The world has been full of challenges from the beginning of the human experience. America has a history rich in stories of individuals and communities overcoming the challenges that have helped shape this nation. But, according to Dan Crenshaw, author of Fortitude, now something has changed.
Crenshaw, a decorated former Navy SEAL and now US Congressman from Texas, believes that the principles and social norms that helped build the United States have been largely replaced by a set of standards generally described as “outrage culture” or “cancel culture.” In this book, his first, he explores the origins of this and offers advice on how to adapt and survive in this peculiar world of social media shaming and emotional landslides.
A Walk to the Office
In his introduction to the book, Crenshaw recalls how in the Spring of 2019, he decided not to take the normal route from his Congressional office to the Capitol building through the underground tunnel. It was such a nice day that he decided to take the longer outside route.
Along the way he came across a group of protestors — not an unusual site in Washington, DC. What struck him about this group was that it wasn’t possible to tell exactly what they were protesting. Their only goal it seemed was to encourage people to “stay outraged.” There was no explanation of what one should be outraged about. “Outrage” seemed to be an end in itself.
This sent him on a search for understanding which the rest of the introduction documents. He cites the book by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff, The Coddling of the American Mind, as particularly helpful. Also, the public reaction to his social media run-in with Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson, in which Crenshaw did not react with outrage, also focused his thinking and led to the creation of this book.
Lessons in Life and Writing
I wasn’t sure what to expect after reading Crenshaw’s introduction. I was pleasantly surprised as I worked my way through the book for several reasons.
First, his writing is masterful. In the first chapter, “Perspectives from Darkness”, he seamlessly weaves together the story of being blown up by an IED, his mother’s fight with cancer, lessons from his father, and an analysis of victim culture. He is a master storyteller.
In succeeding chapters, he relates training and experiences he had in the military to illustrate various lessons. He discusses how they contribute to his current life as a Congressman. He suggests ways for the reader to incorporate these disciplines to live a happier, more fulfilling life. He also explains how Navy SEAL thinking can be used to make our society more rational, tolerant, and strong.
Many people have had no involvement with the military outside of movie and TV depictions. This book, though that is not its primary purpose, illuminates why military culture is so different from the civilian world.
I recommend this book to anyone who finds the current political environment disturbing, whether you think of yourself as Left or Right or in between. Yes, Crenshaw is a Republican, but this book is not about political parties. He critiques ideas on both ends of the political spectrum.
From the time I raised my right hand in ROTC to the day I received my mandatory retirement letter spanned 30 years. I can attest that no one political outlook can be applied to people in the military. You find all kinds.
I can also attest that the lessons and values I learned in the military continue to make my life better, easier, and more rewarding to this very day. Those lessons are what Dan Crenshaw shares in Fortitude.
I highlighted many passages as I read Fortitude. One of my favorites, perhaps because I am a writer, relates to the importance of stories in our lives: “Stories are practice runs for the mind. We hear them, we read them, and we act out our own role within them.”
Reading Fortitude will give your mind some good runs. You can find it at Amazon and all the usual suspects, including its publisher, Twelve Books.