When I was a student at the University of San Francisco, I, like many of my fellow political theory majors, studiously avoided taking one particular political philosophy class. It was not because we had anything against the course work… quite the opposite actually… rather, it was a fear of the particular professor who had a monopoly on the course.
He was not a bad guy by a long shot. His issue was age and, sadly, the onset of mild dementia. He was a priest, and the Jesuits had essentially allowed him to use USF as a form of hospice.
His speeches were rambling and, often, would trail off into an incomprehensible mumble. He was known for issuing arbitrary grades… (typically low ones). The fear of taking his class, which was a graduation requirement, was that a low grade could affect graduate school admissions.
We were, essentially, waiting for him to die.
I acknowledge that and will be eternally embarrassed that I was one of the students who participated in this ghoulish calculus.
Finally, I reached a point where it was no longer an option to avoid the class, and I signed up for my last semester as an undergrad. I had to finally “bite the bullet,” as it were.
Three weeks into the semester, our Father Professor was called home to his master.
The university did not seem to have a contingency plan for this inevitable event; the staff scrambled to find us a professor for a week.
Finally, they did.
A woman, who was a professor of political philosophy at Stanford, agreed to come up twice a week and finish off our course for us.
She was magnificent.
Not only was she uncomfortably good looking, she was brilliant. At the end of her first week with us, as she was getting ready to dismiss the class, she paused in her discussion of Herodotus and queried the class:
“Last weekend my husband bought a gift certificate to the Banana Republic. I came into the city from Palo Alto and bought a number of clothes with the gift certificate. When I got home I was folding my clothes and I realized the woman at the cash register had neglected to charge me for a dress. I had wondered how all of my clothes could have been covered by my husband’s gift certificate. I had figured I would have to pay extra for at least the dress I had picked out. When she handed me my bag, I just assumed I had calculated incorrectly. At home, studying my receipt, I now knew that she just didn’t charge me. Think about this over the weekend. When we meet again on Tuesday, tell me what you think I should do.”
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The following Tuesday we all were in class waiting for her to arrive. (Well… the male students were there early; most of us had already formed a crush on her.)
When she started class she asked what our thoughts were on the dress. Immediately, people started advocating for her to keep the dress and consider it a gift from the Banana Republic. After all, it was a big company! If it had the opportunity to take advantage of her, it would absolutely do so! She is not her “brother’s keeper”! She has no duty to anyone other than herself.
After all of us had given our thoughts, she quietly told us she went back to the Banana Republic and explained their error and paid for the dress.
We looked at her as though she was a fool.
Then she said something that has been one of the most formative moments in my adult life.
“I can only control myself. I cannot control others, nor should I have any expectations that I can. I want to live in a world where people are honest; therefore, I will act as though I live in a world where people are honest. I am not delusional enough to believe that all would act as I do, nor do I necessarily believe the Banana Republic would go out of its way to correct a mistake had the roles been reversed. But, how I chose to live will not be dictated by the actions of others. I choose my destiny.”
I thought about this on Friday night of last week.
Kavon (yes, you know him as our grumpy general manager) had a birthday. His lovely wife, Karoline, decided to surprise him with a party of sorts at a local cowboy line-dancing bar type place.
I have been to some “interesting” rural watering holes. In fact, one of the reasons I love hunting is my chance to be in unbelievably “non-touristy” places and sample whisky in some less than five-star establishments. Trust me when I tell you “line dancing” never takes place at these bars.
So, this was going to be Sandy’s and my first time skipping across the dance floor in our cowboy boots.
It was awesome.
Both of us loved the experience… but, what I truly found interesting, were the people. The place was quite crowded and virtually every race was represented. African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Gentiles, and just about everything in between was present on that dance floor. Cowboy hats were worn by women who looked like long-haul truck drivers and men who looked like they could be fashion designers.
And everyone was nice… more than nice… warm.
David “Gunny” Stephens, one of our instructors many of you know, is a current transplant from Texas. He is based in Camp Pendleton while he is here on active duty, but wants to, ultimately, retire to his ranch back in Texas. He is a hell of a dancer and, to a large extent, acted as our “guide” that evening.
The two of us were taking a break and hanging out at the rail surrounding the dance floor. We watched Sandy and Karoline doing a line dance while we nursed our whiskeys.
I leaned in to speak to him over the sounds of Garth Brooks:
“You know, Gunny… it is amazing to see the demographics here. Everyone is incredibly…well… solid, for lack of a better word.”
“This is the way America is supposed to be. We are polite, we are welcoming, we couldn’t care less about how you got here or what you look like. It is the world I want to live in.”
He was right, you know.
It reminded me of my professor at USF so many years ago. Not all necessarily share these values or, for that matter, even consciously think about them. But it is the type of world that I want to live in. I control that destiny, not anyone else.
Now, apparently line dancing lessons are in my future.
Steven Lieberman and Sandy Lieberman are the owners of the Artemis Defense Institute. A tactical training facility headquartered occupied California. (www.artemishq.com). Mr. Lieberman is also one of the founding partners in the Law Offices of Lieberman and Taormina LLP. Their law firm specializes in use of force, and Second Amendment defense and litigation.