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Yesterday afternoon our nation was rocked by yet another tragedy.  An Army psychiatrist, for at present unknown reasons, went on a shooting spree in Fort Hood, Texas, killing thirteen and wounding thirty.  My thoughts and prayers reach out to the victims and their families in this time of mourning.

I have scoured the stories online trying to find even a glimmer of an explanation.  These tragedies, far too commonplace in the last two decades, are all the more tragic because we always seem to be left groping for answers that cannot be found.  The senselessness of it, the inability to give a definitive answer to the “why” of the story makes these incidents that much more difficult to handle.

But, what frightens me about this is the predictability of the aftermath.  Too many people are going to read the words “U.S. citizen of Jordanian descent” and jump to the conclusion that this is yet another terrorist attack.  We have no reason to believe that at this point, but the assumption will be made in may circles.  This will spiral into yet another round of prejudice and retaliation against innocent people who have nothing to do with the situation.

I remember many things about the tragedies we have all lived through, but one of the things that always gets stamped upon my psyche is the immediate cry out for answers, for punishment.  We, as a society, need someone or something to blame.  And, in that need, many will rush to conclusions and embrace prejudices that seem to give them a target for their grief and anger. 

We saw this after Colombine when people lashed out at the video game and movie industries for creating violent content.  I bore witness to this ugly side of human nature shortly after 9/11 when an acquaintance I worked with at the time, a good man of Indian descent who deserved no ire, was assaulted in a park by two men because he wore a traditional turban and they mistook him for an Arab.  But, even had he been an Arab, that is not a crime deserving of violence.

This tragedy needs to have some sort of “why” attached to it.  The victims deserve it.  We, as a society, need to feel we can ensure such a thing won’t happen again.  But, as we search for those answers we must leave all our prejudices and unwarranted fears at the door.  We must look at these events with an eye unclouded by bigotry and with a mind which seizes on fact not speculation.  We cannot truly resolve these issues, and take effective steps toward preventing them in the future, by taking action with our emotions.  This must be a process of intellect.

So, as the story develops, do not be taken in by sensationalism.  Do not listen to the railing of prejudice and fear.  Keep your mind open to the facts as they begin to crystallize.  In this situation our hearts must be soft and open for those victimized, but hardened against emotion as we investigate.  Only then will the truth be found.

And that, my friends, is vital right now.

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2 Comments

  1. This is a sad reminder of the fragility of humanity. When 9/11 occurred people often chose judgment rather then understanding. I feel strongly that regardless of if we find a reason or not it is our moral responsibility to not resort to such all encompassing judgment.

  2. When I first heard this on the news, one of the announcers was speculating that this man was suffering from PTSD — ironically, one of the very conditions he was called upon to treat. Since then I think I’ve heard that, while the shooter was readying to deploy, he had not yet done a tour in Iraq. (Of course, people experience PTSD for many reasons.)

    While I’m horrified at the shootings, I’m glad that at least the media coverage is recognizing the HUGE toll these wars are taking on soldiers and on the units at Fort Hood in particular. Danny was stationed there with the First Cavalry when he was sent to Iraq, and he missed being stop-lossed and roped in for a second tour, and a year-long extension of his initial enlistment commitment, by only seven days. Many of his friends weren’t as lucky and were sent to Baghdad again. One friend had to go for a THIRD time, for a particularly violent tour, and has tried to commit suicide since he returned. These soldiers and their families often don’t even get a year reprieve between deployments.

    From the experience of Danny and his friends, it is also nearly IMPOSSIBLE for soldiers to get quality and consistent mental health treatment, either while they are in the military or as veterans. Danny had one encounter with a therapist post-Iraq — a ten-minute conversation with someone during in-processing. One of his friends has been trying to get an initial appointment with a VA therapist for over a year now. And this is in Houston, home of one of the largest VA hospitals in the country.

    Sorry. I get a little fired up about this. Maybe I should blog about it myself. I don’t know anything about the shooter, and really — even thinking about him makes me so angry. But we can’t expect soldiers to survive extensive wars like those we’re involved in now — or to maintain safe environments for their fellow soldiers and families — if we don’t take care of them while they’re at home.

    Okay. I’m done now.


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