This story has set me thinking.
To summarize: Man comes home to find his home burglarized. Man sees the burglar crawling out of his neighbor’s window. Man yells at the burglar to ‘Freeze’. Burglar does not freeze. Man fires handgun into the ground and repeats his command to freeze. Burglar freezes until cops come and arrest him. Man is charged with ‘reckless conduct’ which carries the same penalty as the burglar will get for his two counts of burglary.
What is wrong with this picture? So many things.
My first answer is obvious. The Man should not be charged with reckless conduct. He acted wisely, courageously, and responsibly. He stopped a burglar from getting away with his ill-gotten gains and also prevented the burglar from committing further burglaries, adding to the safety and security of his community. Bravo. On top of that, if the guy crawling out of his neighbor’s window had NOT been the burglar, the worst that would have happened is one citizen being detained by another for a few minutes. So, the Man was doubly responsible for not shooting the guy since there was no way for him to know for sure that the dude in the window was the burglar. Double bravo.
Yet, his actions do fall under the legal definition of reckless conduct. And I think I’m OK with a law against discharging firearms in residential neighborhoods. And I’m also OK with their being a law against detaining random people at the point of your gun. It gives the cops something to throw at the asshole being stupid with his legally owned guns. This result, however, I am not OK with.
So what to do? The answer, obviously, is to show some common sense. The Man should simply never have been charged. Someone in that police department or prosecutor’s office didn’t have the stones to take personal responsibility for the situation and simply say, ‘The Man acted properly, he shall not be charged.’
Yet, more objections can be raised. Am I really advocating that the law be selectively applied at the human whim of the government? I suppose I am. It’s not as bad as it sounds though. This selective application of the law is an inescapable effect of allowing ourselves to be ruled by laws.
We’re simply not capable of writing laws that would lead, mechanically, precisely, to the just outcome in every case. Can you imagine the wording of a law that would prohibit dickwads from firing their guns into the air in residential neighborhoods but yet would be granular enough to not catch the Man in their net?
It all comes down to actual humans applying common sense. Always.
A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He spotted a man below and reduced enough altitude to where the man could hear him and shouted: ‘Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but i don’t know where I am’. The man below replied, “You’re in a hot balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude”
“You must be an NCO”, said the balloonist
“I am, replied the NCO, “How did you Know?”
“Well, ” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct, but I’ve no idea what to make of your information, and I’m still lost. I won’t get to where I’m going with the information you gave me.”
The NCO below responded, “You must be an Officer”
“I am”, replied the balloonist, “but how did you know?”
” Well,” said the NCO, “you don’t know where your are or where you’re going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now somehow, it’s my fault.”
This happened in the Kuwaiti desert. It’s a story I’ve told to close friends and family.
Here it is for the rest of you.
After a week long exercise in the desert, the Udairi Range for those in the know, we had just finished the culminating event. The ODAs had performed a hit on a quarry and we were all standing around in the dark.
We were expecting the word when it came down. “You’ve been compromised, your vehicles are disabled. Here are the grids for your extraction point and for the route you’re to take to get there.”
My team leader, Mitchell, tapped in the first grid coordinate as fast as he could and we punched out into the night.
I had volunteered to carry the satellite radio. A little bit smaller than a kitchen drawer, it was very dense and heavy. I had my ruck built up already though, with a pocket for the radio close to my back and strapped in high.
The night was cold, even colder than was typical for a desert in Kuwait, the sky clear. Once we were about a kilometer out into the desert we stopped and performed a SLLS halt. (Stop, Look, Listen, Smell, prounounced ‘sills’) The purpose of such a halt is to get a feel for the area. To try and determine what is normal. To discover if you are alone.
All was well. Once the SLLS was complete, while the other five of us pulled security, Mitchell punched in the rest of the coordinates for our route. I heard him swear softly. We’d been given the longest route of anyone participating in the exercise. 47 kilometers. We had until the next night to get to our extraction point and traveling during the day was verboten.
I was worried. It had only been a klik or so, but I was already feeling the weight. I suspected that I might have over-estimated how many pounds I could carry. But what was I going to do? Ask someone else to do it? Not a chance.
We stood up and went on, curving out into the desert along the prescribed route. I pounded along, keeping up as best I could. Hot spots were developing on my feet.
A few hours later I was even more worried about my situation. I was keeping up alright but I was having trouble keeping my balance through the alternating bands of sand, softball sized rocks, and gravel. I knew that if I started falling it would be the end. I would have disgraced myself and my team.
Desperation was a growing pressure in my chest.
I muttered a prayer, asking God for help of some sort. It came to my mind that I should ask for a walking stick. I grinned to myself. Why not? If I was asking for help from a divine being, why not a walking stick in the middle of the most barren landscape I had ever seen?
It got worse. Clouds rolled in, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped.
Through the dust ahead of me I picked out a fenceline. I grimaced and steeled myself for the ordeal of either climbing over it with my pack on, if it was low, or taking the bloody thing off and putting it back on again on the other side. Neither prospect thrilled me.
