How To Handle a Crisis (and How NOT To)

It is the Winter Solstice at precisely 9:30 PM PST (or 12:30 AM EST, 3:30 AM GMT). And, on the darkest day of the year, we manage to come to one of the darkest moments of the political year, coincidentally.

I’ve never trusted neatness …

Which brings me to a point I’ve wanted to make for some time: the “crisis” that the Tea Party screams out is not actually a crisis. It is an outcome. It is, perhaps, an inevitable crisis down the road, but it’s NOT A CRISIS.

What? you ask?

Starting on Thanksgiving Day, 1983 to July 1993, I spent a big chunk of time being homeless. (And no, Ted Nugent, it wasn’t from a lack of employment or trying, but, rather a series of bad runs of luck that had me clawing my way just to the rim of the cliff from which I was continually falling, only to have Fate stomp on my fingers. Lather, rinse and repeat.)

There is something clarifying about being homeless, however. First, it is a REAL crisis. You HAVE to find food, a place to “BE” and a place to sleep every day, and the days I knew in the morning where I was going to park my carcass that night were few and far between. And you have to find a place to pee. A place to perform ablutions. A place to do your laundry — clean clothes are MUCH warmer than dirty clothes, and I spent winters in Boulder, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico homeless, so this ain’t no hang out on Venice Beach and crash in a Santa Monica park I’m talking about.

And the most important skill that you learn is this: DEAL WITH WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU.

When you’re homeless, the quaint notion of what you’re going to “do for the weekend” is utter hogwash. You have to deal with TODAY, babies. You have to secure the Big Four in the order of urgency: Offload Waste. Find Food. Find a Place to Be. Find a Place to Sleep.

In my case, it was also, Find a pack of Cigarettes. But the urgency of that last always helped get me off my duff in search of the other four when the Black Dog bit.

You learn: Take care of today, today. Take care of tomorrow, tomorrow.

Cigarettes reminded me, every day, that I was a junkie for the Big Four, and I had to get my daily fix.

You learn a flexibility of thinking and a focus. You need these things, and you continually keep those immediate goals in mind. Many was the day that I didn’t find that place to sleep (and, in winter, it better be warm, or you don’t wake up, or, worse, you wake up sick.) You CANNOT afford to get sick. You cannot afford to get injured. Once you get on the downside of the equation, the slide becomes parabolic, not to be hyperbolic. I saw homeless people that I knew dead a week later from some minor catastrophe.  These are not “my freedom under the Constitution is being theoretically impinged” issues. These are inescapable daily verities.

You learn to focus on the necessary. On the day. In the NOW.

You also learn that, while you can plan and plot and scheme, plans rarely work out as devised, and you have to constantly keep the goal in mind. Do you need matches or a lighter, OR DO YOU JUST NEED A LIGHT FOR THIS CIGARETTE? 

Anti-anti-smoking poster found on the web

Do you need glasses or do you just need to know what THIS sign says?

We don’t usually see life in these terms, of course. We see it as an endless parade, and we dream about cruising the Mediterranean with our Retirement Nest egg and how proud our grandkids will make us. We dream of moving up the corporate ladder. We dream of creating the perfect confluence between the Pie In The Sky Constitution guarantees of freedom of speech and call in to talk radio shows when Huckleberry Finn has been banned, yet again, for offending some current sentiment, as it has for a century and more.

That’s a luxury we can engage in because we pee’d in our own bathroom, after arising from our own bed, ate in our own kitchen, drove our own car to our own job, and slapped another nicotine patch on our deltoid. Another EXPENSIVE patch, that is.

This world is not NEAT and tidy for any grand philosophy or religious scheme. It is messy and ofttimes contradictory and Grand Answers don’t solve immediate needs with any consistency. We can engage in them only when we have the luxury of NOT being in the middle of a flood. We can theorize about the cause and economic losses of the flood when we are back on dry land with our own bed, and bathroom and kitchen, car, job and philosophy for fixing all the problems of the world.

But those are luxuries.

As is the luxury of fixing the long-term theoretical problems with Medicare and Social Security.

As is the luxury of holding out for grand ideological principles.

Let me tell you a story about a farmer. It’s an old an well known one, and I’ll let Michael Clark tell it to you:

A farmer is in Iowa during a flood. The river is overflowing, with water surrounding the farmer’s home up to his front porch. As he is standing there, a boat comes up. The man in the boat says “Jump in, I’ll take you to safety.”

