Friday, December 29, 2006

"Pure Evil"

The kids informed me today that they had found an on-line quiz to determine, in exact percentages, how evil they were. They were both very smugly satisfied that they had scored "almost 100% pure evil". I was skeptical, of course. They are relatively good and innocent kids. I haven't smelled decomposing bodies under the bed or found blood-stained shackles in the garage.

"So, what kind of questions were on this test?" I asked.

"What browser you use. Using AOL is worth a lot of evil points."
"Whether you've ever voted for a Republican."
"Do you recycle. Stuff like that."

So that's it, I guess. The idea of evil in the computerized west.

None of the questions the word 'evil' implies to me:

"Have you ever raped someone because you were bored?"
"Have you ever recorded the screams of someone that you tortured so that you could relive the moment later?"
"Have you ever prostituted your own child for drug money?"
"Have you ever killed a child because he or she wouldn't quit screaming after you whipped or burned them?"
"Have you ever had a falling-out with a neighbor because he tried to molest your daughter and you don't share?"

On and on...
So the kids and I talked for a bit about evil and trivializing things and people who think that things that annoy them or they disagree with are evil. I hope I wasn't too edgy because the test, as they described it, did offend me.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Nothing Special

I need to start carrying a digital camera.

20 minutes ago we cleared a fight. When it was all over one big man was kneeling on the floor, blood pouring from his mouth and nose and trickling from the corner of his eye. He was holding a towel to his face that quickly soaked in blood, snot and saliva. A tear trickled through the blood like some kind of obscene smearing eye shadow and in a semi-circle around this kneeling man was a spray of blood smeared with foot prints of a scuffle.

There was nothing special about it, nothing special about the fight or the scene or the aftermath. I know that without a picture this will just be an entry in my personal log that I might run across in a few years and draw a complete blank.

A lot of my writing is about trying to share my "nothing special". This is what a fight looks like: someone comes up behind you and grabs your hair and slams your face into a wall and you can't see and you spin and throw a wild punch and it connects and you feel your hand break and nothing, nothing,nothing happens to the guy who grabbed your hair he just starts pounding and you hear someone yelling "break it up" and you try to stop and he doesn't and he's just pounding and you can't see and hands pull you apart and you can't stand up and everything is blurry and then you're shaking and... humiliated... That's pretty much what one of the fighters described to me. That's a normal perception in an ambush. Nothing special.

The other one just said, "It's a misunderstanding. Bunch of men, some testosterone. It happens, you know?" He was cool, no shakes. He'd decided to beat this man into a pulp and he'd done so. Business as usual. And that's nothing special either.

I want to do a photographic montage of contrasts:

The most beautiful dojo you have ever seen with polished floors and a shrine and crisp white uniforms contrasted with a tiny cell covered with blood and OC and the obvious trail in the blood where we dragged the crook out.

The defendant in court with his expensive suit and haircut and lawyer contrasted with the damaged body of his victim.

The loser of a boxing match with his battered face and brave smile contrasted with the misshapen skull and toothless face of a guy who has been slammed repeatedly into the corner of a concrete wall.

A perfect tournament TKD round kick to the head contrasted with a guy curled in a ball on the floor of a bar as multiple people slam boots into his head and body.

The contrast is interesting, but only to people who have only ever seen one side of the equation. If all you have ever seen is dojo training and tournaments, kata and boxing matches a crook attacking you while you are standing at a urinal and trying to drive your face into the pipe sounds outrageous. But it's nothing special. That's the way these things happen when they happen.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Threat is in Control

This is another concept that is hard for civilians to understand: the threat is in control of every aspect of a Use of Force. It seems counter-intuitive. On one side you have the police with belts full of weapons, radios, back up and, theoretically, the weight and influence of all of civilization behind them. On the other side, you have the threat. Sometimes armed, often not. Sometimes impaired with drugs or alcohol or mental illness. We see the disparity in power and even the disparity in judgment and assume the responsibility lies with the person in power. The smart one.

Aside: If you have two kids and one is bad please do not ever, ever turn to the older one and say, "Why didn't you stop your little brother?" or "How did you let this happen?" You can try to convince yourself until you are blue in the face that the smarter, more responsible child should have known better and should have intervened. But no matter what you say, you aren't punishing the responsible kid, you're punishing the good kid. And you aren't doing it because it's the right thing to do but because the good kid is easier to punish. Because the bad kid will argue or fight or challenge and the good kid will take it. It is an act of cowardice.

Okay, had to get that out of my system. Movin' on.

Fighting bad guys isn't like rolling with your buddies down at the dojo. Sometimes it's dangerous. It's usually messy and almost always stinks. The cops know that. Not one person I work with gets up in the morning and says "Hey, with any luck I'll get in a big fight with a crazy tweaker and his four friends! And they'll have oozing sores all over and ooooh, maybe it can happen in a shooting gallery with used hypodermic needles all over the place and puddles of urine! Whooo hoo!" Or "Damn, it's really hard to get vacation time in the summer. Hey, if I shoot someone, I get some days off for psych! Of course, I'll probably need the psych and my career and all my personal posessions will be on the line from the eventual lawsuit. There might be nightmares and stuff and I'll probably get divorced but I really want to go fishing this weekend."

The threat dictates the use of force. 'Threat' is one of those law enforcement euphemisms. Not to be judgmental, but the threat is the bad guy (BG) some times abbreviated to EBG for Evil Bad Guy.

So, the first element of a Use of Force: the BG makes it happen. I want to be left alone to eat donuts and talk to my friends all day. I wouldn't even be responding unless someone called me and said that there was an EBG up to something or I see the EBG being bad.

The next element is even easier- for the most part, unless it's really outrageous, all the BG has to do is STOP BEING BAD WHEN HE SEES A COP. Really, how hard is that? In the jail if I see someone breaking a rule, I catch the person's eye, maybe shake my head and he stops. If he doesn't stop, I'll have to do something. Usually talking is enough....

Even if the behavior is outrageous- hostages, assault, murder- the EBG stops being bad (drops the weapon, puts his hands up and complies with orders) and there's still no use of force. I'm not saying that there aren't bad guys who I've wanted to hurt, there have been. But the arrest, the paperwork, the likelihood of conviction all go easier without the force. Most officers are professional and won't give in to the anger.

Aside- You (civilian, officer, trainier) have to realize that time is a critical limiting factor. If the EBG is in the process of shooting someone there is no time for making eye contact or talking. I will tackle or shoot, depending on which I can do fastest. Presentation is another factor- someone screaming or ignoring you or being (or pretending to be) in a psychotic break can also remove the verbal skills from the table.

Simple as that: the BG chooses whether or not he will respond to the officer's presence or the officer's attempt to communicate. He also chooses if communication won't work. If the officer has a duty to act and communication won't work (or fails), the officer must use force. The force starts because the BG makes it start.

How much force is used? The minimum level the officer reasonably believes will safely end the situation. That's a complicated sentance and almost every word is a legal concept. It's a job, and force has to be used judiciously and with an eye to safety- if the officer uses too little force and gets injured or killed, he can't end the situation. He becomes a drain on resources. At the same time, the minimum level is always a guess. There's one "bad ass" in our system who is half a foot taller than me, maybe 100 pounds heavier and thrives on his reputaion for fighting and being crazy. In the middle of the night he covered his cell window (big no-no, usually the first step to a barricaded threat situation). I was alone, but I was tired and kind of tired of games. I opened the door and went in to his cell and tore the wet toilet paper off the window. This huge monster fighter the second I entered his cell curled up in a fetal position and started crying. Before this situation, if I'd intended to use force, it would have been pepper spray, several officers and probably impact weapons. There have also been little guys who fought until their hearts gave out, throwing multiple officers around.

Anyway, it's a guess and the threat supplies the clues. If he claims to be a multiple blackbelt or a SEAL, he gets hit harder. If he claims to be a peaceful protester but needs to be moved, fingerlocks or pepperspray (pain compliance tools that don't cause injury) are the preferred response. Most importantly, the threat decides if the level of force the officer is using is enough. If I put a fingerlock on a protester and it doesn't work, I'll have to use something else, something more. It escalates, but the threat dictates the escalation.

The last piece: when is the UofF over? When the threats decide it is. Here's a secret that applies to people and life and armies: people are almost never beaten- they give up. Except at the highest end uses of force, such as shooting, we (the officers) rarely beat anybody. Unless the brainstem is shut down or every long bone in the arms and legs is cleanly broken, people can keep fighting. Hugh Glass' 300 mile crawl after the grizzly mauling. Inmates punching with clearly broken hands. Attempted rape survivors who grabbed the blade of the knife and hung on to it while they kicked and scratched and screamed. Excited delerium cases where the threat fights off many many officers and keeps fighting until his heart gives out.

So the threat decides when he gives up. What level of force or pain he has to endure before he can allow himself to be handcuffed and still maintain his 'manly dignity'. That sounded flip, but some of the worst uses of force are from spoiled rich kids who think that they have the right to destroy or take anything they want and no one can tell them otherwise. Their parents always backed down so they expect everyone else to. Or from upstanding citizens who think that since they aren't real criminals (only drinking and driving or beating the wife that they own) and they fight as a matter of honor.

So, to sum up- if the threat decides when force is going to be used and how much force is going to be used and when it will stop...who's in charge?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


It's a cold December night, almost morning. Calls have already come in: a big man, shirtless and shoeless is walking down the dividing line swinging a club.

