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REQUIEM

Below are the two final essays to be posted on Allegiance and Duty Betrayed. The first one is written by a friend -- screen name 'Euro-American Scum' -- who, over the past four years, has been the most faithful essayist here. He has written about everything from his pilgrimage to Normandy in 2004 to take part in the 60th–year commemoration of the invasion, to his memories of his tour in Vietnam. His dedication to America’s founding principles ... and those who have sacrificed to preserve them over the past 200+ years ... is unequaled. Thank you, E-A-S. It has been a privilege to include your writing here, and it is a privilege to call you my friend.

The second essay is my own farewell. And with it I thank all of the many regular visitors, and those who may have only dropped in occasionally, for coming here. I hope you learned something. I hope a seed or two was planted. But, even if not, I thank you for stopping by ... 25 March, 2010

4/20/2007


Leadership In Extremis

For the day after a massacre, it was a magnificent day here in the environs of Southern California. So clear the panorama could hurt your eyes. Cool, windy and crisp. If those of us who suffer from terminal allergies didn’t know better, it could have passed for a picture perfect fall day.

I had business in downtown L.A. today. And, as I so often do on such occasions, I made a point of visiting my alma mater, the University of Southern California. Class was in session as things wind down to yet another commencement, and by all accounts, today was just another day among the next generation of movers and shakers.

I suppose everyone takes pride in their alma mater. And I am by no means an objective observer when it comes to USC. My heart bleeds Cardinal and Gold. But for all that, in my never-to-be-humble opinion, there is something special about the place. Always has been. It’s simply a cut above and a breed apart when it comes to major four-year institutions.

Why is this so? Well, in recent years, under the leadership university president Dr. Steven Sample, the admissions standards have been ratcheted up to the point where the university is literally on par with the Ivy League. SC is considered a major competitor for top students with Stanford, Berkeley and UCLA, not to mention the aforementioned east coast institutions. Many of us aging, gray-bearded alumni would be in for a rude awakening if we had to meet the admissions standards of today as opposed to those of years ago.

But then, USC held the same mystique generations ago, when the entrance requirements were not nearly as stringent, and the academic reputation of the university, while respectable, was hardly among the academic elite. Throughout its history, there has existed a level of respect for the University of Southern California and its graduates among business institutions, fellow academicians, professionals of various stripes and the public at large. And this respect goes far beyond the momentary success of the football team.

Why is this so? Let me posit an explanation.

Many institutions attract brilliant students. Many of them do exemplary academic work, and go on to have very successful careers and many diverse areas of activity. Certainly, academic coursework is the spine of any university program. And that goes for USC as well. But while academics may be the spine of any such institution, there is another quality that is its heart and soul: Leadership.

And while many universities do a superb job of educating students, USC is in the business of training leaders. And that’s what sets it apart.

Over the years, by design or accident, the University of Southern California has attracted its share of students with leadership potential. Dynamic, talented young people with a vision for the future just tend to gravitate toward the place. And there is an important distinction between what the student brings to the experience, and what the university offers in return.

USC cannot and does not teach leadership skills. That is a quality that the student must possess going in. But what it can and does offer is to hone those leadership skills to a fine edge. USC is not the place for directionless young people to find themselves. It is a place where students with a clear vision of what they want to accomplish in life can develop the tools to get the job done.

The university experience is not merely an exercise in academic activity, however demanding. Students are expected to overcome obstacles that the faculty and administration put in their path. And some of those obstacles can be extreme. There is a genuine culling out process that goes on during the educational experience at USC. Because if a student cannot deal with the hardships imposed in an academic setting, they certainly will not be able to overcome them in the real world.

We’re not talking about turning out a generation of clock-punching 9-to-5ers. We’re talking about producing a crop of leaders, who will assume responsibility for seizing the world, molding it, changing it, and leading it into the future. There’s a reason why the top graduates of the University of Southern California occupy such positions of influence and power in so many diverse fields of activity. This is it.

We’re talking about a boot camp for life.

