Guest contributors run the gamut, but they all pretty much rock.
Guest Contributor @hyacinthgrrl
“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
I must admit, I haven’t read Julius Caesar in a very long time, so when a fragment of this quote broke loose and floated to the surface of my memory as I was chasing toddlers in the snow, I had to stop and Google it. I had been thinking about the Parkland shootings, (as we all have), pretty consistently and I was becoming more horrified as each successive story broke detailing the failure on local, state, and federal levels. When I started this essay, we had just learned about Scot Peterson. As I pick up where I left off, we’ve learned that a total of four law enforcement officers did not enter the school as Nikolas Cruz murdered his former classmates and teachers, and that first responders were initially prohibited from entering the campus. What initially began as an essay on courage has become something entirely different. Let’s see where this goes, shall we?
Several years and a lifetime ago, I wrote a blog post elsewhere about courage and fear, and how examining certain scenarios in our minds before they happen can lead to less indecision if the worst ever came to pass. I’d recently experienced an onslaught of pretty heavy anxiety brought on by the loss of my daughter, and was experiencing what would later be diagnosed as PTSD.
Hypervigilance has always been my coping mechanism, but in a life free of the stressors I had experienced for the previous several years, I’d started having anxiety attacks. There are lengthy psychological explanations for why this happens with which I will not bore you, but long story short, I began to run scenarios in my head as a way to calm my mind. It helped, immensely. Even if nothing went the way I’d expected, knowing that I’d considered as many of the situational possibilities imaginable made me feel like I was doing something.
Basically, I made the decision to do something before I was presented with the choice. This can be extrapolated out to situations of varying degrees of danger and violence. Not armchair quarterbacking, not laboring under the delusion that you will turn into John Wick during a crisis situation, but the simple decision to help those in need if the situation ever arises.
Coming back to these deputies at MSDHS who decided to shelter in place rather than doing their jobs, I know that they have at some point made the decision to risk their lives for the people they are supposed to protect. Or they should have. I mean, it’s their job. And they chose to do nothing. The people in that building—the teachers and students who gave their lives to save others—may not have made that decision consciously, but they valued human life, so much so that they did what needed to be done, giving their own lives for others. They were undoubtedly afraid, but courage is being afraid and doing the right thing anyway.
Some commentators and others on social media have said that men respond this way, that men are wired to protect the weak, but I posit that this is a human response. Some women have never had the luxury of being able to depend on anyone, let alone a man, to protect them from harm. Some women have had to make these decisions on their own to never let anyone be victimized on their watch, because we know what it’s like to be let down and treated as not worth protection.
Humanity is possessed both by better angels and their opposing counterparts, and yet many have chosen only to expect the former while viewing the latter as aberrations. But to do so is folly.
Historically, there has been a limited expectation of government’s ability to protect the individual—in fact, quite the opposite. Moving away from the excesses and unreliability of monarchy, our Founders drafted a document of negative rights. And yet, western civilization has moved away from this healthy mistrust of the governmental leviathan, and has come to view it, paradoxically, as some sort of benevolent, parental entity. And when government fails us, as it did in the Parkland shooting—the authorities on every level had numerous warnings regarding the shooter—people respond with fear, clamoring for something to be done to prevent this from happening again. With more laws.
But what good are more laws if the people we’ve placed our faith in to uphold our existing laws fail to act? Banning bump stocks, placing more restrictions on whatever type of gun is deemed the evil du jour—none of this will keep us safer. And if new laws enacted out of fear take away the rights of law-abiding citizens, then we become less safe as a society as a whole. Let’s have honest debates about certain weapons and arming teachers and mental health—but let’s not forget that placing one’s personal safety in the hands of others can go spectacularly wrong, especially if we make the assumption that some bureaucracy has our best interests at heart. Individuals are invested in community, governments are not, in any meaningful sense.
Identifying bureaucratic rot, holding government officials accountable for their actions, (or inactions), and those of their subordinates is a good start toward preventing another Parkland. Falling for hyperbolic obfuscation initiated by an incompetent, (or corrupt), sheriff, a handful of oddly disconnected high school students, and the anti-gun crowd is not.
For more of @hyacinthgrrl’s writing, be sure and visit her blog, The Hyacinth Girl.