In an Age of Terrorism, do Something!

Here we go again.  In London three are dead and many injured thanks to the low-tech use of a car and knife in yet another act of cruelty and cowardice in the name of terrorism.  If you’ve been on a retreat, in a coma or hiking the AT, here’s a link:

Brits rise up in unity and solidarity, etc.  Great.  We should all show unity and solidarity.  But we should all be able to DO something since the political class as a whole, around the world, seems to think the whole terrorist thing is like a teenage phase and has nothing to do with any particular belief, ideology or policy.  Witness the endless handwringing we usually see as police and officials struggle to figure out the attacker’s motivation.  ‘Gee, what could it be?’

Fortunately, the Brits have put more police on the streets.  ‘Armed and unarmed.’  It’s a great strategy really.  One of the dead was an unarmed police officer who clearly distracted the attacker and absorbed the knife so that others could use, you know, weapons to aid him in his pursuit of martyrdom.

I rant on.  But what I want to say is this.  We individuals cannot predict terroristic acts, and we certainly can’t stop them before they start. That’s the job of law enforcement and the military.  We can only do what we can, when these events happen, if we happen to be present.

So I’ve been thinking about things people should know how to do.  First of all, we should know how to PAY ATTENTION!  I have recently seen a commercial for a cellular company in which a young man streams movies and TV everywhere he goes, on the street, on the sidewalk, on the bus. The world around being, apparently, just too boring.  This is dangerous.  We should watch and learn.  Is that a suspicous package?  What does it mean that smoke is coming from under the hood of that parked car in the crowded area?  Is that a real gun the scary man pulled out?  Or is it just an oddly shaped, giant cell-phone? Why is that gentleman speeding towards me on the sidewalk?  Wait, am I on an episode of Impractical Jokers?  Paying attention to danger leads to running or fighting which leads to being the guy interviewed the next day about what happened, instead of the one remembered as ‘a really great guy who will be missed.’

We should also read.  Learn, from news, books, websites and classes, how to identify concerning behaviors and situations.  What does a firearm sound like?  What does a bomb blast look-like? (Clue, TV and movies get it wrong a lot.)  It’s easy to hear or see something dangerous and immediately think it’s nothing; we want it to be nothing, after all.

One of the sites I visit is Active Response Training. They have lots of articles about self-defense, as well as reviews of mass terror events, etc.  They also have excellent classes; I’ve taken one myself many years ago.

Furthermore we should stop being lazy slugs and get in shape.  Sheesh, America, there are lots of great reasons to be fit; being attractive to your mate or potential mate is a good one.  So is living long and staying away from ER doctors like me.  But another is that when you are fit, you can run and fight.  This isn’t some right-wing way of looking at things.  It’s called an ‘evolutionary advantage.’   Run, bike, lift weights, hit the punching bag.  Do it until you’re exhausted then do it some more.  Say it with me:  Fitness = Survival.  It isn’t hard.

As a child I loved the Chuck Jones cartoon production of Rudyard Kipling’s mongoose story, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.  In the movie, Rikki the Mongoose says:  ‘A fat mongoose is a dead mongoose.’ That is, a fat mongoose can’t fight poisonous snakes.  I’ve never forgotten that lesson. Thanks Rikki!  And thanks Mr. Kipling!  (Not sure if it’s in the book, but the cartoon message really impacted this kid…)


So what else can we do in an age of terrorism?  Emergency physicians like me understand  how to manage serious injuries, but we need to encourage citizens to learn 1) first aid with hemorrhage control and 2) CPR.  CPR classes are everywhere and typically include use of Automated External Defibrillators or AED’s.  In fact, in trauma situations like those involving terrorism, CPR and AED’s are probably not going to be very useful.  But it’s good to know for other sorts of emergencies.

DHS has a website and initiative called ‘Stop the Bleed.’  It’s worth a look as there are training videos.  Many companies also sell bleeding control kits that citizens can, and I think should, keep in their vehicles or on their persons.  A tourniquet and dressing don’t take up much space.

I would encourage young people to consider taking local First Responder or EMT basic classes.  It’s information you’ll never regret having, and it looks great on a resume.

We need a veritable army of first responders out there, ready to help while police and EMS are either tied up, on their way or being attacked themselves.  Physicians should be part of the effort to teach this material as well.

Last, but not least.  Those so inclined should learn to fight.  Obviously, the average person isn’t Rambo or an Army Ranger.  Most of us will never be up the the level of an MMA fighter.  But it may not take all that.  MInd you, self-defense classes can be absolute crap.  Especially the stuff they foist on nurses and physicians in order to handle attackers and dangerous patients (since security is usually told not to touch anybody…).