The guy is five-foot ten and 260 pounds. The officer who sees him first tries to talk to him from his car and is ignored. Remember "Duty to Act"? If the officer drives away and either the man in the middle of the road is hit by a car or he attacks someone with the club, it's the officer's responsibility. He has to do something.

260 pounds, swinging a club. Facts. Walking in frigid weather shirtless and shoeless; walking down the middle of the road; ignoring officer's attempt to talk. All facts. Altered mental state is the only reasonable conclusion.

What kind of altered mental state? Psychotic? Drugs? IT DOESN'T MATTER. Even if the officer had the time and the resources to find out those are just labels tacked on to a range of behaviors. The officer is there to deal with the behavior. If the guy is super strong or impervious to pain or completely unresponsive to talking it doesn't matter if meth or anger or a hormone imbalance made him that way.

The officer did the right thing. He got out of the car with his taser ready. He put the red dot of the laser sight on the man's chest and ordered him to drop the weapon or he would be tased.

Editorial- there is no greater indicator of an altered mental state than advancing on a drawn weapon. Drugs, psych, mental retardation - in our society you won't find anyone who hasn't watched enough TV to know what a cop and what a weapon is. If you draw a gun (or a taser or whatever, but this piece of advice is for civilians thinking self-defense and most won't be able to afford a Taser) and the threat advances on you, you're probably going to have to use it. Or admit that you weren't prepared to carry it in the first place.

How did the man react when the officer prepared the taser and told him to drop the weapon? He advanced on him, swing the stick. The report said he was "coming at me with the physical actions of attack".

I wasn't going to quote the source directly, but this is too telling to pass up- one of the threats relatives wanted to know "What were 'the physical actions of attack'?" For crying out loud, coming at someone swinging a stick pretty much sums it up. This question reeks- and not just with what I am percieving as some kind of anti-police bias or some kind of blind and unquestioning love for a relative... it reeks with a level of stupidity, willful stupidity that turns my stomach. Of course other 260 pound men coming at you with a club would be dangerous but my 260 pounder coming at you with a club is different. It's really hard not to use profanity to show the level of contempt I'm feeling right now.

So, the officer tased the guy. The guy dropped the stick and went down. But then he got back up. He refused to stay down. He refused to follow verbal orders.

This is rare. Tasers hurt unbelievably. They suck. Even a flatworm will respond to pain. In the officer's experience, it just confirmed what the original presentation of the threat had already indicated: drugs or psych; nearly immune to pain. Very, very dangerous. (Remind me some day to do a post on pain and its limitations with special attention to why an inability to feel pain almost always requires that an injury will happen). In all there were four taser shocks. Other officers arrived. A baton was used- six strikes according to the paper.

No firearms. No deaths.

From the officer's point of view:
Duty to act both for the safety of the subject and others? Check. Double check.
Intent to cause harm? Advanced with a weapon, refused to drop weapon. Check.
Means to cause harm? Very large and armed. Check.
Opportunity? Threat closing into strike range. Check

A 260 pound man with a weapon and demonstrable intent, means and opportunity made him a threat at the ominous level and possibly lethal level. It authorizes impact weapons absolutely and, especially after he shrugged off the taser, could have justified deadly force... but the officer chose to handle it at a level of force below impact weapons. (The taser is all scary and electric, but it is simply a pain compliance tool. It hurts a lot but the only injuries are two pin pricks each a quarter of an inch deep. That's it.)

So, if anything, the officer used less force than he should have.

The article infuriates me.

From putting "threatening" in quotation marks when describing the threat to calling the incident a 'mishap' it is a gut wrenching travesty.

There were two facts unknown to the officer that the reporter considers key: 1)That the threat was only fifteen tender years of age (big deal- how relevant is that at 260 pounds?) and 2) that he was autistic.

Autism, of course, is one of the good and fuzzy/happy mental illnesses. Everyone has seen Rainman, right? And Dustin Hoffman was harmless, right?

Both my kids are autistic, and through them we know many other autistic children. Some of them are dangerous and can't be mainstreamed with other children. The same illness that at certain levels makes it so they do not understand languages or uniforms and won't follow instructions also means that they don't understand that kitties are not for strangling or that it's not okay to bite or that eyes aren't just pretty marbles you can try to pull out and play with.

How relevant is that label, anyway? The officer made the good call- altered mental state. He did the right thing, not only by the book but about as safely as it can be done.... and some pathetic collection of whiny rat-bastards with an agenda ( a news agenda, a family agenda, something) can't see it.

Call us when you want something done about a 260 pound mentally ill person with a club. If you know a better way, don't call us. Do it yourself. And if it's your 260 pound mentally ill person with a club and you want him treated special, maybe you should do something to keep him from wandering the streets at 3 am.


Possibly the most fucked-up thing that I know (beyond that people who died of starvation smell like fresh-baked bread) is that "Ventura Highway" by America is the best song to be listening to when you are told that someone died.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Kris called over the weekend to confirm me for Martial University 2007 in Seattle. I'll be teaching three classes.

MU is "dealer's choice" in that the instructor can teach anything he feels like and each hour the students will have at least five instructors to choose from. It's a great place to get a taste of many things. There will be a change this year in that what the instructors teach will be on the schedule in general terms at the start of the day.

I'm toying with holding a workshop on complexity. To see if I can take a familiar technique such as an outside leg sweep (o soto gari) and bring it through various levels of magnification. At the human sized level it is unbalancing, execution and follow through with fairly large muscle movement. Enlarge it and you have lines of weak and strong balance, subtleties of leverage, slight movements that pin entire body weight, two-way action; Expand it and you can throw in how the action of the leg can be a crippling strike, how the inside hand can damage or manipulate the spine, how the spine is manipulated most efficiently, all the nerves that can add to the motion, how the outside hand uses leverage points or nerves; Expand it more and it becomes about energy given, found and exploited: how the motion (gross or subtle) of uke or his stance and spine alignment dictate subtle differences in the most efficient line of technique or even the choice of technique. Breathing. Mindset.

Then take the technique and reverse the magnification process- what is the energy dynamic? How did this attack start? What are the dynamics that lead to an attack and how does each different kind affect the mindset and hormonal stress level of each person involved? How does that stress level then affect performance?

If you look at it closely enough, any single technique (much less an entire violent encounter) is unbelievably complex. It involves physics, physiology, group dynamics, evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, criminology, criminal law, endocrinology, athletics, strategy, and even moral philosopy. Within each technique there is power generation, timing and targeting; there is a 'why' to the strike (moral justification: "why am I hitting this person?" and strategic "Why strike instead of close? Why this strike?") and on and on, each aspect affecting each movement and instant of time... And survival requires a simple and fast answer to this complex problem.

But even the simple and fast answer is just as complex...

It would probably confuse more people than it would help, realistically. But a few would get it. The more of these complex aspects become natural and subconscious, the more power and speed you can apply to the technique, the more you can do.

It's easy for me to get behind people, usually. Hands to elbows and their bodies turn; the spine works in a spiral; pin on the heel; hands are sticky... all things that I only think about when I am teaching. It's just the way a body movies and completely natural... but it took a lot of practice and introspection to make it natural. It takes a lot of looking at the small stuff to make it disappear.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Bukkan said, "Explaining the four Dharma-worlds shouldn't take a lot of words." He took a cup, filled it with tea, drank the tea and smashed the cup. "Have you got it?" he asked.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fighters Fact Book 2

Yesterday there was an e-mail waiting from Loren Christensen. "Fighter's Fact Book 2: The Street" will be coming out in January. I wrote two of the chapters inside (though I'm curious about the change in title of one of them) and one of the pictures chosen for the cover was taken by my lovely wife and Luke and I are in it.

It's odd, because there was nothing really surprising in the news. Loren was with me every step of the way on the rewrite and he's kept all the contributors posted on the developements. There was nothing surprising and yet I felt very pleasantly surprised, like there was a shiny clear crystal in my head.

For all the talk about writing and identity, you know what? It's fun to have an ego and get it stroked.

Being human is very, very cool.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Belly Wisdom

Years ago (decades) there was this book picked up at a used book store that has long gone out of business. I don't remember the title or the author, only that it was written by a first-generation Chinese immigrant, that it was the first philosophy book I'd ever read that didn't seem to be just pointless and trivial monologue and that the core message I remember was simple and beautiful and true.

The author wrote that everything about humans and philosophy could all be traced back to one simple truth: We have bellies.

Bellies need food. We get hungry. We don't do something about the hunger, we die. It's easy to lose sight of that in a world where the neighborhood supermarket has more food than a medieval peasant or a pre-columbian native American might see in their lives.

Bellies caused it all. Not just the agriculture and the science it requires or the delivery systems and the infrastructure they require but the sports and arts and performance all derive from attempts to increase a community's bonding and make the hunting safer and the gathering more efficient, all to feed the bellies.

We can talk about sex and aggression as primary drives and gods know I spend enough time here writing about fear and violence and destruction but all of those are accessories, add-ons, luxuries in the presence of real hunger. That hunger has been the background for almost all of human history and it has driven... everything.

Yet we never think about it, or think about it only in a context of "the homeless" or a famine on the other side of the world. We add a political slant. It may be the most basic need in biology, and we tack all of this on to it, all of this meaning, all of these stories: and only the hunger is real.

It seems to me right now that people don't like dealing with real things. With hunger. With pain. With fear. Not even with real love. They want to deal with the symbols and the attributed meanings. They can't let go and deal with the simple world as it really is. They want to deal with the complicated world they create in their heads.

