The first time I was sent to the gas chamber was in late July 1996.
I’m not being dramatic– that’s literally what they called it.
I was 17 years old… a brand new cadet at West Point undergoing my first summer of basic training.
It’s affectionately known as ‘Beast Barracks’, and one of the highlights is a few days’ worth of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical training.
The culmination of this is going through the gas chamber; it’s basically a small room filled with tear gas… the same stuff that riot police use on protesters.
You walk into the chamber in your full gear: hazmat suit (they called it a MOPP suit), gloves, and mask. And at a certain point, they make you rip off your mask, inhale all that poison for a few seconds, and make your way to the exit in utter misery.
It was one of the worst experiences of my life up to that point.
Naturally they post some giant man in front of the exit (who still has his mask on). And he makes you recite your name and service number before he steps aside and you’re allowed to leave.
When my turn came up, I took a deep breath and ripped off my mask. Immediately I could feel the gas on my skin like a thousand knives digging into my face.
I couldn’t hold my breath anymore and inhaled, instantly burning my lungs and causing pain I couldn’t have imagined before.
The big guy at the door barked at me to state my name. I was in such agony I couldn’t even remember.
Finally took pity on me and kicked me outside. I felt daylight on my face again, along with a stream of gooey snot running from my nose to my boots. And my eyes were so swollen I could barely see.
But amazingly enough my day was about to get a lot worse.
Later in the day, we went through another training session that changed me forever.
West Point develops its cadets to be leaders and Army officers. And that afternoon, they trained us how to respond in case we were ever leading a unit that came under chemical or biological attack.
I’ll never forget the procedure.
As soon as there’s any evidence of chemical or biological agents in the vicinity, the platoon leader immediately gives the order for all troops to put on their protective gear.
But at a certain point, perhaps after several hours and your unit has moved on from the area, you’re supposed to conduct a series of tests to see if you’re in the clear.
The Army provides testing equipment to determine if there are any traces of chemical or biological weapons in the area. But like most things in the military back then, the tests were far from accurate.
So, in order to be absolutely certain, the platoon leader was supposed to approach the lowest ranking soldier in the unit, relieve him of his weapon, and order him to remove his gas mask.
That soldier was like a canary in the coalmine; if he lived, we could be sure that we were out of the chem/bio danger zone.
And it was my responsibility as the leader to look someone in the eye and order him to put his life at risk.
I knew when I joined the military that I would be putting my own life on the line.
But it hadn’t yet dawned on me that, as a leader, I’d have to order others to do the same.
The sergeant in charge of our training could sense the looming dread in the room, and he told us, “If you’re not willing to do that, then you’re not fit to be a leader.”
I must have instantly aged 10 years when he said those words. And he was right: on rare and extraordinary occasions, some leadership positions require making gut-wrenching decisions.
But many of the ‘leaders’ we have today aren’t willing to make those gut-wrenching decisions. They’re far more concerned about electability, political legacy, TV ratings, and poll numbers.
They say things like “I can’t let people die” as justification to suspend freedom and shut down the economy.
This isn’t a difficult decision, it’s just bad logic. People die every day.
You’ll never hear a governor say “I can’t let people die. . .” of heart attacks. Or hurricanes. Or diabetes.
They’ll never order a complete shut down of the economy because of a spike in automobile accidents.
These politicians are perfectly fine for people to die of every other possible way, including pneumonia (as long as it wasn’t caused by Covid).
But death from Covid? Unacceptable!
It’s truly bizarre. And they’re willing to destroy everything– the economy, individual liberty– just so they don’t look flat-footed or get blamed for Covid deaths.
Sorry, but that’s not what leadership is all about. You’re not supposed to factor your personal approval ratings into a decision-making process.
Leadership is not a popularity contest. And sometimes it demands the heavy responsibility of asking for sacrifice… asking others to take a risk.
But what have we been asked to sacrifice? Nothing. Stay home and watch Netflix. Take your free government money.
That’s not leadership. And that’s not a tough decision.
Frankly it’s the easy way out. It’s far more politically palatable for them to continue printing incomprehensible quantities of money, sending everyone checks in the mail, and demanding more bailouts.
Yes, there are always exceptions. But for the most part, the politicians we’re dealing with simply aren’t fit to be leaders.
They refuse to make the difficult, gut-wrenching decisions that are required of their offices. So instead they consistently take the easier route: more government power, more economic destruction, more money printing, less freedom.
And in the long run, such pitiful leadership will cause far greater consequences than the virus itself.