Today I was reading a thread on social media that lamented the days of yore when ‘we,’ as in New Mexicans, weren’t as violent. The statement perplexed me. When was this kumbaya period?

In this region, it is best to live and let live to avoid conflict. New Mexicans are mellow; however, that should not be confused with apathy or complacency. The local culture is mellow on the surface, with a very short fuse.

New Mexico AttitudeWhile discussing with a co-worker/friend how to succinctly summarize New Mexico’s attitude to peers in DC, he suggested, “Live and let live or we’ll shoot you.” Seems apt, a little California and a little Texas in terms of attitude.

We didn’t share those observations with our out-of-state co-workers, assuming it would be interpreted as inappropriately snarky.

History of Conflict

New Mexico has always been a rugged place. There have been a lot of people here for thousands of years. Periods of peace were brief, interrupted by drought and resource scarcity. Survival often required taking someone else’s food and water.

The indigenous inhabitants weren’t peacefully co-existing prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The arrival of the Spanish didn’t include peaceful assimilation. The legend and lore of the Old West isn’t based on peace. Alcohol consumption, gambling, laudanum addiction, prostitution, gunfights in the street, and range wars were commonplace. The land under our feet was sculpted by earthquakes and volcanoes.

Violence is not an effective conflict mediation technique, but it is intrinsically human. The weapons we use against one another have become more brutal and impersonal as the population has swelled.

There is a need to address violence in society. Our interaction, communication and compassion for one another is worth consideration. However, it is useless to wax nostalgic for some bygone era where humans co-existed with one another and the environment in peaceful equilibrium. That perspective is not realistic or helpful. For that to be part of our future, we have to be honest as we reflect on our past.

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." Arthur Ashe

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