Do they need the layer of buffer? Is the reality too stark? Too beautiful? Not complicated enough?

Is it simply that the real world isn't about them? Life isn't about you. It isn't about me. Life is and it will be whether you are there to see it or not. The stories, the symbols and the attributed meanings are, in the end, all about the story tellers. Is it that simple? Like a child saying, "Mine! Mine!" people need the world in their minds to be all about them?

Get over it.

Even if your internal world is all about you, so is everyone else's, and some of those people can be big and mean and dangerous and in some of their stories your story is only a chapter and you are only what you are: A one-night stand. A victim. The great lost love. What might have been. The nemesis. The father-figure. A guide. A brother. A piece of background. A toy. A tool. Nothing at all.

And all of this is artificial. How much of what we do, how much of our creativity and worry, how much of our fear and delight stems from this interaction between two imaginary things, your world and my world?

There are real things to do and experience and delight in. And there is real fear and real danger, too. And hunger.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I've been on the tactical team since its inception. In all that time I have only missed three tactical operations.

The first wasn't a call-out. The OIC (Officer in Charge) decided to use tactical staff on duty and not page out the team. Working a different shift, I missed the mission. It was spectacular, too and became the reason we decided not to rely on "bean-bag" rounds.

The second time, my team wasn't on call (we have two teams, that alternate 'on-call' status). I'd been awake for about thirty hours and the mission was completely routine, so I just checked to see if Andy anticipated any possibility of problems. He said "no" and I went to sleep.

The third time, when the pager went off I was in surgery getting my ACL replaced. My wife turned it off and waited until I was out of recovery to tell me.

Tomorrow will be the fourth. An extraction and high-risk transport on a supremacist with multiple murder charges.

The other team has a new team leader. Mike used to be my second. Tomorrow will be his first mission as a TL. I have to not be there. The team is used to looking to me for the plan and operational guidance. They're used to my voice. They need to listen for Mike and nothing else. They need to see that he can handle it and I trust him enough to let him handle it, trust him so much that I won't even be there.... and I do. Mike is an extraordinary leader and operator.

But it's still hard. Very, very hard.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More on Telling Stories

"Aftermath" is becoming even more difficult to read.

This is a semi-political observation: I don't like or respect 'activists'. At some point in the last thirty years or so what the people labeled 'activists' do has changed. If memory serves, the activists used to go into the deep south and sign up voters. They used to form neighborhood watches and clean up litter and graffiti.

It seems that these days, the people who call themselves activists (the protestors and letter-writers and 'research groups') whine or scream or block traffic or sue all in the attempt to get someone else (usually the government) to fix what they see as a problem.

In case I'm going too fast here: you see a problem (even if I don't agree that it's a problem) and you put your time and sweat and blood and money into fixing it, you have my absolute respect. You see a problem and begin screaming or waving signs or orchestrating protests to force me (or the taxpayers in general) to fix the problem, you have my absolute contempt. Adults fix problems, children whine for adults to fix problems. That's a basic difference.

Re-framing is a very powerful tool. It is the ability to ask, "What's the real question here?" Or "What does it mean on this level? On this level?" In "Aftermath" the author, in my opinion, has taken this to potentially destructive and counter-productive levels.

Caveat #1: Susan Brison has survived something that might well have killed me, and has survived the aftermath, which could have destroyed many people. She has done this with courage and insight. She has my absolute respect.

Caveat #2: However she phrases it, she survives the aftermath by telling stories, re-framing the question, not seeking meaning so much as creating it. She is, like any of us, telling this story with respect for the remembered beliefs of her pre-trauma self and with the constant reinforcement of her peers.

Two of the things she did to make herself feel comfortable were to lobby her employer to make changes- lights in the parking area, locks on a door at the gym. Not bad things.

But she describes these things as acts of autonomy. They aren't, they are acts of dependence. They are asking for succor from a paternalistic exterior entity. They are delegating responsibility for her safety... and she is deciding to see it as autonomy. (Honestly, it irks me a little that throughout she writes about the uncaring masculine-centered establishment but her first instinct is to turn to the same establishment and demand that it make her feel more comfortable). By deciding to see it as autonomy, she is telling herself a story, and (this is what I fear and why I would never recommend this book to a rape survivor) convincing herself that there is no difference between strength and growth from within and security provided by others.

The difference is huge.

Not everyone writes their stories with an eye to peer reinforcement. Kai writes:

"I have felt so empty because I won't force my identity into the story I feel compelled by other people's expectations to tell. I am left with "I don't know. I did this and I am this regardless." And they hate it: I contradict their world view both by existing and by refusing to tell their story as my own. "

That is a lonely road, but it requires and creates strength from within.

Identity Crisis

He loves martial arts, likes fighting, loves his job and deep down I think he loves teaching... when he's not in dry-mouthed sweaty terror at the thought of teaching.

He volunteers to teach, speaks well with a group of other instructors, but I can guarantee that if he is scheduled to teach, I'll get a call in the middle of the night as he talks about his issues and tries to work out the fear. I'll play counselor for the phone call, but frankly, it's starting to get old.

Then on The Day, it's hard line: You're teaching.

"No way. You make me teach and I'll walk right out that door."
"Then do it, but never pretend you want to be a teacher again. Always remember you ran away scared."
"This isn't my choice. I have issues."
"Running away like a scaredy-cat little girl is always a choice."
"That's not fair."
"Scaredy cat."

There's something fundamentally wrong about using grade-school insults to motivate a middle-aged tough guy cop. But it works, so I'll keep doing it.

So he teaches. And he does well. And he asks me how he did and I say, "Very well" and he says, "No, really, tell me the truth..."

It's getting old.

I understand there are phobias, real phobias. Jeff hit an acute acrophobia (heights) episode traversing a pit in a cave. But when things are this dragged out, this scripted, I can't help but feel that the person is protecting their identity- that they have told the story in their heads so much that losing the fear would involve a major change in their self-image. People will do almost anything to avoid change, even imaginary change.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Telling Stories

Patterns, reality maps, world views are all critical and far-reaching things. They are our models for how the world works and we rely on them to predict and control and live in the world. Know this: they not only describe what we think the world is, they also describe who we think we are.

Sometimes the model is altered. This is simply learning. I was wrong, X is possible, so X is added to the map where Y used to be. You can discover that you were stronger or weaker than you expected. You can learn about the world and you can learn about yourself.

Sometimes the model is shattered.

I'm reading "Aftermath" by Susan Brison. It is about her on-going recovery from an incident of rape and attempted murder. It is fascinating and important, but not necessarily on the surface. In other words, I wouldn't recommend this book to a rape survivor, but I would to a rape counselor.

In this book, regardless of the author's intent, I am reading as she takes a world map that has been shattered to the point that her entire identity is altered unrecognizably (isn't that the same as destroyed?) and she puts it back together. She tells herself a story, by trial and error, piece by piece, each painstakingly tied to the things that she remembers were important to her before the attack with the goal that it will all make sense.

This is why I can't recommend it to another rape survivor: "each painstakingly tied to the things that she remembers were important to her before the attack". Before the attack she was an academic, a philosopher, politically active... the story she is telling herself pays tribute to and is carefully tied to her memory of the way the "real" (pre-assault) Professor Brison thought, believed and what she valued. Where it is hopelessly inadequate e.g. "The free intellect will see as God might see, without a here and now, without hopes and fears, without the trammels of customary beliefs and traditional prejudices, calmly, dispassionately, in the sole and exclusive desire of knowledge- as impersonal, as purely contemplative as it is possible for man to attain." - Bertran Russell.

This is the ideal of the academic philosopher and it is inadequate even in the chaos of normal interaction with normal people. It is ludicrous in the aftermath of soul-shattering violence. The author, in very strict academic style, works to bridge the gap between what she experienced and what she feels about it and the way she has been taught is proper to think. She builds the bridge carefully and the book, so far, is a wonderful example of bridge building... but it is not a bridge, I think, that many could use.

The world is a big place, and our lives are complex beyond imagining and fun and challenging and sweet. We are who we are; but our identity, who we think we are, is a beautiful and fragile work of art. It is a story we tell ourselves.

But this is the truth- the world is big and we are small. There are things and events that can crush us like bugs on a windshield. No matter who we are. No matter how much we train. No matter what weapons we own and carry or how well we pay attention. For most of us it will never matter and we can continue to tell our beautiful stories. For many (for all, in the end) the story ends in death and the destruction of the identity coincides with the physical destruction of themselves, a closure and oblivion. For a very few, the fragile construct of the identity is destroyed but the body lives. And they must tell a new story, must create a world view and an identity where there is some plot logic. And they will tie the story to the things that are supposed to make sense. And they will use extreme mental gymnastics and sometimes very twisted logic to tie it into a neat little package.

Who can exist without their constructed identity? That's the goal, right Mac? To be the self without needing the identity. To experience without needing a story.

Imagine an ant hill and an eight-year-old with a magnifying glass and firecrackers. The ants have their culture, their history. They are the Invincible Army. They are the Chosen of the Creator. They are the Summit of Evolution. And they are burned and blasted by forces beyond their understanding, beyond their control or prediction... by an eight-year-old.

What story do the survivors tell? They will tell one, and it will make sense if you don't look at it too closely. Their world will be shattered and so will their identity, but they will weave a new one with a story.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nothing to Say

This blog is all about me. A few friends know about it and I've referenced it in a few places when I was too lazy to repeat myself, but even if you are a very close friend I'm not writing here for you.

