The Coward’s Manifesto, or I Want to Write about Guns but I’m Afraid

“I would not just stand there and let him shoot me,” [Presidential Candidate] Mr. [Ben] Carson, who has been surging in recent polls, said on Fox News. “I would say: ‘Hey, guys, everybody attack him! He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.’ ” –Reported in the New York Times (Oct. 6 2015)

I’m afraid. What if somebody doesn’t like what I write?

It’s not as if I am silly to be afraid. It’s not as if shootings are so rare in America.

Another month, another five or ten or twenty dead on an American college or school campus. (Why such hatred of young people? What is it about young people trying to educate themselves that brings out such violence?)

In response to the latest shooting, my university’s Department of Public Safety sends out an email about “active shooter” situations. Do I want to be trained on what to do?

No, I don’t want to be trained. I just want to teach my classes, and I just want to live in a society where ordinary people like me don’t have to get trained by our employers in what to do in “active shooter” scenarios.

Imagine that. What two-hour session could ever train me to protect myself, my students, my colleagues from “active shooters?”

Don’t get me wrong—I think it’s great that my university’s Department of Public Safety is being proactive with this “active shooter” training stuff. Better something than nothing, I’m sure.

Still, I don’t think I should go to the training, well intentioned as it is. I would just waste everybody’s time. I would look up the etymology of the word active. I would start thinking about how to translate the phrase into other languages I know as a way of understanding it “culturally.” I would want to deconstruct the difference between an active and inactive shooter. I would test everyone’s patience by engaging in some ideology critique.

Or, if I were feeling less theoretical, I would raise my hand and ask: Is there a separate training for what to do with inactive shooters? Is that the session in which we talk about how to strengthen laws to keep guns out of the hands of shooters so that they don’t go from inactive to active and start raining bullets on us all?

You see, I just want to live in a society where, if someone disagrees with me or violently dislikes me, at most they will argue with me, or else beat me up or attack me with a knife or a stone. Of course, I would not like being attacked physically. Argument I might welcome as an invitation to citizenly debate, but being attacked by a knife? That I would not welcome at all. Still, I find knives preferable to guns.

I confess. I am a coward. And I know guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Which is why, coward that I am, I prefer people not having guns. I have a pretty strong hunch I would have much better luck running away from people with knives than people with guns.

I know none of this is very brave of me. But I don’t care. Don’t we cowards have the right to a reasonable chance of running away should someone decide to come at us violently? After all, we too are citizens and human beings. If you prick us, do we not bleed?

Why should we be sacrificed—again and again, in horrifying tragedy after horrifying tragedy—because some people want guns so they can play at being brave?

Don’t we cowards too have our inalienable rights? Where is our amendment to the US constitution—the one that reads “the right of reasonable and sane people to take to their heels to save themselves in the face of violent physical attack shall not be infringed?”


One reply on “The Coward’s Manifesto, or I Want to Write about Guns but I’m Afraid”

We used to call that non violent resistance
Perhaps Dr Carson would have preferred Dr King would have shot some folks rather than got shot himself
King taught us right from wrong
Rare concept these days


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