Some of you are no doubt wondering what this over-the-top, fat cat, alum is doing pounding his chest about his alma mater. I’m getting to it.

I couldn’t walk the grounds of USC today without thinking about the horrendous incident at Virginia Tech yesterday. It would have been impossible on any campus, and I daresay anyone who spent time at any university this day was plagued with the same predicament.

I further wondered what would happen if some murderous maniac with an arsenal made his way into Bovard Hall, or the Doheny library complex or Seaver Science Center or anyplace else USC students gather, chained the doors shut and went classroom to classroom gunning them down. How would things have been different? Would things have been different?

I confess to knowing nothing about Virginia Tech except it seems to be primarily an engineering school, and they have a sometimes nationally-ranked football team. That’s it. And while the campus, I’m sure, is not exclusively composed of tech-oriented students, many such campuses tend to take on the character of their dominant programs.

Speaking as a reformed techie, I can say with authority that we tend to feel comfortable in an environment of linear goals and tight discipline, with clearly defined objectives that can be addressed in a logical, direct manner. We like it when the trains run on time. And we tend to be detail-oriented. These qualities do not disqualify us when it comes to leadership, but it does make the transition to such positions more elusive and the process by which we attain them a greater stretch.

I mention this because I wonder why, considering the acts of murder were committed by a lone gunman (so far as we know) that someone, anyone, didn’t recognize what was happening and take action to stop it?

Easy for me to say, sitting here in my den, cranking out yet another exercise in verbosity at my keyboard. Well not really. I am fully prepared to admit that it is virtually impossible for the human psyche to make such a radical transition from the inherently safe environment of a peaceful classroom to the mass terror of a deadly killing field and do it instantaneously. Combat soldiers, who are experienced, trained and accustomed to warfare have a hard time doing it. This is why the ambush is so deadly, and properly coordinated, used with such devastating effect.

So, if combat infantrymen have a hard time adapting to the instantaneous transition to a firefight, how much harder would it be for college students – who are accustomed to nothing of the kind – to shift gears so radically and quickly as to accurately evaluate their situation and take immediate, and quite probably suicidal, action to put a stop to it.

It would be virtually impossible.

So, I’m not blaming the innocent victims for being innocent victims. Seung-Hui Cho had the advantage of all those who lie in ambush. Surprise, ruthlessness, and the relentless mentality of a cold-blooded killer. He was a wolf among sheep, a predator among the flock, and if he didn’t give his soul to Satan in a literal sense, those who watched his video can certainly better appreciate the concept that darkness is really the absence of light. There was no light in his soul. And those he encountered yesterday were cannon fodder.

And yet. . . and yet. . . You would think there would be one, just one, who, in the instant of recognition could have taken the initiative, taken heart, and taken this SOB out. Quite probably it would have been the ultimate act of personal sacrifice. But considering the body count yesterday, you would think there would be one. You would think.

Maybe it’s just my inherently argumentative nature, but I have a hard time with the lamb-to-the-slaughter mentality. I took the death walk at Auschwitz in 2004 from the selection hut in the heart of the Birkenau killing complex


to the end of the rail line in more ways than one,


and the heart of darkness of the crematoria.


And I still didn’t get it. How could any people go so meekly to certain death? And this was running through my mind while I was still in this enormous complex, which afforded no hope of escape, taking the same path to destruction as did countless millions over half a century before. There was no mistaking what was going on. Any illusion of hope, any sense of denial vanished in the smoke of the chimneys as the victims approached.

And yet. . . and yet. . . Nobody looked for a weapon of opportunity. Nobody attacked a camp guard with a makeshift weapon. Nobody went out of their way to accurately assess the hopelessness of their situation and resolve to take some of the bastards with them. At least not many. And certainly not enough.

Well, I wasn’t at Auschwitz in 1943, and I wasn’t at Virginia Tech yesterday.

Still, Todd Beamer found himself in such a situation not long ago. What must have gone through his mind as he accurately assessed the hopelessness of his situation? What qualities in his character led him to the decision to take the course that he did? Would those brave souls of United 93 who crossed the threshold from ordinary Americans to heroic patriots been galvanized to action without the spark that Todd Beamer provided? Hard to say.