My entry to blogging was an accident- I wanted to register to make a comment and offer a resource to a friend. Registering created this page. I didn't use it for awhile. Then...The very first entry was about the aftermath of a Use of Force and waiting for blood tests to see if I'd been exposed to HIV or Hep in a somewhat bloody fight.

It wasn't about the readers, the few friends or the random strangers who have drifted across Chiron. It was for me, because there was stuff I needed to get out of my head. I was still going to poke at it, I just wanted to poke at it somewhere other than internally.

It's been very good for me and right now, in this moment and place, there's nothing in my head I need to get out. This corner of the world is safe and sane.

Be well.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


An officer approached me today. He'd taken a DT class from me last week and wanted me to know how disturbed and uncomfortable he was with the material. At the end of class we'd gone over (slowly, deliberately, safely, yet thoroughly) how to break a neck. It's a lethal technique for a situation where lethal force is required. It made him uncomfortable- that we would teach it, that it would work and most of all the feel of putting it on me and slowly applying power to the point of no return.

(There is a technique that I have used extensively in judo and seen in wrestling and MMA that is relatively quick, simple and reliable. It leads to a choke hold. However, it bypasses two neck breaks that are easier, faster and simpler to get to than that 'winning' choke. The first of the bypassed neck breaks is what we taught.)

In his day-to-day job, this man is surrounded by criminals. He works where they have access to tools and weapons. He says that he has no problem doing "anything it takes to survive" but he makes a pistol with his fingers as he says it. Part of doing "anything it takes" involves training. Part of doing "anything it takes" involves getting used to discomfort.

Shooting, I think, is easier to fantasize about because it is more visual than tactile. The feelings of shooting are a hard object in your hand, a little resistance at your finger and a sharp jerk of recoil. There's not a lot of sweat and fear smell and slipperiness and stretching or popping. The sounds of shooting are loud but sharp (but at twenty five yards with a .45 I have heard the separate slap of the bullet hitting the target and that would be a terrible sound in flesh.) The sounds of fighting and hurting at close range are quieter but more enotional- the melon thump of head on concrete, the bell tone of head into a steel counter, the rip/crunch of a body slammed into drywall, the gasping and sometimes screaming or gurgling, the tears, snaps and rips of tissues parting. And let's not get into smells, I like the smell of shooting.

I know that this officer isn't one of our "meat eaters". He's not the guy to call if you have a riot brewing or a PCP freak going bad- but I'm disturbed. Disturbed that he can believe that doing something will be easy, but that training to do it is hard and uncomfortable. That he believes he will have an easier time doing something in a fraction of a second when he is terrified that he can barely force himself to do with coaching and in safety.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there is a certain percentage of people who can be squeamish, hesitant and inattentive in training and turn into technically superb tigers in combat. But I doubt it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Convention

It's strange to be rested again, to be awake and alert and engaged. It's a good feeling, and very powerful. It's been a day of sweat and tears (no blood, yet, and the tears were about growth and coming from a man facing sixty years who needed to deal with his own life as it is, not rail against an unfair world). Predators captured (and maybe one learned a little bit about being a man), deputies counseled, loved ones fed. Even when tired and distracted, I do a pretty good job. Today was ...better. Cool.

Once a year, my wife drags me to the Oregon Science Fiction Convention. She writes and paints and organizes and generally gets much done while making people feel very good about themselves. She shines at these events and I love to watch her as she checks her artwork for bids and puts in hours behind the scenes so that the things she runs appear to go off without a hitch, effortlessly.

In the past, my role has always been ornamental- she hangs on my arm and I strive to look good. The last two years, though, she has volunteered me to sit on panels (mostly dealing with violence or crime, my specialties) and teach a martial arts introduction in the morning for the handful of people who wake up early enough.

THE ATMOSPHERE always makes me a bit uncomfortable. There are a lot of Klingons and fairies and pirates, and I don't have a problem with that, but there's an earnest attempt to both be weird and find a group that appreciates the weirdness and is weird in the same way... it always strikes me as a group of iconoclasts who are afraid to be alone. Herd animals who desperately want to believe that they are eagles. There are exceptions of course and I count many of those friends. The professional writers tend to be intelligent, business-like and bitterly sarcastic, which is really fun. There are artists and singers and a few scientists, not as many as there used to be. There are writer wannabes (some of whom are fantasizing and some are working and it's easy to tell the difference). So, obviously all the good stuff happens in the bar.

PANELING: The basic idea is that a handful of experts get in front of a room and talk about a subject and answer questions from the audience. The audience is theoretically composed of a mix of fans who wish to be more informed and wannabe professionals who are trying to learn more information to give their writing or art some substance. Lets just say that the standard for what qualifies as an expert can be pretty low. On one panel we had an MD in the audience who knew more about the subject than all the panelists combined. On the other hand, in other panels we had some people who thought they knew more about the subject than the whole panel combined, yet somehow had failed to master basic hygiene.

1) Sitting on a panel that is about the future possibilities of drugs and medication an author, Steve Perry said, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a pill that would make you stronger, look better and live longer?" The audience nodded or clapped approval and he cut 'em down, "Well there is. It's called 'eat right and exercise' and most of you aren't taking it."
2) Same panel and one of the audience members started explaining that poor quality food made people stupid, which in turn made them vote for Republicans which caused the problems of the whole world. Hmm. I thought it was watching television and reading fiction. Which I said out loud. To an author.
3) Getting two very brave and untrained women to not only practice infighting but to try it blindfolded. The wild grin when someone realizes how much they already know and can sense is a very precious thing.
4) Discussing bureaucratic lines of information, requirements for effective peaceful resistance, abuses of teaching power, the dynamics of dependent students and so much more with Michael and Asher.
5) Hearing of a long-time friend's early childhood in a famous suicide cult and all the questions it brought on.
6) Fine scotch and good conversation with M&K on everything from bodices to evil to social blindness to... if I'd only drank less, I'd remember more. But I remember the very warm glow of being with a couple that I like and admire very, very much.
7) Watching my daughter make friends with another young woman who was clearly also a high functioning autistic- listening to their careful words and watching precise and rehearsed body language as they expressed their natures through what must at times seem an alien language of etiquette and protocol.
8) CS's first con and her insights and wicked humor.
More- furry tails and Xena costumes and corsets that I am afraid will give me nightmares about being chased and smothered by a pair of vanilla pudding-monsters; and a kind professional author who saw my weariness as I stepped in to watch over an obligation my wife couldn't make and said, "You just relax. We're pros. We know what to do."

THE QUESTIONS: my old Friday student was there. We get together when we can, but we both live well out of town and her business no longer brings her to town so we don't get to work out much or let our brains play off each other like before. I miss that, as much for the questions as for the answers.
1) "If we're all going to die and our students are going to die, what is the point of teaching?" "I have no idea. I thought you had the answer to that one." "Nope." "Oh well."
2) Is an abusive teacher or a cult leader an example of predation or parasitism or symbiosis?
3) If Jim Jones caused the death by suicide of 914 cult members but he led all of them to full enlightenment in the moments before they drank the koolaid, was it a good thing? Still evil? So what?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Too Early to Call

Tired. Tired at heart, tired to the bone. Soul tired. Third consecutive day of running from "o dark thirty" until after midnight.

I want to call her, but it's too early. She won't be home yet and I can't interrupt what she is doing right now. When I'm hurt or have walked too close to a gaping maw of dark human experience or am just soooo tired... I want to hear her voice.

The nature of this life is that often there is no time to heal or rest. This needs to be done now. That needs to be done immediately. Tomorrow is another set of obligations. Whether it hurts to walk or my shoulder won't stay in the socket as I type or I'm so tired that I slur simple words, those are only data points and things need to be done. Lots was done today, much of it for her. More will be done tomorrow, most of that for the agency. Sometime in between I will snatch three or maybe four hours of fitfull sleep.

I want to hear her voice. Even if I can't really carry on a conversation and have to have one ear on the radio and possibly type reports or look up criminals at the same time, I just want to hear her murmurring in my ear, talking about her day, prattling if she wants.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


In a mass casualty situation one of the most critical operations is triage. The most skilled medic doesn't work treatment, he or she is assigned to triage. He does a quick primary survey, cursory secondary survey, as much as needed, no more and drops a tag- Red, Yellow, Green, or Black- then moves on.

The treatment medics follow up, Red patients first.

I want to go into detail here, because Triage is a critical and cold-hearted business. The ones who make the most noise or are in the most pain aren't necessarily the ones who need to be treated first. The ones who tug at your heart, especially the children, can't influence the decision. Time is critical and the time it takes to ease the pain of a Yellow tag may make the difference between a Red and Black tag for someone else. But that would be an aside, I want to write about something else.

The Categories: Immediate (Red- we can save the casualty if we act quickly enough); Delayed (Yellow- he won't die if we spend an hour or so on the Reds); Minimal (Green- the patient will be okay and can probably help with treating others); Expectant (Black- don't waste the resources, he's going to die).

The Black category gives a lot of people, including medical professionals, trouble. People who have trained their entire adult lives to save people have a really hard time turning away, and no one deep down really believes in a hopeless case. It's made even harder because in practical experience, there is almost no such thing as an Expectant case. As long as there is any sign of life, and sometimes even beyond, ER surgeons and trauma teams and paramedics in the field will move heaven and earth to keep tissues oxygenated and nodes firing. Even in cases of advanced and inoperable cancer the hospice system gives help and medication to ease the pain of the last days.

