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Anticipatory Self-Defense: A Modest Proposal
October 11, 2002
By The Plaid Adder

I had a thought last night about this "anticipatory self-defense" concept, which I initially found so pukeworthy. I'm starting to think maybe I haven't been giving it fair consideration.

Tuesday was the monthly meeting of our lesbian book group, which takes place at the local gay & lesbian library. Unfortunately, someone forgot to put the blinds down, which meant that all meeting long there were people wandering by, staring through the windows at us, and looking disgusted.

Most of them just wandered off, but one of them kept walking back and forth past the windows, leering at us and generally being obnoxious. Since he was acting as if he was either mentally ill or seriously chemically altered, we were worried about what was going to happen once we all started walking home at night, and ultimately we decided to leave in a posse and walk each other to our cars, which we did without incident.

It was only later that it occurred to me that if we, like our president, thought of ourselves as being entitled to "anticipatory self-defense," we could have settled the whole thing as soon as he first turned up at the window by setting upon him en masse and beating the crap out of him. Sure, he was obviously hurting; sure, he looked like he'd been homeless for quite some time; but hey, he was a potential threat to us, and if we'd just dealt with him pre-emptively we could have all walked directly to our own cars in peace and safety.

Then I started thinking about what would happen if women in general started adopting "anticipatory self-defense" as their policy. Why bother with restraining orders and stalking laws? Anticipatory self-defense would entitle any woman who was being hassled by any man who she deemed to be a potential threat to her to just head out there with her handgun and blow him away. It'd make the world a lot safer - for women, anyway.

Or why think about it in such narrow, individualized terms? Think of the physical and emotional dangers that all women must face during pregnancy and delivery. Then, consider that the Supreme Court could, at any time, reverse Roe v. Wade, thus significantly increasing the average American woman's chances of being forced to carry and deliver an unwanted baby. Anticipatory self-defense would license just about any woman in this country to send the CIA in to take out Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas...the mind boggles.

Well, of course that's never going to happen, is it. The very idea is absurd...because the capacity for "pre-emptive" action and the right to an "anticipatory self-defense" is never ceded to the people who really need it. It's only the people at the top who are ever allowed to argue that they have the right to use violence to protect themselves - not even from an actual threat, but from an imaginary threat.

It's just as well, maybe, that "anticipatory self-defense" will never become a universal right - where would the carnage end? But you know what, Dubya, if you're not going to bring enough for the rest of the class, then we'll just have to confiscate it and send you to the naughty corner to think about what you've done.



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