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.
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.