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A man in Wyoming was out riding his bicycle. According to him he was attacked by a vicious German Shepherd (Belgian Malinois). Fearing for his life he shot the dog to death with his trusty revolver. It’s a story you may have missed. It only made the news because the dog in question was a former military service dog, a Bronze Star recipient, no less. I find the story interesting because it sheds light on a schism amongst the American people.

Mike was a nine year old dog who previously served two combat tours in Iraq. Upon his retirement Mike was adopted by Matthew Bessler, a retired Army Ranger. Both veterans suffered from PTSD; they provided each other with beneficial companionship.

Bessler went hunting. He left Mike in the care of a friend. Mike wandered off and encountered the cyclist – with deadly results. There, the news story ends.

The cyclist was not charged, his use of deadly force deemed by police to be justifiable self-defense. A GoFundMe page has been set up in order to provide Mike with a military burial.

A sub-controversey surrounds the fact the lethal shot hit Mike in the rear or back. I discount this factor. Attacking dogs move very fast. Shooting scenarios move fast too. A shot in the back does not, by itself, disqualify self-defense, especially concerning an animal. The old, false adage that retreat is better if possible is dangerous when one crosses a predatory animal. Withdrawal might trigger a chase or hunt instinct which could be worse than the initial confrontation. Like everyone else, I was not present and I can only go by the shooter’s account, tempered by reasoned thinking.

On the surface I find this story sad all the way around. I regret Mike’s death. I regret the cyclist felt his life was endangered to the point of resorting to shooting. I’m sorry Mike and Bessler suffered PTSD. I’m sorry their conditions were the results of the government’s inexplicable and indefensible war in Iraq. It’s terrible some think we need that government.


Mike, another victim of the State. Daily Mail, UK.

Based on the bare facts reported by the (British) press, I support the cyclist’s account of the incident and his use of force. I can see a dog with PTSD (even if usually docile) becoming aggressive around a stranger. It happens.

I also hold Mike blameless. Even a vicious, dangerous animal is still just that, an animal. Mike was utterly blameless, too, regarding his military service and resulting illness. A human soldier with a conscious can object to illegal wars of aggression. A dog can’t.

Any blame here rests with the friend who was supposed to watch Mike. Large dogs should be leashed or fenced. Maybe there is no one to blame. Mike could have escaped a reasonable containment. Dogs do things like that. Maybe this was just a bad thing that happened – like a tornado or a freak accident.

At any rate, all of this is merely supporting background for my story. I noticed themes in the comments which accompanied the news which, upon further consideration, formed my titular dichotomy.

There were hundreds of comments which roughly divided into two camps. The first was supportive of the cyclist. They found the shooting justified. Most of these also held a pro Second Amendment bias. The other group was mortally offended at the death of a military hero, albeit a dog.

The former group fully supported the individual right of self preservation even if they found Mike’s death lamentable as I do. The latter hold the shooting of a military veteran indefensible under any circumstance.

There were a few other reactions. Some found the existence of the subject firearm the problem. I suppose some might hate bicycles or hate dogs. These opinions are outliers and safely factor out of my analysis.

Some pro-shooter comments:

Should have been on a leash.

Too bad for the dog but most communities have leash laws for a reason…and yes, many joggers and bicyclists are bitten by uncontrolled dogs, that’s why pepper spray is a good idea.

“Park County Sheriff Scott Steward said: ‘Essentially, if you feel your life is in danger or threatened by an animal, you can act against it.’ Exactly

Pro military, no matter what:

Sounds like another Democrat got there hand’s on a gun !!

this cyclist had no business killing this dog. Charges should be brought against him immediately.

I would not blame or feel bad at all and I would even back the dog owner if he wanted to take fatal retaliation against the cyclist. It is just. What the hell is wrong with people that want to kill a dog like that…This soldier has one more mission to accomplish! …huh rah!

I hope the shooter gets hit by a car and suffers a long painful death

These views show a division between otherwise aligned interests. Most of the folks are likely “conservative” by political philosophy, perhaps a few libertarian. “Liberals” would abhor the gun itself.

I see this as a difference of opinion between “red staters.” I suspect the majority of both sides generally support the carrying of individual arms. Both likely support justifiable self-defense. Here’s the division: the first group seems to support self-defense regardless of the aggressors status. They find a man free to act when illegally threatened. Period. I’ll call these the people “freedom lovers.” The others support self-defense unless the aggressor is a member of the hallowed legions of the state. I’ll call them “government lovers.”

The government lovers are more extreme. Not only do they want the cyclist prosecuted, they want him dead – by a “long painful death” – for a situation they did not witness. But, to them, the facts do not matter. They are more worshipers than mere lovers of the state. The government and its uniformed agents (even dog agents) must not be challenged – ever.

The worship of the state may be increasingly seen in American churches, particularly Evangelical protestant churches. Government has seemingly replaced God for many. Much of this stems from an overzealous but false interpretation of Romans 13. Paul was only speaking to legitimate state authority – authority not acting against God’s Natural Law.

The Nazis, acting under Hitler’s “legal” orders, carried out the murder of dissidents and other war crimes. Were these too God-sanctioned acts of official authority? I think not.

The statists see it otherwise – at least concerning the American government.

If American soldiers kill innocents overseas, regardless of conditions, it’s acceptable collateral damage. If the police shoot a dog it’s okay, even if the police are breaking their own laws during the shooting. The same standard applies to police shootings of innocent civilians. No matter the cause, no matter the circumstance, the government is never at fault.

In the odd event the government is at odds with one of its servants the lovers will throw the individual under the bus without thought or hesitation. The false god of the almighty state suffers NO challenge.

This highlights both a disdain for individuality and a lack of logic among the parishioners of official authority.

For those of us who value freedom over safety this dichotomy and this particular example illustrates both a dire problem and a hazardous solution for liberty. It reminds me, for some reason, of the Melian Dialogue (with a twist).

A bit of archaic history: In 416 B.C. Athens was perhaps the most powerful military force in the known ancient world. The Athenians sought to subjugate the small, peaceful island state of Melos. The Athenian navy arrived at Melos. The dialogue went something like this:

Athens: “Surrender and join us.”

Melos: “No.”

The Athenians then proceeded to exterminate the Melians and seize their island.


Ruins of Melos. Google.

Many in the freedom camp rightfully seek to resist the evil of the modern state. However, as to outright martial confrontation, they see no hope. Maybe they are right. The American military and police state is almost powerful beyond measure. Outright rebellion would be almost impossible.

It may though be possible to indirectly oppose state oppression. An individual might be able to resist a single agent of the state and legally get away with it. Such resistance is still fraught with gravest danger. After such an incident the individual will be faced with resentment and hatred of the government’s unthinking masses. Hatred to the point of murder in revenge.

A safer if slower strategy might be to seek out those of the opposing camp and convert them to the truth of freedom. If they can think and reason this may be possible. They can be armed without an army. They can be safe and secure absent official structure. They can act as individuals. They can regard God as God and alone the Supreme source of authority.

All of this is open for consideration. What say you?