Arise Heroes! Dulce Bellum Inexpertis! by Seth Tucker

Arise, Heroes! Dulce Bellum Inexpertis! [1]

by Seth Tucker

In 2007 I did something completely out of character, something necessitated by the purchase of a soft-sided camper that I planned on taking straightaway into mountain lion and grizzly country in Wyoming; I bought a kickass Glock-style handgun and an AR-15 rails for tactical flashlight and ACOG scope. This, after years of making fun of all the tough-guys I knew from my home town who liked to carry and who liked everyone to know they carried. I am trained with both weapons, the result of my service as an Army Paratrooper, and I figured I should go with what I knew. And I will admit—it did make me feel a little tougher—like I could take on anyone who made the terrible choice to cross me, be it wolf or man. Unfortunately, I know many men and women up in gun-country who think owning a gun makes them automatically twice as rough and tumble as they already think they are, which is exactly ten times tougher than they actually are. Me included. With this purchase, I had joined that community of numbskulls.

My online persona changed immediately, and automatically some NRA folks thought I simply had to be on their side now that I had a couple guns in my paranoia chest. And automatically, they thought, I would also be deploying my weapons on the side of righteousness.

What happened was the opposite: I became more careful and fearful and worried about guns, especially those in the hands of our law-abiding citizenry, and even more when it came to those good men and women who swear that if only there was a Good Guys With A Gun (GGWAG), we would all be safer.

The following is for you.[2]

I know real honest to god heroes exist out there somewhere. I do. We have even seen that bravery you swear exists in the past year, when a local citizen managed to wound the shooter in Southerland Springs (after the gunman had already killed nearly 30). I absolutely understand that there are good ex-soldiers, police, mercenaries, firefighters on the streets who are trained in gun play. But there are way more fraternity brothers, gun nuts, paranoids, anti-government zealots who have watched all the “good” cop movies and believe that is all the training they need to target and kill those dangerous folks who are out to destroy our freedoms and our very Caucasian way of life[3]. I was raised with guns, so I know what I am talking about—many gun owners feel fully prepared and duty-sworn to rise up and start blasting away at any terrorist or communist who might get in your way—they’ve even convinced themselves it would be fun.

I know you (the GGWAG) believe that it is your constitutional right to bravely bring your courageous heroism to bear, and you feel it is your duty as a big-time domestic hero to defend your fellow man with all you can muster gun-wise. But listen; let’s imagine, say, a dystopian future where anyone can pack heat indiscriminately and with eye-popping hostility, where going to a Starbucks on a Saturday afternoon might bring five or six law-abiding citizens (with guns strapped and open-carried), out of the thirty people there in the café; five or six men and women (but isn’t it always dudes who think this way? The answer is yes) who are ready to bust caps in asses to defend your freedom and their freedom as long as you agree they’ve earned it[4]. But listen! I’m on your side, heroes!

For you to believe this mythic fairytale so whole-heartedly, I have no doubt; and I know that if you believe in the good guy with a gun scenario, that you must also have trained long and hard for this perfect opportunity to showcase your skills, when a futuristic terrorist rises up in the back of this dystopian café with a 9mm and an AR-15[5] and begins tap-tap-tapping the men and women and children around him, I know that you would have to have been trained to calmly assess the situation, to put away belief-systems and bias and prejudice, so that when you return fire, you are not firing at the wrong person; for instance, that the black man with a do-rag and hoodie and a tricked-out AK, who has kicked over a table and is firing over it, is not the terrorist scum you have been waiting your whole life for, and that the Hispanic woman with the suspicious backpack, who has pulled out a magnificent .45 with a long sinister barrel replete with laser-sights and combat flashlight, is also not a terrorist. You know this, hero, because you have been trained extensively in target acquisition and combat scenarios aplenty. If the training is good enough for the real heroes[6], then it is good enough for you!

In this future world, this strange, awful world, where citizens must now be afraid of EVERYONE, because everyone could be strapped (down to that infant across from you, in a stroller), you see Ahmed slide through in his thobe and shemagh, rocking a lovely sawed-off shotgun at the would-be shooter, and lucky for him, you know that he is also not the terrorist.

