Robert C. Koehler
Finally, perhaps, this is bigger than personal safety. It's about rescuing our humanity.
Two images compete for my attention as I write this, a month after Newtown, a week after the shooting at a high school in
The other image is of Americans flooding gun stores from coast to coast, buying semiautomatics and other weapons in the wake of feared new gun laws.
This land is your land, this land is my land. Whatever dialogue, whatever change, emerges from the slaughter at Sandy Hook must embrace not only a father's torn heart and yearning to forgive, but the gun-store fear stampede and people's desire and need to protect themselves. I confess to not knowing how they can reconcile, only that they must -- if we are to build a new world that addresses both long- and short-term needs for safety, fairness, sustainability and human connection.
"Eleven of my 40 years in the justice system were spent as a police officer,"
". . . and there were at least five times when I could have legally shot someone," Cox's letter continued, "including once in a face-to-face encounter with a man with a gun who had just shot a woman. In each case, I was able to convince the person to drop their weapon and to avoid having the death of another on my conscience."
This begins to set the stage for what's possible. "Courage, I had to learn," peace activist
Libbe H., a five-foot two-inch woman and survivor of childhood sexual abuse, wrote: "I spent much of my life afraid to be out in the world by myself. Even going to an unfamiliar restaurant at night seemed dangerous. It seriously stunted my life for many years."
Then, in her 30s, she took two courses from Impact Personal Safety, and learned how a woman can stand up for herself. "I've used these techniques perhaps four times in 20 years," she wrote, describing the most confrontational moment, an encounter with an angry driver at a gas station, who thought she had cut him off:
"As I began pumping gas, he came barreling toward me. Instead of cowering, running, crying or anything else 'typically female,' I stood my ground, put out my right arm/hand in the 'stop' position and said, 'Stop!' It was like he had run into a wall. . . . He then started yelling at me. . . . I remained in the 'stop' position and kept my running response of, 'You need to back away. You need to go now. You are not allowed to talk to me that way. You need to back up and go back to your car. . . .'"
If he'd given an indication he was going to physically attack her, she would have dropped to the ground, kicked out at his knee and further protected herself. "But by this time others in the crowded gas station were watching and he realized I wasn't going to give way, so he cursed me out and walked away. I finished pumping my gas and left."
While some of the people who wrote to me had studied martial arts and other self-defense techniques, others had not, but managed to contain or defuse dangerous situations simply by refusing to act like victims. "Take the attitude of 'What the h--- do you think you are doing?!' rather than 'Why me?'" wrote
This observation was brought up in one way or another by a number of correspondents. Ann T., for instance, wrote about an armed robbery as her family was leaving a motel room. "The robbers were as scared as we were," she said. "When I realized this, I also realized they didn't want to hurt anyone, they just wanted money, or something to pawn. This realization helped me stay calm."
The notion that assailants are vulnerable is the key, and it contradicts the gun lobby's "beware of monsters" motif. The shooting last week at
I pause here, as the boy and his teacher stare at each other and their humanity fills the terrifying interval. "I don't want to shoot you," the boy says.
Please write and tell me your stories.
- CIA Nominee Defends United States Drone Policy
- U.S. Policy as Global Security Provider Built on Plymouth Rock
- I Am Because You Are
- On Flaky Professors and Nutty Ideas
- Continuing a Foreign Policy Pivot
- War On Pot Has Gone Up in Smoke
- Second Amendment Vigilantes
- The Empowerment Project
- Unarmed Empowerment
- The War Between the Amendments
- Conversation on Gun Violence Excludes a Key Perspective
- NRA Shoots Down Its Own Ideas
- Obama Goes Big on Gun Control, But Can He Deliver?
- Appropriate Job for Big NRA Backer
- Good Sense and Gun Control
- NRA's Choice: Be Part of Solution or Continue to Make Problem Worse
- Spy Secrets of 'Zero Dark Thirty'
- Does Torture Work?
- Border Fears Riddled with Holes
- Lance Armstrong Admits Using Banned Substances in Run to Seven Tour Titles
- Lance Armstrong Admits to Doping in Oprah Interview
- The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power
- United States Heads Toward Gun Control Debate
- Freedom to Live in Fear
- Plotting an Uncivil War
- The Social Context of Mass Murder
- Video Games Not to Blame for Mass Shootings
- Hollywood Film Brings Torture Back Into The Light
- The Other Cliffs
- A Holiday Letter from America
- Take Care of the Children
- Newtown: The American Paradox
- The NRA vs Common Sense
- NRA 'Solutions' are Straight Out of a Stallone Movie
- Put Prospective Gun Owners Under the Microscope
- Too Many People Who Should Not Have Guns Do
- Newtown Shines Spotlight on Mental Health
- After Newtown: Will We Finally Act?
- Sandy Hook: Explaining Evil
- Fine Words, Delayed Action
- On Newtown, Mourn First, then Act
- School Shooting a Watershed Moment
- News and Social Media Amok
- In Colorado, Empty Gun Dorm Sends a Message
- Who Moved My Twinkie?
- The 'Land of Opportunity' is Becoming Hollywood Fiction
- Our Endless State of War
(c) 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc