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Good Read - are you a Sheep or Wolf or....

greeker375greeker375 Member Posts: 3,644
edited March 2005 in General Discussion
On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs - Dave Grossman
By 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? - 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 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 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
"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. 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 who 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, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs,
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
warriorhood, 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 not a 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 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 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 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. 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 and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if
your loved ones 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, 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
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...
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.

So, what you? Care to comment?

"the difference between the almost right word and the right word is like the difference between a lightning bug and a lightning bolt" - Mark Twain.


  • Options
    Rack OpsRack Ops Member Posts: 18,596 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    I had the pleasure of attending one of Lt. Col. Grossmans's lectures. It was truly an eye-opening experience. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the subject. I have been able to skim over his book "On Killing" which I also highly recommend.

    Molon Labe
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