Character: Build It Here
On my way to work the other morning, I hopped on the subway, grabbed a seat by the door, got settled in, then looked up to see a menacing man standing across from me. I say menacing without reserve. He was dressed in dark clothing and wore a black ski mask. I looked around the train to see if anyone was noticing this guy. A silver-haired man sitting several rows back had his eye on him. Everyone else had heads down, earplugs in, and eyes fixed on their cellphones.
I immediately thought of a series of articles I had read not too long ago in Stratfor about “Situational Awareness” written by Scott Stewart, who provides analysis of terrorism and security issues. Before joining Stratfor, Stewart was a special agent with the U.S. State Department for ten years and involved in hundreds of terrorism investigations. He writes in a clear fashion, as if he is talking to a friend, as he lays out different situations that anyone one of us could become an unwitting participant.
In thinking about the ski mask guy, I had no idea if he was a threat or not. Was he suddenly going to pull out a knife and start slashing people? There have been several instances of knife attacks in the news lately. Those reports flashed through my mind as I sat on that crowded train, in a vulnerable spot for a knife attack.
If you find yourself in a potentially threatening situation, Scott Stewart advises to keep your eye on the suspicious person. Notice if their behavior is erratic. Do they seem nervous? Are they sweating? Be ready to move away from the threat. A knife attacker must be within approximately three feet to make contact and do harm. I was about eight feet from the ski mask guy. I looked around to map the best path to run through the tight row of strap hangers. The train came to the next station and the ski mask guy exited. The threatening situation ended at that.
Scott Stewart has written several articles on what to do if you’re in a public place such as an airport and you hear a bomb go off. First thing is to ascertain where the noise came from. Look for the center of chaos. Run in the opposite direction as far away as you can get. Find a place of safety.
Two months ago there was a knife attack in Portland, Oregon. The mayor said, “Violent words can lead to violent acts.”
It is our responsibility to use words that will promote peace instead of inciting violence. Our children, meaning, all of society’s children, pay attention to what we say and in turn mimic our words and behavior. The words we choose shape our children’s minds and take root in their hearts.
If you are a community leader, or an elected official, then your responsibility is greater. Your words set the tone and effect everyone, young and old. We have elected officials who use violent rhetoric and vulgar language. Elected officials may represent us in the government, but they do not always speak for us.
Our common sense of goodness can overcome those who think that violence shows power and strength. The most powerful people in any society are those who know the path of peace, those who defend hard-won freedoms, and those who protect the most vulnerable. In a democracy, the people have the greatest power if they stand together. The more voices of civility we have now, the greater the chance to silence those who choose violent words and promote violent behavior.