Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When To Take A Stand

I am my father's child. I vividly remember the day my father explained the workings of a handgun to me. I was nine years old. " It kicks" he said. He turned over the kitchen table one autumn afternoon at 415 Delaware Place, and we knelt behind it. If I ever had to shoot someone, my father said, I'd better mean it. "The only reason you EVER point a gun at someone is if you are ready to kill them. And it isn't like a video game. They don't come back." The day my dad became chief of homeland security, I remembered his words to me. He was a smart man. Because of this one lesson, I was not curious about guns. I regarded them as weapons capable of terrible things. Guns were to be respected. You never wanted to have to use a gun.

As a child, I often asked my father if he had ever shot or arrested anyone. The answer was always the same. " What do you want to know that for?" followed by a serious " No" which always ended my inquiry. I knew better than to keep pushing.

Even as a child, I knew that there was a very real threat to my family. My dad had dealt blows to some pretty serious bad guys. When he became chief of homeland security, he was assigned a bodyguard. Every morning the guard came and picked up my dad for work. He once drove me downtown to interview for a position as a lobbyist. He was such an incredibly nice person.

When I was little, a stranger once forced open the sliding glass door near the dining room while I was home alone. The intruder ran away, and I ran upstairs and covered my ears as the alarm blared. The wireless telephone was in my hand, and the lady on the other end was telling me to " Keep calm." The police were on the way. My heart was exploding within my chest. What could I fight with? Could I escape from the window? Could I outrun him if it came down to it? Did he have a gun or a knife?

My father's job was a source of pride, and of fear. I loved attending events with my family, during which I met foreign dignitaries, but I was afraid of the dark. Afraid of the things that happened to people in the dark.

With my father, everything was a lesson- a lesson in preparedness. Our play was rough. I was not allowed to cry when I scraped a knee or burned a finger.

When I was six years old, my father taught me to ride a bike by taking me to the top of the hill at Banniker Park and pushing me off the edge. And I learned. I learned to learn quickly.

I studied martial arts as a child, and I remember being pitted against a 250 pound man. I was afraid of him because of his size. I knew that I was about to be pummeled by the ogre coming at me. I knew that I would lose. Yet, a great deal of martial arts is about learning fearlessness...or learning to think through fear.

In the end, I was disqualified from my fight with the ogre b/c I wasn't fighting fair. I was kicking at his crotch, and I readied myself to claw out his eyes. I was 10, and he was about 50. It wasn't designed to be a fair fight from the start!

" No fight is ever a fair fight," my teacher said. I also learned in that fight, to never expect an adult to rescue me. In a real fight, the odds may be stacked against you. When that giant ogre lunged at me, I made it very clear that although he would win in the end, I would probably take an eye or two. Why risk losing an eye over a spar with some crazy kid? The man retreated. The fight was mine.

So flash forward to November 26th, 2012 and there is a strange man barreling down our driveway. He's looking at me with predator eyes. I know this look. I know he thinks he has me cornered.

And so I scream.

It is a blood boiling scream and it attracts attention. He knows he is being watched now. He knows now that he has less time to carry out whatever he has planned. He knows that he will probably be identified now, because I have brought attention to him.

I scream again for my husband as I try to retreat back inside with our precious puppy.

As soon as the man sees my husband, he flees. He turns around and speeds off.

I won that fight too.

There is no sweeter victory than the taste of avoiding confrontation in the first place.

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