Cowards and Losers: Name One, Forget the Other

This is an ugly article, but it has to be written.

The news broke Thursday that a pathetic excuse for a man named Scot Peterson had a chance to intervene and try to save the lives of innocent teenagers in Parkland, Florida. Instead, he waited outside like a detestable coward. All the while, a pathetic loser inside went about his evil business, killing America’s sons and daughters. The killer ought to remain unrecognized. Let his name be consigned to oblivion.

But Peterson, on the heels of this incident a newly retired Broward County Sheriff deputy and “school resources officer,” is in need of forgiveness. In order authentically to get it, however, he first must be named and shamed.

We rightly laud the heroism of Peter Wang, the 15-year-old Junior ROTC cadet who died helping lead his classmates to safety. “Any self-respecting man would have charged the pathetic loser who was shooting children,” I wrote Wednesday. On Thursday, when asked how his former deputy should have responded to the gunfire inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Peterson should have “went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer.” Peterson no doubt knows this, since he resigned upon being discovered.

Scot Peterson should be ashamed of himself. And we should make sure he knows it. God will forgive him if he asks for it, but we should make clear what he did is shameful. The same reasoning that demands we honor Peter Wang demands we shame Scot Peterson.

A free society cannot long endure if the idea of manliness that reigns in the minds of its citizens does not include courage. Establishing a free society is a daunting and costly task, one that demands both our greatest efforts and divine Providence. Keeping it free may be even harder.

I remember growing up with this silly notion around me that any man might find out, in the moment of crisis, that he is a coward and so be it—it’s something beyond our control. How foolish. Courage is a virtue. Virtue comes from habituation, not chance. It is true that some men are hopeless cowards, and they deserve our pity. But we cannot raise our boys to believe that courage is a force outside of our control that either possesses you or it does not.

Instead we need to raise our boys to be men—men who understand that manliness is courage. Manliness is sacrifice. This is not a trait for heroes or Navy SEALs only; it must be a common trait in common men. We have to habituate men to pain and struggle; we must show them the higher reward for lower costs; we must habituate them to the idea that in that time of crisis they must be courageous.

And we must teach them the Holy Scripture that proclaims that “greater love hath no man, than to lay down his life for his friends.” They must know this. This is hard to teach boys, but it is harder yet if they see cowards get off easy.

As pitiable as Scot Peterson is, as much as I would not wish this fate on him, he is a coward and he should be known as one. We might forgive him, we might show him pity and mercy, but we should not forget his actions. If it eases your conscience, remember that he had the opportunity to be great. Had he simply charged into the school, he would have lived or died a hero. Few men are so blessed.

I realize this will sound terribly rough to some. It is too unkind—too insensitive. But it isn’t; it is necessary.

A man is no gentleman if he cannot shame Peterson. This is where words matter. The idea that a gentleman is gentle is wrong, insofar as it means a man is only meek, kind, and tender. Instead, a gentleman is a man whose anger is roused at the appropriate time. When circumstances do not require anger, he remains calm and tender. When they do, he become a ferocious warrior—terrifying to those things that are the enemy of the good. Remember, the rage of Achilles was the hallmark of Greek virtue for centuries. This was not because it was so monstrous and destructive, but because it was so rare and so necessary.

Civilized society requires that men retain a bit of something uncivilized inside of them at all times. There is no liberty without the right to revolution. There can be no consent of the governed if men cannot withdraw their consent. Withdrawing consent and the right to revolution require that men have the necessary virtue to return to a state of nature, often through a state of war. Likewise, there are always monsters lurking in free societies. Sometimes they do terrible things, and when they do, we need something that is scarcely compatible with civilized society.

This is the role of men in society: to keep this thing around and not let it escape. It is a terrible task with terrible consequences if we fail at it. For when we fail, children die and citizens become slaves. And so the cost of failure must also be high. When a man fails in his duty—when a coward succumbs to his deficiency—he must be shamed. As the Duke of Bourbon says in Henry V, “shame and eternal shame; nothing but shame.”

The American experience is built around the realization that courage is required. It can be seen in many places, but perhaps most notably in our depictions of the Wild West and the story of how we civilized he frontier. It is the theme of “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a film about how civilized men do not have what it takes to establish, or possibly, to preserve a civilization. That task requires a special kind of man who keeps that terrible ferocity accessible in his life.

