Thursday, January 31, 2013

Confidence is key

Posted on Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 4:00 AM

“The Best Defense” (see Opinion, Jan. 24) is one woman’s perspective. But the “gun issue” is no more clearly monolithic for women of the West then it is for any segment of society.

Let me begin by stating that I am also a liberal woman. I consider myself a pacifist, I oppose the death penalty, I prefer positive reinforcement dog training methods and my personal spiritual practice emphasizes avoiding doing harm to other beings. It is clear, therefore, that I approach this issue from a particular bias. However, I do not believe that being a pacifist and being a warrior are mutually exclusive. I have practiced various martial arts throughout my life. I also run regularly, and though I am on the petite side, I consider myself a physically strong woman. I am not certain that I would always be able to overpower or outmaneuver an attacker under all circumstances. As a recent sexual assault tragedy between jiu-jitsu teammates in New York reminds us, those who practice martial arts are not “immune from being victims of crime because of their ‘special powers.’”

On one point, Ms. Nealson and I are in agreement. The greatest power my training has given me is confidence and knowledge to avoid acting like a victim. As Ms. Nealson points out, the vast majority of the time, this is all the defense that a woman (or anyone) needs to protect them from assaults in public spaces. So, what about the other times?

How we approach those unlikely, extreme circumstances is a question of ethics, not of gender or region. Ms. Nealson prefers a gun because it allows her to keep her distance from her attacker. But, usually, you can’t know the intentions of your assailant until they’re already close enough to grab you (or your purse). I do not want to live in a world where children in hoodies are shot down because they look like a threat. Whether I live in the Wild West, or anywhere else, I don’t want to live in a society where we shoot first and ask questions later. I want to live in a community where deadly force is considered a last resort. I want to wait until I feel I have no other choice before I inflict undue harm on another person. Perhaps this means I will risk being closer to them and not as effective in my response when the time comes. That is part of the risk we take every day we wake up alive—that we will not see the sun setting at the end of it.

This spring I will travel to Pablo once a week for work. Statistically, I am far more likely to die or be injured on Highway 93 than by being attacked in the street. Instead of letting fear keep me from living, I let it motivate me to live every minute, so I will be ready when the time comes. It is good to be cautious, but we should be just as cautious of letting fear overcome our compassion.

Alexa Sample

Missoula

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