Monday, November 9, 2009

Case study: Fort Hood shooting

I'm going to call this a morality case study, even though the Fort Hood shooting is obviously mostly a criminal and a psychological matter. This is because I want to help my readers, especially the young people (Hi again!) to use powers of faith and reason to understand current events and also to discern the best path to accuracy and justice.

My first point is that human nature likes, yes I would say even craves, simplicity. They will naturally want one and only one reason and cause for why the Fort Hood shooting happened. You hear this on the talk shows where certain hosts gravitate immediately to the Muslim connection, while others gravitate to the stress of exposure (even second hand) to war and post traumatic stress. Yet you must understand that this event, like so many others, are the culmination of several factors all at once. This is why I want to do this as a case study for you.

We have not yet heard from the defendant, and I'm not going to put words in his mouth, second guess him, or try to predict what decisions he will make about culpability. I'm going to teach you how to look at the facts and put yourself in the optimal frame of mind for then processing new developments and information as they occur.

Fact one: The defendant is a psychiatrist, one who is focused on treating and also being among the most grievously war wounded. Thus his contact with the military arena is not firsthand, in that he was not in combat himself (yet). Any soldier will tell you that no one understands combat until he or she is actually in it. So one cannot accurately ascribe a combat mentality to the defendant based on experience, but only his second hand information and his imagination of what it will be like when he is deployed. Think about that last point. He is on the receiving end of those who have returned from combat mentally and physically wounded. He's not treating people who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan but are OK. So he is not part of those who greet the returning veterans and active military who are OK and going home. He is treating those who are severely injured and when not treating them, he is immersed in that environment nonetheless. Thus he gets a "sampling" of combat only from those who are the most injured by combat, and that sampling is the totality of his "experience." He then deduces and imagines what combat is like based on that environment of treating and being among the most wounded and injured of the combatants.

This fact, then, is not "the" cause, but "one" cause. Why is it not "the" cause? Because we can imagine that if other things were different that he might have had more perspective and more comfort in dealing with the one sided view he was receiving of combat. I'm not saying that combat is ever great, but here is my point.

Fact two: He was a lonely and isolated individual. The defendant was never married, had no children, and was not part of a tight knit cultural local community. There are two components to this. The first is reality of military life, which is you go where you are ordered. People from strong local ethnic cultures (Native Americans, for example) often have to leave their intimate support network and be very singular when going to college, joining the military, etc. So there is a cultural isolation that is inherent in that profession. The second and more urgent point is, however, that he was not married. Again and again I have warned that not marrying, the breakdown of the family, and "sexual liberation" will only lead to isolation and ruin. Don't believe me?

Genesis 2:18, 22, 24
Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man is alone; I will make him a helper like himself." And the rib which the Lord God took from the man, he made into a woman, and brought her to him. For this reason a man leaves his father and mother, and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh.

Let's be all grown up here. People are meant to be together, to be married, to be intimate, to have a life partner and to have sex. Society is falling apart and individuals are going crazy because this freak show society has demonized traditional families and created generations of frustrated lone wolfs. Duh. So my point is that even though fact one regarding his combat imaginings and deductions are true, we don't know that he would have had difficulty with that or indeed snapped if he also had been in a traditional loving intimate and, yes, sexual marriage. This is what I mean when I say that these events are rarely "one cause." Do you see what I mean?

Fact three: He is a Muslim and relationships with Muslims can be, but are not required to be, more complex since the reality of September 11, 2001. Further, Muslim attitudes toward themselves and others can be, but are not required to be, more complex since the reality of September 11, 2001. It is a fact that the defendant joined the military and became a psychiatrist before September 11, 2001. The terrorism of September 11, 2001 is also a fact. Thus one must recognize, without excusing, the significance of timing. Suppose he were a younger man and was not ready to either go to college or enlist until 9/11/2001 had happened. Someone of a more timid character might well have decided, "Hey, I'm a Muslim and I'm not sure I can handle entering the military with all the limelight and pressure on any Muslim, so I'm going to go to school or whatever and not enlist." Those Muslim Americans who felt the patriotic call to the Armed Services went ahead and enlisted, during and post 9/11/2001. This guy, had he been younger, might have recognized that he was not cut out to be in the pressure cooker of belonging to the broad "category" of "Muslim" at the height of justifiable suspicion AND draw further attention to one's self by enlisting where one is going to get pressure, either intentional or unintentional. I'm not saying I believe he was harassed. I'm saying that when one is Muslim, or any other minority, one stands out and one must have a certain strength of character to function accordingly and appropriately. So my third point is the significance of timing of global events and the way people's character is tested by the luck of the draw regarding where they were and what decisions they made, and then subsequent events.

Fact four: Isolated and troubled people easily gravitate to increasingly extreme views, in both politics and their faith. When I say "troubled" I do not mean mentally or emotionally disturbed, in this case study. I mean that they are uneasy about something. As a psychiatrist the defendant would have heard disturbing events and feelings expressed by and experienced by his wounded warrior patients, and the others around him, even if he was not actually treating them. This creates an inherent tension that some can handle, while some cannot. Here's an exercise to help you to imagine the situation I am describing.

Suppose that you are a female counselor and all your patients have had violent encounters with females and here I don't mean battering. What if every one of your patients returned from combat where their injuries were inflicted by women soldiers on the other side? Suppose that you are a gay man who is a counselor. Suppose that every one of your patients had issues because they had been beaten up by gay men, and in return had sometimes done some very bad things?

Do you see what I mean? Some people, particularly those who are isolated (as described above) find themselves identifying more and more with a category of people rather than humanity as a whole when they have to deal with repeated examples of unsuccessful outcomes with their "category." In other words, the defendant would feel more and more "Muslim" and less and less "Army officer," less and less "counselor," less and less "American," less and less "humanitarian." The female counselor in my example above would likewise feel more and more "female" and less and less "officer" or "humanitarian" or "American." Also a well adjusted gay guy who is a regular ordinary counselor might start feeling more and more as being "gay" because patient after patient is describing combat or trauma with or at the hands of gays. Again, this is not an excuse at all. I am explaining why members of all groups find themselves more and more isolated and more and more radical if they are exposed to "bad outcomes" in relationships with their "category" of person.

This is different from the phenomenon that many discuss, and I allude to in fact one, where counselors who counsel certain cases of trauma over and over pick up, like second hand smoking, some of that trauma themselves. I don't think that we can conclude that about the defendant based on the facts, beyond what I said in fact one, which is that lacking first hand combat experience, his entire set of information and opinion is based on the trauma of his patients. So what I am saying is that I am skeptical that he is receiving second hand trauma in the classic way that let's say domestic violence counselors often start to pick up residue of trauma from repeated treatment of domestic violence victims. I am saying that based on the facts that 1) he was not in combat himself and 2) all of what he heard was based on wounded and traumatic experience we can deduce that he had a "sampling" of what combat in predominately Muslim countries was like, rather than first hand experience.

Thus when one is isolated (not married, no children, not in a strong local community network) and one receives troubling information about a category of person (in this case, his faith) that one belongs to, one often has the problem of becoming less, instead of more, integrated with humanity as a whole, and often more radicalized in one's perception of one's own category, with potential for feeling part of a one-sided situation with no neutral ground.

We know that some of the most troubling radicalization of Muslim children occurs when they are in dire poverty and the radical groups feed them, clothe them and send them to school, becoming their caregivers and family. This is what I mean that those who are isolated (without family) and/or troubled (in this example, suffering from poverty) are often quite naturally radicalized as they feel either 1) more isolated due to their "category" and 2) "rescued" by zealotry and "belonging."

I could continue with this but I want to wrap up this blogging here because my purpose is a case study, not an analysis with conclusions, since we simply do not know yet, and may never really know all the facts and perspectives. Again, this is by no means a defense of him but, rather, I am taking advantage of a situation to teach you, especially young people, how to understand the combinations of facts and opportunities/situations that mixed together result in a person's actions or an event.

