I was getting ready for work one morning, around 6 am, when I heard soft footsteps on the stairs. My youngest son, then 11, emerged into the entry way. He was stepping carefully and in his right hand was his favorite Cold Steel brand machete.
I asked, ‘so, what’s up?’ (I was a little afraid he was sleep walking and would make quick work of dear old pop before I could get to the ER to take care of other injured folks.)
He replied, ‘I heard noises but wasn’t sure who was down here.’
Bottom line? He was ensuring his family was safe. And woe to any poor soul who felt the wrath of his blade.
We had a chat. I praised him for his bravery and then added a parental caveat: ‘but, if you think we have an intruder, you must come and tell me or your mother.’
Like his siblings, he’s passionate and brave. A student of history, he loves the idea of chivalry. My children and I have had many long talks about courageous persons of the past, about battles and strategy and about the merits and disadvantages of ancient weapons. My son’s walls, and the walls of his brothers, are festooned with assorted swords, axes, daggers and archery equipment. Even little sister has a favorite blade, stored in her room in case of emergency. (Don’t panic. They’re unsocialized homeschoolers, so this is pretty normal in our world. Along with reading books that aren’t politically correct and going to school without bullies.)
Contrary to popular wisdom in the public school systems of the West and the lame-stream media, my kids are about as gentle and kind as any on earth. Not that they aren’t capable of doing harm. But you’d have to push pretty hard for them to launch a spear or tomahawk your direction. And by that, I mean you would probably have to break into their home and threaten to harm them or the rest of the family.
I think there are some lessons here; and not just because I’m proud of my children. The first lesson is this: freedom can only be preserved when we teach our children valor. This means explaining to them that there are times in life for bold, decisive, even dangerous action. There are times when it is appropriate to confront evil with force. If we raise generations who believe that the most dangerous threat can be mitigated with hugs and negotiations, then freedom will die along with all of those who try to understand and dialog with tyrants and psychopaths.
Teaching valor involves telling stories of the past, talking about the news of the day, and providing our children with fitness and the sort of activities considered completely appropriate in centuries past; things like wrestling, boxing and marksmanship.
But here’s the second lesson. Just as freedom must always be balanced by responsibility and accountability, so courage and valor must be kept in dynamic tension with morality and mercy, with kindness and gentility. We cannot raise men, or women, capable of violence (and every human being is) if we deny the value of morals and ethics. We may fight in the front yard with heavy plastic swords, shoot arrows at targets or shoot clay-pigeons with shotguns. But we also discuss right and wrong through the lens of history and the teachings of our faith.
The world is dangerous. And those of us who believe that self-defense is a right granted by the Creator, not sanctimoniously granted by politicians who think we’re peasants, also believe that we have to prepare our children for those dangers, moral and physical.
Much of the world disagrees with that assessment. Oh, they know it’s dangerous. But they don’t want anyone prepared to deal with it in any way other than calling 911 and waiting for the inevitable end. Because of this, they want the masses disarmed. But here’s what they don’t understand. Self-defense doesn’t reside in the weapon, but in the spirit.
This is what we have to teach our next generations. Weapons are necessary to combat both tyrannical rulers and dangerous individuals. Americans have developed a unique passion for the creation of weapons and the appropriate use of weapons. But ultimately, the weapon is secondary. The heart and mind are most important.
If we do that, if we teach right and wrong, if we teach freedom and justice, if we teach chivalry and courage, then the weapons themselves are not the issue. Trust the guy who saw the fire in the eyes of his son, who was prepared to clear the house of bad guys with nothing more than his machete…and the heart of a lion.