Dear Holly: What You Learned at Your Brother’s Karate Lesson

2 years, 9 months.

Dear Holly,

You had curiously yet quietly observed your brother’s karate lesson last Saturday morning.

So on Sunday afternoon, when I began trying to wrestle with you on the living room carpet, you shouted:

“Get your hands off me!”

You made it clear that you had listened well to the karate instructor when he explained how important it was to not only tell the person to stop hurting you, but also to announce it so everyone could hear.

A few days later, when I dropped you off at school, I even asked your teacher if you had shouted to any of your friends:

“Get your hands off me!”

To my surprise, you hadn’t.

But I think it’s only a matter on time.

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Jack: You Started Taking Karate Lessons at the Rec Center

8 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

Last Saturday, we drove around the corner to the rec center so you could start intro karate lessons.

The instructor called you up several times to help him demonstrate in front of the class on how to get out of certain attack holds.

He explained that the first action in self-defense is to verbally tell the person to stop.

His focus was on helping students to prevent a fight, as opposed to participating in one.

We are trying out this class over the next couple of months to see if you want to take it to the next level and enroll in an official karate studio.

I have a feeling that could easily be what ends up happening.

Love,

Daddy

Osama bin Laden is Dead and All I Can Think About are My (Still) Unresolved Convictions on Capital Punishment

It seems that this morning is an appropriate time to sort out my thoughts on concepts like “kill or be killed” and “deserving to die”.

Reading my Facebook friends’ comments the hour after Osama bin Laden was announced dead taught me two things: 1) They are glad someone finally caught him and killed him.  2) They are proud of our U.S. military for doing it.  As for myself, I feel the same way.  I also am somewhat comforted by the assumed concept that it’s morally okay to have wanted this man dead, and that we collectively as a nation do not feel any guilt for Osamba bin Laden’s death.

I would feel the same sense of relief knowing other antichrists were dead, had I lived in their era; the most obvious example being Adolph Hitler.  It’s my observation that while most American religious and political groups have no concrete collective agreements on capital punishment, it goes without saying that if a man is responsible for thousands of lives being lost in a war or political action which he led, then that man deserves to die.  And I agree.

What I am confused about isn’t whether or not we should want evil war tyrants dead.  The thing I have unresolved convictions about is the much smaller scale version of men like Osama bin Laden and Adolph Hitler.  What about serial killers who only kill 20 people, as opposed to 2 million?  How high does the body count have to get before the killer “deserves to die”?  Where is that conceptual line drawn that causes our American society to agree that a man needs to be killed?

I understand the inescapable concept of “kill or be killed”, as it applies to both war and self-defense.  What I find fascinating/confusing is knowing when it’s “okay” to kill a criminal, after he committed a horrible crime.  A month after a man killed and raped a dozen people, it is no longer self-defense or “kill or be killed”.   Once that murderer and rapist has been captured, can we kill him?  If not, would it be any different if he was a member of the enemy army in a war?

Probably, because it’s my observation that war justifies killing people who “deserve it”.  But when that same evil man who deserves to die is not fighting our nation as a whole, but instead is individually picking out individuals to kill and/or rape and he is not associated with al-Qaeda or Communism or a being a Nazi, we suddenly are reluctant to collectively agree to place them in the electric chair and remove them from our society to keep them from hurting anyone else.

Despite trying to understand my own beliefs and convictions on capital punishment and self-defense for over a year now, the death of Osama bin Laden doesn’t help much in removing the blurry haze clouding my mind on these issues. And maybe this is as clear as it will ever be in my head.  What do I believe?  I don’t know for sure.  What do you believe?

If this post was the least bit interesting or fascinating to you, I invite you to read its two prequels, by clicking on the titles below:

Capital Punishment, In Theory: Do You Support the Death Penalty Enough to Do It Yourself?

Self-Defense, In Theory

Self-Defense, In Theory

War.  Capital punishment.  Self-defense.  Protecting someone else from a deadly attack.  When is killing another person necessary?

In American culture, on a near daily basis, we hear or make comments jokingly threatening to kill someone or be killed: “Man, my wife is gonna kill me when she finds out I forgot to go by the bank today!” or “I could just strangle that kid!”  It’s so common we think nothing of it.  The idea of actually killing a person for some trivial offense is humorous, because committing murder is so serious of a crime, we obviously wouldn’t act out our off-hand remarks against some who has frustrated us.

But often, behind every joke is at least a little truth.  I know as a man, I sometimes have to calm my own emotions in events where a person offends or frustrates me.  Because in reality, I am wired to kill, as most men are.  It sounds more melodramatic than it is, and I’m not just saying it because Dexter is one of my favorite TV shows.  Since the beginning of time, men have been engaging in and defending themselves in war.  There is an “execution switch” in a man’s body that once it is turned on, it prepares the man for one sole action: Terminate the enemy.

In Capital Punishment, In Theory, I admitted that I don’t know that I have what it takes to fight in a war: I don’t know that I could kill another person, the enemy, when other than trying to kill me because I am trying to kill him, he could be another  law-abiding citizen who will do anything it takes to protect and care for his family because he loves them, including killing me.  In a way, the dictator of his country is forcing him to kill me.

Yet many men I’ve talked to told me they would be willing to kill someone in war before they could be an executioner of capital punishment.  Not me- I would be willing to pull the trigger, flip the switch, whatever necessary to kill a man who is a murderer or rapist; therefore preventing them from hurting other potential victims.  Other men are wired to terminate soldiers of enemy nations; therefore preventing them from hurting weaker nations, what I call “group self-defense”. And I’m sure there are some men that could do both.

There’s also the scenario of a man defending himself and/or his family- what if an armed man breaks in the house?  Is the man of the house willing to kill that armed shadowy stranger to protect himself and his family?

At some point, taking another human life has to be justified.  Whether as a nation or as individuals, if we never defended ourselves, we would be weak, foolish, defeated, and possibly dead ourselves.  It’s important as a man, who is wired to kill when absolutely necessary, to know which lines another person must cross in order to be worth losing his life.  For me, a man loses his right to live when he murders/attempts to murder or sexually assaults/attempts to sexually assault another person.

Because our nation has basically been fighting most of its wars on foreign land, the thought of “a good man killing a bad man” is pretty much a concept reserved for our military; on a different continent.  But I can’t just look outwardly; I have to look within our borders as well, at the men of the same race and religion as we are who prove they can’t live their lives without hurting their neighbors.  When is killing necessary?  Unfortunately, “never” is not a valid answer in the world we currently live in.

“Kill or be killed” is a tough law to live by; but mankind has been doing it for a long time now, premeditated or not.