Although I think that is going too far when a dying eighty year old man wants a steak and a slug of bourbon and his nurse says it's bad for his heart. Ahem.

The Black tag means that you are moving on and leaving the person to die.

It may sound horrible, but it's even worse than that, because the triage model is driven as much by resources as it is by injury. With medevac and an operating theater available an abdominal perforation might not even rate a Red tag. Ab wounds are bad, but if there's not much bleeding the person can live for hours. Remove the medevac and make it a twelve hour stretcher carry to an LZ and the patient gets the Black tag.

With unlimited resources there are no Expectant patients. As resources dry up or numbers of caualties increase, things that could have been Red or Yellow become Black.

The Triage Officer has to know all this and has to be able to make these decisions, even if the decisions suck. If someone is going to die anyway, do you give them morphine to ease their pain? Only if you have morphine to spare, otherwise it goes to someone who has to remain still for an operation.

This is another thing about life- about letting go, about following the military maxim not to reinforce failure. There is a delicate balance in what I'm trying to say here. Medical triage exists in a place of limited time and limited resources and great demands. Most of your life doesn't. If you are willing to make the plan and do the work, you can amass almost any resources that you will ever need to make something happen.

But sometimes not. Sometimes in friendships that have turned to something else, sometimes in public policy, sometimes in trying to help someone who doesn't want to be helped, you have to drop the Black tag and move on.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"It's a Hard Thing to Say..."

When your partner is screwing up, how do you tell your supervisor?

M had that problem yesterday and I was his supervisor. Luck, and the fact that everything I needed to see was right in front of my face, saved him from having to find the words.

"I'll talk to him."

Then talking to him. The partner knew right away it could be bad: he pre-empted any scolding, confessed to everything, made his excuses.

Aside: this wasn't some big cover-up or crime or evil-doing. The partner just wasn't doing his job. Distracted by problems at home, he was leaving his partner to carry the weight.

Partners in high risk professions are a special thing. I've written about it before- race, religion, background, politics all mean nothing next to the simple fact of trust. I trust this person to cover my back. I trust him to pull my stupid ass out of there when and if I make the Big Mistake. It can grow and spread, this trust- I trust my regular partners to cover my play. I trust them not to get me killed by being stupid (making mistakes happens. Being stupid is confusing your ego with the job).

A very few presume on this and take it too far. The worst expect their partners to actually switch sides and cover up criminal activity. This rarely flies- I'm thinking cops here- all but the most naive, inexperienced or willfully stupid have watched criminals for a long time and know how criminals act and think and recognize it quickly when their partner starts making excuses or rationalizations like a criminal does. If the communication is good, it ends right there. If the communication is poor it eventually gets kicked up to a supervisor or Internal Affairs.

More basic and more common is just simple slacking, leaving your partner to do your work.

Home is important. Every supervisor I've ever respected has made a point of telling the deputies that home is more important than work. Yet problems at home shouldn't bleed over into work. When you are at home, you need to be at home. When you are at work, you need to be at work. Because you need your full attention with this job, and half-assed commitment leads to half-assed decisions which leads to costly mistakes... and you can't take care of problems at home if you don't make it home.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Drawing a Blank

Making the list for the last entry I had to go through my dayplanner/journal. An entry struck me (I'll change the name here, but nothing else):

IJ- Dorm 12 felt bad right away- Charles pulled out one w/ a weapon and a bloody fight later. No HIR. I had to run the dorm hard for a bit, then do investigations. Interesting and challenging investigation. All good. Good busy day

I have absolutely no memory of any of these events. Weapons, bloody fights, intuition keying in early... interesting and challenging usually means that the inmates wanted to play the "I don't talk to cops" game but told me everything voluntarily... but I don't remember.

Pretty odd life when a weapon and criminals and a bloody fight add up to 'good busy day', but aren't enough to leave a mark on the memory.

And this was just the afternoon. We had a tactical call out in the morning and I do remember forcing my assistant to act as Team Leader and the "Reverse Pinochio". The Reverse Pinochio, however, can only be discussed over good scotch with close friends.

Behind Quota

There's information here, if you choose to read deep, but this post is just for me.
I try to read two books a week, or about eight a month or a hundred a year.
So far, this year:

The City of God
The Commando Workout
Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief
The Society of Captives
Jujutsu- Legacy of the Samurai
The Souls of Black Folk
Unlimited Power
Instant Psychopharmacology
Dare to be Great (Lecture on tape. Not very good)
Love and Be Loved (Came with the other one. Even worse)
Mental Aerobics (How the hell does crap like this get published?)
How to Win Friends and Influence People (re-read)
Dark Dreams
Sanchin Kata (in manuscript, not yet published. By Kris Wilder)
Elizabeth I: CEO
Protecting the Gift
The Zombie Survival Guide
The Way of the Scout (I love Tom Brown's writing, but this... let's just say 'improbable')
Histories of Tacitus
Getting Started as a Freelance Writer
Portraits of Guilt
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cultural Etiquette
Writing About Your Life
Go Rin No Sho (re-read, the Book of Five Rings)
Pagan Dances of Caherbarnagh
A Man on the Moon (History of the Apollo missions. Excellent)
21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
The Thin Man
The Man Who Listens to Horses
Handbook of Magazine Article Writing
High Impact Jiu-jitsu (Written by Don Jacobs. Horrible book, great martial artist)
Colored People
Judo Skilss and Techniques
I Know What the Caged Bird Feels
The Path of the Warrior (very weak book on ethics in policing)
Blue at the Mizzen
Stratego Low Light Manual
Krav Maga
Ex Libris
Zodiac Arch
Eyeing the Flash
Way of the Peaceful Warrior (gack)
Emotional Vampires
The Dancing Wu Li Masters (Unbelievably misrepresentation of both physics and the Tao)
Sharpe's Rifles (re-read, one of the small sets of fiction I really like)
Because He Could
The Changing Sky
Heart and Soul of Ireland
I Could do Anything if I Only Knew What it Was
Deep Survival
Shocknife manual and Safety literature
Fooled by Randomness
Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity
Dead Clients Don't Pay
Bad Fads
Tactical Pistol Shooting
Signal Zero (must read for anyone who believes in the 'police personality')
Warrior Queens
Stoic warriors
Heart of Karate-do
IAU Procedures
Martial Arts: The Way of Family Tradition (one of 3 books in Soul of the Samurai)
Soul of the Samurai (The other two books didn't deserve separate entries)
Roughing It (Mark Twain is a genius. The Nevada part should be a TV series)
Taoist Chi gong
The Code of the Streets
A Dragon Apparent
The Face of Battle
Napoleon Hill's 17 Keys to Success
The Strangest of Strange Unsolved Mysteries (this sort of book was more fun when I was 10)
The Weather Channel Presents: Tornados
The Life of the Last Prophet

So that's seventy-five. I don't think I'll finish twenty-five in the next month and a half.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Conscious Professionals

Reading "Acts of War, the Behavior of Men in Battle" by Richard Holmes. Some things jelled, thoughts scattered among the sections read this morning.

That going into battle is a fundamental conflict between basic survival needs and social needs. You can get killed in battle. Your animal mind knows this. But the part of your mind that knows that you are part of a group or society is stronger. For the average soldier, showing fear is a bigger concern than dying.

Yet it is, for most people, the small society of comrades- the squad, the fire team, the unit- that demands this kind of loyalty and sacrifice...

Yet the battle itself is for the good of a larger society that is not present (this is arguable, as people quibble over their petty ideas of what a war is or should be about, what is 'good' for society. Nation-states, corporations or terrorists organizations are organic, in a way, and 'good' can't be defined teleologically. What the organism or organization is willing to fight for is what is it's own perspective of it's own 'good' at the time, rightly or wrongly.)...

What percentage of soldiers or warriors consciously decide that the battle is for the good of society as a whole and voluntarily take the job, eyes wide open?

How is this percentage perceived by the soldier who are concerned only with not appearing as cowards? Is there a separation? How great is the gulf?

How much greater is the gulf between these conscious professionals and the ones they protect, the ones who stay home?

And does this come full circle, that the people most willing to die for the good of others are the ones most contempuous of the society of sheep that they protect?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Leadership Epiphany

This came as a sudden insight last night, but deep down it's probably something that everyone knows.

In an open dorm, some inmates have trouble bedding down at lights out and being quiet. Imagine a sleep-over of teenagers, most of whom are violent criminals. The swing shift officers want to pass a quiet dorm on to graveyard. Most of the time it's fairly smooth, but sometimes not.

Last night it was a back-up call. The dorm wouldn't quiet down. The officer was flashing the lights, yelling and threatening. The sergeant in charge of the sector informed the dorm that they would all lose walk time tomorrow.

I just stood by, watching as the loudest was handcuffed and taken to the "hole". The deputies left with that inmate and I started to walk out too, then there was a bunch of cat calls.

Nope. Not acceptable. I went back in the dorm, alone, and pulled up a chair next to the loudest cubicle and just sat there. They quieted down. Every place I looked at quieted down. For fifteen minutes I just sat and one by one the inmates drifted off to sleep or read their books. A few nodded thanks (inmates like the dorms clean, quiet and safe just as much as the officers do). No arguments, no disciplinary action, no threats, not even any instructions. Just being there was enough.

By my definition, it was what leadership is supposed to be- people wanting to do what needs to be done.