Our society has become so overwhelmingly complex and false that people have "complexity fatigue" and yearn, unrealistically, for "one cause" and "one reason" factors and that simply is not the case for most events. It is usually a progression and a combination that results in such events and they must be understood as such if they are to be reduced or somehow "fixed."

Here is another fact, published in the New York Times. There are just over four hundred psychiatrists to treat a military of over 500,000 men and women. Whether the pressure of such shockingly few counselors for so many military (particularly during several hot wars) is part of the "cause" or not of the Fort Hood incident, I do not have to psychically channel the genius Albert Einstein to tell you that is far from being enough resources, period.

Further, I cannot believe the foolishness of an incredibly sexualized society that while promoting and pushing sex in all ways and forms except long term marriage allows the isolation of so many single frustrated males and females while they are under pressures of career, combat, and whatever. This is why arranged marriages took place in many societies so that people didn't "demand their rights" to "choose their own partner" and then instead drink, do drugs and end up going to bed alone or with "hook ups," all the while being saturated by the media about how "hot" and alluring one should be.

God ordained marriage as a coping mechanism. Life is a miserable drag (and I don't mean cross dressing, ha, no hate mail please) without the majority of people being married. Again, I don't need to channel Einstein to tell you that. People need stable and intimate spousal relationships and access to expression of their normal sexual needs.

Yes, I can hear some of you think, "Yeah, but what about those losers who nearly every day shoot their own wife and children and then commit suicide? If marriage is so great why do these people kill what they have?" This is what I mean by the complexity of real situations. There is rarely "one cause." Often there is a "trigger" or to use the old expression "The last straw" (referring to loading straw on a camel until the final straw added makes the whole load too heavy and breaks the camel's back). When we hear about events such as murder-suicides and the Fort Hood shooting, there is usually a final "trigger" event but that is rarely the "cause." The "cause" is usually an amalgamation of several fundamental facts.

Any good counselor can tell you that there is usually a combination of these factors: isolation, lack of consistent intimacy (love and sex), trauma (first hand or second hand), stress (workload and/or economic), violence (first or second hand, including media exposure) and addictions. What is the tipping point where one "snaps?" It is usually despair.

See, this is why it is so important to have a stable, normal, marriage and children based society. It is the ultimate and only bulwark against despair. Despair can be fleeting, just a moment of pure desperation, in which case if the person is able to be supported through that moment it passes. Or despair can be accumulating and grinding when the person is in a position of having "their back against a wall," such as we see with people who slowly slide into poverty due to years of economic collapse and ruin. An example of that is the many farmers in India who have been committing suicide in despair as they are ruined. So despair can be either "a moment" or "a long grinding path."

It is not enough to have economic governmental "safety nets." The problem is that the safety net against despair has been nearly totally ruined by this freak show modern society. The safety net of neighborhood, community, family, children and committed intimacy (sex is not a commodity to be obtained but part of the overall spousal intimacy) has been almost totally unraveled.

Again, I'm not excusing by any means or condoning any of the tragic and criminal events that we hear about these days. What I am trying to do is finally get your attention that this is a crisis beyond anyone's full comprehension. I come from a heavy World War II generation and I know what I'm talking about: the change from then to now regarding the "despair" safety net is almost indescribably vast.

I don't, however, want to further dilute the case study by going into my general rant about how these "do your own thing" generations have instead of being liberating have enslaved themselves to modern idolatry, isolation and despair. I concluded with those observations so that one can understand the fact finding that I have demonstrated in this case study about the tragic and criminal Fort Hood shooting against the panoply of so many of these "events" that seem to defy having a simple one source "cause" or "reason." Life and human needs and health are remarkably simple; it is the way that humans are tempted to self destruct and self delude that are astonishingly complex. I hope that this has helped some in regaining some reality based comprehension of what is going on.