Who’s looking out for you?

I don’t care much for Bill O’Reilly, but I have to give him credit: he’s a bulldog on some issues where we need one, and he has a great ear for phrases. And one of his catchphrases, one he used for one of his books, is “who’s looking out for you?”

It’s an important question, one that we should very, very carefully consider — especially in light of the Virginia Tech massacre.

First up, also in the “credit where credit is due” department, I have to give praise to Dafydd ab Hugh. His piece on the shooting is a phenomenal read, and inspired this one to a large degree — because there was one element he did not discuss.

Imagine yourself in one of those classrooms. There’s a murderer heading your way, heavily armed and intent on killing all he can. He’s not targeting you, specifically, just anyone who’s convenient — and that just happens to be you.

Who’s looking out for you?

Let’s start off with the police.

They’re not there. They are on campus, but they’re on the other end. The gunman is a hell of a lot closer than they are, and there is no way they’re going to get there before him.

Even more fundamentally, they don’t have to do a damned thing. There are several legal precedents that say that the police have absolutely no responsibility to protect individuals. They are charged with protecting society as a whole. So while the police might help you, and — having known a few police officers — almost certainly will do all they can to help you, there is absolutely no guarantee they will, or even try.

So you can’t depend on the police.

Then there’s the college itself. The college has asserted its sovereignty over its campus. It is the sole arbiter of who can and can not enter, and what they can and can not bring with them. They have decreed that no firearms (excluding those carried by law enforcement officers, and other similar circumstances) shall be brought within its ivied halls. With no threat of attack, there is no need for defense. They are making an implicit guarantee: you don’t need to protect yourself, because we are already protecting you.

It’s a promise they have no business making, because they have no ability to keep it.

The college’s rule against weapons is a hollow thing. It is enforced solely by sanctions and social pressures, not force. Anyone determined enough to violate that rule can do so with impunity.

Your professors can’t protect you. Liviu Librescu survived the Nazis and did help save some, but he was one old man. His heroism deserves all the praise we can bestow upon his memory, and more, but sadly the world is not filled with Liviu Librescus.

Your parents can’t protect you. They’re far away from your classroom.

Your classmates can’t protect you. They’ve put all their faith in the institutions and systems and structures cited above, and have had their ferocity and aggression relentlessly repressed. They’ve been taught to avoid confrontation, to eschew violence, to seek alternate methods of conflict resolution — none of which amount to a tinker’s damn when that conflict insists on confronting you, and won’t take appeasement or appeals to reason or pleas for mercy.

The military can’t protect you. They don’t “do” law enforcement. They’re specifically forbidden, by law, to do such within the United States.

God won’t protect you — at least not directly. It’s been a very long time since He’s intervened directly and openly into the affairs of the world. A “bolt from the blue” would certainly resolve the situation, but it’s a thin reed to cling to.

Bill O’Reilly won’t protect you. He’s in New York, doing what he does best — being a blowhard for the TV cameras. He’ll might raise holy hell after the fact, but that does you damned little good now.

So, in the end, who’s looking out for you? There’s only one person who you can depend on to protect you.


As Dafydd points out, one of the definitions of “militia” is “all able-bodied adults.” I’d expand that into “able-bodied and willing adults,” because will is a critical element in the equation.

You need the will to defend yourself — and, by extension, others and society as a whole.

Liviu Librescu, born and raised in a foreign land, who never served one day in the armed services of the United States, died a member of the United States militia. He never wore our country’s uniform, took no oath to serve, was issued no weapon — but when the time came, he saw his duty and did it.

The heroes of Flight 93 would recognize him, and welcome him as a brother. They, too, saw their duty and gave their lives in fulfilling it.

So, keep that in mind when you think about the people, the groups, the institutions that have pledged to protect you, to keep you safe. They are well-meaning, they are effective, they are to be honored — but in the end, they are fallible. They are imperfect. In the end, the last line of defense you have is yourself. You may not be able to choose whether you live or die, but at least you’ll know you did all you could.

And even if you die, you will not be forgotten. You will have served as a powerful example, and your legacy will be those who remember you and draw strength and courage from your deeds.

Liviu Librescu.

Todd Beamer.

Mark Bingham.

Tom Burnett.

Remember them, as men — as Americans — who entrusted their safety to institutions greater than themselves. As men — as Americans — who were failed by those intitutions who had pledged to protect the. As men — as Americans — who did not give up when confronted with death. As men — as Americans — who chose to die, so that others might live.

Sometimes I wonder how we are worthy of such people. But my opinion isn’t that important. They thought we were. The burden is upon us to prove them right.

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