It occured to me that leadership requires physical presence. You have to be there. You can't lead from a far away office any more than an officer can control inmates through a speaker in the wall. The people you are trying to lead HAVE to see you. There can be no leadership from a distant headquarters building or comfy corner office. At best, that can rise to the level of management. Leaders must be seen.

Just as important, you must be seen being the way you want your troops to be. You want them to work hard, they must see you go the extra mile. You want them to be respectful, they must see you showing respect. You want them to be conscientious, they have to occassionally see you clean up the break room or pick up trash when it's not your job.

This kind of leadership isn't limited- politeness, respect, work ethics- can all be contagious without a supervisor/subordinate relationship.

And it can backfire just as bad, even without direct presence- when leaders are shown morally weak or lazy or angry (all the things that make the paper) that is what the people you are trying to lead see. The best reject the leader, the worst use his behavior as an excuse to live down to that level.

You must be seen.

You must be seen as you want others to be.

That simple.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Let us stop talking falsely now...

...The hour's getting late."

What is your responsibility when you see a martial arts instructor teaching his students how to get killed?

My answer is a cop-out. It's achingly true and deadly accurate, but it is a cop-out: Not one martial artist in a hundred, maybe a thousand, will ever use this stuff and the fantasy is more valuable to them than reality.

In my heart of heart I hope that the information I put out will fall on the one person who needs it. I hope that the people who come to me for lessons or seminars or lectures will be the people who think in possibilities and costs and odds and tactics.

But it's not true and never has been. Looking out over a mat full of eager martial artists, almost every damn one of them is just picking up details for a private fantasy. If you've ever been an adolescent male you know the fantasies, too: saving the beautiful woman from her abusive boyfriend or stalker ex-boyfriend in the bar and she asks you to see her safely home; or saving the beautiful scared woman from the gang with your steely eyes and efficient, deadly kung-fu.

What are they really getting from me? When they lie awake fantasizing later that night, the gang leader with the knife won't do the wild slash they practiced in martial arts class, he'll do the close range stab I say is more likely, more real. But each gang member will still attack one at a time and lose.

Instead of dispatching the ex-boyfriend with a spectacular crescent kick it will be a leverage point, elbow strike, spine drop with a little thought thrown into the legal justification and maybe an extra scene where he deals with the police cooly and professionally, winning even more admiration from the damsel in distress.

Training competitors is different. I don't have a lot to offer people training for competition- there are better coaches who understand the rules and how to use them than I do- but they know why they are training and it is real.

And I like talking to authors about violence because they know that they deal in fantasy and the best writers work hard to make the fantasy as true as possible. No illusions there.

Cops, of course. My core student base.

But the pure martial artist is the one I have the hardest time with. There is something odd about choosing "playing at violence" as a hobby. It's not real violence because you work hard not to hurt people and yet kicking people in the head or slamming them into the ground is, undeniably, violence. Play violence as a hobby. The martial artists I like working with this have felt the oddity of this concept and are moving from a hobby to a study.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Beating Up Children

The weekend started a little strangely. We have a brand-new jail completely empty. The voters passed the levy to build it, but the people who run the county decided not to even allow a vote for the money to run it. Great big empty clean jail that doesn't smell like criminals.

Someone got the really cool idea of letting the Boy Scouts hold an over-nighter there. Even cooler, someone decided to have a group of deputies give brief little classes on what Law Enforcement does... but only the cool stuff: K9, night vision, special weapons...

I was asked to do the DT (defensive tactics) portion. Six twenty-minute classes for 40-50 Boy Scouts.

You can't give a refresher to an experienced officer in twenty minutes. A 1:50 instructor/student ratio? With children? I like children but even privately I won't teach them.

(Aside re: "Not teaching children". At its most basic, what I teach is about violence, fear and damage. Percentage increases in chances of surviving moments of real chaos and real evil. Kids don't understand that and more importantly it's not even healthy for them to learn of that world unless they are already secure in a separate, real and loving world. Very few kids can accept or understand the responsibility of taking a life or maiming another human--hell, if they can accept and understand it, they aren't kids anymore. The deepest reason, though comes in two parts- children can be affected on a deeper level than all but the most damaged of adults. A good teacher can become parent/love object/messiah to a child all too easily simply by caring and paying attention. That kind of power scares me. The second aspect is that I prefer students that already have a base of knowledge and experience, who are for the most part formed. I want to interact, not to mold. I want to give them tools and insights and not personalities. I want teaching and learning to be a partnership.)

Anyway, fully aware that this was just a step beyond babysitting and more entertainment than instruction, I agreed.

I arrived at the site and something was wrong. Sounds of shrieking and laughing and running penetrated the concrete block walls of the jail. I met the lieutenant inside. He said, "There was a slight miscommunication. Remember I said Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts, mostly fourteen to eighteen? It turns out they're Bobcats, Cub Scouts and Webelos. Ages are mostly six to nine. You OK with that?" Hmmmm.

The Chief Deputy took me aside later, "I trust you and everything, but you might have to modify your terminology a bit."

"No cussing, sir. Got it."

"I actually meant don't say anything like, 'tear his arm off and stick the wet end up his ass' or describing 'the wet ripping noise of tissue parting'."

"Except for that one zombie movie I don't think I've ever advocated using a dismembered..."

"Rory..." in the warning voice.

"Yes sir."

I went to check out the DT room and saw a herd of munchkins who had gotten into some of the training equipment- some were dressed in grossly over sized pieces of HighGear armor with padded batons and kicking shield- running all over the mat beating merry living hell out of each other with no adult supervision whatsoever. Adults were there, but they surely weren't supervising.

"At ease!" I yelled, "No shoes on the mats!" They seemed startled, but scrambled to get their shoes off. Half hour to kick off time. If I left them alone, they'd wreck the place.

"All right, gentleman. We're stuck here for a half hour. You wanna screw around or you want to learn something?"

"Learn something!" they shrieked. Shrieking seemed the basic mode of communication. So I got the entire group of them, as well as a couple of dads and others that drifted in playing at a sparring flow drill. By the end of half an hour they were working on blindfolded infighting. Not bad. One learning moment: A kid asked me if I worked there and I said I did. He asked what I did and I said, "Mostly, I beat people up for a living."

The kid started running around to all his friends, "This guy has the coolest job! He beats people up all day!" Some of the parents looked disapproving.

There was a brief ceremony before things kicked off where the Sheriff administered the oath of office and swore in the kids as junior deputies. I remember my oath of office pretty well, but I seemed to have forgotten the parts about doing my homework and listening to my parents.

Then the classes. First a talk about how fighting isn't like on TV and cops have to fight one of two ways, either putting handcuffs on someone without injuring them or fighting for their life. Then, if they were well-behaved (and only one group of the very youngest didn't seem up to it) the sparring flow drill. Then back to talking: "Okay, gentleman, the next part is all about PAIN. Who wants to learn about pain?'

"Yeahhh!!!!!" While the parents, especially the moms, cringed in the background.

Some pressure points, maybe elbow locks. "I don't want to hear about anybody using these on their little brothers or sisters or keeping everybody awake all night practicing. To make extra sure, I'm going to show your parents the pressure points I'm not showing you, including the one that will give you a headache for three days."

"Show us the headache one!"
"I won't use it, I promise."
"Can you make people go to sleep like the Vulcan neck pinch?"
"Show us that."
"No. I don't even know you."

Two kids over the course of the night took a concept I'd presented and ran with it. One took the elbow lock principles and applied it to the knee all on his own. The other realized he didn't have to use his hands for locks, he could get the same effect with his legs or belly. I announced that these two young men were my heroes for the night for thinking for themselves. One of the kids started glowing and presented every idea he come up with after that to me as a precious gift. Most of them were good, too.

At one point, showing them how to use a philtrum point to unpeel a wrestler, I realized that the kids were too small to get the really spectacular effects that you can get with adults. "I usually beat up adults. I need more practice beating up children." Unfortunately, I used my outside voice. One of the moms looked pretty horrified.

It was fun, in its own weird way. My ears are still ringing a bit and it might be days before my voice comes back completely, but the time was good.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Don't Give Me No Hand Me Down...

The trouble with thinking all the time, the trouble with being the only species that uses symbols to stand in for objects is that the symbols can have more power and impact than the objects they represent.

Symbols are important and powerful and they can be good. Mathematical models allow us to sometimes predict the future. Without words and pictures there could be no communication or history or teaching. I will never see Marcus Aurelias or Castiglione or DaVinci or Lao Tsu but through the power of symbol I have their words and pictures, little pieces of their minds. The ability to argue and fight and die and kill over things that have no real meaning seems tragic, but it is also the same passion for things not yet real that will some day bring humanity (and life itself) to the stars.

Due to the press of time, our own specialization and the complexity of the world, we trust the symbols of the experts. We take the word of scientists about very small and very large things. We take the word of doctors about our bodies. We take the word of farmers and teachers and bus drivers and cops on the things we don't know, don't have time to learn or will never directly experience.

There is a thing that gathers a lot of symbols. I don't care whether you call it 'meaning' or 'god' or 'religion' or 'life'. But as real as it is, it surrounds you and permeates every aspect of your world. It is the one thing that if you look has always been there, something you have direct experience of. You do not and have never needed someone else to explain it to you. You deserve better than a second hand god.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bonding Over a Corpse

There are things that are supposed to be filled with power and mystery, big events of Life and Death that are supposed to have this huge and never-ending impact on how you see the world and how it relates to you. Some of it's true, some of it's not. Sometimes it's what you expected and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the expectation is more real and more powerful than the event. Sometimes....

