The Thin Blue Line – Matters

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These are trying times.  While I strive to avoid serious political/social commentary, I’m compelled to alter my regime, this one time.

The excerpt below on the ‘Sheepdog’ is not new.  Attributed to Dave Grossman’s book ‘On Combat’, several versions and renditions have appeared since its inception.  For those not familiar with him, Grossman is an internationally recognized speaker, a retired Lieutenant Colonel with the U.S. army, former West Point psychology professor, Professor of Military Science, and Army Ranger.  The ‘Sheepdog’ analogy came from a retired Vietnam vet Grossman interviewed, and I understand made it into the 2014 film ‘American Sniper’, a movie I’ve not seen.  Years ago I had the pleasure of seeing Lt. Cl. Grossman speak in person, his book ‘Killology’ just released, and the presentation left a lasting impact on me.  Grossman’s words are as powerful today, perhaps even more so, as they were when I first heard them.

Grossman’s analogy faced criticism.  Some described the concept as simplistic, dangerous, citing the situation was not black and white, not good versus evil, but decisively more complex.  Others argued the analogy supported racial profiling.  Still others broke the concept down further, citing a sheepdog’s primary responsibility was to ‘herd’ the sheep, thus making the animal an ‘oppressor’ not a ‘liberator’.  You can’t win for losing sometimes.  While some of the arguments may have merit, my purpose is not to debate, but to share something worth sharing.  Later in his writings Grossman explains that referring to the masses as ‘sheep’ is not meant in any way to be critical.  He simply implies most people are peaceful and trusting.  He goes on further to clarify the obvious, that in nature, animals do not choose their paths.  Sheep graze, wolves hunt, sheepdogs protect.  There is no innate ‘evil’ or ‘good’ in the kingdom of animals (sans humans).  Animals are not born with a choice.  We are.

My post is not meant to undermine, devalue or challenge those with differing beliefs.  It is something I felt compelled to share.  The violence ends when the violence ends – we all play a part.

The version below is my own, modified, but essentially Grossman’s words.


The vast majority of the world’s population are sheep; kind, gentle, productive creatures who cannot intentionally hurt one another. Sheep have little situational awareness of their surroundings, and often live in denial, not wanting to believe true evil exists in the world.

A small percentage of the population are wolves.  Wolves are prone to violence, prey mercilessly on the sheep, and are comfortable taking without conscience, without remorse.  Wolves tear into the weaker sheep while others, and society at large, pay scant attention.

However, there is a third, even smaller percentage of the population, straddling the line between the sheep and the wolves.  These are the sheepdogs, the ones who watch the wolves in order to protect the sheep.  The sheepdog is the soldier, sailor, marine, coast guardswoman, police officer, and Good Samaritan. 

Sheep generally dislike the sheepdog.  Sheepdogs resemble wolves, have fangs and possess the capacity for violence.  During quiet times the sheep want little to do with the sheepdogs, feeling they are best out of sight, out of mind.

Until the wolf shows up.

Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one solitary sheepdog.

Sheepdogs carry a heavy burden.  Though trained for violence, theirs differs greatly from the violence of the wolf.  Sheepdogs know their purpose and are committed to protecting the weak.  Bound by a strict code of ethics and a duty to serve, the sheepdog is trained to control the application of violence like a faucet meters water.  This is what sets a sheepdog apart from a wolf.

And yet in times of peace, sheepdogs are often shunned.  They stand as constant reminders that wolves are in the midst.

Until next time,

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