2 violent flashes in a country stretched raw

At least a first glance, Ryan Sager  seems right when he writes: “Don’t Look for Meaning in Fort Hood Violence.”  Mass killings in this country that loves its guns usually have little point.

A day after the Ford Hood massacre, however, I was struck by this juxtaposition of headlines at USAToday.com — “Jobless Rate Hits 10.2%” and “Police: Orlando Office Shooter Apprehended”.

I began to wonder: What toll is the grinding of two wars and the grief of too many unemployed  too long taking?

There is no clear explanation — and this is no rationalization — for the acts of two evidently disturbed men. They opened fire, their victims just going about their business.  But perhaps, nonetheless, we should give pause, first to honor those killed, but then to take stock of who and where as a country we are.  Have we stopped noticing the collateral damage of our nation’s aggressiveness and greed? Why else is it that we’re eager to read about almost anything other than those tossed from their jobs or those killed and killing far away? Does it take such violent outbursts to catch our attention? And for how long?

Wars send home too many who are broken and despairing.  Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged Fort Hood shooter,  had not served in Iraq or Afghanistan, but faced imminent deployment. As a psychiatrist, he had spoken to many of those who returned in mental tatters, who shared their nightmares of post traumatic stress disorder, quite possibly, Todd Essig suggests, leaving a serious imprint. Hasan himself had expressed deep concern about being sent overseas, The New York Times reports. A devout Muslim, he opposed the wars, and had spoken of leaving the military. His ultimate motive, authorities say, remains unclear.

The same is true of Jason Rodriguez, who allegedly went back to the Orlando engineering firm that had laid him off more than two years ago and opened fire, killing one and injuring five.

Rodriguez lost his job well before the current recession. But as people are discarded in the disposal bin of near-permanent unemployment while Wall Street bankers celebrate their latest six-figure bonuses what anger is growing elsewhere?

These two incidents seem isolated. They have no connection. Yet our wars without end and our ongoing economic doldrums are not unrelated.

We have bled money as well as men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, deepening this country’s debt, undoubtedly leaving Congress and the president more tentative in backing more programs to create more jobs.  The mess America is in began long before Barack Obama, during the eight-year nightmare that was George W. Bush’s presidency. Whomever is to blame, this is a country with too many people who could soon be as broken in spirit as they are just plain broke.  It’s not something the more fortunate can simply choose to ignore.

When people reach despair, sometimes they turn to violence, against themselves, against others.  Two senseless incidents of isolated violence?  For a number of reasons, it’s too early to say.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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5 Responses to 2 violent flashes in a country stretched raw

  1. jenniepalluzzi says:

    I think as unemployment continues to rise, and more people realize that they know family, friends, and colleagues out of work, they will see
    the correlation between the economy and the mental state of the American people. Or so one hopes…

  2. Caitlin Kelly says:

    Hardly “senseless.” I wish more people looked beyond the tedious individualism of “he was aggressive”, etc. to the larger disaster of the economy and the havoc it’s wreaking on so many of us.

  3. Jerry Lanson says:

    In a way, I’d say I was trying to do just that Caitlin. When someone unloads a gun into a roomful of people it is pretty senseless, so much so that the word, in fact, is cliched. Is that ever a good way to deal with stress, to get yourself and a bunch of people killed? I don’t think so. My point, though, was that a lot of people are turning desperate yet the larger society doesn’t want to engage, not in those who are scraping by or out of work, not in those who’ve done multiple tours in our two wars and come back with all kinds of demons. If we as a society keep turning our back, more people will be shooting at it.

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