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 of
age. It does so because honor is, finally, about
defending those noble and worthy things that deserve
defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our
time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn,
hardship, persecution, or as always, even death
itself. 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 United
States Naval Academy November 24, 1997. One Vietnam
veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to
me:  "Most of the people in our society are sheep.
They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can
only hurt one another by accident."
This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per
100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is
four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the
vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt
one another.  Some estimates say that two million
Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a
tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record
rate of violent crime.
But there are almost 300 million Americans, which
means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime
is considerably less than one in a hundred on any
given year.  Furthermore, since many violent crimes
are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number
of violent citizens is considerably less than two
million.
Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends
of the situation: We may well be in the most violent
times in history, but violence still is remarkably
rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent
people who are not capable of hurting each other,
except by accident or under extreme provocation.
They are sheep. I mean nothing negative by calling
them sheep. To me, it is like the pretty, blue robin's
egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will
grow into something wonderful. But, the egg cannot
survive without its hard blue shell.
Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like
that shell, and someday the civilization they protect
will 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." Do
you believe there are wolves out there who will feed
on the flock without mercy? You better believe it.
There are evil men in this world and they are capable
of evil deeds.  The moment you forget that or pretend
it is not so, you become a sheep.  There is no safety
in denial.
 
"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a
sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the
wolf." If you have no capacity for violence then you
are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep.
If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for
your fellow citizens, then you have defined an
aggressive sociopath, a wolf.
But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a
deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have
then?  A sheepdog; a warrior, someone who is walking
the hero's path.  It is someone who can walk into the
heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia,
and walk out unscathed.
Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of
the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the
sheep live in denial; that is what makes them sheep.
They do not want to believe that there is evil in the
world.  They can accept the fact that fires can
happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers,
fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout
their kids' schools.
But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting
an armed police officer in their kid's school. Our
children are thousands of times more likely to be
killed or seriously injured by school violence than
fire; but the sheep's only response to the possibility
of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to
kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they
chose the path of denial.
The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks
a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for
violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog
must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. 
Any sheep dog that intentionally harms the lowliest
little lamb will be punished and removed.
The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a
representative democracy or a republic such as ours.
Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a
constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. 
They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to
go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the
ready in our airports, in camouflage fatigues, holding
an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog
cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go,
"Baa."
Until the wolf shows up.
Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind
one lonely sheepdog.  The students, the victims, at
Columbine High School, were big, tough, high school
students, and under ordinary circumstances they would
not have had the time of day for a police officer.
They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say
to 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 lambs
feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the
door.
Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when
the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how
America, more than ever before, felt differently about
their law enforcement officers and military personnel?
Remember how many times you heard the word hero?
Understand that there is nothing morally superior
about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to
be.
Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He
is always sniffing around out on the perimeter,
checking the breeze, barking at  things that go bump
in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle.
That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous
battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and
wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when
needed, right along with the young ones.
Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think
differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never
come, but the sheepdog lives for that day.
After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the
sheep, that is, Most citizens in America said, " I'm
glad I wasn't on one of those planes."
The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "I wish I could
have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have
made a difference." When you are truly transformed
into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into
"warrior hood", you want to be there. You want to be
able to make a difference. There is nothing morally
superior about the sheepdog; the warrior; but he does
have one real advantage; only one. And that is that he
is able to survive and thrive in an environment that
destroys 98 percent of the population.
 
There was research conducted a few years ago with
individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons
were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of
violence: assaults, murders and killing law
enforcement officers.
The vast majority said that they specifically targeted
victims by body language: Slumped walk, passive
behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their
victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select
one out of the herd that is least able to protect
itself. Some people may be destined to be sheep and
others might be genetically primed to be wolves or
sheepdogs.
But I believe that most people can choose which one
they want to be, and I'm proud to say that more and
more 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 Flight
93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to
alert an operator from United Airlines about the
hijacking.  When he learned of the other three
passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd
dropped his phone and uttered the words, "Let's roll,"
which authorities believe was a signal to the other
passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one
hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers -
athletes, business people and parents. --from sheep to
sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves,
ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the
ground.
"There is no safety for honest men except by believing
all possible evil of evil men." - Edmund Burke.
Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to
the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak
to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are
born as sheep.  Sheepdogs are born that way, and so
are wolves. They didn't have a choice.
But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can
be whatever you want to be.  It is a conscious, moral
decision. If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a
sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the
price you pay.  When the wolf comes, you and your
loved ones are going to die if there is no sheepdog
there to protect you.
If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the
sheepdogs are going to hunt you down.  You will never
have rest, safety, trust or love.
But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the
warrior's path, then you must make a conscious and
moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and
prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive
moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.
For example, many police officers carry their weapons
in church. They are well concealed in ankle holsters,
shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked
into the small of their backs.  Anytime you go to some
form of religious service, there is a very good chance
that a police officer in your congregation is carrying
a weapon. You will never know if there is such an
individual in your place of worship, until the wolf
appears 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 if
he carried his weapon in church. The other cop
replied, "I will never be caught without my gun in
church." I asked why he felt so strongly about this,
and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church
massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that
incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the
church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people.
He said that officer believed he could have saved
every life that day if he had been carrying his gun.
His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw
himself on the boy's body and wait to die.  That cop
looked me in the eye and said, "Do you have any idea
how hard it would be to live with yourself after
that?"
Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this
police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They
might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him.
Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would
call for "heads to roll" if they found out that the
airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire
extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids' school
did not work.
 
They can accept the fact that fires and traffic
accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards
against them.  Their only response to the wolf,
though, is denial, and all too often their response to
the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog
quietly asks himself, "Do you have any idea how hard
it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones
were attacked and killed, and you had to stand there
helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"
It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are
psychologically destroyed by combat because their only
defense is denial, which is counterproductive and
destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and
horror when the wolf shows up. Denial kills you twice.
It kills you once; at your moment of truth when you
are not physically prepared: you didn't bring your
gun; you didn't train. Your only defense was wishful
thinking.  Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a
second 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", his
superb post-9/11 book, which should be required
reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our
current world situation: "...denial can be seductive,
because it has an insidious side effect. For all the
peace of mind
Deniers think they get by saying it isn't so, the fall
they take when faced with new violence is all the more
unsettling." Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a
contract written entirely in small print, for in the
long run, the denying person knows the truth on some
level. And so the warrior must strive to confront
denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself
for the day when evil comes. If you are warrior who is
legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step
outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep,
pretending that the bad man will not come today. No
one can be "on" 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs
down time. But if you are authorized to carry a
weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a
deep breath and say this to yourself..."Baa."
This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a
yes-no dichotomy.  It is not an all-or-nothing,
either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a
continuum. On one end is an abject,
head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the
ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one
end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in
between.
Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up
that continuum, away from denial.  The sheep took a
few steps toward accepting and appreciating their
warriors, and the warriors started taking their job
more seriously. The degree to which you move up that
continuum, away from "sheephood" and denial, is the
degree to which you and your loved ones will survive,
physically and psychologically at your moment of
truth.
"If It Weren't For The United States Military There
Would Be NO United States Of America"
If I may be so bold to add... "Without the Second
Amendment, we are all turned into sheep; and Without
the Second Amendment, there will be NO United States
Of America"