The Cornered Cat

From The LawDog Files comes this noteworthy little essay about paper. Enjoy!

I’m fond of paper.

A single sheet of paper can hold ideas, hopes, dreams; it can carry a song, orders, love; it can recall history, bear witness when none are left and it can serve as the base of art for bairns as well as their great-grandsires.

Many folks name the invention of the printing press as a foundation stone of human civilization — but what is the use of a printing press with no paper to work with?

For all of its utility and history, though, there is one area in which paper is sorely lacking:

It makes lousy armour.

Oh, I’m sure there are fantastic suits of papier-mâché hauberks using fabled Oriental Death Bamboo paper and sacred Tibetan yak lacquer — but let us cast our gaze upon a single sheet of 8 1/2 by 11 paper.

Let us further stipulate that it is of a good, heavy kind of paper — quality stuff — say, 32 lb paper. Pretty, is it not?

We shall hang this sheet of paper from something. A clothesline, maybe, or a door frame. Something that will hold the paper at the top and at the bottom, yet allow some room behind the paper.

Now, flick a hand at the paper and see how much force it takes to tear through it. A simple pass of the fingers, I’d wager. Nothing as vigorous as a baseball bat, or a fireplace poker, surely.

If you were to lay a similar sheet of paper — flat, as it is meant to be read — upon someone’s cheek and then slap that cheek with all of your strength … would it absorb the blow? Would an 8.5×11 inch sheet of paper cause the impact to hurt less?

How about a punch? Would a sheet of paper — or two sheets, or three — laid upon your stomach turn the trauma of a punch? A kick?

Does anyone think a sheet of paper will stop a kitchen knife, or a bullet?


Let us change the exercise a bit. Take a new sheet of paper, then rummage around and find your very favourite pen. With this most wonderful of writing instruments, I want you to write two words upon the pristine white surface of this sheet of paper.

The first word shall be, “RESTRAINING”, and just below that, write the word, “ORDER”. Just those two words. If those two words are not to your liking, you may substitute the words, “PEACE” and “BOND”, the former above the latter.

As you admire your penmanship, I urge you to contemplate how much those two words change the ability of that sheet of paper to stop slaps. To absorb punches. If this single sheet of paper was held in front of your stomach, would it stop a kick?

Not so much?

Take this sheet of paper and add columns of section signs (§) here and there, write “In The Name Of The State of Texas” to the top, scribble a judge’s name somewhere near the bottom.

How about now? Has the paper now suddenly become magical? Will you now trust this sheet of paper to stop a baseball bat aimed for your face — because it has writing upon it?


Paper makes rotten armour, no matter how many inked symbols it holds.

"Stop a stalker? With a piece of paper?" Image copyright Oleg Volk, Used by permission.

And when it comes down to you and a critter, in a deserted parking lot in the afternoon; or a busy office at brunch; or your living room at midnight, at bad-breath distances — that’s all your ex parte restraint order or your peace bond is … or even your Protective Order — it is merely a piece of paper.

Oh, I hear you now: “LawDog, if I have a valid Protective Order, and the critter violates it, he goes to jail!”

Yes. He does. Remember, however, that when he does that violating, you have to be able to contact the men with guns to come help you. And then they have to come to you from wherever they are at the time you call. Until they get there, if the only thing you’ve got is that piece of paper …

Well, as we’ve seen, paper just doesn’t make decent armour at all.

Gentle Readers, nothing says, “Protected” quite like a Protective Order in one paw backed up by a self-defence tool in your other and the mindset and willingness to use it behind your eyes.

Stay safe.