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If you know anybody whose work is military, security, or law enforcement related, please share this article with them and discuss their reactions. I'm eager to participate in those discussions. This dialogue is vital to all of us. It's past time to quit pretending we live in different worlds.

At the risk of mouthing truisms, I'd like to start with some basic philosophy. People are never born bad. There is no evil culture in this world. People do not set out with intention to do wrong. Yet our differences remain great enough that innocent babies grow up to become soldiers devoted to killing their enemies, who were also once innocent babies. Sadly, people who are still innocent too often get caught in the crossfire.

There are a lot of twisted people in this world. Some have had so much pain that it seems the only language they understand is anger and hatred. Many are struggling with severe addiction. Whether their fix comes from a street pusher, the corner store, or a doctor's prescription, drugs confuse the mind and goad the addict into violent reactions. It is reasonable to stop them before they hurt somebody.

There are also those who are too eager to exploit another's pain for their own greed. As long as he doesn't pull the trigger, and sometimes when he does, a manipulator will share in the spoils without accepting a share of guilt. It's easy enough to rationalize the pain you cause if you can maintain enough distance to avoid the risk of empathy.   A good soldier doesn't see the humanity in the eyes of the enemy.

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It's always easier to recognize these traits in others than to acknowledge them in ourselves. We can wrap ourselves in the flag of our good intentions and justify occasional mistakes. We're too busy crusading for righteousness to take time to make amends for our own transgressions. Even when we realize the thin line between ourselves and our enemies, the momentum of the battle carries us on.

Okay, enough philosophy. Here's the bottom line that I want you to take home and mull over, then bring it back and we can talk about it. A lot of us from around the world are working for a world without war, where nobody hurts others and everybody's equal rights are respected, a world without prisons, guns, and bombs. Maybe we're naïve, but we're not hurting anybody. Some of those manipulative SoBs we were just talking about want you to believe we're your enemies, but we're not. We don't have enemies.

Here's what I want you to know. You can always say "no." You don't ever have to hurt people. We've got your back. Redemption is available. And there's a lot more of us than them.

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Since I turned 50, I've bicycled over 15,000 miles through 33 states. I write and teach in Corvallis, OR.

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