My profession sometimes involves the use-of-force.
This means that the government of my country has entrusted me with training, weapons and authority to use force to accomplish certain very limited goals/tasks. There is, of course, a continuum of force, but it ranges up to and includes deadly force (the taking of another person’s life).
The government (at least in the US) is the instrument of the will of the American people. So when I say that “the government” entrusts me with these weapons, training and authority, I am keenly aware that it is really THE PEOPLE (all of you) who are trusting me.
That responsibility weighs heavily on me.
There are times in my life when I am tempted to use force outside of work. I have been insulted publicly, sometimes in front of people whose esteem I value. I have been threatened. About a week ago, a homeless man attacked me. These are situations where some, I think, would feel that using force is justified.
Not for me. No way.
The Coast Guard are the only military service that straddles the line of both warfighters and police officers, and I believe that members of the military and the police have a special obligation to swallow their pride and never, EVER use force outside of authorized work-related situations that absolutely require it (and are ordered/sanctioned by their chain of command).
This is because the person who slapped your face in the bar, who called you a loser, who insulted your mother is a member of the population you SWORE to protect and to serve. With your life if necessary.
I’m not some kind of super-ninja. The fighting skills I learned first as a mercenary and later as a uniformed service member are in many cases not a whole lot better than the average brawler who picks a fight with me in a bar. My weapons training is probably a little better than most Americans, but there are plenty of gun-enthusiasts out there who can shoot better than I can, even in tactical situations. Many folks are bigger and stronger and tougher than I am.
But that doesn’t matter. The people of this country said to me “Myke, we trust you to protect us. We are spending our money to give you specialized training and authority to keep us safe.”
And if I use those skills against them? If I choose to brawl instead of swallowing my pride and accepting some embarrassment and maybe a fat lip? If I strike out against one of the people I swore on my life to protect and serve?
I’ve got a word for people who do that.
If I feel that my life, or someone else’s life, is in real and imminent danger off duty, I will use force. If I am on the job, and force is necessary, authorized by my command, my jurisdiction, authority and substantive laws (and it is prudent, necessary and the minimum level required by the situation), then I will use force.
Otherwise? I will never, ever, EVER strike another human being, under any circumstances. I will accept a black eye. I will shrug off a split lip. I will endure any insult.
I am a member of the US military in the one branch that also wields law enforcement authority. This gives me a special responsibility that I always keep foremost in my mind. Sometimes people joke with me, “I bet you could kick s0-and-so’s ass.” “Man, that guy’s really lucky you were in a good mood.” “Do what Myke says or he’ll beat you up!”
Can I be honest? I don’t like those jokes. Because they don’t reflect my commitment to NEVER use violence outside circumstances where its application is both critical and authorized.
I can part with pride. I will never part with honor.