In case of a violent attack, J. A. Drew Diaz says that it’s time to embrace the corollary to the Boy Scout motto: be prepared to fight back.
Of course they do …
Gallant thinks it is because the authorities realize that they can’t be everywhere at once, that there were cops on site when Columbine, Tucson and Fort Hood started, that if the rule of law worked, the judge you saw in traffic court wouldn’t have a carry permit.
Goofus thinks it is because most cops count on being struck by lightning before they have to draw their weapons on duty and that they are more interested in their vinyl siding business, putting in their twenty year and retiring with medical, than they are in shooting it out with some kook.
So maybe you better remember the Boy Scout motto: “Be Prepared.” Oh, and good luck: if you wait for a killing to become mass to consider an action plan, to contemplate the morality of braining someone with a ketchup bottle, then you are too late. If you act on your suspicions, you are the NYCPD doing stop and frisk, or George Zimmerman, and are probably at fault.
Do it in school and chances are you’ll be disciplined, if not suspended.
Do it on the street and chances are you’ll be sued.
Do it in the subway and you’re a racist who can’t find any peace, like Bernie Goetz.
Do it at all and you risk getting branded as some kind of toxic-macho aggressor.
Be a toxic-macho fool who can’t mind his own business, and you shoot Trayvon Martin.
My first real boss was retired from the Coast Guard. “We get paid to go out, not to come home,” he’d say. He taught me that you move in a crisis: either towards it or away. Me, I suggest moving away from gunshots. He would have laughed at the Steubenville first responders who are all stressed out at having to see bodies. Well, too bad for you, sometimes it isn’t all swagger and lights and sirens, I hate it, too when I have to do my job.
The dirty little secret of the Columbine shooting is that the police were behind fire trucks and ambulances waiting for some other guy to go in and do the job for which they were hired, while children and teachers bled out. Hillary Clinton was visiting my children’s elementary school while Columbine went down and the school went into complete lockdown while waiting for Marine One to whisk her away. Shortly afterwards, I sat my kids down and explained they were under no circumstances ever to stick around for another lockdown: break a window, lay coats or books over the glass, and head for the hills. Of course the Jefferson County cops might very well have shot a few students fleeing the school, they were so dysfunctional that day.
The lesson of 9/11 might be that only 25% of Americans could get organized to fight back. Todd Beamer was a rugby player, so by definition he made football players look like wimps and practiced some kind of proto-heteronormative masculinity by playing a contact sport. But he was able to use his faith and his team working experience to quite possibly have saved other lives on the ground.
Colin Ferguson reloaded magazines, he didn’t swap out mags, but pushed bullets into the magazine for his pistol while the other riders on the LIRR waited for the authorities to do something. Nobody took a ball point and stabbed him in the eye, ear or neck. Eventually, passengers did rush and overcome Ferguson when the police didn’t show up. But bodies did stack up waiting for the authorities. The night of this shooting my phone rang several times and the callers said “Good, you’re home.” I had no idea that this had occurred on my train line.
So what is a Good Man of vetted liberal credentials to do, a guy who agrees that post Steubenville and Torrington, football should be outlawed? How can a man who believes that physical aggression is an extension of toxic-masculinity pick up the slack while waiting for the cops? It’s tough to toe the line and admire Anonymous taking things into their own hands, unless you can include physical action in your solution tree to physical confrontation. It is all a slippery slope. Maybe you can see yourself speaking up to a line cutter or grabbing a fire extinguisher if you see a trash can ablaze. Now try and grasp the basic theory behind gun ownership: “when seconds count and the police are minutes away, what are you going to do?” You are stuck with the logical progression of the fight back argument. And who wants to show up at a gunfight with an umbrella?
The problem is that most of us just don’t know how to fight. In a world of zero tolerance for aggression, the will and ability to fight back is stripped: we’ve been programming boys away from it for the last 40 years. This is the Good Men Project here, so let’s talk about men and boys. If every push or poke is treated as bullying, how one does develop the skill set of fighting back? You don’t learn to street fight in the dojo. You may learn some techniques that might work in a fight in a sterile situation. But until you’ve busted a guy in the mouth while he is still talking smack, you haven’t fought. Until you’ve had your eye opened and your knuckles busted, you don’t know what you can do and more importantly, how you can carry on hurt.
If you want to learn to react instantaneously to violence, the next best thing to schoolyard fighting is competitive contact sports: that would be sports with winners and losers, bumps and bruises. I’ll go on record now in saying that I’d rather be kicked by a Tiger Schulmann disciple than booted by a soccer player.
The rest of the world isn’t worried about participation ribbons. A few million kids got out of bed this morning and hoped that someday they will kill a kid just like yours. Children the age of your little darling woke up in Asia, Africa and South America grabbed their Kalashnikov and went to work. A few thousand troubled souls awoke this morning, right here in the US, planning on raping your child or shooting up a public place.
Years ago I had to face that I am not brave enough to be a pacifist. A few years later I came to understand what I disliked about my mother’s favorite novelist, Pat Conroy. I disagreed with his message that it is better to live on your knees than to die on your feet. The only promise she ever asked of me was not to be a cop or a fireman, as she was convinced I would run into a burning building. The piece I did, Ten Things I’ve Learned About Walking into a Bucket of Blood in a Strange Town (and Getting Out Alive) was interpreted by some as funny—it was a serious piece told in a jocular manner. Threat assessment is a good habit every day and every place.
Dan McKown was prepared at the Tacoma Mall and is in a wheelchair because he fought fair, because he didn’t practice total war. As Sean Connery asked Kevin Costner in “The Untouchables” “What are your prepared to do?”
Image credit: USAG-Humphreys/Flickr