You know this because even though you did not see who started firing, your training in target acquisition has taught you to suppress those very human instincts to blast away at people who look least like you, because you (like most everyone), identify with those who bear identical racial features (see cross-race blindness)[i], so it would be natural to think that other white people would most likely be just like you, a true-blue hero, rather than a terrorist. But you know this from your training, and suppress this instinct, because without that training you would right now be busting a new shiny asshole in the forehead of the Korean guy behind the cash register who is brandishing a chrome M-16 with cherry butt-stock[7], with what has to be a thermal scope from the looks of it, and is leveling a wonderfully controlled pattern of cover-fire over the heads of the assembled victims[8], who are all carefully prone on the floor. Because this Korean guy is a highly trained motherfucking hero as well.

No, hero—you know who it is—the terrorist is exactly who it often is (don’t say they aren’t the same, either)[ii]: an average looking, slightly military, clean-cut white boy who drives a truck and likes guns and everything. This dude might even talk about being a hero with his mates as well.

Ninety-one percent of domestic terrorists are white dudes, and they even manage to make up eleven percent of the jihadist terrorists overseas as well (yeah, white zealotry is alive and well).[iii] Your training has made you completely objective though, so you have not simply assumed who the shooter is; you have used years of training, and surmised that it is indeed the white guy in the corner, that dude wearing a nondescript t-shirt with cargo shorts and tennis shoes, who is methodically taking careful aim at his victims.

This is when the training takes over: you take a magnificent running leap over the table you have kicked over because you know it provides no actual cover (again, from your training) but will be a good distraction because handguns and rifles generally kick ass and turn furniture into pulp[9] (Rambo be damned)[iv], and you sprint across the room, dodging and doing barrel-rolls over furniture, perfectly missing the lone baby lying motionless on the ground, no sign of a parent nearby, and then you do a power slide the last ten feet until you are protected by the metal façade of the cashier station. This will look awesome. You, hero, are awesome.

Of course, at twenty-five feet away, your .40 caliber Glock is pretty inaccurate, but you figure that from your training, you could hit him with 80% accuracy because that’s what you hit in target practice, and so you let loose with all seventeen rounds just to be sure you get him, and surely, in the crossfire from the other perfectly trained heroes, he won’t be loading that gun again anytime soon!

To think; you didn’t even have to run through glass or swing from the balcony of a high-rise, or fire with both handguns, arms outstretched like a Christian martyr, in slow motion to do it. Heroes just get things done, is what.

What the movies have not taught you, however, is that in stressful situations the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) gets a little squirrely, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems betray you so that you might misfire or behave erratically or run, and adrenaline hero-juice spikes and sluices around in your veins, and the brain stem sends out twisted little chicken-shit panic signals that cause those bravely heroic blood vessels to constrict and Patriot hormones to surge and eyes to buck in their sockets. Studies have shown that even your (hero-optic) eyesight becomes grayed out and narrow (literally tunnel vision) under such conditions. People who have been in gunfights describe hearing very little beyond the blood pounding in their ears, and perceive very few nuanced details, and may lose motor skills to the extent that their feel out of touch with their own bodies as instinct takes over[v], and even some highly trained heroes (combat-ready studs like yourself), behave quite like cowards and simply run or don’t pull out their stud-cannon at all.

Here’s the crazy thing: the other heroes who stay generally only manage to hit about 15% of what they shoot at, according to metadata from the NYPD (Blue-state posers!)[vi], but know that the extended objective research, from a legion of sources like the FBI (corrupt robots!), confirms all of this no matter what all you heroes want to believe.

It is most likely that you will basically whiff when you finally get your chance to protect the innocent.

I should also mention something else you surely know, given your extensive training and long-practiced skillset: police officers are generally only about 10% more accurate than naïve shooters, so it is likely you might suck more than you think you do (you do)[vii]. Add more than one active shooter to the mix, and the numbers are even worse, and when an additional officer[10] then gets involved in an active shooter situation, accurate hits drop dramatically, to nine percent, total (not you, though!)[viii]. Think about that. The more guns, the less accurate actual trained heroes are. However, and lucky for us, you are an expert. Heroes just do what heroes do.