Long ago a relatively ingenious killer was paralyzed from the waist down during his arrest. Not wishing to go to prison for the rest of his life as a paraplegic, he looped an end of his sheet around the base of his hospital bed, threaded the sheet through the rails and looped the other end around his neck. He then used the bed's motorized controls to raise himself to a sitting position, strangling himself.

The body was discovered within a half hour and I was tasked to watch the body. To block the door, keep an eye on the crime scene and allow no one to enter or touch anything until the investigators got there. I stared at the corpse for hours until the detectives and the ME got their and did their thing. First professional body. Should have been a big deal. I don't remember who the ME was and just remember that the detective was really professional. My most detailed memory is of the report.

The SAR body recovery was important because it hit me right between the eyes afterwards that I no longer had much in common with regular people. But the event itself was different. One of the enforcement deputies was so freaked by the condition of the corpse that he called for a "critical incident debriefing". That's basically a group therapy session for people who have been through "interesting times". It can be useful. This one was led by two detectives. It became clear, right away, that the veteran SAR 'kids' had seen more bodies and more nasty ones, than either of the detectives. So it was: a man with brains splattered on a cloud -wept evening; a deputy so freaked he was demanding psychological help; an SAR rookie (me) toying with meaning and more disturbed by the reaction of friends than by the dead; and the SAR veterans, two young women, probably no more than twenty years old who are comparing this body to many others in terms of "ick" and "smell" and the sheer danger of recovery and wondering why they were wasting their afternoon. It wasn't the same event and didn't have the same meaning to anyone there.

I saw someone the other day. She was smoking outside the jail. A couple of years ago we stood in the driveway while detectives and the ME examined the body of a woman who had shot herself in the head. The woman was a friend of ours and a co-worker. We talked that day and hugged and reminisced. Then I went back to work, back to watching my deputies and listening to them and maybe listening a little harder for any words that might be hints about dark times. The smoking woman didn't go back to work, not for a long time. She was 'too stressed'.

So I saw her the other day. If you had asked me ten years ago what would happen if two people spent hours over the corpse of a friend, I would have said that some kind of bond would be forged. I was wrong. We shared a moment, nothing more. There is no connection, no similarity, no bond.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


The inmate first approached me early in the shift with a yellow medical form. He stated that he was paranoid and was afraid he would hurt somebody (he flexed his chest when he said that) and needed to be given a cell all his own.

"You aren't paranoid," I said.

"I am too. People make me uncomfortable. I've been dignosed."

"If you were paranoid, you wouldn't have walked up to me, you wouldn't be standing this close, you wouldn't be making eye contact... your body language and voice are all wrong... and anyway, where'd you get the idea that jail was supposed to be comfortable?"

"Well, maybe I'm a little close but it's really hard for me to do it."

"Whatever. Put in your kite (any written request in the jail is called a 'kite'). Address it to me. We'll discuss you at the team meeting day after tomorrow."

"You aren't going to move me now?"

Just a flicker in his eyes- for half a second he considered doing something stupid, then chose to avoid the pain.

In my few minutes of free time over the next hours, I ran the inmate. No psych history. Claimed to be a gangmember and thoroughly dangerous fellow. Throws chairs when he's upset. Sex offender. The last was probably key, he was afraid his charges would get out. Maybe.

Fifteen minutes to end of shift and a horn sounds, strobe lights flash and solid steel door after solid steel door slams shut with a crash. Fire alarm.

I was running for the weasel's dorm before Central announced where the alarm originated. The puke had reached over the officer's desk and pulled the fire alarm. I was there first, the only officer. The puke was standing by the officer's desk and 74 other inmates watched from their bunks...

And the puke did nothing, just turned around and put his hands behind his back. I wanted him to fight. I knew he was too much of a coward- that's why he wanted out of the dorm so bad. But I really wanted him to fight. Something about his behavior made me despise him and I wanted to hurt him. But I was a professional. I did call him a coward when we were alone in a cell later and I was describing the disciplinary process. He just flexed, trying to be hard. I though about how easily his bones would break.

Anger is rare for for me. It's been a long time since someone pushed my buttons this thoroughly. Long ago, when I was dealing with adolescent emotions, my brother told me that you never hated anyone unless they reminded you of you. He was right, at least for takes a lot of closeness to make it personal for me. (RIP, Rick, and thanks).

So, did this puke remind me of me? A little. He had an ability to carry out a plan and manipulate the situation he was in to get exactly what he wanted. That's part of what made me angry, this ability to plan only being used for his own benefit. That's it though. I didn't hate him.

So what were the buttons? Entitlement. That he felt he should get what he wanted and if he had to inconvenience over a thousand people to get it, he didn't give a shit. Inconsistancy- he wanted to be a tough guy but did everything he could to avoid any hint of danger, damage or fear. And the cowardice itself, which just makes my skin crawl.

Hmmm.... and what are the three virtues I most prize? Mystery solved.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Two incidents today, (one for sure, one probable) of inmates manipulating staff. The volunteer instructor for the writing class had contact information for an inmate's relatives and had agreed to make contact. That's an old game, an old con and it usually ends very, very badly but there is the tiniest chance that she really had gathered the information in case the anthology was published.

The other one was a professional who should have known better. We work in a crowded jail. We have large dorms set aside for inmates with mental health issues. Some of those beds get filled by inmates without mental health issues due to crowding. Most of the time, it's not much of a problem- the 'normal' inmate realizes he's in a "crazy ward" and wants to get out, which happens as soon as a bed opens up. Some times it's an immediate problem, where the 'normal' inmate throws a fit and tries to bully his way out... so he goes to the hole. The worst, though, are the fairly sophisticated criminal who realizes that the psych dorms are relatively calm, quiet and a very safe and easy pool of victims who can be threatened or scammed for drugs, food or other favors and services. These predators will fake psychiatric issues or just request to remain there.

One of the staff members suggested that we keep an inmate in the mental health dorm who wasn't classified to mental health. We do that frequently, classifying some as "stabilizers" who can model mature and sane behavior and others as "PC" protective custody, inmates who because of size, gender identity or charges might be in danger in a normal dorm.

The staff member said that the inmate had requested to stay in the dorm because he was a federal inmate who was being hounded by the Attorney General because of a personal grudge based on a bar he used to own in the Pacific Northwest. Furthermore, the inmate claimed he had been living the high life as a fugitive south of the border for about a decade and was afraid it would hit the news. He thought he might need protective custody if he was on the news.

Let me get this straight- Alberto Gonzalez, the USAG has time for a personal feud with a two-bit dealer on the West Coast? Furthermore, the dealer feels that if other inmates find out he's been having fun in Mexico while evading US custody he's going to be hated? He'd be a celebrity. It's not just that the staffer fell for a story, we all fall for stories... but this was a stupid, illogical, senseless story. The staff member was gamed.

Here's something that even some experienced members of the law enforcemenet and criminal research fields miss:

Criminals do not see you as a person. They see you as a resource.

Not just the super predators, the violent robbers, the rapists, that ilk. The average low level hustler, the conman, the dealer and the prostitute sees you as a source for stuff that they want. Money. A feeling of power. A few minutes or a few days amusement.

They have no more feeling for you than you have for the can that your soup came in.

It's harsh, and so alien a view point that even right in your face, most people deny it. But it is a fact. If you are a really good, caring, compassionate person the person who rapes and murders you or robs you or cons you will not feel worse about it than if you were an asshole. If anything, he'll be happier because you made it easier. Like the soup cans with the pull tabs.

If one of two people had to die, an innocent child or a multiple murderer and you were forced to choose, you would use one of two criteria. Either you would decide who most deserved to die (whose absence would cost the world least) , in which case the murderer would be executed or you would decide who most deserved to live (whose presence would benefit the world more) in which case... the murderer would be executed.

A criminal's thought process would be totally different. One of them has to die? Which would be easiest and safest? The murderer might kill me back. Kill the child.

It's not quite that simple. Criminals live in society and most know the words to blend in. You have to read their secret journals or listen in when they think they are alone to catch them openly thinking like this- but you can see the tracks of this decision making process in every aspect of their lives.

Also, they aren't always stupid and can weigh the social repercussions of their actions- in which case they would execute the murderer so that they could blend in.

Years ago a new nurse- kind, loving and compassionate- asked my advice. She wanted to take an inmate home and wondered if she would get in trouble. Duh, yeah. Fired. She explained that the inmate was a "really sweet girl" who had never been in trouble before and had no family and no place to stay... she got all this right from the inmate who had "no reason to lie" and had no idea the nurse was thinking about offering her a place to stay. When dealing with criminals, always check facts.

I brought the nurse over to the computer and ran the "really sweet girl"'s extensive criminal history over the past ten years. Drugs, theft, prostitution, domestic violence... she'd lied about every last detail and nearly gotten a really nice person to throw away her career on a good deed just so she could have access to a home, a place to shoot, money through theft, intimidation or (once the nurse realized she could be fired) blackmail. Gamed.


At one of the Mental Health Team meetings last week, the senior counselor noted in passing that an inmate was no longer with us. He'd been sentenced to two years prison time for burglary.

"He couldn't have been much of a burglar," Ed blurted out, "The dude is stone blind."

Which reminded me of Zippy. Used to come to jail alot, a talkative young man in a wheel chair. He was usually quick witted and funny, but sometimes sullen and he could be a real ass.

He's been in a lot lately. I could have looked it up, but I decided to just ask: "Zippy, why do you keep coming to jail? You're in a wheelchair, what kind of crimes can you do?"

