just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness

The Skills of Disarmament

Published on 08/12/16
by randy


Yesterday my daughter-in-law was subjected to a militarized response to a high school altercation. A mentally disturbed student wielded a knife, refused to release his weapon upon command, and a security officer shot him. My daughter-in-law teaches at this school and was walking outside when she heard the commotion. She saw students frozen in shock, failing to take cover. With the alarm announcing lock down, she gathered twenty-three random students and tried to find a free room to mother hen them to. Her hands were shaking so violently she couldn’t lock the door and thanks to a fellow teacher, they secured themselves in a room of uncertainty.

Many of the students had cell phones so they could gradually start to make some sense of the situation. After an hour of lock down six officers abruptly entered the room, all guns drawn on them. Their force and authority of questioning was what she has been most terrorized by. She is a white teacher in a school of vast diversity, many of her students unsure if they’ll be forced to leave the country they were born in, many having only known their life experience in Reno. Fortunately, they all obeyed and none of the officers used their weapons. This was her first experience in having a loaded weapon pointed at her. She stayed in lock down with these students for three hours. She had not used a restroom since eight o’clock and they did not release until after three. She was afraid to leave the room for fear of gunfire. Finally, an officer with an assault weapon escorted her.

This story is still unfolding and I’m the first to admit we’re far from knowing what happened. No doubt, we’ll all weave our story according to our worldview. Currently, the student is in critical condition. The officer is suspended on paid leave. The students and faculty got a two hour delay from returning to school today. And we’ve all been terrorized by an incident that we hope we can learn from. So how can we have better outcomes in our reactive society?

The best action is always one that comes from experience, alignment, and the capacity to move with best intent for all and harm to none. It’s not easy and we don’t know if that’s what this officer did. Clearly, the mentally disturbed student violated a key rule: always respect authority, but always know there will be a time where it’s your duty to question authority. If someone’s holding a gun on you or has capacity to incarcerate you, best to do what they say. In the heat of emotion is no time to pose the question or resist. In 2003 our family attended a spiritual retreat with the Madison police force. We all grew in empathizing with the challenges faced in this difficult job. At that time I deepened my compassion for their work and vowed to always try to see any situation through their experience. Previous to this I had met traffic violations with my frustration. After hearing their challenges, whenever I was stopped I apologized for putting them in the position of having to approach a stranger, not knowing if they’re armed or not. I haven’t been issued a ticket since that retreat. Previous to our election I derided my disgust for Donald Trump. I have done this with Nixon, Reagan and G.W. Bush. However, once they’ve been awarded the authority to lock me up or kill me, perhaps best to temper my commentary. I’ve always found it puzzling how so many have shown lack of respect for our current President. I can think of several citizens I would have imprisoned for treason given their harmful behavior. Given Trump’s militaristic cabinet picks, I’d suggest to those comedians having a field day with him that they may want to show respect before their lives are made difficult.

I know what a militarized government feels like. In the late ’60’s I frequently visited Chicago. Mayor Daily had a police force beefed up from the convention riots and it was commonplace to be frisked given our longer hair. It was profiling. It wasn’t right. Yet, during that oppressive moment, it was no time to resist. I’ve counseled my sons to do what you can to stay out of people’s way. You never know what their experience is. Tragic results from road rage attest to this. Our family will never own a gun for a sense of protection. We’ve worked on our skills of non-resistance and disarmament. Statistics now show that the possession of a weapon in the home increases one’s risk of harm by 400%. If someone wants to steal my stuff and they have a weapon, I’m going to respect them as well. Again, all situations are different and all we can do is deepen our practice at holding our center for when the earthquake happens.

So today I mourn the fact that my daughter-in-law and her students were traumatized by having weapons drawn upon them. I meet the pain of the elderly grand parents trying to raise two very challenging boys. I mourn the guilt the school administrator feels who recently admitted this disturbed child to the classroom. Yet, she had no choice given budget constraints and law. I mourn the security officer plagued with how he could have handled this better. I mourn the child in critical condition from his gunshot wound. I mourn the deep suffering we experience when acting from fear and anger instead of love and justice. But most importantly, I ask what we’re doing to enhance our skills in disarmament? How do we train to more balanced living, making less of a mess of things, training the reactive mind to “Stop. Look. And then Move.”

As a family, community, nation and planet, our very survival depends upon our capacity to step from forceful reactivity to skilled disarmament. We must ask our president elect who he’ll have around him with these skills. Where did they get their training and what’s their resume in ending conflicts without violence? These are the real heroes to me. The last president I recall who had these sophisticated skills was JFK, thanks in large measure to the tremendous speech writing collaborative he had with Ted Sorenson. So, President Elect Trump, you’ve shown us your taste for surrounding yourself with fighters. You’ve declared your faith in military force over diplomacy. Yet, today, my question is, “Who will you have who has the skills to disarm?” I love America and my freedom. I know I have limited information. I know violence and war gets all the media attention. And today, I deeply want to know who has the skills that you obviously don’t possess, to disarm those people/nations who would seek to harm us. This is where our real power is. This is where training to alert, aware, balanced action always leads to best for all and harm to none.

That's it. What Next?

Please leave your comment so we know what you think about this article. Trackback URL: The Skills of Disarmament.