Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bang Bang Bang

He’s someone from the old days I have coffee with now and then.  He sat there and told me about his plans to shoot a young woman in the head.

“I just finished ‘Orange is the New Black’ by Piper Kerman,”  he told me.  “I don’t believe everything she says but the description of these low level, non-violent female offenders and the lack of resources needed to change their situation is appalling.”  He just shook his head.  “I mean that’s just one side of it, but it makes you think.  So when the local college scheduled her to speak, I figured it was worth a twenty to hear her.”

I read the book too, and I suggest you add it to your reading list.  What I thought was more interesting than her prison life was her involvement with the justice system.  Ten years before she carried drug money from here to there, which frightened her straight and she was never again involved with crime.

Just one mistake she learned from and that was that.  She thought it was behind her but it wasn’t.

One day most of gang got rounded up, except for Mr. Big, and anyone involved at any level ended up in front of a judge.  She was white, had a good lawyer and agreed to testify in exchange for minimum security and a short sentence.  But that’s a side story you should read about in her book.

“The auditorium was sold out,” he continued, so the ushers came in and pushed everyone to the center to make room for the sold out attendance.  Some yutz in back of me was making sheep sounds in protest as he moved toward the center.  I don’t know, it just struck me as weird.“

“So while I’m sitting there thinking about the sheep whisperer in back of me, two Islamic women in abayas and hajabs made their way down the row three seats in front of me.  One was even wearing a face veil.  All you could see was her eyes.  It was alarming.  I couldn’t help thinking how could anyone identify this person when all you could see was were two eyes. You couldn’t even be sure it was a woman and not a small man.  They found seats almost directly in front of me.

“It seemed odd to me that two conservatively dressed Islamic women would be interested in Piper. Kerman’s talk.  I suspected her talk, based on the subtext of her book, would be about empowering women in prison to change their destiny.  That seems the exact opposite of Islam and donning the robe and veil to subject yourself to domination by men."

"Each of the women carried a hand bag the size of a large messenger bag and both bulged to capacity.  I couldn’t help wonder if this was the beginning of a terrorist attack.”

“Maybe they were just trying to get a reaction?” I suggested.

“Maybe and maybe not.”  He said.  “I remember my years at college, that was a long time ago, but people experimented. Drugs, sex, social behavior, new friends.  A lot of classmates found, or changed  or dropped religion.  Maybe it was organized by a jihadist movement as a soft probe to measure our will and response.

I couldn’t deny what he said.  I flashed back to an old, but post-911 newspaper article about a man who stood up during a flight and started praying to Allah.  The air marshals took him off a despite his pleas of “my religion requires me to pray…”  That was attributed to as a soft probe on airline security.

My friend stopped and we waited for the waitress to refill our coffee cups.  He just stared at the cup and I inspected the floor tiles next to my shoes.  I don’t consider this guy to be one of those high speed/low drag wannabe operators and I think of him as a solid guy, but it was more than a little weird to hear this

“So…”  he paused to glanced sideways to make sure the waitress was creating distance, “so I wondered what I would do if one or both of them jumped up with something in their hands and yelled ‘Allah Akbar!’”

It’s a scenario that’s been considered in FBI and DHS training programs.  It certainly had all the right elements, a crowded room filled with people. It was night and rainy, both of which would hamper rescue attempts. There is a special horror to think about young women blowing themselves up to make a statement.  And there was still the chance there would be a second attack designed to kill the first responders.  So I asked him, “What did you decide?”

“I had my little 5-shooter on my ankle.” he said.  “And from the seated position the draw would be easy.  I could grab the gun and start to standup during the draw.  I’d lean out across the row of seats in front of me and it would have been an easy one handed shot.  Of course I probably wouldn’t finish the draw before they detonated, but I sure was going to give it a shot.”

I don’t think he meant the pun.

“But it occurred to me what if I was wrong?  What if it was just a just a poorly thought out stunt by a couple of college goot-offs?  I could go to jail, perhaps be executed myself for shooting some girl in the back of the head.  I’ve got to tell you these thoughts had my stomach doing flip-flops.”

“Some stunt,” I told him.  “People would be killed in the panic of trying to escape that stunt.” I knew the auditorium he was talking about.  It’s very lovely, but a death trap to a panicked mob trying to escape with their lives.

“Well. I didn’t think of that, I just thought if they stood up with something in their hand and indicated they were about to select martyrdom, I shoot the one I thought was the most dangerous in the back of the head and then the second one if she moved.” 

“And you know,” he said looking at me, “After I decided what I would do, I felt pretty good about everything.”

“Well, I see nothing happened.  You’re here.  The paper didn’t report any incidents, so I guess all’s well that ends well.”

He took a long sip of his coffee, took out a pack of cigarettes from some Indian reservation and lit one up.  He took one drag and crushed it out in the dregs of his coffee cup.  “I’m trying to stop, but old habits…”

Standing, he slipped a five spot under his cup’s saucer.  “That ought to cover both coffees, but you know, I didn’t like having to make the decision.  I’m not sure anyone else would have stepped up if it had gone sideways.  I felt like I had no choice and these two women were going to decide my fate.”  

He turned and walked out without another word.  I always picture my friend with an over-developed sense of drama, but I have no doubt the essence of his story is true.

There’s no tactical content to my friend’s story.  But there is a message here about not over-reacting, about not letting your plan and preparation become self-fulfilling .  This blog and many others preach the gospel of self–reliance.  It’s a good gospel.  Just don’t let your preparations be the sole determining factor to your course of action.

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