It can be found in contemporary westerns as well, most notably the great movie “Open Range, in which there is a scene that all young boys and those who presume to be men should watch. Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and his sidekick Charlie Wade (Kevin Costner) confront some men who know their town is run by a tyrant but who have done nothing  At first one man replies that they are just ordinary people. Wade asks him, then: “you’re men, ain’t ya?” Then a man replies that they would just be killed. To this Wade answers: “You may not know this, but there’s things that gnaw at a man worse than dyin’.”

As unpleasant as it is, we must shame Scot Peterson, so our boys learn that there are things worse than dying. The shame of cowardice must be worse than death. Peterson didn’t have to succeed. We don’t know that he would have. But what might have made him try—the spirit that might have made him charge through the door and do his duty—was the spirit that said “I’ll not be known as a coward.”

This world is fallen, and civilized life requires at least two things: courageous men and God’s help. We don’t determine God’s blessings. But we can try to be courageous and to demand courage of those around us. Scot Peterson lacked courage, and for that he should be shamed.

About Bill Kilgore

Bill Kilgore is the pseudonym of a writer serving in the United States military. It should go without saying that the views expressed in his articles are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.

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27 responses to “Cowards and Losers: Name One, Forget the Other”

  1. GOOD START, to be sure!
    However, very badly written, even though the basic premise is SO true and needs to be SO much of the fabric of our entire world today…
    Please try again, with lots of editing and help from all our brothers AND sisters who agree with the concepts here.

    Thank you.

    • Oh come on VNVet, you got the message. What do we have going here, a thesis submittal? And you are the prof doing the grading? Give the man a break. It was a very good message and does not need further editing at all.

  2. Well said Kilgore! Pay no heed to the ankle biter. It is a sign of the times that “We are now in a world where we are condescended to by our inferiors”

  3. But how do we inspire our children and the Scot Peterson’s of our country to do their duty at personal cost? What is their incentive? Is the following an inconvenient truth?

    “While mankind consider the obligations to the exercise
    of virtue as derived from no higher source than the advantages
    accruing therefrom to society, it is no difficult
    matter for every individual to satisfy himself, that, provided
    he can persuade others to the disinterested practice,
    his dispensing with it in his own case will be a thing of little
    moment. Hence declamations on the advantages and necessity
    of public and private virtue fall from the lips of
    every one, while their lives are stained with the most sordid
    and selfish practices. Though the different states into
    which mankind are formed, have, generally speaking, enacted
    laws to restrain and punish enormities, to countenance
    virtue and discourage vice; yet the most approved
    and wisest legislators in all ages, in order to give efficacy
    to their civil institutions, have found it necessary to call in
    the aid of religion; and in no form of government whatever
    has the influence of religious principles been found
    so requisite as in that of a republic. It requires but a slight
    degree of observation to be convinced that mankind require
    the awe of some power to confine them within the
    line of their duty.” – a concerned citizen in 1787

    • If you want to reinstate real masculinity in our society, then it is time for compulsory service to the country. A draft for the military of every living soul who attains the age of 18. Women and men. No deferments except for those in medical school.

      Should a person be found unfit for military service during the draft physical send them to Africa with the peace corps. If not the peace corps then let them clean streets of trash for two years….or let them use weed whackers to trim the grass along the natuional highway system.

      In other words hard work for little compensation, “just like our military”.

      Those who survive will one day be running the country.

      what we see today is people running the country who hated America back in the 60’s. They are worthless scum that should have been forced to go to Vietnam and patrol the paddies.

      And by the way, service to the country in this example does not count service in congress or any elected position. That is the sissy work.

      Semper Fi,

  4. John Wayne was a boyhood hero of mine. One of his quotes should be memorized by every boy:”Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway”. Perhaps the most courage is shown by a father who stays with the mother of his children and helps raise them. Remember the line in “Magnificent Seven” as the gun slinger points out to the boys the courage of their fathers as they fight outlaws with hoes, rakes and shovels. Being fully grown does not make you a man; doing your duty in spite of the circumstances and consequences is what makes a man.
    I’m a combat vet from RVN and almost 69 years old. I’ve learned that bravery is NOT the absence of fear, it is doing the right thing in spite of fear. Anyone who tells you that they have never been afraid and are older than about 20 is either a lier or a fool. In any case, avoid them for they can get you killed.
    We have a lot wrong with our world. To fix it we have to start with the lack of manhood in our own country. To fix this flaw with our country, we have to fix it in our states, cities and public institutions. The way to fix the problem in these locations, we must fix it in our families.

    Returning to our family values is our only hope as a nation and world.

    • John Wayne spent WW2 on a deferment drinking Scotch with Ward Bond.
      When he appeared in front of William Manchester’s unit of Marines in full Cowboy Regalia they laughed and booed him off the stage. They earned it…he didn’t.

