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Postmortem of Our First Full Year

One year ago today, I created the Civilian Defense Force. The organization emerged from an idea rooted in the understanding that America needed help, and existing groups were incapable of providing that help (and incapable of seeing that they were incapable). It was a structural thing, you see; the way these groups were organized, the way they operated, rendered them ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. There had to be changes, primarily philosophical but also practical, in how this type of group operated and was viewed, or nothing meaningful would ever come of their existence. That, in a nutshell, is what the CDF was formed to be–the organization with the necessary changes. Early on we were called the “better militia”, and while that wasn’t quite right, the idea was at least in the ballpark.

Several key people were involved from the outset, and many more became involved over the course of the ensuing twelve months. And of course monumental changes occurred throughout the nation, including the stolen Presidential election, the events of January 6, and the installation of the illegitimate government we are saddled with today. The landscape changed immensely, even in just one short year. The “dangers” that prompted our formation–riots, looting, BLM and ANTIFA violence and the threat of even worse–ebbed somewhat with the results of the fraudulent election. COVID hysteria peaked and then ebbed as well, with many of the most tyrannical situations easing significantly. While there was certainly no “return to normal” (and there never will be), the immediate danger seems–SEEMS–to have stepped back toward the shadows for awhile. Those involved in the CDF know this is just an illusion of safety, but our “audience” has been placated and lulled sufficiently that the mission of our project seems less urgent. This, perhaps, is why we’ve followed some of the paths we’ve taken.

I think it would be more accurate to say, though, that what we’ve experienced over this last year, as an organization of our type, has been less of a selection of paths and more of a meander down a river, the course of which is set but the intensity of it’s “rapids” ever-changing and difficult to navigate. I’ve spent the better part of the last month truly digesting our position, deeply examining the course that got us here, and thoughtfully assessing our impact.

I’m troubled intensely by what I’ve concluded.

Rather than list the litany of ways in which we’ve fallen short or failed altogether, deep-diving into the many reasons why those shortfalls and failures have piled up, I’m going to take a more “mystical” approach and attack this at it’s philosophical root. I’ve come to realize that, much like the organizations we set out to improve on (and replace), the CDF was predestined to fail along the very same lines they did, and with many of the same base causes. I’ll summarize where those issues have either already affected us or will, and I’ll make clear what I believe to be the best approach moving forward to correct our course. The approaches outlined will be integrated into our process beginning today. The bulk of this information will be posted on our Headquarters site, for access strictly by existing membership, but the gist of it is posted here in recognition of our one year anniversary and with a nod toward the need for changes that must be made.

First, please note that the CDF is not going away, not disbanding. We are not “dead” (though our momentum has us “dead in the water” at the moment). I have personally invested far too much time, money, and pride into this organization to simply declare the project a failure and leave it for the buzzards. Many others have similarly sacrificed to breathe life into this idea, and I’m not inclined to waste their contributions either. But without question, we are presently riding the flow of a river to nowhere–or at least nowhere good–and it’s high time we began a portage overland to place us in a position where we’re more in control of the journey and better able to determine the destination.

Beginning today, we’re pulling the raft from the water and strapping the gear to our backs. It’s time to slog through forest, field, and swamp for as long and far as necessary. In order to do that, we need a map–so let’s commence to drawing one.

First, we’re going to fundamentally change how we handle memberships. We’ve been doing things on a national level, via the internet, because that seemed to be the proper way–the efficient way based on modern technology. Sadly, I underestimated the ways in which that would hamper us locally, and over-imagined the likelihood that internet-oriented participants would ultimately form real, live units within their neighborhoods. I also significantly underestimated the volume of work that is involved with manually “vetting” all members while attempting to ensure security of information and protection of member records. As a result, our membership rolls are bloated with non-participants while our local organizations have not gotten off the ground in the way that was envisioned at the beginning.

To that end, we’re also going to alter the way we create, or more precisely “allow”, local units. Our model will shift toward a “chartering” operation rather than forming and controlling, and our requirements for charter will reflect less emphasis on county-specific geographical limits, shifting instead to a more granular level that serves individual neighborhoods (and even individual street-level areas where appropriate). The effect of this change is anticipated to be that friends and neighbors in immediate relationship to one another will be much more likely to come together and form the bonds of “protection”, knowing that when the chips are down it will be those closest to you who you count on to “have your back”. Close-proximity units offer the best chance for assuring such a bond is formed and such protection can be counted on.

Chartered units in close proximity to one another can have the same effect on county-wide politics that was anticipated when the organized unit was expected to be county-level (which is the reason county lines were initially chosen to represent the “where” of local units). The point has always been to come together in powerful ways–both in terms of “safety in numbers” and “effective in blocs”. There is no reason this new method cannot do both equally well, and if it indeed improves our ability to recruit citizens and get them active, our opportunity to project strength politically can only be enhanced throughout those areas in which our units are chartered.

As part of the change to our unit formation and membership models, prospective members who find us via online means and sign up through our online portals but without a local group to get active with will now be required to actively participate in our organizational activities and development. At present, registered and approved members are routinely permitted–even required–to “hurry up and wait”, doing nothing meaningful because there is no local unit through which they can become attached and active. Our new membership model will end that practice, providing incentive to join and support their local unit (or form one if there is none), or at the least a framework where active participation in national initiatives is part and parcel to calling themselves “members”. There will be no more “cheerleaders” or “bench-sitters” (which is not to say that those who’ve been relegated to the sidelines up to this point wanted that; in reality, it was entirely an organizational failure that created the “hurry up and wait” situation in the first place).

To that end, there have been weaknesses in our leadership model that must be addressed, and will be. Among these are inconsistent messaging, over-promising and under-delivering, and general failure to recognize the realities of life in a purely volunteer organization. These errors have been entirely mine. Too much “heart in the right place, but body somewhere else” has allowed for a too-loose operation that suffers from an odd combination of “too many chiefs and not enough indians” together with the scourge of all volunteer organizations–the same handful of people doing every job while piles of other “members” do little or nothing. Again, much of this can be blamed on the two previously-mentioned weaknesses–our flawed membership model and our imperfect unit formation approach–but a great many side effects of these flaws could be mitigated (or at least better handled) by a more consistent leadership approach. I will be personally addressing this mistake; it’s entirely within my realm to do so since it’s a problem I created in the first place. I’ll be shuffling some leadership responsibilities, building a more effective and better-“tuned” leadership council, and delegating some of the responsibilities I’ve personally retained so that I can focus more on daily-grind issues that need my complete attention. Jettisoning the requirement for me to personally vet incoming members is just the first step in that process.

In all, summarizing our first year is pretty straight-forward. First, we can consider ourselves proud that we continue to exist a full year later, and that we’ve grown in terms of actual membership level. We’ve increased the amount of information we are able to provide to prospective members and unit leaders alike. We’ve identified strong participants among us who can both train and lead others. And of course we’ve exponentially increased our knowledge of the realities of operating an organization like this. But our trial-and-error approach to many things has led to many “errors”, fully too many to feel satisfied that we’ve done, or are doing, our best.

Here’s to the necessary alterations that will make our second year even more purposeful and successful than our first.

MEMBERS – Visit the HQ Forum to learn more details of upcoming changes.

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