The farmer crosses his arms and says stubbornly, “Nope, I put my trust in God.”

The boat goes away. The water rises to the second floor. Another boat comes up, the man says to the farmer who is now in the second story window, “Jump in, I’ll save you.”

The farmer again says, “Nope, I put my trust in God.”

The boat goes away. Now the water is up to the roof. As The farmer stands on the roof, a helicopter comes over, and drops a ladder. The pilot yells down to the farmer “I’ll save you, climb the ladder.”

The farmer says “Nope, I put my trust in God.”

The helicopter goes away. The water continues to rise and sweeps the farmer off the roof. He drowns.

The farmer goes to heaven. God sees him and says “What are you doing here?”

The farmer says “I put my trust in you and you let me down.”

God says, “What do you mean, ‘let you down’? I sent you two boats and a helicopter!!!”

My point (which has nothing to do with your religion, since it works for all of them) is that the man’s IDEA of reality trumped his ACTUAL reality. Rather than fix the immediate problem, he put his faith in his belief system to “save” him, and he drowned.

We are in a flood right now, friends.

Europe threatens to collapse economically, and we’re not far behind.

But, rather than the homeless approach of dealing with what’s immediate and necessary, the House Republicans have chosen to play the farmer, with their ideological notions of what will “save” us trumping even their perception that there IS a crisis.

This has been going on ever since the economic collapse of September 2008.

Which is exactly how NOT to handle a crisis.

General Ulysses S. Grant (IIRC) was asked what the biggest thing he’d learned in the war was, and he replied, approximately: The most important thing I learned was never to make decisions until I had to.

Because things change in a crisis, and when you approach a crisis with a grand battle plan, that thing that looked so good on the map turns out to be impossible, and those who can adapt and decide in the immediacy of the moment succeed.

Those who can’t either die, are wounded or are elected to congress.

Daniel Sickles



A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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4 Responses to How To Handle a Crisis (and How NOT To)

  1. Peace says:

    How To Handle A Crisis ? Fly on the back of Puff The Magic Dragon and be creative using critical thinking skills as an objective thinker ? There has been a Historical Educational Overhaul ! The Department of Education is about to spend 5 billion of tax payer dollars for 450,000 drones to be used in K-12 Public Schools and Charter. The proposed change is called the Signature Initiative. Who signed on for that ? Obama and Dr. Duncan along with the Pentagon ? 3 different teaching drone models,some as tiny as insects at a cost of 5 billion to American tax payers that don’t have a say cause they don’t know yet.The National media certainly hasn’t been reporting on it .One drone spits out rapid math and reading trivia to promote rote memorization of facts. Another variant will proctor tests and quizzes by hovering over the classroom and monitoring students from cheating.A third type will covertly follow children home after school and spy on them to ensure they do their homework.The Department of Education has begun acceptance bids from private security contractors to defend and protect these compounds. Now our Public Schools are being called Govt.compounds ? Oh No !Will they also be serving horse meat of which was signed Nov. 18th by Obama and now is available in the US for human consumption ? Phys and how do you like the hummingbirds the Pentagon is using and who else is ? Puff The Magic Dragon had very bad breath and he blew the drones away saving tax payers 5 billion. “Uh oh robot broken.” Who is paying the costs to maintain 450,000 drones in classrooms,much less implement such a concept of “Disturbia.” Bum bum be dumb,dumb…..Jackie keep a look out on Puff The Magic Dragon as the moral and legal with economic concerns explode like bird poop on your window. Maybe we’ll design Drone Lice Combs just in case these bugs get into the heads of our next generation and they are used for experimental research and data.Do you think the DOE needs to be eliminated and some on the Democratic and Republican team do.
    Why don’t we make sure the kids have smaller classrooms and books needed to support their educational career and other basic needed materials they don’t have of which teachers’ spend out of their pockets to support. Are the copy machines working today ? Thank-you.

