Of bullies and cowards
Cowardice is an interesting thing. Sometimes, it leads people to avoid doing the thing they should do. “I know I should say something about the way this person is being treated because of his or her race/gender/religion/nationality/culture, but if I do I might be insulted/lose social standing/lose my job/get hurt, so I’m going to tell myself it’s just a small thing and next time I’ll stand up for what’s right” is how that often looks. While it’s unappealing, I can understand that sort of fear. There were times in the past that it plagued me, until I decided to not live that way, anymore. I have no interest in justifying it, but in that form it’s often (though not always) a rather small and mean sort of cowardice. If allowed to fester, over time it can become something much uglier. Still, it remains a sort of passive kind of thing. It fails to act rather than seeking to act.
The other kind of cowardice is different. It’s the cowardice of the bully, the cowardice of the playground tough who delights in abusing those who are smaller and weaker than he (or she). This one is active. It seeks out targets. Almost invariably it seeks out those who cannot or will not fight back. This is the one that, figuratively or literally, struts about, declaring its toughness to all who will listen, especially to those sycophantic followers who will stand in awe of the bully and his actions. It is this that we saw on display in the horrible attacks on the offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
In my 22 years of military service, I was privileged to serve in both operational and non-operational billets. I have been both a noncombatant and “under arms.” From my perspective, which I share with every military person (and the vast majority of non-military people) with whom I have ever discussed this sort of thing, those who carried out the attack are no more than bullies and cowards. The possession of weapons and whatever training they may have had change neither the fundamental nature of the attack nor the basic cowardice of the attackers. It is one thing to attack an office of unarmed journalists. It is an altogether different thing, I submit, to walk up and attack a fully armed and combat tested Marine Corps rifle company. I can hear the objections now. “Oh, but they attacked the magazine because of articles it published that were insulting to the Prophet.” I’m calling bovine excrement on that one. Western military units regularly insult the Prophet. If you think otherwise, I encourage you to find a member of one of those units and ask him or her to sing you the “jodies” they use when calling cadence. Terrorists don’t attack armed, tested and prepared military units for the same reason schoolyard bullies don’t pick on the kid who is the Golden Gloves boxer, regardless of his weight class – the risk is too great and there’s always an easier target. “I lack what it takes to really stand up for what I believe, but by attacking and killing a group of weaker, unarmed people I have struck a blow for the Prophet (or any other cause)” is both a lie and the refuge of the bully, craven coward that he is.
I hope to never be faced with a situation like the one faced by those folks in Paris. Yet, I know it could happen. Any of us, at any time, could find ourselves in a similar situation. We might die at the hands of bullies and terrorists like those who struck in Paris. How will we face that situation? How will you? How will I? There are really only two choices. I (and you) can die on my knees, pleading for my life, or I can die fighting back. My prayer is that if I am called to face that ugly eventuality, I will die only when my weapon is empty and I am surrounded by a pile of spent brass and that if I am unarmed I will die having fought back as savagely as possible. Either way, may my resistance be effective enough that not only do I take as many with me as possible when I cross over Jordan, but may it be so savage and vicious that any surviving bastards wake up screaming in the night for the rest of their lives.
On a more pragmatic note, such a thing is only possible for any of us if we think seriously about what we will do if and when we are there, and prepare accordingly. I really believe that when and where possible that means to be armed and trained in the use of firearms. It means to be as physically fit as possible given your age and health. It means being trained to physically defend yourself. It means learning to be alert and aware, at all times. More than those, it means having made an absolute commitment to doing whatever you must do to protect yourself and others, regardless of the cost.
It is okay to weep with those in Paris…and Australia…and Yemen…and anywhere else people are touched by the actions of terrorists. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it is a good thing. If we cannot weep with them, surely we have lost the capacity for compassion. Yet, more than compassion is needed. We must, as individuals and as nations, must be willing to say “no more.” We must be willing to pay the price that will be required to eliminate these terrorists, these bullies, these cowards as a threat to our lives and our liberty. May the Creator make us equal to this task.