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Friday, February 23, 2018


Learning to fight

by Tom Sullivan

Still image from Unforgiven (1992)

Little Bill Daggett: It ain't so easy to shoot a man anyhow, especially if the son-of-a-bitch is shootin' back at you. I mean, that'll just flat rattle some folks.
Federal flight deck officer training was the most serious instruction he had ever experienced. He was a skateboarder and a skydiver when we met in college and never served in the military. Instead, my friend worked his way up over the years in the piloting business starting with his first solo flight. From instrument rating to multi-engine, he'd accumulated flight hours flying float planes in Alaska, air ambulance in the Virgin Islands, and air freight in multi-engine jets before he getting his first airline job.

He and other pilots trained at a federal facility in Georgia to use a handgun in the close quarters of an airliner. Learning to operate the handgun was the least of it. Most of the training, he said, was mental. Psychology. It was intense.

Brandon Friedman got his training in the infantry and served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It wasn't his weapon that saved his life one night. It was the training. He writes in the New York Daily News:
The first (and only) time I was in close-quarter combat, I got tunnel vision. It happened so fast that when I went to squeeze the trigger, my safety was still on. In that instant, I almost panicked, thinking my weapon had jammed. Then the training kicked in. I flipped the selector switch to semi and started shooting.

It was over in seconds. My full field of vision returned, and an otherwise quiet evening in northern Iraq became bodies, broken glass, empty shell casings and ringing ears.

Seven years of training led up to that moment. How to react had been drilled into me. And still, I was caught so off guard by the attack that my reflexes had failed initially. It was nearly fatal.
Which is why Friedman concludes the notion of arming teachers as a way of thwarting school shootings is absurd. There were armed guards at Columbine, he writes. And at the Pulse nightclub, in Las Vegas, and at Stoneman Douglas High School last week. Stopping a mass shooting isn't as simple as a "good guy" having a gun.

Learning to shoot is one thing. Learning to fight is something else, especially when the target isn't paper and is shooting at you.

"Anyone who tells you that arming teachers is a solution is clueless," Friedman writes.

The response to the Parkland shootings feels different from other mass shootings because the aggrieved and grieving students are not just protesting. They are not just arming themselves with facts in usual lefty fashion. They are focusing their anger. They are learning how to fight, and they are learning quickly. Posters and Twitter and Facebook are merely weapons. The mental focus to keep their heads with the NRA shooting back at them (rhetorically) takes training. They will get it. They have allies. Trained ones.

The #Resistance, #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter and other movements have begun to coalesce and show the way. Bishop Dr. William J Barber II‎ of the #PoorPeoplesCampaign leads crowds in chanting, "Forward Together, Not One Step Back!" Together is the key. They have learned an attack on one is an attack on all. Those who understand we are all in this together are more powerful united than those who preach every man for himself. Which is why opponents will try their best to divides us. It has worked in the past.

Maybe not this time.

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