Leaders take action. Todd Beamer was a leader. I can’t say that I would have emulated his example in those circumstances. I have not been in that position. But I can understand it. At least I can understand it better than going meekly to oblivion, whether on the death walk at Birkenau or sitting in a classroom at Virginia Tech awaiting execution.

I left USC this afternoon with my question unanswered. How would SC students react in a similar situation? Of course, I would like to believe – in the tradition of entrepreneurial spirit that pervades the campus – that someone, perhaps more than one, would stand up, charge the gunman, and take the bastard out. It might cost the lives of the defenders, but better to die for something than die for nothing.

Either way, such musings reflect the loyalty of a very partisan alum and are hardly rooted in dispassionate reasoning. No one can predict the behavior of people in extremis until they find themselves in those circumstances. I’ve never faced it, and pray God I never will.

And yet. . .

So, what does all this have to do with Allegiance and Duty betrayed? Nothing really. Except to cite that the circumstances often choose the leader. And as with all leadership, someone so chosen must seize the moment. Or not. Either way, in the world of leadership, there is precious room for grief. There is time to assess what happened, mourn the loss, bury the dead, and maybe take fast action the next time a murderous maniac resolves to take out his frustrations on a group of innocent victims.

Certainly, we have leaders amongst us today. Todd Beamer was one. Hopefully, there will be others. But we don’t have as many as in years past. And the doomed souls who went to their deaths yesterday didn’t have any.

Sad to say.

by Euro-American Scum
(contributing team member of Allegiance and Duty Betrayed)

22 comments:

marcus aurelius said...

Very well considered and very well written. Thank you.

I have wondered the same thing on the rare occasions when a killer lines people up for execution. Of course the little Amish girls couldn't be expected to act in self defense, but adults need to get it through their head that there's power in numbers. In a situation like the one at V-Tech, some would have died but more would probably have lived.

Very moving pictures of the concentration camps.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the excellent column. Since the beginning of time, people have paid the price for inaction in the face of killers. Sometimes there isn't time to weigh the options, but other times there is all the time in the world. None of us can say how we would react, but history tells us that inaction is rarely a sensible choice.

Well done.

DaveBurkett said...

Well, I wasn’t at Auschwitz in 1943, and I wasn’t at Virginia Tech yesterday.

Very few of us were. But so many of us act like armchair quarterbacks, especially the news media.

Your observations make a lot of sense, and I like that you don't want to blame the victims. We can't do that because so few of us have been in their shoes.

At the same time, if we look at similar tragedies it seems like it's always best to make a fast self-defensive move. There's always more carnage without a leader or leaders that are willing to take action.

Thanks for the thought provoking writing.

Anonymous said...

Sad to say.

Three powerful words, and an Amen.

robmaroni said...

Well said.

We have many leader like the ones you are looking for fighting in Iraq and our stinking governmnet is trying to tell them that they can't. Our government doesn't want civilian "leaders." It makes their job of making us more dependent on them a lot harder.

Tom Bergman said...

I'm not so sure the analogy between VA Tech and the holocaust is warranted. The two cases are so different. But your analysis of both as separate tragedies is good.

I suspect the quality of the teaching and the qualitiy of the students at USC has waned over the years, as has everything else. But remembering it as it was when you were there is a good thing.

cw-patriot said...

Beautifully said, EAS.

Every time I see your photo of the end of the rail line, I experience a bone-deep, unsettling chill.

I was in Washington DC last weekend (our daughter was singing with the Washington Chorus at the Kennedy Center). We drove by the Holocaust Museum on the way there. I cannot put into words the eerie, unwelcome feeling that came over me as we did. The outside of the museum in no way depicts the ‘story’ that is told within, but somehow I was overcome with a terrible heavy blackness just being in its vicinity. We plan to return there in the near future to pay homage. I can’t even begin to imagine the indescribable feelings that your pilgrimage to Auschwitz/Birkenau must have evoked.

