Saturday, November 7, 2009
The shooting at Fort Hood: There's a lesson to be learned from the event
So I unplugged from the world a few days ago - no television, no internet, no nothing. So I'm sitting there minding my own business and catching up on some Michael Eric Dyson reading when I get a phone-call. I pick up the phone and it's my sister-in-law obviously shook and emotionally disturbed on the other end. She said she just wanted to reach out and let us know that she was OK. So I'm like, "why wouldn't you be OK?" To which she replied, "haven't you been watching the news or anything?" I told her no, and that I was just sitting and reading a book - you know, taking a break from it all. It was then that she informed me that a few minutes prior to her phone-call somebody, or a few people had just shot up the PX on base at Fort Hood. Yep, my sister-in-law, her husband and daughter all live on base at Fort Hood, and have been for a couple of years now; her husband is currently deployed in Iraq, and they live about two minutes away from the scene of the carnage.
Having been a frequent customer at the PX at Naval Air Station in Pensacola not too long ago myself. My first instinct lead me to believe that this was an inside job, or an act committed by an enlisted serviceman. Yeah, it's not easy for random civilian people to gallivant onto military installations carrying guns n' shit and go unnoticed. I mean let's be real, the interest of National Security in mind: if the FBI is good enough to thwart the terrorist plot of a few guys with funny sounding names pretending to be pizza delivery guys in New Jersey a few years ago. Surely they'd be able to stop the plans of another guy with a funny sounding terrorist-ish name from shooting and killing innocent people on the worlds largest military base, no? I'm just sayin': airplane hi-jackings and flying them into tall buildings aside, when it comes to national security and the war on terror, the gov't is on top of things.
So why is it so easy for people to associate Major Malik Hassan and his actions to be an act of terrorism with an Anti-American slant? Two reasons A) I've already stated the obvious - the negative stereotype his ethnic name evokes (Barack Hussein Obama is Muslim, remember?), and B) for the most part in this country we are oblivious to the realities of the mental state of the people who are entrusted to protect our freedom as we're told; in short, we tend to downplay mental issues and cast them to the side; you know, like throw them in jail? Let's talk about the latter shall we? Yeah, because my inner bullshit meter is telling me that were his last name McVeigh, "certain people" would be more concerned about his mental state than they would his political ideological aspirations or propensity for Jihad, his hate for America n' shit like that.
Yes, lemme touch on a little known or rarely discussed fact. Did you know that 2008 was recorded as the year with the highest suicide rate in the Army itself? No seriously, did you know that? I'm only asking because, well, you don't hear that type of stuff in the news too much - plus I know how much you depend on the media for the truth. The suicide rate has increased each year for the last four years, and last year it was the highest. Keeping it real: out side of the stress of combat and being deployed into a war zone? Military personnel endure many hardships us regular people in civilian life wouldn't even think of. That said, is it any shock that a trained professional psychiatrist who serves in the military would snap?
Hell, we all remember the DC Sniper who is currently awaiting execution for his crimes. Well, in a last ditch effort his attorneys have filed a motion to seek clemency for his client. Citing his mental stability at the time he went on his shooting spree. His attorney claims that this was in fact a direct result or byproduct of him serving in Desert Storm. I kinda chuckled when I read this earlier this week, because like any ordinary person I think the dude is/was just plum crazy. No "normal" person goes on a three week shooting spree taking lives and calls the cops and asks for $1 million dollars to stop doing what he was doing. But when I think back to two individuals I had the privilege of working with some years ago who were Desert Storm veterans, I see the claim by John Muhammad's (another terrorist friendly last name) attorney as plausible.
The two people I know of which one of them is now deceased, were both veterans who came back from that war with serious issues - both medical and mental. Ironically, they were both cousins as well, and had a hard time seeking help or assistance from the Veteran's Association to help them transition back into civilian life. Without going into too much detail about their personal lives, I'll just tell you that the one who is still alive recently received a rather large settlement from the gov't by way of a lawsuit for all that he has endured. And yes, he too could be considered a crazy muthafucka who appears normal until you get to know him.
I say all of that to say this: there is a lot going on with our military personnel, active or retired, that leads to depression, that we often fail to recognize. Often we think of these people as people who "just can't get right," and are often drinking themselves to death and on drugs. But the truth is: there are many of them - especially young people - who are carrying their own crosses unbeknown to us all. I think this latest incident is emblematic of this very fact, and to cast it off as just some terrorist act does a disservice to the very people who need help and support.
I'm not suggesting that people like the DC Sniper and now the Fort Hood shooter should be excused of their crimes because of their mental health. Instead, my position is that should more attention be paid to people in need of mental help - military personnel or not - these tragedies could be avoided. I'm just sayin': it's the least that could be done considering that the president of the United States never recognizes or sends condolences to the family of military personnel who kill themselves.