are able to join us, tickets are still available and donations of all sizes are welcome.

Summer is ending and fall is in the air. Before you know it, Christmas will be here, a time when much of the world unites to celebrate the love of family, the generosity of the human spirit, and the birth of the Christ-child in Bethlehem.

For one night only at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, on December 7th, join internationally-acclaimed radio host and storyteller Glenn Beck as he walks you through tales of Christmas in the way that only he can. There will be laughs, and there might be a few tears. But at the end of the night, you'll leave with a warm feeling in your heart and a smile on your face.

Reconnect to the true spirit of Christmas with Glenn Beck, in a storytelling tour de force that you won't soon forget.

Get tickets and learn more about the event here.

The general sale period will be Friday, August 16 at 10:00 AM MDT. Stay tuned to for updates. We look forward to sharing in the Christmas spirit with you!