Shortly after the tragedy last October at the Amish schoolhouse, I saw a fellow interviewed (can’t remember where) who travels around to schools and instructs students as to how to react if an armed intruder enters their classroom.

Simplified, his basic premise was to act as quickly as possible. To work as a group, grab whatever might be handy, throw the objects en masse at the intruder, and rush him collectively.

His theory was that, by doing so, the odds are greater for a larger number of survivors to walk out of the classroom alive than they would be by simply waiting to discover the intruder's intentions.

The son of a good friend of mine has organized a group of boys at his high school in an effort to pre-plan what they would do should they ever be confronted with a situation similar to what occurred at Virginia Tech this week. In part, this is what my friend wrote to me:

They intend to not cower under their desks, but to arm themselves with whatever is at hand and attack the perpetrator and stop him. My advice to my son was:

1) Come at the individual(s) from several different directions if possible, not having anyone following directly behind another.

2) Begin your attack with everyone throwing whatever they have at the criminal in order to distract him.

3) Do not stop if some of your number go down … press on. Practice doing so.

4) When you get the individual down, keep beating until he does not move.

5) The best thing to arm yourself with is a gun. I can't tell you to break the law ... and will not do so. Still, the best thing to be armed with against someone shooting at you is a gun.


I completely agree with my friend, and with what his son is attempting to organize. But the success of such a strategy rests on the willingness of the majority of the people involved to instantaneously commit themselves to action. Call me a cynic if you like, but I wouldn’t necessarily trust the others in the area to take immediate action along with me. That isn’t to say that instantaneous action isn’t called for. It is, and must be. It’s just that the person who reacts in that way might be doing so alone, no matter what others profess beforehand. In which case, his quick but singular action might simply cause him to be nothing more than the first victim. If that is the case, so be it.

The number of Monday morning quarterbacks who arrogantly know exactly how decisions could have been made better by Virginia Tech’s administration is mind boggling. After a tragedy such as this, there are always countless finger-pointing experts, ready, willing and able to wag their indignant, pseudo-authoritative fingers in any setting that boasts a television camera and a microphone. A pox on them all.

And then there are the gun-control imbeciles. I’ll not grant their rantings any space here.

Nor will I listen to, or watch, any more coverage of Cho Seung-Hui. As always, the media have turned the coverage of this event and its aftermath into a three-ring circus – interviewing anyone who has ever so much as walked down the same street as Seung-Hui did, and consulting countless self-proclaimed ‘experts’ who have the audacity to presume to know what made him tick.

I don’t care what made him tick. And I don’t plan to wear orange and maroon, or tie a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree.

I want us all to allow the friends and families of the victims to mourn with dignity, without subjecting them to phony long-distance mourning by people who simply seek to be ‘a part of the crowd’ -- after which they’ll sheepishly return to passively practicing uninformed apathy, and no doubt vote for the candidate who wants to disarm us all, seeks ‘tolerance’ for deviant behavior, and allows the majority of criminals to remain free as a result of legal technicalities or agenda-driven judges.

Talk about your ‘lamb to slaughter mentality’.

I want to hear less about Seung-Hui, and much more about Liviu Librescue -- how his strength of character was molded by his wartime experiences in a labor camp in Romania, and how he is rumored to have saved many of his students by acting with instinctive courage in the moment. And I want future American students to learn about him in their history classes.

I want America to stop being concerned about superficial symbolism and phony sentimentality, stop labeling tabloid journalism as ‘news’, and start developing some depth of character and respect for genuine liberty and the vigilance that is required to preserve it. Ribbons and candlelight serve no purpose in that arena.

When discussing the aftermath of this week’s tragedy with our daughter last night, she shed her own light on the situation. She said the following:

After 9/11, many in our area (suburban DC) went out and purchased American flags to show their support of those innocents who died, and their determination to appear unified in the face of the attack on us all. We saw countless flags flying from front porch columns, and even more of the miniature version flying from car antennae. Driving down the highway became a uniquely unifying patriotic experience.

