I often feel like people say they served to protect our country as a way to stop voices of dissent, and dare I say, revolution. This gravely concerns me because I believe that one of America’s most important freedoms that we need to protect is the freedom to question those in leadership. Leadership is hard. I’m a leader; I get it. But the populous must be free to question the decisions and belief systems of voted, public leaders. If I ever run for office, I know that I will be signing up for public scrutiny and questions. It’s not easy, it’s not comfortable, but it needs to be part of a healthy, free democratic society. I am always under-impressed when a public official acts offended at this questioning and accountability.
I am a pacifist, so I don’t carry a weapon, but this doesn’t mean I’m a wimp or naive and entitled. (Don’t worry – I won’t run for president as a pacifist. I recognize that my religious beliefs would interfere with my ability to do the job.) . I put my life on the line for this country 180 days a year for 5 years and continue to do so many days each year on an ongoing basis. You see, I am a public educator, and one who opened a school six short months after the Sandy Hook shooting. What I didn’t know at the time was that this would become an alarmingly frequent pattern in our country. I am here to protect and to serve our students, our next generation of voters, the same people that military personnel sign up to protect and serve. More specifically, I am the top office in a public school building. This means it is my responsibility to put myself in harm’s way to protect the lives of staff and children if a gunman walks into the building that I am in charge of protecting and serving.
I don’t carry a gun because I don’t believe that “good guys” killing people is better than “bad guys” killing people. (As a matter of fact, I don’t believe there are “good guys” and “bad guys” at all, and I strive to dismantle these mentalities in staff, students, and families.) I don’t carry a gun because I believe that choosing when to end a human life is God’s decision, not mine, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a fighter. As one friend described me, “Leslie’s a pacifist, but she’s a fighter.” I have no problem asserting my authority and making people leave the premises as needed. I have no problem grabbing the nearest chair or desk and using it to knock an armed intruder unconscious or break his knees. I am trained in restraint and am comfortable incapacitating someone until help arrives. I believe in protecting people. I believe in protecting our rights.
And I believe in standing up to a bully in the highest office. I have been a school leader under two different presidents, and I can tell you that the way the president behaves impacts the way students behave, as well as the systems that impact their existence.
I am incredibly thankful to live in a country where I can speak up when I see a leader harming our country. I am also comfortable living and working together with those who believe differently than I do, including those who believe it is in the best interest of some human beings to kill other human beings. That being said, I expect people to respect that I protect and serve the American people every day, not with a gun, but with my mind, my words, and my actions.