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The Self-Selected Remnant   (Chris Sullins, August 4, 2008)

“I’m a doctor,” said the man standing on the gravel road with his extended family –including one elderly member in a wheelchair who had to be slowly maneuvered over the stones by two teenagers. “I could be helpful to your community. Please give us a chance.”

“You’re a doctor. Really. You’re the fourth doctor we’ve had come by here this week,” said the man sitting atop the watchtower behind the concrete slab walls by the front gate of Fort Jericho. He wore body armor, a Kevlar helmet and cradled his scoped M1A rifle. He looked over the group of elderly women and children who appeared to be led by a fit man in his late 30s.

“Do you have a doctor in there?” said the man sounding a bit more anxious in response to the guard’s indifference.

“Yes, we have two. One was here with us before the Big It happened and another came here later with her own tools and medicine. The group took a vote and we let her in. She was single and quite cute which was a plus,” boasted the guard with a smile. “It looks like you’ve shown up here with your own caseload and we can’t take in any more people. That’s going to be too many mouths to feed with winter coming on. We’re already having a hard enough time hunting the area for ourselves. Clear out of here and keep moving.”

“At least give us some water!” begged one of the women from below. “We know you have a well pump in there. We have our own containers.”

“If we start giving away water, there’ll be more people waiting outside our gates. We could have a hundred people here within a week,” said the guard. “That’s too much of a drain on the land’s resources.”

“For God’s sake we haven’t even seen a hundred people for a hundred miles in the past week!” said the man.

“And we’re going to keep it that way,” said the guard. “We can’t give you anything.”

“You’re being greedy!” Yelled the old woman in the wheelchair. “Let us in.”

“Leave!” shouted the man as he shifted his grip on the rifle. He was becoming fatigued just holding it for longer than usual rather than readying it for any aggression. But, it wasn’t perceived that way below.

“I’ve got a sniper in the trees and he has you now in his sites as we speak,” said the man below as he feared for his family standing out in the open.

“And you’re standing on an IED,” replied the guard. “Shoot me and it goes off. The only way you’re getting inside will be the pieces of you that blow over the gate.”

“God curse you!” screamed the man as he pointed up at the guard. By chance or something else, a crow broke from the trees along the gravel road not far behind the group of wanderers.

The guard instinctively reacted and shouldered his rifle. A shot rang out.

One of the very few simple Arabic phrases I bothered to learn in Iraq was “I am a doctor”. If I was captured despite my best efforts to die in a blaze of glory, I thought the phrase might buy me some time. Although it was not quite an accurate description of my actual military occupational specialty it sounded better and a lot shorter than “I am a licensed master of force multiplication and controlling angry combat.” After giving the jihadists some initial confusion but probably not enough mental fog to allow my escape, I thought it wouldn’t have gone over very well with them. Most likely it would have resulted in a duller knife being used for my internet execution video.

There will be a lot of “doctors” wandering around not long after the first series of Big Its (whatever It might be, natural or man-made). I’m not talking about temporary local hardships like Katrina, but the beginning of global tsunamis that take everyone to the edge of the funnel before the bottle-neck. These are events of a magnitude in which no organized help arrives because central governments are incapacitated, overstretched and the remaining leaders just don’t care. The term “flyover country” will have a different meaning for them in the future.

Among the charlatans with molle-stitched medic bags full of real and increasingly rare pillaged supplies will be highly-educated specialists who will be minus their MRI machines and cadre of support staff. Some will stand at the gates waving thumb drives containing scans of their real credentials. The citizens of Fort Jericho, solar-powered EMP-shielded laptops or not, probably won’t be holding interviews.

They’ll exclude some good people. That’s fine. If the county or state is lucky (or Blessed) enough to be in a good part of the world, the handful of real doctors sent walking with crosshairs on their backs will later find a niche in a growing village of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and even a lawyer or two, twenty miles or so away. Chances are a year or so later the doctor rejected by Fort Jericho will make a house call back there when the residents are suffering from a cholera epidemic. There’s nothing like a good case of the squirts to bring the New Elite to a more humble position. I hope they have something good to trade. The doctor may not be interested in their prize M1A –he’ll be lugging around an HK91. What is it with doctors and their imports?