  2. Peace says:

    Flatulence mixed with Anaerobic Microbes Explode Into The Atmosphere ! Remain calm ! Don’t panic in the crisis of yet more issues to keep your eye on as our New Year begins.
    Intervention or any imposition that imposes Govt. policy on women or men to be unacceptable. Our hero Hillary Clinton repeats her strong opposition to forced abortion and forced sterilization.This issue is like the evil ghost of Hitler has returned from the dead and it smells.Watch the video with Elaine Riddick in NC and Gov. Perdue on CNN and other National Media channels now awakening American citizens to yet another horrible tragedy to wake up and support.In a crisis remember every survival kit has a sense of humor and try to keep one watching this issue and it’s a heart breaker. This issue may keep you up at night investigating and it’s worse than that scary movie you wish you’d never watched.North Carolina Justice For Sterilization Victims Foundation, where is the American citizen connection link to donate with an apology to the victims that were forced into sterilization? 2,000 victims still living and the forced sterlization happened all over the US but NC is the first to apologize and no other state has yet. When is Obama going to address this issue with an apology on behalf of the US scheduled ? Somebody needs to call Obama’s schedule agenda people and get on it and this is a crime against humanity and human rights. What is Eugenics and it ended in the 70’s ? Are you sure and where are the medical records made available ? Throw your hat in to oppose the applied science of the bio-social movement to improve genetic composition of a population.Social Darwinism and the Diary of Anne Frank. Eugenics began as a breeding science for horses in the late 19th century and don’t panic but support S1176. No Horse Slaughtering for human consumption in America. Relax, call Congress and the White House operator is answering.Amen and she said she’d get the message to Obama !The State Department is answering their telephone too and they’ll hook ya up to Hillary Clinton’s answering machine.
    Good thing we had Thomas Hunt Morgan but the other associations and organizations involved in forced sterilization are spookie political, feeble minded followers of do no good and it was evil,ugly and wrong to sterilize these American citizens. R-U-4 the Apology $ ? Don’t 86 this and hope you’ll have time to write about it and investigate to support.By the way,how is Obama spending the billions the US just made selling that F-15 fighter to the Saudi’s? Happy New Year and keep a look out ! Sing the song “Mony, Mony” to the victims across the US forced into sterilization.When it’s wrong,it’s wrong and the forced sterlization issue represents a national tragedy of embarrassment and it smells like Hitler ‘s rot and worms ghost.Who is John Holdren ? Obama’s Science and Technology Policy ? The has me worried about his intentions and what’s he telling Obama ? Who’s got Obama’s speaking schedule, agenda black book and head for the Rose Garden where it smells good to apologize. Set up an American forced sterilization victims, donation support, linking connection.Write his speech on a heart felt apology to the victims across America that experienced forced sterilization.American citizens are in charge and the politician works for the people and don’t let those politicians forget it !
    Thank-you and Happy New Year ! 1. No Horse Slaughtering For Human Consumption In America S1176. 2. Support Victims of forced Sterilization 3. No Drones in classrooms costing American citizens 5 billion. Let’s make sure our American School buildings have books and pencils among other needed operational and educational lists of needs met first for every child.

  3. Peace says:

    1 out of 45 kids in the US is homeless and hungry. Millions of Americans have lost their homes and out of work. The Almost Great Depression will not kick our US citizen ass to quit. This is the USA and get up and keep moving !Get the rocks out of the woods and build the camp fire to stay warm.Don’t catch the woods on fire ! Look for two trees that stand together and use leverage with a balanced pushing motion and your larger tree branch will break in between those two trees. With no chain saw, it’ll support the crack for your fire wood. Whatever decision you made to end up in a broke jam,if it’s a battle worth fighting, then fight to win ! Take a job to keep going and don’t beat yourself up knowing you’re way over qualified.In a crisis know God’s got ya covered and if not,then you may end up seriously lost, in literally the woods homeless you find yourself in.This to shall pass and you’re intelligent enough to make that happen and know you’re a hard worker.Keep your chin up and keep swinging !Don’t kill the 7 foot black snakes and they eat the bad snakes.Keep your end result goal posted to read.The adventures of your choices in the Almost Great Depression American broke jam.If you don’t end up dead it could be a book someday. The address of character is often determined on the corner of adversity Ave. and determination drive.We have some great American people left standing with jobs to help or are they angels just walking on earth? Everybody knows somebody out of work these days or about their company that’s had to lay them off or worse you see the out of business signs. Fight the good fight always !That’s it for this camper and God Bless ! Told you to vote for Hillary Clinton! “Jobs Baby Jobs “…..”Right Now For Americans Baby Now. “

  4. Thanks for your opinion(s), Peace.