You Are Worthy of Defending Yourself
by Ralph Shnelvar, May 27, 2003
David Kopel's recent article was great. Thanks for pointing it out.
What you may not know is that my father ended up as part of the Polish Jewish resistance. I wish I knew more of that story but I didn't pay attention when I was young and now I truly regret it.
I have a video tape of an interview that I did with my father 20 years ago. I'm going to have to get that converted to DVD before the videotape crumbles with age.
In David's article, David quoted Menashe Lorinczi: "If you don't have a gun, you have nothing."
I do know that my father was a typical Jewish milquetoast violinist before the war.
On that videotape my father told me that he ended up being a colonel in the Polish resistance (armed by the Soviets). His face brightened (you can see it on the videotape) when he told me - so proudly - about how he carried a sidearm. My mother fell in love with that violinist officer gentleman.
I can't imagine my now-deceased father being a swaggering bastard. But I can imagine him being a proud man who can and would defend himself as long as he was able.
Then he came here to the U.S. in 1949 as an immigrant. He and my mother bought the entire New York City gun control myth hook, line, and sinker until we actually needed a gun to defend ourselves (but that seminal moment in my life is another story). Having been disarmed, my father returned to being a milquetoast.
It was the ability to defend himself that gave him dignity. The Soviets gave him a gun and, in effect, said to him "You are worthy of defending yourself."
David's article makes the point better than I can: Take away a person's ability to defend themselves and watch as they change from proud human beings to frightened children who are willing to be slaughtered.
At the II party, there were a few people who - as Jon said to us "need to get a life" - were sitting outside the building talking because the party was over.
It was Anne and Senator Bruce Cairns and I and a few others.
Anne told some amazing stories of the heroism displayed by some of her countrymen in hiding and protecting Jews during the Nazi occupation. Her countrymen did this in the face of torture and death.
I turned to Bruce and said to him, "If it happened here, I'm not certain that I could act so nobly. Would you?"
He said, "If the time came then I believe that God would give me the strength" or words to that effect.
Bruce said it in a way that I knew he meant it. It touched me far more than he knew.
I drove home that night deeply troubled at my own possible cowardice in the face of what is clearly "the right thing to do". I could easily sacrifice myself. Could I also sacrifice my wife and children by placing them at significant risk? I don't know.
Yet I also drove home hopeful. This world (and some semblance of freedom) might still survive because there are men and women like Bruce Cairns and Anne and David Kopel and Jon and you who walk this earth.
Ari Armstrong replies: Thanks for the touching words, Ralph. It's important for all of us to define ahead of time exactly what we're willing to do in given circumstances, so that we're ready to act if it comes to it. It is indeed horrifying that the Soviet leaders disarmed their own citizenry and also slaughtered millions of innocent people.