Several weeks later, a friend and I were walking out of a movie theater when, in the parking lot, we came across one of those miniature antenna flags that had blown off its place of honor and was lying, dirty and virtually unrecognizable, in a puddle of water, having obviously been driven over by countless cars exiting the lot.

On our way home, my friend and I discussed the tragic symbolism behind the murky fate of that little flag.


A nation facing the unprecedented, malevolent threats that are now relentlessly beating on our door will not long survive, if its citizenry consistently chooses to substitute feel-good superficiality for genuine character, and the vigilance and sacrifice it must evoke if we are to prevail.

If we did the ribbon and candle thing, and then followed it up with true concern and action, the symbolism would have meaning. When involvement ends with symbolism, we are in grave danger.

~ joanie

trustbutverify said...

Thank you Euro-American Scum, and thank you, Joanie. You've both given us much food for thought!

trustbutverify said...

Joanie, please post your response as its own essay so it gets more reads.

Anonymous said...

I’m not blaming the innocent victims for being innocent victims. Seung-Hui Cho had the advantage of all those who lie in ambush. Surprise, ruthlessness, and the relentless mentality of a cold-blooded killer. He was a wolf among sheep, a predator among the flock, and if he didn’t give his soul to Satan in a literal sense, those who watched his video can certainly better appreciate the concept that darkness is really the absence of light. There was no light in his soul. And those he encountered yesterday were cannon fodder ….

…..circumstances often choose the leader. And as with all leadership, someone so chosen must seize the moment. Or not. Either way, in the world of leadership, there is precious room for grief. There is time to assess what happened, mourn the loss, bury the dead, and maybe take fast action the next time a murderous maniac resolves to take out his frustrations on a group of innocent victims.
--- Euro-American Scum

__

I want America to stop being concerned about superficial symbolism and phony sentimentality, stop labeling tabloid journalism as ‘news’, and start developing some depth of character and respect for genuine liberty and the vigilance that is required to preserve it. Ribbons and candlelight serve no purpose in that arena ….

…. A nation facing the unprecedented, malevolent threats that are now relentlessly beating on our door will not long survive, if its citizenry consistently chooses to substitute feel-good superficiality for genuine character, and the vigilance and sacrifice it must evoke if we are to prevail ….

…. If we did the ribbon and candle thing, and then followed it up with true concern and action, the symbolism would have meaning. When involvement ends with symbolism, we are in grave danger.
--- c-w patriot

Thank you.

Buster said...

*** So, if combat infantrymen have a hard time adapting to the instantaneous transition to a firefight, how much harder would it be for college students – who are accustomed to nothing of the kind – to shift gears so radically and quickly as to accurately evaluate their situation and take immediate, and quite probably suicidal, action to put a stop to it. ***

We all need to think of ourselves as "combat infantrymen" nowadays. We need to get into that kind of mind set because this war is reaching into every neighborhood. If it's not Muslim fanatics, it's lunatics like the VA Tech shooter.

The sooner we start to realize that we are at war every day, in our own streets, and prepare for any attack that might come, while praying that none ever does, the better we will be able to survive.

That's not paranoia. That's reality.

buster said...

I agree with you about the ribbons and candles, CW. While we're wearing ribbons and lighting candles and obsessing about such crap, the beheadings continue and the Muslim world gets more daring about how they're going to destroy us.

3timesalady said...

Here's an entry from another blog that illustrates what you're talking about, CW. It's well intentioned but kind of nauseating:

On Monday night, I laid down to snuggle with Charlie. He's been asking lately about the time before he was born, when he was still in my tummy, and that evening, he curled himself up against me in the fetal position and said, "Is this how I was when I was in your tummy?"

Yes, I told him.

"I would like to get back IN your tummy!" he said, laughing. "I'll bet it was warm and SAFE in there."

When he said that, I started to cry. I was worn out from a long day of too much news, of too many stories about children who were never coming home and parents who had lost their babies. I was exhausted from a whole day of trying not to think about how unsafe the world is sometimes.

