Ta-Nehisi talks about that great Shel Silverstein story Lafcadio, about the lion who fought back, in a fascinating post about the romance of self-defense:
I loved that story when I was kid. Like I later loved the stories of Menelik II at Adowa, or Nat Turner or Robert Charles. These were Negroes Who Shot Back, or in the words of Robert Williams, Negroes With Guns. Like, I later still loved--in very perverse fashion--the story of Joseph Trumpeldor and that great quote--"No matter, It is good to die for our country." Trumpeldor is the Jew Who Shot Back.
Ta-Nehisi writes that he loved Trumpeldor "in very perverse fashion" only because he's distancing himself from a core truth of his being, which is that he's actually Jewish. I, too, loved the Trumpeldor story -- the one-armed Russian army veteran who made a valiant last stand at
the Alamo Tel Hai in the Upper Galilee, though the chance that his last words were "it is good to die for our country," or "one's country," or whatever, is pretty slim. Once, in basic training, we we were brought to Tel Hai for a fortifying lesson in heroism, which was completely undermined by my lieutenant, who was one of the few authentically funny Israelis I ever met -- American Jews, funny, Israeli Jews, not so much -- who said: "You know what Trumpeldor's last words were? `My legs! Where the fuck are my legs? Fuck!" This doesn't mean, the lieutenant explained, that Trumpeldor wasn't the most bad-ass Jew in the valley, because he was. I think his point was that it's a good thing not to get shot.