ON SHEEP, WOLVES, AND SHEEPDOGS
By LTC(RET) Dave Grossman, RANGER,
Ph.D., author of "On Killing."Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart ofage. It does so because honor is, finally, aboutdefending those noble and worthy things that deservedefending, even if it comes at a high cost. In ourtime, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn,hardship, persecution, or as always, even deathitself. The question remains:What is worth defending?What is worth dying for?What is worth living for?- William J. Bennett - in a lecture to the UnitedStates Naval Academy November 24, 1997. One Vietnamveteran, an old retired colonel, once said this tome: "Most of the people in our society are sheep.They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who canonly hurt one another by accident."This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate isfour per 1,000 per year. What this means is that thevast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurtone another. Some estimates say that two millionAmericans are victims of violent crimes every year, atragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time recordrate of violent crime.But there are almost 300 million Americans, whichmeans that the odds of being a victim of violent crimeis considerably less than one in a hundred on anygiven year. Furthermore, since many violent crimesare committed by repeat offenders, the actual numberof violent citizens is considerably less than twomillion.Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both endsof the situation: We may well be in the most violenttimes in history, but violence still is remarkablyrare. This is because most citizens are kind, decentpeople who are not capable of hurting each other,except by accident or under extreme provocation.They are sheep. I mean nothing negative by callingthem sheep. To me, it is like the pretty, blue robin'segg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it willgrow into something wonderful. But, the egg cannotsurvive without its hard blue shell.Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are likethat shell, and someday the civilization they protectwill grow into something wonderful. For now, though,they need warriors to protect them from the predators."Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said,"and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Doyou believe there are wolves out there who will feedon the flock without mercy? You better believe it.There are evil men in this world and they are capableof evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretendit is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safetyin denial."Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm asheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront thewolf." If you have no capacity for violence then youare a healthy productive citizen, a sheep.If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy foryour fellow citizens, then you have defined anaggressive sociopath, a wolf.But what if you have a capacity for violence, and adeep love for your fellow citizens? What do you havethen? A sheepdog; a warrior, someone who is walkingthe hero's path. It is someone who can walk into theheart of darkness, into the universal human phobia,and walk out unscathed.Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model ofthe sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that thesheep live in denial; that is what makes them sheep.They do not want to believe that there is evil in theworld. They can accept the fact that fires canhappen, which is why they want fire extinguishers,fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughouttheir kids' schools.But many of them are outraged at the idea of puttingan armed police officer in their kid's school. Ourchildren are thousands of times more likely to bekilled or seriously injured by school violence thanfire; but the sheep's only response to the possibilityof violence is denial. The idea of someone coming tokill or harm their child is just too hard, and so theychose the path of denial.The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looksa lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity forviolence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdogmust not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep.Any sheep dog that intentionally harms the lowliestlittle lamb will be punished and removed.The world cannot work any other way, at least not in arepresentative democracy or a republic such as ours.Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is aconstant reminder that there are wolves in the land.They would prefer that he didn't tell them where togo, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at theready in our airports, in camouflage fatigues, holdingan M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdogcash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go,"Baa."Until the wolf shows up.Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behindone lonely sheepdog. The students, the victims, atColumbine High School, were big, tough, high schoolstudents, and under ordinary circumstances they wouldnot have had the time of day for a police officer.They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to sayto a cop. When the school was under attack, however,and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways,the officers had to physically peel those clinging,sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambsfeel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at thedoor.Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 whenthe wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember howAmerica, more than ever before, felt differently abouttheir law enforcement officers and military personnel?Remember how many times you heard the word hero?Understand that there is nothing morally superiorabout being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose tobe.Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: Heis always sniffing around out on the perimeter,checking the breeze, barking at things that go bumpin the night, and yearning for a righteous battle.That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteousbattle. The old sheepdogs are a little older andwiser, but they move to the sound of the guns whenneeded, right along with the young ones.Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog thinkdifferently. The sheep pretend the wolf will nevercome, but the sheepdog lives for that day.After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of thesheep, that is, Most citizens in America said, " I'mglad I wasn't on one of those planes."The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "I wish I couldhave been on one of those planes. Maybe I could havemade a difference." When you are truly transformedinto a warrior and have truly invested yourself into"warrior hood", you want to be there. You want to beable to make a difference. There is nothing morallysuperior about the sheepdog; the warrior; but he doeshave one real advantage; only one. And that is that heis able to survive and thrive in an environment thatdestroys 98 percent of the population.There was research conducted a few years ago withindividuals convicted of violent crimes. These conswere in prison for serious, predatory crimes ofviolence: assaults, murders and killing lawenforcement officers.The vast majority said that they specifically targetedvictims by body language: Slumped walk, passivebehavior and lack of awareness. They chose theirvictims like big cats do in Africa, when they selectone out of the herd that is least able to protectitself. Some people may be destined to be sheep andothers might be genetically primed to be wolves orsheepdogs.But I believe that most people can choose which onethey want to be, and I'm proud to say that more andmore Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001,Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury,New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone toalert an operator from United Airlines about thehijacking. When he learned of the other threepassenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todddropped his phone and uttered the words, "Let's roll,"which authorities believe was a signal to the otherpassengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In onehour, a transformation occurred among the passengers -athletes, business people and parents. --from sheep tosheepdogs and together they fought the wolves,ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on theground."There is no safety for honest men except by believingall possible evil of evil men." - Edmund Burke.Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially tothe thousands of police officers and soldiers I speakto each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, areborn as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and soare wolves. They didn't have a choice.But you are not a critter. As a human being, you canbe whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moraldecision. If you want to be a sheep, then you can be asheep and that is okay, but you must understand theprice you pay. When the wolf comes, you and yourloved ones are going to die if there is no sheepdogthere to protect you.If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but thesheepdogs are going to hunt you down. You will neverhave rest, safety, trust or love.But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk thewarrior's path, then you must make a conscious andmoral decision every day to dedicate, equip andprepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosivemoment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.For example, many police officers carry their weaponsin church. They are well concealed in ankle holsters,shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tuckedinto the small of their backs. Anytime you go to someform of religious service, there is a very good chancethat a police officer in your congregation is carryinga weapon. You will never know if there is such anindividual in your place of worship, until the wolfappears to massacre you and your loved ones.I was training a group of police officers in Texas,and during the break, one officer asked his friend ifhe carried his weapon in church. The other copreplied, "I will never be caught without my gun inchurch." I asked why he felt so strongly about this,and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a churchmassacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In thatincident, a mentally deranged individual came into thechurch and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people.He said that officer believed he could have savedevery life that day if he had been carrying his gun.His own son was shot, and all he could do was throwhimself on the boy's body and wait to die. That coplooked me in the eye and said, "Do you have any ideahow hard it would be to live with yourself afterthat?"Some individuals would be horrified if they knew thispolice officer was carrying a weapon in church. Theymight call him paranoid and would probably scorn him.Yet these same individuals would be enraged and wouldcall for "heads to roll" if they found out that theairbags in their cars were defective, or that the fireextinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids' schooldid not work.They can accept the fact that fires and trafficaccidents can happen and that there must be safeguardsagainst them. Their only response to the wolf,though, is denial, and all too often their response tothe sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdogquietly asks himself, "Do you have any idea how hardit would be to live with yourself if your loved oneswere attacked and killed, and you had to stand therehelplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep arepsychologically destroyed by combat because their onlydefense is denial, which is counterproductive anddestructive, resulting in fear, helplessness andhorror when the wolf shows up. Denial kills you twice.It kills you once; at your moment of truth when youare not physically prepared: you didn't bring yourgun; you didn't train. Your only defense was wishfulthinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you asecond time because even if you do physically survive,you are psychologically shattered by your fear,helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.Gavin de Becker puts it like this in "Fear Less", hissuperb post-9/11 book, which should be requiredreading for anyone trying to come to terms with ourcurrent world situation: "...denial can be seductive,because it has an insidious side effect. For all thepeace of mindDeniers think they get by saying it isn't so, the fallthey take when faced with new violence is all the moreunsettling." Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, acontract written entirely in small print, for in thelong run, the denying person knows the truth on somelevel. And so the warrior must strive to confrontdenial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himselffor the day when evil comes. If you are warrior who islegally authorized to carry a weapon and you stepoutside without that weapon, then you become a sheep,pretending that the bad man will not come today. Noone can be "on" 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needsdown time. But if you are authorized to carry aweapon, and you walk outside without it, just take adeep breath and say this to yourself..."Baa."This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not ayes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing,either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, acontinuum. On one end is an abject,head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is theultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on oneend or the other. Most of us live somewhere inbetween.Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step upthat continuum, away from denial. The sheep took afew steps toward accepting and appreciating theirwarriors, and the warriors started taking their jobmore seriously. The degree to which you move up thatcontinuum, away from "sheephood" and denial, is thedegree to which you and your loved ones will survive,physically and psychologically at your moment oftruth."If It Weren't For The United States Military ThereWould Be NO United States Of America"If I may be so bold to add... "Without the SecondAmendment, we are all turned into sheep; and Withoutthe Second Amendment, there will be NO United StatesOf America"