When I use the term “good guy” what picture pops into your mind? In my brain those words bring a couple of pictures to mind, either a Gary Cooper type figure facing down a pack of hardened criminals or Superman facing down a major threat to mankind. I’d wager that you probably have similar pictures in your mind when you hear the term “good guy” and for similar reasons. Every story you’ve ever heard in your life has a “good guy” as the foundation of it. The “good guy” could be a cowboy armed only with a six gun against a pack of thugs, a moisture-farming orphan who turns out to be the last of an ancient order of warriors who can move things with their mind, the product of a radioactive bug bite, you name it. The archetype is sufficiently broad to comfortably house George Bailey using kindness and honesty to make a major difference in the lives of people in his community and Hit Girl using swords and machine guns to shred mobbed up gangsters into kibble. The story is always pretty much the same: The “good guy” is confronted by some evil or injustice, fights it, and prevails. The “good guy” may suffer quite a bit in the fight and may even lose his/her life in the process, but in the end their sacrifice is recognized and they are venerated as heroes.
Whether we realize it or not, we come to expect this to be the end result of trying to do the right thing, the brave thing…standing up to evil and fighting the good fight. And you know what? Sometimes it happens exactly like that.
This being the real world, though, sometimes it doesn’t. We’re usually the “good guy” in our own understanding of our life and if we find ourselves being assaulted by a criminal we tend to take for granted that we will be seen as the “good guy” in the situation and that the usual “good guy” treatment will be afforded to us by friends, acquaintances, the authorities and the press.
Officer Darren Wilson was unquestionably the “good guy”. I have yet to meet a police officer who got into the profession because they were interested in oppressing somebody. Sure, it’s possible for malevolent narcissists to end up with a badge and a uniform but the vast majority of police officers I know as friends, I’ve met at functions, or that I have interacted with in any capacity have been good people largely interested in helping others. I’ve watched police officers try to comfort crying children at an accident or crime scene, try to help rescue animals in some sort of trouble, and I’ve seen them insert themselves into dangerous situations to try and protect vulnerable people from harm. Hell, just prior to the incident that shattered his life Officer Wilson was trying to render whatever assistance he could to a child in medical distress while ensuring that proper EMS would arrive to take care of the little tike. People who busy themselves helping a little 2 year old girl with difficulty breathing aren’t out on the street looking to commit murder ten minutes later.
…and yet that’s exactly what was alleged about Officer Wilson.
I want you to take a few minutes to follow the link below and listen to the podcast found there.
It was apparently originally intended to be an interview with Massad Ayoob but it took an unexpected turn when George Zimmerman called in. Mr. Zimmerman has become the default cautionary tale of how badly a case of self defense can go wrong, but there’s a lot in the call that I’d wager you haven’t heard before, especially in regards to the consequences to even his extended family in the aftermath. Whatever your feelings on Mr. Zimmerman you should listen very carefully to the phone call linked above because I’ll wager you will learn some things you didn’t know.
The Zimmerman experience, thankfully, isn’t typical for self defense cases…yet. I say “yet” because there’s clearly a pattern emerging here where “community activists” and members of the press start spinning a “narrative” about what happened while the proper authorities are still investigating and not really saying anything. The “narrative” ends up all over the news and all over social media and the mob incitement begins in earnest without much hunger for the facts of the ongoing investigation. By the time facts do begin to trickle out the wildly incorrect “narrative” has ossified to the point where the actual fact of what took place is irrelevant. The original allegations against Mr. Zimmerman and Officer Wilson turned out to have been completely unsupported by any of the facts on the ground, but in the end the facts of what actually took place proved to be an ineffectual defense against the utter fertilizer spun as the original “narrative”.
Anyone reading this…or even the dude writing this…could end up on the business end of that sequence of events just as easily. Predators who use politics as their primary weapon are no less opportunistic or ruthless than predators who use knives, guns, or even fists. The weapon of politics may not be instantly lethal but as the examples of Officer Wilson and Mr. Zimmerman show, it can still utterly ruin you.
It would behoove every police officer and law abiding citizen to re-frame their thinking away from the typical “good guy” story and to prepare instead to be treated like the villain. If you know you stand a good chance of being the villain, does it make you more or less likely to intervene on behalf of a third party? Does it make you think about the language you might use in a tense situation?
To be clear, here, I’m not advocating living in fear of being railroaded to the point of simply surrendering to whatever violence some criminal screwhead is intent on subjecting you or other innocents to. I’m simply saying that we have to realize good intentions do not guarantee good outcomes and that if we’re smart we should take all reasonable measures to avoid being in a situation where we have to use force in the first place, and to minimize the impact to our life should we find ourselves forced to act when cornered by criminal violence. It’s to our benefit to understand well ahead of time what is at stake so that we have a clear understanding of how to best act in the moment to give us the best outcome.
Say you’re at a restaurant having lunch with a friend and you notice a couple of guys getting out of a car and pulling ski-masks over their faces. You note one has what appears to be a gun he quickly stuffs into his waistband. What do you do? Draw your legally carried concealed weapon and act quickly and decisively to ward off the would-be robbers? That certainly sounds noble, but are you really willing to put your life, your financial future, and even the lives and financial futures of your family members on the line to stop these guys?
These are not comfortable questions to ask yourself, but thinking these things through well in advance of the moment where you have to make a choice helps condition your response in the moment. In that moment you need to act without hesitation to fight or to get the hell out of there to have the best outcome possible.
Do not expect a ticker tape parade for doing the right thing. Understand the possibility that despite acting well within the boundaries of the law and any moral code that’s worth a damn you might still end up being the bad guy…and with that understanding think carefully about what you’re willing to risk. Take every possible precaution to minimize the damage done should it all go wrong for you. It’s a decidedly unpleasant process but if you undertake it I believe you will come out the other side with better odds of avoiding a tragic outcome.