I remember when two young soldiers took pity on a handful of Iraqi children and threw them a couple apples. Within the hour they had over thirty children waiting below their tower. At first they wondered where all the children came from in our little piece in the middle of nowhere. Their next response was to throw down a couple bottles of water which led to the biggest child in the group strong-arming the smaller kids for both bottles. The soldiers later played dumb when the Sergeant of the Guard asked why the crowd had gathered only at their tower.

Between not being able to help people, sometimes getting shot at, and constant pressure by their leaders within the wire, the young soldiers on the watchtowers learned to harden their hearts. As an older officer deployed to Iraq with kids of my own, seeing small children grabbing barbed wire and screaming for food in broken English near our main gate or other children silently motioning towards their mouths in a vain attempt to wave down my humvee during missions outside the wire, I could not help being affected by what I saw as well. Maybe having kids of my own made it worse for me. It became more difficult to see the same kids getting progressively thinner over the following months. Some continued to clamor for food and when ignored they would pepper us with four-letter words. I wondered where they had learned such filthy words in perfect English. By then I had already fortified my emotional walls in order to keep my own shaky grip on sanity. There were a number of reasons for this which I won’t go into.

In any case, after nearly a year I flew back home to my own children. I then began the process of encouraging family members to move closer together –including one in a wheelchair. At least I could mark that off as Mission Accomplished.

So I know from experience that the citizens within the walls of the scattered forts of the New Kingdom for the Self-Selected Remnant will be faced with hard moral and ethical choices. The ones who man the watchtowers and go outside the gates will have a different view on life than those of their fellow residents and their leaders who stay within the walls. The citizens working the thin line will also come to learn they have their own elite who never man the watchtowers or go outside to hunt, fish, clear the surrounding land, tend crops, or trade with neighboring markets. They will know there are more people outside their crumbling walls and cheerless halls. Like Hadrian’s Wall or the Great Wall, one day there will simply be no one left on the wall.

Family is what it comes down to at the end of the day and it’s what it will still be about during a temporary disaster, the Big It, squeezing through the winepress into the bottle-neck and thereafter. I read forums where the question always comes up about bugging in, bugging out, and what to do with grandma in the wheelchair when bugging out is the only option. If it’s a local temporary situation, odds are very good you won’t have to ditch grandma. (I saw the Katrina pics of dead nursing home patients even when I was in Iraq –sadly they were abandoned by their families and other appointed guardians before the hurricane hit).

If you’re really faced with the Big It, you probably won’t have time to even worry about leaving grandma behind or not. I’m sorry to be blunt with the imagery about this, but despite your best preparations prior to the Big It, you and grandma will be a pile of smoking embers, bloated virus-infested bodies inside your cabin in the boonies, or stiff emaciated corpses drying along a hot highway of motionless vehicles with empty fuel tanks.

If you and grandma make it past all this, your odds will now be just as good as the residents of Fort Jericho who closed their gates before the first act of the Mask of the Red Death. One thousand other forts did not. They will all be found and picked clean within a few weeks. Get ready for act two.

I’m not going to delineate a load of detailed how-to on making it through the bottleneck. The usual advice is stay fit, learn skills, and find others of like mind. That’s a good first step. I could tell you about the places where today’s elite have already picked to bug out to, but why trust their decision given the other lousy ones they’ve been making. You might as well spin the globe and put a finger down. The big trend again seems to be emigration. If so, then learn the local language. Maybe you’ll get lucky at the roulette table as you watch the houses of cards fall elsewhere.

I’ll end this with a bit of simple advice: Spare as much Mercy as you can. Because how much Mercy you’re willing to dole out will determine how much comes back around to you.

Oh, and one more thing: Always open the gates for Writers!

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