As a writer, actor, director and as a person, I really try to get into the mindset not only of characters I’m working on but also in life with people that I meet. The more different they are from me, the more I’m fascinated by it. You could say it’s my favorite sport.
There was an image of men getting let into the Oregon Capitol by a State Legislator. The Legislator walks off and for a moment there is a bearded man holding the door open and waving to his fellows to come on in. You can see him clear as day. He’s excited. I would guess adrenaline is coursing through his veins and it’s like Christmas morning to him, a culmination of a dream, and it contains a powerful expectation.
I put high value on the power of expectation. I see it as the key that unlocks the door to most understanding of character. That person has an expectation that is either met or violated and thus we have the drama and action of life.
But of what? What does he expect will happen? And so begins my sport.
We can’t say for certain what that dream or vision is, but it has something to do with committing a felony and trying to take down the government. How far is he willing to go? He was first in line so pretty far, I’m assuming, and he’s already committed criminal trespass. He is already into the thick of it.
He doesn’t look like he wants to go to jail. He looks like someone who thinks he’s going to get away with it. Maybe. He looks like a guy who has pushed all in. Pushed all the chips in to go for the gold, get it all. He looks like a thief. Scared at getting caught, he has decided that no matter what, he’s going to take all the risks. But excited. This is his win it all or who gives a damn moment. “I would rather die than live like this.” He looks like a man who is willing to do the time.
I think it’s also a fair assumption that he’s not an evil man. No. The evil one is the one who let him in while pretending he didn’t, who sent the message and will hide behind “that’s not what I meant.” That guy, the State Legislator in this case, is operating on a totally different mindset. He is a message sender who feels he will suffer no consequences. These instigator people are always, or nearly so, weak minded and believe they are strong minded. They are cowards and inept. They do these things without really examining anything. He would be just as sneaky if he were a shoe salesman or cop. It’s his nature. He really believe in nothing and there is no apparent good in him.
But our guy is right out there, so he’s not one of those guys. Therefore, we can assume some genuine good in him.
So, how was he living? What was so bad about it that he would see this act with the incredibly high risks as a solution?
At some point in the not too distant past, he was sitting on his couch, or lounge chair – this you can surmise from his ample gut. He was sitting there gathering information. It told him when and where to do this act because we know that State Legislator just got expelled for doing exactly that. “Be at this door at this time and I’ll let you in.” That was the message anyone over 6 would understand.
He’s sitting there and he sees this message online, or maybe on OAN or Newsmax. He’s sitting there with his Mexican bean dip and salsa and, for him, he sees Christmas. A way to take down the government. He sees a way IN. A way to be relevant.
What is going on in his mind that this “news” is a trigger? This mind must be predisposed to such a radical decision. A mind filled with justifications and suspicions, a mind that sees what exists as the enemy, an enemy that must be destroyed not reasoned with. The world as it is is a world that he has no expectation of a life for himself. He has the idea that this action will somehow “win” something for him. Not just a statement in the act, but the beginning of “freedom.” He sees a life outside his barriers. These are barriers in his mind. That freedom is his expectation, I believe. That, and the fulfilling of a fantasy. He is going to go hunting and bring back the unicorn. Be the big man that fires the first shot.
If he wins, what does he get? What happens? Does he see himself and his fellows expelling all the Democrats from the chamber, bringing in their own guys and voting out the governor? Is he conducting a firing squad? Burn the place down? Or does he just want to get on the news and be a symbol? Look at me! Look what you can do. That last doesn’t match up with that thief image on camera. That looks like a guy with an endgame in mind.
I would assume he doesn’t have a ton of responsibilities to family and children or this would be a very risky all in. He’s not just pushing in his chips; he’s pushing in all of theirs too. But he might do that.
But there he is and at that moment, the moment he hears that news from that State Legislator, that is the moment that needs to be understood. That is the fertile ground for those who wish to destroy what is and replace it with something else, something that is part of that mindset.
It certainly contains destruction of current institutions. It contains high risk. It contains the knowledge seen in the fear that there could be consequences. It is a mind primed to insurrection, to a criminal act to change the status quo.
And create what? I would assume it is a world that agrees with his. I would assume that he feels that the world that is not his is intruding on his, destroying it in some way. Some of these ideas may be his own, but like the trigger image telling him when and where he can fulfill his fantasy, these ideas are deliberately fostered. Ideas like this always have an origin and this man is not the origin of the idea or the mindset. He’s just allowed it to dominate his thinking. That is where his responsibility has flagged. That is where he has surrendered and now sees himself as a victim who can only survive through destruction. He has given up his own observation and supplanted it with someone else’s.
The supplanters, like that State Legislator who let our guy in after prompting him to commit an act of insurrection, those guys you cannot reason with. A jail cell is the best place for men and women like that.
But our guy can change. And if you help him do so, he will, eventually, be very thankful.
We need to understand that mindset and appreciate it for what it is, how it came about so we can figure out a way to bring him back, to give him true responsibility again, not false bravado. Somehow, we, as a group, must understand him and make his life less bitter to the degree that when he sees a Youtube call to insurrection on his smart phone he doesn’t get out of that lounge chair to take down the government. Rather, he takes down the web address and makes a call to his local Sheriff.
Peter Kjenaas is an author, screenwriter, theater director, producer, chef, AirBnB host, parent and caregiver extraordinaire. And now he adds travel writer to his resumé as he sets off across the country in a 1971 VW camper bus. But first and foremost he is a caring and productive human who has graciously allowed us to post some of his writings to this site. See his latest book at PeterKjenaas.com, and his travel adventures at Riders on the Storm Bus.