Like most Americans, I have been overwhelmed with sadness in the wake of the Orlando terrorist attacks. I wept for the loss of 49 people, and prayed for their families and the wounded still fighting for their lives. I shuddered when I learned that the terrorist who took these lives also scouted Downtown Disney for his attack, where my youngest daughter was on vacation the week he launched it. As I read about the fear and confusion that overtook the victims that Saturday night, I wondered how my own loved ones would react in the face of terror, especially my teenage daughters. The youngest victim in Orlando, Akyra Murray, was just 18 years old.
Fifteen years after 9/11, Americans have been shielded in many respects from this kind of tragic loss of life at the hands of radical Islam. While ISIS has killed thousands of innocents on its crusade through the Middle East, most Americans have stayed safe in their homes, living without regard for dangers half a world away. We have been blessed with more than a decade of peace at home, living in a free society without fear. But with the Boston bombing in 2013, the San Bernardino shootings in December, and now the Orlando attack, Islamist violence has come to our homeland.
Make no mistake: our enemies are here to stay. As long as we have leaders who refuse to call our enemies by name and recognize the role radical Islam plays in not just inspiring, but dictating violence; media who seeks to shift the blame; and a society that is unwilling to support once again taking the fight to the enemy overseas, these attacks will continue. Their leaders call for attacks against anyone who does not adhere to their religious views. We are at war, and that war is here at home.
So as parents, what can we do to protect and prepare our children for a world that is inherently less safe than when they were born we had hoped and prayed it would be?
Learn to Be Sheepdogs
In the film “American Sniper,” the biopic on the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, there’s a scene where Kyle’s father teaches him about the different types of people in the world—that we are all sheep, wolves, or sheepdogs. The scene (which you should watch) is based on an excerpt from a book by retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (which you should read). The best quote to describe the essay is:
If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath–a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.
I was raised in an area where gun ownership was commonplace, and my family has owned and operated firearms for as long as I can remember. I have held a concealed-carry permit in the past, and we have several rifles locked in a safe in our garage. My husband and I have spent years traveling in dangerous parts of the world where religious violence and heightened security are a part of daily life.
But while I would love to think I would know how to react if I faced an active shooter or even a home invader or an attacker on the street, I have to be honest about my preparedness before I can teach my kids what to do. The truth is, I don’t put nearly enough rounds down a range to be prepared to defend my family if the time came. While my husband and I have talked to my teens about how to fight a rapist, I’ve also never had a frank conversation with them about what to do if they are ever caught up in a terrorist attack.
Especially when my kids are daily in a gun-free zone (where even Howard Stern recognizes they will be less safe), it is my responsibility as a parent to make sure they know there is evil in the world, and be prepared to face it as best they can if, God forbid, the time ever comes.
If it does, I hope my family and I can react like Imran Yousuf, the former U.S. Marine and Pulse bouncer who remained calm in the face of gunfire and led dozens of people to safety during the attack. I hope they will learn from groups like the Pink Pistols, an LGBT self-defense organization that recognizes the “legal, safe, and responsible use of firearms for self-defense” is necessary to protect all communities from evil.
So don’t teach your children to be afraid. Teach them to be ready. Teach them to train. Teach them to serve. Teach them to identify evil, stare it straight in the face, and defend those weaker than themselves. Teach them to be sheepdogs.