"I usually come in on UUMV, sarge. Stealin' cars."

"You steal cars?"

"Nah. But my friends, they know I'm bored, see, so they take me along when they go joy-ridin'. When the cops show up, they all run off, but I can't run so they leave me there. I get charged with posession of the stolen motor vehicle."

"Zippy, you need some better friends. They just leave you there?"

"That's all right, sarge. What jails gonna hold me tighter than this chair?" He'd been flip and funny and laughing until this sentence, and there was a little glimmer of anger or resentment, something dark. He could stare at his walls and watch TV in his chair at jail just as well as at home.

With my dedicated, military "no man left behind" background I'd expected him to feel anger at his friends betrayal, but he felt greatful for the hours of excitement.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Moral Victory

Here's a simple, ugly truth with a lot of important conotations. People are almost never physically beaten. They give up.

There are exceptions. Sometimes in cases of "excited delerium" the threat (who is often on drugs, withdrawing from drugs and/or has a history of severe psychiatric issues) will literally fight until his heart gives out. Occassionally you break enough bones that the person can't move or do enough damage to the central nervous system that the threat is shut down completely, but it's rare.

Even most "knockouts" are, in my opinion, a matter of heart. I've been hit just right and left dizzy and puking for three days; hit so hard that my helmet broke off and flew across the room; but only once did I lose consciousness and that was for only a second... but I lost consciousness twice more in the next two hours, sign of severe brain trauma. The "get hit, fall asleep for awhile, fine later" Hollywood knockout doesn't happen, in my opinion. It can seem like that, because I've seen it happen with strikes that really shouldn't have caused any damage, but in the incidents I can remember the person knocked out was essentially a coward who didn't want to be there. The "knockout" gave an honorable excuse to stop and leave. IMO.

So fights are won, usually, because someone gave up. I'm finishing John Keegan's "The Face of Battle" and he makes a similar statement about battles and wars. "It requires, if it is to take place, a mutual and sustained act of will by two contending parties, and if it is to result in decision, the moral collapse of one of them. How protracted the act of will must be, and how complete that moral collapse..."

Fighting, from the nastiest smelliest jailhouse brawl to WWII is an act of will. A contest that unless complete destruction happens is only ended when one side gives up. When they suffer a moral collapse.

Moral, in this sense, is not about ethics but about will, esprit, morale and a feeling of righteousness and duty, patriotism and honor. It is this sense of 'moral' that Napoleon was referring to when he said, "In war, the moral is to the physical as three to one."

Losing sight of this is a common modern weakness. I know some of our soldiers. They are hard working, dedicated, well-trained and mostly well-led. Despite facing insurgents who can hide in crowds and have access to advantages of appearance and language and local customs our soldier are kicking ass... and they are also making friends, if you read their e-mails.

By every objective standard- body count, territory held- we are winning, spectacularly. Urban anti-guerrilla warfare is about the most dangerous possible infantry situation. In any other place and time in a similar situation, the American casualties would be astronomical. In one year (1968) in Vietnam we lost 1,919 men to non-hostile actions- accidents and diseases*. Using stats from an anti-war website: in Iraq, from from the Iraqi election 1/31/05 until now, nearly 21 months, there have been 1360 killed. Objectively, in a given year, we lost more troops by accident in Vietnam in a year than we lost by all sources combined in 21 months in Iraq. But that's objective.

What we lose sight of is that war isn't objective. Conflict at any level is psychological and 'moral'. The winner and loser in this war will have nothing to do with the body count or the technology or the efficiencies or the training. The side that loses will be the side that gives up. The side that says 'uncle'. That side will walk away with its tail between its legs and the other side will congratulate themselves on a moral victory.

I usually try to avoid politics- I voted for people who have access to more information than me. The majority of the people voted for person X, so he gets the information and it's his job to make the decision. But right now it's as if groups of people- political parties, the media, all the usual boogie men, are lining up to try to sap our moral fiber, to make America feel ashamed for acting when no one else would (though, if you count the number of UN resolutions everyone seemed to think that somebody should do something, like the neighbors who watched when Kitty Genovese was stabbed). Will, in any form, scares them. People with will stand up. People with will make decisions and right wrongs. People with will are not sheep who will blindly listen to their newscasts and vote for the media's sheep-friendly picks.

Is this the great battle of the 21st century? When I was a kid, it was Communism versus Capitalism. Later, more subtle and sophisticated, it was Collectivism versus the Individual. Is it now as simple as sheep and their herders against Men? Is the eventual goal of the shepherds to destroy will itself? The victory we need is a moral one.

*14,594 killed by enemy action for a total of 16,511 US soldiers killed in 1968.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Duty to Act

There have been several local "in-custody" deaths in the last little while, each of them stirring up their own cadres of pundits and Monday-morning quarterbacks and armchair experts. One of the commentators described one situation: the officers see someone behaving strangely and when the officer approached, the mentally disturbed person ran. The injuries that resulted in his death came from the tackle and force used to end the chase.

The commentator asked a very good question: Was it necessary to chase the person in the first place?

Lots of things come together in that question, important things that describe part of the rift in perception between emergency services personnel and citizens. The biggest may be the concept of "Duty to Act".

Let's say you see someone in your front yard, acting strangely, staring and shouting and singing songs about John Lennon and Satan. Instead of calling 911, you go out on your front porch and yell, "Hey! What are you doing? Get out of my yard!" The EDP (emotionally disturbed person) takes off and runs. As a citizen , you've solved the problem. He may be in somebody else's yard, but he's not in yours. You aren't responsible for him or for his actions.

The officer has a duty to act. This can be really specific or really vague depending on the policies of an individual agency and current tactical training. One way of thinking about it is that once an issue comes to the officer's attention, he's not only responsible for what he does, but for what happens if he does nothing.

Crazy guy runs and leaves a citizen's yard because the citizen yelled, fine. Crazy guy then slaughters a few people at the neighbor's house, no liability or responsibility to the citizen.

The officer has to think of consequences- crazy running guy might launch himself in front of a bus. Or hurt some one else. Or be wanted for a previous crime. Or just desperately need psychiatric meds.

There are clues, too. Most people don't run at the approach of an officer, hence it's reasonable to believe that if someone runs, there is a reason. The reason might be a mental stability issue, in which case the officer may need to get them to medical help. It may be because the runner has a warrant out for his arrest (no one wants to be the officer/agency who let Ted Bundy go because they didn't take the time to check for warrants). It may be because he has weapons or drugs on him that he is afraid they will find...

So the officer chases, and it is reasonable.

(Caveat- local readers will know the particular case I'm referring to. I don't have any insider knowledge or special insight to decide or even clarify the right or wrong of the issue. I'm not writing about that. I am writing about the differences in perception between officers and the people that they protect.)

People have been fed a half-lie that violence only breeds more violence. In order for someone to start to use violence as a tool, they must see violence and they must see that violence works. That much is true.

In that narrow sense it is true that someone who has never seen violence will not think to indulge in it, therefore violence can not come from non-violence, therefore violence can only come from violence therefore violence breeds violence. It is one of those sweet, logically valid (and hence true in a philosophical sense) ideas which is utterly and completely wacked. Because everybody sees violence, whether it is a bird pulling a worm out of the ground or a cat playing with a mouse. Since times before life, since the first complex molecule absorbed another simpler one, violence has been with us.

In general, peaceful and non-violent places are more pleasant for most people. I believe there are huge costs, but most people would rather live in a city where they felt safe than live in a city where they felt fear. Unfortunately, people without fear make great victims and attract predators (the dodo were wiped out because they weren't afraid of people and they were good eatin'). A second unfortunate fact is that most people, especially peaceful people are often reluctant to use violence even in the defense of their communities... and when they do, they tend to suck at it. They are amateurs.

The most damning aspect of the violence-breeds-violence platitude is that in most cases, violence (force) is the only thing that can stop violence. Appeasement just allows the violent to get more, rewarding their violence. Ostracision just makes them feel righteous in victimizing the ostracizers and proving that the shunned are important. Trying to "fix" the psychological make-up either 1) gives the violent more tools and excuses (self-esteem training has been shown to make criminals MORE violent) or 2) fails because the violent don't see themselves as having a problem. Since when was being stronger and more dangerous a problem?

That leaves Force as the only viable means to stop immediate violence (some other things can work, if given time, but most require more time than exists in a violent crisis).

Hmm, the problem. Need force, but society at large is both reluctant and ill-equipped (psychologically) to deliver it. The solution: create a group who are trained and prepared to use force for the good of society.

This creates an incredible gap in understanding between society and society's defenders. A citizen who hits someone with a stick is breaking the law (usually) and more important, going against their socialization. The officer may be required to hit someone with a stick. Or shoot. A citizen handcuffs you and throws you in the back of the van, it's kidnapping. An officer does it and it's an arrest.

This is especially hard in America. We've been trained from the time we are little that everyone is the same and all rules should apply to all people, but it doesn't work. Football games need refs. Lifeguards need to be able to swim into "off limits" areas to rescue people.

And the system has worked to an amazing level. Fewer people are touched by violence than ever before. That brings it's own problems, as people try to analyze and even judge an act and environment that they have no understanding of. Some try, extrapolating from schoolyard fights in the distant past or what they've seen on TV or read in "true crime" books, but it is very weak extrapolation. It allows some of the craziest myths and misinformation and really dumb ideas to be given currency.

It's a gap of understanding.