Check In: So, I’m moving. Again.
I’m only moving across town, what’s a difference of about four miles. But I like it here. And the new place is going to take an adjustment period much like this place did. Different adjustments, but adjustments. It’s going to be another adventure and I’m not big on adventures right now.
Still, it is going to be better for everyone involved in general. The boo (that is, my grandson) will be around more often. The teen will be closer to high school. We won’t have just one person that can fetch emergency groceries. We won’t be as distant from shopping or schooling or transit-to-San-Francisco. If everyone else is happier, I’ll feel happier as well. Much more so if my own lifestyle is more-or-less unchanged.
For now, that feels like a lot of ifs.
For now, I’m facing the process of moving. I’m facing the tedium, the toil, the exertion. For now it looks all overwhelming and scary.
So far it’s involved a lot of bureaucratic hoop-jumping and getting ducks in a row. So far, I’ve been angsting about the flaming hoops and errant ducks, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without my sweetheart. And I bet the boo is going to struggle with it when he’s older.
And so I’ve had a hard time focusing on matters like Korea, or the dissolution of civilization as we know it, the stuff I write about.
In Jon Snow’s early adventures*, he encounters Samwell Tarley on his way north to become one of the Night’s Watch. Sam is a self-proclaimed coward, and it is because of this cowardice, a tendency to be paralyzed in the face of danger, that he is rejected by his family and forced at swordpoint to join the Watch. In his adventures with Jon, Sam proves bright and resourceful and loyal. He’s not much good in combat but otherwise an okay guy and pretty useful to have around. Sam even becomes a POV character in the later books.
Right now, in the real world, another man is being disgraced of cowardice, School Resource Deputy Scot Peterson of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
During the Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting, within the few minutes that Nikolas Cruz was gunning down students and teachers in the school halls, Deputy Peterson stayed outside in a defensive position and did not move in to attack. And for doing so, a lot of public figures hate him and find him a shameful coward.
Generally, it is considered tactically unsound to rush a gunman without knowing exactly where he is. It’s accepted that in the circumstances, Cruz outgunned Peterson: Cruz’ rifle was higher powered and longer ranged than Peterson’s handgun. (Peterson is not a trained CQC specialist) And then modern police culture conditions our officers to Get Home Safely. Our law enforcement culture is catastrophically afraid of civilians with guns, and news stories are many in which police draw first and shoot early. Sometimes they shoot at shadows. Sometimes they brandish when there’s no clear and present danger (like at an unarmed driver in a moving car on a freeway).**
And yet, Peterson has been shamed widely by state officials, by elected representatives and by mainstream media for failing to rush into a dangerous situation which presented a high risk of resulting in his own death. Deputy Peterson was immediately suspended without pay for his cowardice, and he has since retired.
Maybe School Resource Deputy Scot Peterson deserves a bit of slack.
War historians might argue whether it is ten percent or fifteen percent or even twenty-five percent of the soldiers on a battlefield that cause ninety percent of enemy casualties, but we know it’s a small portion. (These days artillery and air strikes do most of the killing.) Our rigorous training for the US armed forces, particularly the United States Marine Corps (who are typically the front-line infantry in any conflict involving US units) does everything it can to prepare soldiers for front-line engagement with the enemy, to encourage our recruits to become relentless, unwavering killers. But to this day, we have no means to test a soldier for the willingness to move into open danger, and we have no means to test a soldier to be willing to kill another human being, even a thoroughly dehumanized enemy.
It wounds us to actually kill. Some say we have to kill our own spirit in order to take the lives of others.
And so a lot of our soldiers fail at that moment of reckoning, more than those who succeed, according to our records. So many of our green units are cowards on the field that we have long since excised from military law the crime of cowardice and pardoned those who were convicted of cowardice in WWI (posthumously. Most cowards were executed by firing squad.) In modern armies, we commonly just transfer non-killers to less-direct positions, such as artillery, or into the massive supply and communications infrastructure, where there’s room for plenty of non-killers and even some conscientious objectors.
This is to say Deputy Scot Peterson is not particularly unique as a someone who actually fears for his life and might hesitate to kill, even duty calls to shoot someone who direly needs to be shot, such as a rampaging gunman. The character for which he has been impugned is commonplace among all of us, and I dare say among our law enforcement officers.
It is a common thing for a human being to refuse to take the life of another. Generally, this is a good thing, as most human beings get along way better by not killing each other. It’s a good thing that taking life is a line hard to cross, that killing is a big deal.
It goes the other way, too. Those of us who are brave killers sometimes have difficulty not being too eager to kill in more peaceful times. Our generals have watched for what they call natural soldiers which is to say they fantasize about creating a clone-army of Audie Murphy, people who function calmly in combat conditions and kill the enemy without even an instant of empathy or consideration. These days we call Murphy’s condition the thousand yard stare, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It’s an embarrassment of the good-guy-with-a-gun notion: When circumstances call for a good guy with a gun, most good guys are going to be less than eager to enter a kill-or-be-killed confrontation. And those who are eager might find killing too attractive a recourse outside such dire circumstances.
Good soldiers in wartime are often not good soldiers for peacetime, and while I can’t speak from experience or data, I suspect police officers good in a firefight may have difficulty with the day-to-day monotony outside of one and the non-lethal yet humbling misbehavior of high-school adolescents.
** This is a development since the 1960s, before which police were known to serve lifetime careers having never brandished their firearm once outside the gun range. Federal agents (such as the FBI) didn’t even carry more than a service revolver, relying on local precincts for back-up until the latter half of the 20th century. The pretense was well known: shooting a fed would unleash a manhunt that could not be evaded, and would only end in The Chair or a bone-shredding ambush.
This all changed during the drug wars, what started as a war against cannabis and opium growers and distributors, and is now a larger industry than the drug trade itself. Between the corruption of the police and the ruthlessness of the drug industry, it created a change in attitude from To Protect And Serve in the 1950s to Get Home Safely in the 1990s, even though for most officers in most precincts the job is still not very dangerous at all. Still, as recently as the 2010s, high-profile investigators, prosecutors and police captains who might successfully collar a major drug lord can count on paranoid sleepless nights for the rest of their lives, considering how likely it is they will be cut very short.