      We should Honor Wang and all those who died that aren’t stage characters.
      As to what’s real and what isn’t….I warrant we’ll learn the hard way.

      • Patrick,
        although I was born in the first half of the last century, I was born after WW2 and don’t really remember the Korean Police Action (yeah, they shoot at us and we shoot at them and call it a war unless some idiot calls it a “police action”. RVN was a “stability operation” by the way). While I do not know Wayne’s motives for not serving in the military, I do know that when I returned home from RVN I was spit on in the SF airport and called a “baby murderer” by the good folks from California. Wayne may not have lived the values his films portrayed but he showed guys like me respect at a time when Hollyweird was condemning me for serving. Before then, the values he espoused in his movies made an impression.

        I agree with your comments about honor to those who did what they perceive as their duty. For what it is worth my heroes from Viet Nam are those who won the CMH AND those who went to prison rather than serve. They accepted the consequences of their belief. I read Plato in grade school (I wonder if they even read him in High School today?) and fully accepted his ideas on what was owned to the society that gave us our advantages. I also learned that the society had a right to extract punishment for breaking their laws. Part of our problem today is that the “elite personages” in positions of power consider themselves above the law. Based on recent history they may, in fact, be exempt from the rule of man’s law. Unfortunately for them, nature has a way of asserting its laws that ignore man’s attempt to claim exemption.

      • Well said. Your last sentence echoes the timeless theme of “Gods of the Copybook Headings”.

  5. The guy had the jump on the scumbag. The scumbag had no idea he was there or where he was. Deputy Wuss knew exactly where the cretin was. Sneak up on him and shoot him in the damn back already. Jeez.

  6. this is the first article that I have seen in a long, long time that discusses courage and cowardice. This subject is no longer on the curriculum of the politically correct. Toxic masculinity is what it is called today. Today’s boys and young men are taught that wimpitude is the greatest virtue. They are taught that only coming out as gay or transgender is courageous. Sad to see the result, for Scott Peterson is the result decades of male bashing. Can you actually imagine a new age male charging the enemy or protecting the weak and the helpless. The age old cry of “women and children first!” is now seen as sexist. Lord, help us.

    • Not sure what you mean by “new age male” but if the troops who make up our volunteer military are any proof, there are plenty of guys, men and women, who would take it upon themselves to take down a criminal. Especially if they had a weapon available. There was an instance of three or four guys in Europe recently who did just that and were awarded hero’s medals from overseas. But overall, you are correct that the liberal Left is pushing to crush any vestige of “manhood” and make boys into metro men.

      • New age males mean guys who are wimpified snowflakes. They melt in the face of danger or any situation that requires cpurage

      • “NEW AGE MALE” means metrosexual, homo, snowflake, wimps raised in an age when masculinity, chivalry, courage, honor, and self-sacrifice are considered to be part of the patriarchy, and to be replaced by more enlightened ideas from the commie-archy. (aka feminism, social justice, etc)

  7. So he calls out a coward while he himself hides behind a pseudonym, wow, there’s courage for you! Sad

      • I am not claiming to be a he-man hero like the coward hiding behind the pseudonym of this article LOL

      • Liberals are so lame. All you can do is criticize someone for using a “handle,” which millions of people do. How stupid is that? And you try to show off by using a big word like “pseudonym” as if we are supposed to be impressed! Go blow, jerk.

    • “…hides behind a pseudonym…”

      He has to hide, He is currently serving. People like you would ruin his career. So shut up, ya schmuck.

  8. What a wonderfully written article. Thank you, sir for saying this so effectively.

    • So you have no problem with one coward calling out another coward?

  9. Very good article. About the only thing I would amend in this article is the statement that what should have motivated the man “was the spirit that said “I’ll not be known as a coward.” I would change it to mean that it is not fear of being a coward but seeing a wrong being committed against those who are unprotected and that I could do something about it, and then doing something, anything that I could to make a difference.

    I believe what we have witnessed is the lack of practice, lack of muscle memory, lack of mental preparation from repeated exercises that put officers in the frame of mind to do dangerous things when necessary. If all you do is be a civil servant and political activist of sorts, and then when the SHTF, well, you will be like a fish out of water and totally unprepared for what is happening. It is that “deer in the headlights look” that Peterson undoubtedly had and indecision froze him into inaction. He was not primed to take action.

    As for forgiveness, I was always taught, that before forgiving someone, they need to ask for forgiveness first. For their sake, not mine.