And self-defense skills need repetition like all motor skills.  But those people who want to learn can learn.  Learning to fight, whether boxing, wrestling, martial arts, etc., is hard, painful work.  It isn’t for everyone.

.However, sometimes, it takes just a willingness to do something, or anything. I saw a video this week in which a citizen and CWP holder shot, and killed, a man who was holding down a police officer and beating said officer badly.  Now, he was armed with a pistol, but might just as well have used the shovel I keep in my truck to hit the guy on the head.  Or might have thrown a rock.  Or picked up a stick.

In a building, a fire-extinguisher might be just enough delay and distraction.  A can of wasp and hornet spray kept in the office is mighty nasty stuff if sprayed in the face.

If so inclined, as many of us are (and far more physicians, nurses, medics, etc. than you might imagine), carry (legally) a firearm or reasonable knife.  If the attacker is bent on killing you anyway, can you do worse than fight?  You may slow him (or her…sorry). You might keep them from killing anyone after they kill or maim you.  Or, if you’re in good shape and have trained in some sort of class or fighting discipline (or just get really lucky…or have angels fighting with you), you might win!  Sure, sure, people will call you a monster.  But lives will be saved.

It’s a dangerous world, and always has been. But there are things we can do to make it less so.

Sitting back while the danger grows with our fear, apathy and inability?

Those are just bad options.

So:  Put down the phone, pay attention, read and learn, get in shape, learn to help the injured and learn (or at least consider) how to resist.  America, heck, civilization, needs this now more than ever.



The World Saw What Heroism Looks Like

This is my column in today’s Greenville News.  Go forth and be heroes.

Last week, a Moroccan immigrant was on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. He was armed with an AK-47 rifle, a Luger handgun, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a box-cutter. A French passenger, three young Americans (one active duty Airman, one National Guard soldier fresh from Afghanistan and their civilian friend) as well as a 60-year-old Briton saved untold lives when they deduced that the heavily armed individual in their train car probably wasn’t out for a day of target shooting.

So, forming a committee they deliberated about the best course of action. They issued surveys to the other passengers on the train to make sure that they were in line with current cultural, political and economic trends. They posted their thoughts to Twitter and Facebook and took a short class on tolerance.

Finally, they contemplated their European privilege, and the ways in which they might well have personally caused the obviously oppressed and disaffected individual to want aerate the passengers with 7.62 x 39 mm ammunition and filet them with a razor blade.

No, I’m just kidding. The five rushed him, tackled him, disarmed him, beat him with his own rifle, John Wayne style and choked him unconscious. They then left him hog-tied, after which he was arrested and the injured heroes given medical treatment for the serious wounds they incurred.

Subsequently, the French media asked everyone to be concerned about the feelings of the poor terrorist, who was not at all responsible for his actions and who was just holding the weapons ‘for some guy.’ The men who attacked the unfortunate rifle bearer were held and their motivations questioned by gendarmes who consider Americans uncouth and barbaric. Charges were filed for disturbing the peace and for handling unlicensed illegal firearms (disarming someone is no excuse to touch a gun).

Nope, still kidding. The same week it happened, French President Hollande presented these heroic gentlemen with the Legion of Honour, the highest French award for heroism. I suspect that the five have been gulping down free champagne and dancing with hot French girls, even as their knees occasionally go week with the realization that they were each about one trigger-pull from eternity. But that’s what heroism looks like. And God knows the world could use some more of it.

During the tragic, fatal shooting at the recruiting station in Chattanooga over the summer, one or two active duty members returned fire with with personal weapons. There were serious discussions about the legality and propriety of this action and the Navy commander of the site may still face disciplinary action. Personally, I believe he deserves praise and honor. If he did shoot back, he did the right thing, at the right moment, when there was no time to ask for permission or contemplate the larger implications of the action.

We live in a difficult, troubled world. I believe that all free people should be able to protect themselves, because the police and military (God bless them) can’t be everywhere. Only when predators do not know who will resist, do not know who is armed or prepared, will they have reason for pause. But the issue for our time is far more than terrorism.

It is too often the belief that regular citizens should not be expected to protect the endangered, rescue the imperiled, contribute to the needy, feed the hungry, fight evil with force, free the slaves, educate the illiterate. That only through the inefficiency of government and the relative anemia of our own favorite politicians is good accomplished. But this is merely moral sloth; little more than the transfer of our own human duty to other agents (who care far less about our own problems than we), in order to assuage our guilt.

Most of us will never see, much less assault, a terrorist. However there is other heroism to be accomplished. We can give to the needy, comfort the hurting, educate and feed the children, visit the aged. On our own dime, and on our own time. It requires only the personal decision to act and the courage to sacrifice time and resources. Well, that’s not entirely true. We have to take time out from screaming at each other online and actually do something other than hoping for the next politician or election to make our ideological dreams come true or our wallets fat.