All week I have been following the Virginia Tech story and wishing there was some little thing I could do to mark my sadness and sense of loss. And now there is: the University Alumni Association is asking people to wear orange and maroon, the school's colors, tomorrow, in a demonstration of sympathy for the victims of Monday's shootings and their families and friends. Traditionally, the wearing of school colors is a show of support for athletic teams; a few years back, members of the Virginia Tech community dubbed this the "Orange and Maroon Effect." Tomorrow, they are hoping that the same gesture will be one of solidarity and healing.

Please participate. It's such a simple thing to do in the face of such a great tragedy.


http://www.parentdish.com/2007/04/19/wear-maroon-and-orange-on-friday-to-support-virginia-tech-famili/

danthemangottschall said...

I agree with trustbutverify, Joanie. Please post your comment as a column of its own.

Al said...

act as quickly as possible.

grab whatever might be handy, throw the objects en masse at the intruder,

and rush him collectively.


Excellent.

Someone hit in the face unexpectedly always is thrown, even if just for a moment.

Throw your keys in his face

loose change in your pocket

pencils, pens, erasers,

books, notebooks

desks chairs --if you are able

Knock him off his feet

and finish him off until they'll have to pick him up with a tweezers and a blotter.

Sandra said...

Professor Fired Over Va. Tech Discussion
Apr 23 2007

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8OMADB80&show_article=1

BOSTON (AP) - An adjunct professor was fired after leading a classroom discussion about the Virginia Tech shootings in which he pointed a marker at some students and said "pow."

The five-minute demonstration at Emmanuel College on Wednesday, two days after a student killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus, included a discussion of gun control, whether to respond to violence with violence, and the public's "celebration of victimhood," said the professor, Nicholas Winset.

During the demonstration, Winset pretended to shoot some students. Then one student pretended to shoot Winset to illustrate his point that the gunman might have been stopped had another student or faculty member been armed.

"A classroom is supposed to be a place for academic exploration," Winset, who taught financial accounting, told the Boston Herald.

He said administrators had asked the faculty to engage students on the issue. But on Friday, he got a letter saying he was fired and ordering him to stay off campus.

Winset, 37, argued that the Catholic liberal arts school was stifling free discussion by firing him, and he said the move would have a "chilling effect" on open debate. He posted an 18-minute video on the online site YouTube defending his action.

The college issued a statement saying: "Emmanuel College has clear standards of classroom and campus conduct, and does not in any way condone the use of discriminatory or obscene language."

Student Junny Lee, 19, told The Boston Globe that most students didn't appear to find Winset's demonstration offensive.

RBeach said...

Never ever forget this: Liberals believe the talk is dear and action is cheap.

It’s like an ambush - the best way to defeat it, is to attack into it.

Still and all, prayers for the students and their families.

BigBobber said...

Simplified, his basic premise was to act as quickly as possible. To work as a group, grab whatever might be handy, throw the objects en masse at the intruder, and rush him collectively.

This should be mandatory training at every school. Students should also be taught how to safely handle and shoot firearms.

Certainly as important as teaching them "safe sex" and Gorebalisms.

Not only would it make student feel less helpless, think of the deterrent effect on potential murderers who know all their classmates have had this training.

Anonymous said...

Simplified, his basic premise was to act as quickly as possible. To work as a group, grab whatever might be handy, throw the objects en masse at the intruder, and rush him collectively.

This is good advice, but I doubt students would follow it. It takes lots of training to get soldiers to act in the best interest of the unit rather than the individual.

I know, there's Flight 93, but they were adults, the intruders did not have guns, and they knew they were fer shure dead if they did nothing - playing possum or jumping out a window would gain them nothing.

Anonymous said...

Great column, Scum.
Great answer, Joanie.

John Cooper said...

Nobody fought back? Not the students maybe, who were mostly cowering under their desks according to student reports, but there was one who fought back:

Israeli professor killed in US attack

Arlene Albrecht said...

Very well said, Scum. Your observations always have a unique perspective but a definite ring of truth.