I spent the day deer hunting with my 12-year-old son. In my part of the country, rural Tennessee, this is such a routine event, hardly worth mentioning. But reading comments from younger Americans about rural conservatives, I feel that I must be regarded as some strange foreign tribe.
I remember in college talking to an African student about coming to America to go to school. He said that someone once asked him what most impressed him about America. He answered that it wasn’t the freedom and democracy, or the shiny cars and big houses. It was the food. He was amazed that if he woke up at 2 am in the morning and wanted something to eat, there were two open grocery stores and 3 restaurants within walking distance of his apartment. “In my village at home” he said, “if I wanted something to eat at 2 am I would have to go out and kill it.”
We live in a land of such modern conveniences it seems almost silly to go hunting on a cold winter morning. Why not just go to the grocery store, swipe the credit card and come home with a nice steak? Grill it on the gas grill and eat it in our heated home in front of the new shiny flat screen TV? As I talk to some I sense that they think these conveniences are permanent, that instant food and instant messages are somehow guaranteed to the current generation forever.
There are many reasons to go hunting with my son. It is a great father-son bonding experience. It gives me a chance to teach him about firearms and get away from the office and get a little exercise. But one of the reasons I go is to remind myself and to teach him that it is good sometimes to be uncomfortable. Only a few generations ago, families depended on hunting and farming to provide their own food. There was no quick market or all night grocery a few blocks away.
Being responsible for feeding a family might have been difficult and sometimes pretty uncomfortable, but it also developed certain good character traits: Taking responsibility for the well-being of your family, learning to work even when you didn’t feel like it, and an appreciation for handling risk in the great outdoors. When we step into the woods I often reflect that once we are a few feet away from the truck, we are responsible for our own safety in where we choose to hike, how we handle our firearms and navigating our way to and from our hunting site without getting lost.
Sometimes I hear people on the left mocking the idea of personal responsibility as arrogance and hubris. They say things like “We all need a helping hand” and “It takes a village.” But personal responsibility is not about false pride when you step into the woods. It’s about managing real risk in the real world.
I think too many of our citizens expect someone else to do the hard things, the uncomfortable things. Worse yet, they mock those who are responsible enough to do hard, uncomfortable things on their behalf.
But today, I enjoyed my son’s company and watching him struggle to remain still and silent in the cold. I took a bit of pride in noting he seems to have a natural sense of direction and picking out the best path in the woods. He just wants to brag to his friends that he got his deer. But he is learning other lessons I hope he will carry with him when it is his turn to step out into the wilderness of the modern world.