Ultimately, heroism comes in many incredible forms. But to act heroically we need (as the King said) ‘a little less talk and a lot more action.’

Battle fury and the death of a soldier in London

Let’s honor the memory of a young husband, father and soldier murdered in London as bystanders watched.  Let’s keep the battle fury in our hearts!  May we never shame our ancestors by surrendering without a fight to the madness of terror.  This is my column in today’s Girls Just Wanna Have Guns.

I’ve never been to Great Britain. Nevertheless, I’ve always had enormous respect for the land that was ancestral home to many of my ancestors.  I’ll stop short of calling myself an Anglophile, but I’ve always looked at our cousins across the pond as folks cut from the same cloth; lovers of freedom, lovers of truth and justice.

Some of my most cherished heroes came from that island nation that not so long ago, impacted the world such that it was said  ‘the sun never sets upon the British Empire.’ Among my favorites?  Boudicca, the warrior queen who fiercely resisted Roman rule.  Arthur, part-legend, likely part-fact, who may have been escended from Romans, and who resisted the Saxon incursions.  St. Patrick whose preaching helped convert Ireland to Christianity. Then there’s Alfred. the only English king to be given the honorific title, ‘The Great.’  A king, a leader of armies, a scholar and a devout Christian, he preserved much of his land from being lost to the Norsemen. And there’s King Harold, who died at Hastings fighting William the Conqueror, and William himself who united the land under his rule and that of his aristocracy (for better or worse).  Sir Thomas More who refused to yield his conscience and faith to Henry the VIII and lost his head for it. William Shakespeare, who made English a language of angelic beauty. Sir William Marshall, the last of the great knights.  William Wilberforce, who ended slavery in England with the power of rhetoric and truth.

Fast forward a bit and we have heroes such as the Duke of Wellington who handed Napoleon his defeat at Waterloo.  Admiral Horatio Nelson, who defeated the French in the battle of Trafalgar, and died  in the action. GK Chesterton, the brilliant Catholic writer and gentleman, who carried a sword-cane in his daily walks.  Churchill who vowed to fight the Nazis to the last man.  The common heroes of Dunkirk who rescued an army in everything that would float.  Gen. Montgomery, who gave the Germans fits in North Africa.  C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien, who served together in WWI, but whose contributions to wisdom and literature remain of epic proportion.

Why am I listing all of these great men?  Because I am confident not a single one of them would have stood by while two nut-jobs butchered a British soldier on a London street, in broad daylight.  Last week, of course, Drummer Lee Rigby, a member of the Second Fusilliers, was run down by a car driven by Islamic terrorists.  They then carved up the young soldier and father and beheaded him.  Courageous bystanders took cell-phone videos.  A genuinely courageous lady sat by the mortally wounded young man, praying for him, as another engaged one of the blood-covered murderers in conversation.  Police with guns had to be called to the scene, apparently by unarmed and uninvolved police officers who were waiting for back-up.  And the blood flowed, with everyone polite and proper.

The heroes listed above?  Well they would have hurled themselves at the butchers.  They would have drawn swords and battle axes, or dueling pistols or muskets or quarter-staffs or long-bows, or Webley revolvers, SMLE rifles or pitch-forks.  They would have been enraged and outraged and felt the battle fury seize them.

And if they did it now, they would have been arrested and charged with some ridiculous crime for being involved; for trying to save a life.  For being the embodiment of Anglo-Saxon and Norman culture, history and genetics.  In response to the fact that the two attackers had been shot by police, a police commissioner is quoted in the BBC as saying, ‘at this stage, we are not pursuing any criminal or misconduct offenses.’  For shooting the terrorists, that is.  Thank God for British justice!  No police prosecuted for shooting terrorists!

My Appalachian blood boils when I consider what happened on that city street.  Alas, we live in a time of deadly civility.  We want to interrogate and understand; to subdue and dialog.  We need women to chat with killers and PC police officers to make sure they shoot attackers properly and without malice.

I know. It happened in London, not here.  I like to think it would be different on an American street, especially with so many armed citizens.  But if we lose the spirit of greatness, if we lose the spirit of fire and justice, if we lose the fundamental ability to say ‘this is wrong!’ If we stop saying, ‘this is my land and this is my countryman!’  If we quench the battle fire in our hearts, then it won’t be long until we face the same situations.

Let this be a lesson, for us and our cousins across the sea.  We cannot survive as a culture, as a civilization, if we are sheep who raise, feed, coddle and defend wolves.  So look to history.  Look to courage and valor and sacrifice, my fellow free-men and free-women.  And if all you have is a rock, throw it at evil with all your might.  It’s what Alfred the Great would have done.  We should do no less.