Unfortunately, those bullets you fired actually keep going until they lose velocity, or they hit something (the AR will still kill you at 1600 meters, a 9mm might kill you at a little under a quarter mile if unobstructed)[ix]. Unfortunately for everyone not a hero; those bullets can go through not just one, not just two, but more than eight standard insulated walls (Chinese manufacturing is killing our country!)[x], and concrete walls (depending on thickness) only sometimes manage to stop a bullet from a 9mm, but almost never from a AR-15[xi], and bricks fare even less well in standard walls because they shatter (only when you miss, Commie!)[xii]. So, those bullets you fired only actually hit what you aimed at three out of the seventeen times (because you are an especially heroic badass, I am giving you twenty percent because I know you have thought this through carefully[11]).

In that one minute of a firefight, it is likely that 200 total bullets have been fired by the five to six heroes (we know that it is more though, don’t we, given the data on police active shooter numbers[12]?), which comes out to 160 bullets testing the parameters of the local civilian spectator flesh and other business walls, foundations, and local fauna and flora, in a circle of at least 200 meters.

But that is the price of freedom, you say?

We know what you might even say in response to all this nonsense, that look, the bad guy is dead because of all the heroes who showed up with guns! I suspect you get tired of explaining this to every bleeding-heart hippie that comes along (again, what could have happened, didn’t, because of your righteous action), when all you really want is for us to just thank you for your wondrous bravery and forethought. Because what could have happened (but didn’t, because again, training) is that when the bullets started flying, you ripped your bitchin Glock from the kickass holster strapped across your massively muscled and magnificent obliques, and began to let him know how ‘freedom rings’ in your neck of the woods, which is with the sound of gunfire[13].

And sure, you didn’t aim like you could have, but that’s what the other four magazines are for, and what could have happened (but didn’t) is that you peeked over the tables and chairs and saw another hero with an 9mm shooting at Ahmed, and hey, you had the perfect angle and so you filled that radical Islamic terrorist’s back with lead. And lo, what are the odds! There are more terrorists for you to save us from, so you unload a clip full at Maria with the backpack, and a full clip at Jerome because he just has to be up to no good (why else would he be in your neighborhood), and a full clip at Li because what the fuck?! Koreans, now?

That could have happened, but didn’t, so just thank you already, right, is what you would say.

And also what could have happened is this: people were running around like idiots, diving first from the terrorist bullets, then from the bullets of all those heroes, then just running around like crazy and pretty much making it impossibly hard to not shoot them too[xiii], but that is their problem, and sometimes there are casualties in war. After all, it is tough being a hero—the Army’s own estimates of the friendly fire rates for every war from World War II to Desert Storm are between 10 and 14 percent, except for a low of 6 percent during the invasion of Panama (Hoowah 82nd Airborne!). During the previous U.S. conflict in Iraq, 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, fratricide killed 35 of 298 U.S. service members, or a rate of nearly 12 percent, according to a 1992 report by the Center for Army Lessons Learned (data from the Liberal Elite no doubt!)[xiv]. If you weren’t so sure of yourself and the brawny awesomeness of your heroism, it might alarm you to think that most of the time our soldiers know where the enemy is hiding, and yet they still often get it wrong.  Surely, you have been trained better than our military though, dear hero?

You might also say that what also didn’t happen, thank you very much, is that when the authorities arrived they didn’t then start taking shots at the heroes, because we all had very clearly marked “Hero” jackets on, like we always do[14]. And for that matter, in this gawd-awful futuristic shit-show of a world, where everyone can get guns anytime they want to, because that ensures that there will be as many heroes as possible to the number of terrorists (about 300 million to 100, by the way, currently, so not sure why we think more is better) and those long-haired civilians always wear “victim” outfits, replete with pink and yellow ribbons. So again, the hero might say: you are welcome.

Here’s the thing, hero; I know there are some pretty kickass heroey-heroes out there. I trained with many of them, and I love them enough to want them to not be deployed in the first place. But listen, friend: you aren’t one of them. I’m not one either, and I spent four years of my life with a 9mm on my hip, an M-16 under my rack, and an M-60 spooned tenderly against my chest as I slept[15]. I own guns[16] but I own guns in the way a real 2nd Amendment adherent should: I have reasonable weapons for defense against real threats (lions and tigers and bears), and a rifle for hunting that could be used to defend this country if need be. I have buried my 9mm and my AR so that no one can get to them, and I am only ashamed that I didn’t do it earlier. No one should own them.

