June 14, 2016

Replace fear with vigilance

What really turns my stomach about attacks like the ones in Orlando and San Bernardino is not that some lunatic grabbed a gun and started shooting people. There will always be lunatics determined to slaughter as many innocents as possible. If we deny them guns, they will build bombs from fertilizer or poison gas from household cleaning supplies. No, what really turns my stomach are the stories of people cowering under tables and in bathroom stalls begging for their lives. This is not who we are.

The greatness of the United States of America has never been linked to some magical quality in our Constitution or some mythical divine power bestowed upon our leaders by the heavens above. The core of American greatness has always been the American people. Individuals, millions upon millions of individuals, who refused to let evil win in tiny, disparate, day to day confrontations. Americans have always been vigilant, they always been on the look out for predatory humans seeking destruction, and they have always countered them every time they appeared. Somehow that has all changed. Far too many modern Americans are wholly and completely dependent on someone else. We depend on the government to protect us, we depend on our aging parents to shelter us, we depend on our teachers to instruct us, we depend on lawyers and accountants to manage our daily affairs, we depend on psychologists and psychiatrists to help us feel good about ourselves. Very few Americans in this day and age are willing to stand alone against the forces of society and nature and declare, "This is mine. I built it. I will protect it. You cannot take it from me."

What has happened to us? Why are we cowering in toilet stalls waiting for the SWAT people to come rescue us? Have we already forgotten the lesson of Flight 93? When a terrorist shows up with his homemade bombs and scary looking black assault rifle, the person in front of him is the first line of defense for everyone in the room. If that person falls, the rest of the room still massively outnumbers the gunman. If enough people respond by throwing chairs, by charging the gunman, or by shooting back, the attack will be halted and countless lives will be saved.

You can do this. You can learn to defend yourself against a terrorist armed with an assault rifle. It really is not all that difficult to do, if you plan for it ahead of time and take the necessary steps to be prepared. The fist thing you must do is always be aware of your surroundings. Don't park your car at the far end of the parking lot to protect the finish from door strikes by clumsy drivers and don't park it as close to the door as possible in order to save yourself a few steps of walking. Park your car in a place that is well-lit, easy to find, easy to return to, and offers good visibility when you return so you can spot a carjacker or mugger laying in wait to ambush you. As you enter a building, whether it is your office, your school, your home, or a shopping mall, the first thing you should do is locate all of the exits and find a map that will show you the layout. Look around for places you can use to provide solid, bullet-stopping cover while you formulate a response. Look for ways to exit out a back door and return through the front so you can ambush the shooter from behind. Look for people who don't belong there. Be aware of anyone standing around taking pictures of emergency exits and security guards. Don't walk around assuming everyone you meet is a potential terrorist, but do take a moment to create a plan for how to respond if a terrorist shows up.

Understand, first and foremost, that the most important weapon you possess is your brain. Guns, knives, bombs, and blunt objects are merely tools. The real weapon is your ability to analyze your surroundings and develop counter-strategies to anyone seeking to do you harm. This is not hard to learn. There are hundreds of books, thousands of online videos, and dozens of professional instructors all just sitting out there waiting for you to pick them up, click on the appropriate link, run the appropriate web search, or call them on the phone. You don't have to become a Navy Seal or Army Ranger to learn how to protect yourself. Their job becomes important only after your job fails. Your job is to learn how to protect yourself, and by protecting yourself, protect your family and friends. Your job is to keep the terrorist off-balance and on the defense long enough for your loved ones to escape and professional help to arrive.

I dream of a day when the news will stop reporting on all the people cowering in toilet stalls waiting to die. This day will not come because evil people no longer exist. This day will only arrive when the stories of vigilant citizens who perform heroically under fire are so frequent and so overwhelming that they become the first stories told every time a lunatic pulls out a gun and starts shooting.

Don't be the person cowering in the toilet. Be the one who kept the terrorist occupied long enough for your friends and family to escape. Better yet, be the one who went out the back, returned through the front, and ambushed the terrorist while they were reloading.