Never completely safe

Jess Williams will never forget the day his 3-year-old grandson, Jonathan Russell, bit him on the big toe while watching television in the bedroom. Having no security camera in place, no interior alarm connected to the local police station, Williams was on his own.

There he rested, on his big comfortable bed, after a long day at the tire shop, winding down in his safe spot, sipping lemonade and polishing off a bag of pretzel sticks. Life couldn’t be better.

A full set of toddler’s teeth ripped into the big toe on his right foot. Williams screamed. His house was electronically protected against hoodlums, and he had loaded guns, too, but he was defenseless against an attack he had never even considered.

That’s the real world. Most people never face an armed assault. Yet many think eradicating guns or making them difficult to obtain will keep them safe. This is laughable. Impoverished, angry Palestinian youth have been attacking Israeli cops with kitchen knives, rocks and screwdrivers.

Inside the Terre Haute high-security federal prison where my dad worked, a group of jealous inmates killed a good-natured inmate with a screwdriver. They knew how to make a weapon out of almost anything. I knew many of the men there. The last thing they needed was a gun.

Anything can be turned into a weapon.

What will restaurants do to prevent rude customers from switching the contents of salt and sugar shakers, if the clientele doesn’t want to use packets? Will management install more cameras and people to monitor behavior? It’s easy to create blind spots that cameras and security guards cannot track.

You cannot completely stop vandalism. You can lock your car and take your keys, but what will you do to prevent bored or ambitious vandals from throwing wet wads of toilet paper at your pretty vehicle?

Ricky, Roger and Steve went untouched during all the neighborhood “egging” and “window soaping” they did around Halloween time. I watched them. I knew everything they did, and they did eventually stop, but nobody could figure out when they would strike or how they would get away. If neighbors or police had installed cameras and more lights, the boys would have taken positions from blind spots and launched bottle rockets at will.

When I was a teenager, my friends and I set aside the last half of October to harass local homeowners. We went uncaught and unpunished, but the truth is neighbors could easily have put an end to our stunts by confronting us personally and explaining how life works for the average person. None of us actually wanted to bother people, all of whom were working hard to get ahead. None of them were vandalizing us. Their homes were a place to rest and a place to spend time with one another. Other neighbors had retired and just wanted to enjoy their remaining years.

Somewhere along the line, we have to trust one another. We even have to wait on each other to grow up and decide to be decent to our fellow man. We can’t guarantee our security by getting rid of guns. That is total nonsense. We can’t put up enough lights and cameras to keep all trouble out of the neighborhood. We can’t remove all possible threats without giving up our freedoms. We are doomed to trust one another. That’s somewhat nonsensical, too, but we are always vulnerable.

At about 7 years of age, my son Scott fell in love with a dumb knock-knock joke, which he used like a weapon on me.

“Hey, Dad, wanna hear a knock-knock joke?”


“Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”


“Tuba who?”

“Tuba tuba toothpaste. Isn’t that funny? Ha ha ha.”

When subjected to that kind of humor on a really frequent basis, you come close to breaking. But what can you do? You must trust that the child will grow out of it.

You can’t keep your kids from torturing you with dumb jokes. You cannot keep Jonathan from biting your toe. You can’t outlaw screwdrivers, kitchen knives and stones or make them harder for teenagers and grownups to get. Somewhere along the line, we have to trust one another.

The very thought motivates many a harmless man and woman to obtain a weapon just to make trusting easier.

Max T. Russell writes for the international business intelligence community. You can contact him via his website,