Tuesday, February 27, 2018


I learned a new word the other day reading a book about an obscure battle fought between the Japanese and Russians on the eve of World War II—gekokujo. There had been a long-festering border dispute between Japan and Russia over an area near a place called Nomonhan. Japan’s Kwantung Army thought that the honorable thing to do was attack the Russians and drive them from the disputed land. Japan’s “Pentagon” said no. The Kwantung Army had been given a dishonorable order, so what did they do? They disobeyed it and attacked the Russians anyway. They had exercised the Japanese “prerogative” of gekokujo, or honorable insubordination. The Kwantung Army got clobbered by the Russians under the leadership of Georgy Zhukov, one of the few generals whom Stalin hadn’t killed in a recent purge.

There is a time and a place for gekokujo. Unfortunately for the Kwantung Army 1939 at Nomonhan was neither the time nor the place. In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Lt. Laz Ojeda of the Coral Springs Fire Department demonstrated the proper time and place for the exercise of gekokujo. Ordered to take a seriously injured shooting victim to a hospital 30 miles away, Ojeda didn’t think the victim would survive the trip. There was another hospital just 10 miles distant. He disobeyed the order to take the victim to the faraway hospital and took her to the nearby hospital. Attending physicians say that decision saved her life. SEE THE ARTICLE HERE.
There are now reports that the four deputies who did not enter the school during the shooting were obeying orders. They were told not to go into the scene unless they were wearing body cameras. SEE THE ARTICLE HERE. I don’t know if these reports are true or not. Time will tell. Assuming for the sake of argument that they were ordered not to enter the building while the shooting was going on, I think this would have been an excellent situation for the application of the Imperial Japanese Army’s principle of gekokujo.

I recall another mass shooting that occurred in Austin Texas the year I graduated from high school. Charles Whitman climbed to the top of a tower at the University of Texas at Austin and started shooting people on the campus. Two uniformed officers, Houston McCoy and Ramiro Martinez met at the foot of the tower. Acting without orders, they climbed it. Arriving at the top of the tower, they engaged the still-active gunman and killed him. Who knows what might have happened if they had checked with higher authorities before entering the tower. Might they have been told to stand down? Might they have disobeyed because they felt that in so doing they could save lives?