By Lyle Rapacki
“The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. 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 himself white and go, ‘Baa.'”
Taken from LTC (Ret) Dave Grossman, 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?”
- The Hon. William J. Bennett, in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy, November 24, 1997.
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 is still 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 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, 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. Where there is no safety there is denial. Hence there are sheepdogs. I am 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 citizen, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then…a sheepdog; a warrior, someone walking the hero’s path, and someone who can walk into the heart of darkness – into the universal human phobia and walk out unscathed!
Allow me to explain this analogy building on the model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know sheep live in denial; that is what makes them, in part, sheep. They do not want to believe there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exists throughout their kid’s schools. But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting armed police officers in their kid’s schools. 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 choose the path of denial. This same mentality exists in churches.
The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. 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 himself white and go, “Baa.”
The students, the victims of 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, 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 there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand a sheepdog is a funny creature; he is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at all things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The older sheepdogs are 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, “thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The sheepdog, the warriors said, “Dear God, 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 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 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 the killing of law enforcement officers. The vast majority said they specially targeted victims by body language: slump walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they selected one out of the herd that is least able to defend 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.
Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you will 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.
Here is a point I would like to emphasize: 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 and I are NOT animals. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral choice. If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that’s 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 not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be a wolf. But the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and 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 oral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.
Many officers carry their weapons in church. They are well concealed. Anytime you go to some form of religious service there is a very good chance that a police officer or someone highly trained and experienced in security or protection is carrying. 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.
Some individuals (including church leaders) would be horrified if they knew a police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call those that do this paranoid and might even scorn them. These same individuals could not even in their wildest thoughts think that a church or any religious event would have specially trained and armed protection specialists working along side of sworn law enforcement officials. 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 extinguishers and fire sprinklers in their kid’s school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against those events, but a madman with a gun showing up in a religious venue or some terrorist wanting to make a statement by disrupting and/or even killing those in attendance at church service is too unthinkable – so there is no need to prepare for such an unlikely event.
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 will kill 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 for the unthinkable. 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, the nation’s leading authority on predicting violent behavior, writes in his superb post 9/11 book, Fear Less, “…denial can be seductive, but 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 area warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the wolf 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, take a deep breath, and say this to yourself…
This business of being a sheep or a sheepdog 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 sheep-hood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.
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