The real world, where people who don’t think like you also have the right to not be threatened by guns, isn’t a playground, and this isn’t a Hollywood set—you are going to get people killed with this foolish belief that comes out as you drink beers with your buds on the back porch—this heroic lying you do with your assertion of “what you would have done if you were there.” If I wasn’t so fed up with the gun culture, I would be writing an essay that investigates the other side of the gun violence coin: why men feel this sad need to posture and flex, why masculinity and being ‘men’ matters in the first place.

Here’s why being that open carry GGWAG hero is dangerous: it comes from that need to create the masculine mythology, yet it just means there will be more guns in zones that would otherwise be ‘safe.’ And here’s the saddest thing: you (GGWAG) weren’t there for any of the hundreds of shootings going on in this country, right now, and statistically speaking, you never will be.

So, I’m not letting you run around thinking you are some kind of untested hero, ready at a moments notice to protect little old me from the bad guys. And I’m not letting you change my world into one where I have to be on the lookout (not for a real terrorist or active shooter), but for every would-be hero who feels like the gun[17] hidden under their jacket magically transforms them finally into the tough-guy they have always wished they were.

Do us all a favor. Put the gun back in your locked cabinet (or better yet, turn it in or destroy it), and just enjoy the lovely sunshine outside. I’ll buy you a beer or something and we can ratchet down the fear and rage a bit, see what a little less violence in the world looks like. We will all be a little better off for your sacrifice.

[1] War is sweet for those who have never experienced it.

[2] Here’s a test for whether the rest of my essay is relevant to you: 1. does your job involve the use of guns (police, military)? If so, only read the part about friendly fire, accuracy, target acquisition, because they are still relevant. 2. In the past year, have you ever talked to your pals about what you would have done in such and such gun violence situation? I’m absolutely talking to you. 3. In the past year, have you carried/thought about carrying/dreamed about carrying/dreamed your spouse was carrying a gun as a way to protect yourself and others while out and about? This is definitely for you. 4. Do you love the way you look when you have a gun in your hand? This is also for you, but I suspect you have stopped reading. 5. Do you think, “That’s awesome!” when you see a gun that is made to kill humans? Again. For you.

[3] Listen, I know—I’m being sarcastic and unprofessional—I’ll buy you an apology beer if I ever see you, and if suddenly gun violence goes down at the inverse rate of gun ownership.

[4] Forget the fact that this sounds like the least “free” place I’ve ever heard of, that it is the function of government to keep me from fearing my fellow man, foreign or domestic.

[5] I don’t pretend to know what moral failure of a weapon we create down the line, but let’s stick to what we know here: Kalashnikov died haunted by his awful creation, and like Oppenheimer, wanted to wish it out of existence.

[6] soldiers sleep with theirs, unloaded, for weeks at a time in order to learn to respect the deadly power and responsibility of these weapons, after all.

[7] Wowie. It is a beaut!

[8] Because in this future, everyone is trained—victims too—so don’t worry because they will be wearing bright yellow “Victim” t-shirts.

[9] See all the fake-news nonsense data I have included later in the essay about power of these weapons in close-quarters.

[10] Seriously! Add a trained gunman to this, and accuracy actually goes DOWN! Right? That is some seriously made-up bullshit (it isn’t).

[11] You are welcome.

[12] Way more—probably 400-500, given the fact that panic causes us to fire more quickly and spasmodically than we normally would.

[13] Actual bumper-sticker from NRA-affiliated website.

[14] Training.

[15] We were just like that back then.

[16] And might always own guns simply because of people like you. I don’t fear terrorists nearly as much as I do you. That is the truth.

[17] #RestrictARandHandguns, #GunOwnerCulpability, #RegisterAllGuns, #BuyBackARandHandguns, #InsureAllWeapons, #TenTimePenaltyforAllCrimeswithGunsEvenUnloadedOnes















Seth Tucker is a poet and fiction writer. He served in the US Army with the 82nd Airborne Division in the Persian Gulf (in another lifetime) and loves the 1st Amendment more than the 2nd (and he believes that the order matters). His writing has won a number of awards, and he has been published widely. His most recent story appeared in December Magazine, and he is currently finishing final edits to his novel and short story collection, which are represented by Glass Media Management.

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