I wondered, though, if one of the posts might not be persuaded to come loose and be pressed into service as that walking stick I’d been asking for. I’d seen fences in kuwait, some of the posts were made from lengths of PVC, others metal, others lengths of rattan. I was hoping for rattan.
As we got closer to the fence I realized it wasn’t a fence. There was only the one post. The men ahead of me walked on, past whatever it was sticking out of the sand.
I stopped, sweating there in the dark, and stared. It was the bottom half of a HMMV’s radio antenna. The half with the big brass threaded nut on the end. It stood there in the sand, heavy brass end down. It wasn’t even partially buried, it was balanced upright. I extended a finger and tapped it. It fell over.
I looked up and all around. The other men were dark hunchbacked shadows moving through the night.
I squatted down just far enough to snag the antenna and picked it up. Grasping it by the heavy brass end, tip on the ground, it reached to just above my waist. A perfect walking stick.
I muttered a brief prayer of incredulous thanks and moved on through the desert, aided by my walking stick. The wind and the weather got worse.
In the end we made good time and were the second of seven elements to reach the extraction point. I had blisters that covered the entire heel and ball of my foot. I walked very daintily for days after that exercise.
The “walking stick” is still in my equipment room.
On Thursday before my last drill weekend my wife started looking for a couple of twin mattresses and box springs for my two boys. We’re changing their sleeping arrangements. She found two for sale on KSL.com. A deal was struck. She and her mother showed up at the seller’s house with her dad’s pickup truck.
The seller rolled up his garage door to reveal a plethora of mattresses in heaps and rows filling his garage. There were the two twins on the front row.
But, lo and behold, a Certa King mattress presided over one corner of the stack.
“How much for that one?” my wife asked.
Because it had fallen on the ground at some point it was slightly smudged. For this reason, the seller said he would let it go for $95. An excellent price.
“I’d like to buy that one too,” says wife.
“Excellent,” says the seller.
“I only have the $100 dollars for the two twins but I can get you the other $95 later today.”
“Excellent,” again. Money was offered and received.
The two twins and the King, sadly, would not all fit in the pickup my wife and her mother had brought.
“Not to worry,” says the seller. “I will deliver all three tomorrow and you can give me the $95 for the king then.”
“Wonderful,” says my wife. “Thank you so much.”
“No problem,” says the seller.
The next day, Friday, comes and goes with many phone calls between wife and seller but no delivery. Wife starts to get a little nervous because she has paid $100 but has no mattresses.
This only ever happens once in a writer’s career. The first fanmail arrives and your world changes forever.
Maybe I’m making too big a deal of it. I don’t know. It feels like a big deal to me. There’s someone out there, whom I’ve never met, that likes the story I wrote. Likes it enough to go to the trouble of emailing me to tell me so.
The email in question came in on Jan 5 2012. It was short and to the point:
I just finished reading ‘Heuristic Algorithm and Reasoning Response Engine’ in E-arc of Armored and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. Thank you and keep up the good writing. I can’t wait to find more of your work.
He bought the e-arc of Armored from Baen, here: http://www.baenebooks.com Notice that there are many other e-books from other excellent Baen authors also available.
So, a huge shout out to my first fan, JM. Thanks dude, I will literally never forget you, creepy as that sounds.
If it makes you feel better I will probably never forget my first hatemail either. There’s no way to tell when it will happen but, given the nature of the internet, it surely will.
I’m kind of excited about that too.
As a culture we did that. We campaigned against it, vaccinated everyone we could and were ruthlessly efficient about it. As it’s prevalence began to fade we pursued it into the dark corners and vaccinated it out of existence. We never rested until it was gone gone gone.
We wiped it out. Not only did we wipe it out, we still have the vaccines and occasionally groups of people still get vaccinated against it. I, for one, have been inoculated and I bore the third eye for two weeks as proof. We have not forgotten.
I see racism following a very similar path.
Racism is by no means stamped out. We are not at the end of that struggle and since racism is an idea instead of a physical organism we may never see the end as we did with small pox.
But it is in the later stages of the stamping out process. I think we’re over the hump. Racism is retreating to the dark corners and we are pursuing it, ruthless as ever. I fervently believe that someday we’ll get it all.
Unfortunately we’re seeing a phenomena with the struggle against racism that we did not see with the one against smallpox. There are people who make a profit from the struggle rather than the cure.
Some folks take donations to help further their cause in the political fight against racism.
Some people sell things that purport to further the cause. Things that promote diversity and expand other people’s minds. Books, Music, Magazines, etc…
Some people simply enjoy a bit of positive notoriety and media buzz because of their penchant for speaking loudly and voluminously about the evils of racism.
All of these people, as truly angelic as some of their intentions may be, have a vested interest in racism as a going concern. They make money as long as racism is something that must be trumpeted from the rooftops and rabbleroused against.
Such people tend to see racism, or at least say they see racism, where there is none.
This is as damaging to the struggle against racism as it would have been had the pharmaceutical companies attempted to turn every cold, every flu, and every sniffle into a smallpox outbreak.
People would have stopped listening. They would have started to doubt the dangers of smallpox. Let’s not go there folks.
Racism is real. Let’s keep it that way.