In Defense Of America… What Happens After Fort Hood?
Twenty-four hours ago, America was once again devastated by a tragic shooting incident. Once again the scene was in my home state of Texas, again at Fort Hood.
Our hearts go out to the families stationed at Fort Hood and those who have loved ones on or near the base, those who have been touched by tragedy again today.
The base describes itself saying, “Like the state of Texas, Fort Hood is big and boasts of being the largest active duty armored post in the United States Armed Services.” Today though, it doesn’t feel much like boasting about much of anything.
Fort Hood and those into whose care our soldiers lives are entrusted will have much to answer for in the days to come. Again.
My foreign friends are asking, “How can America keep the world safe when it cannot even keep its own people safe?” Indeed.
Emails have been arriving sending sympathies and “apologizes” for what has happened at Fort Hood, but also asking (in so many words), “Why is America such a dangerous place to live nowadays?”
Here is one comment on a post after the last shooting- comments like this will no doubt be repeated again in the hours ahead-
“The most dangerous and, and perhaps most barbaric country in the world is the United States… Its citizens kill each other everyday in cities across the country at an alarming rate! Check the statistics on New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Memphis, for example. Are folks living in these cities any safer than those that live in the Republic of Georgia?
Simply put, any list that enumerates the “most dangerous countries of the world” and does [not] contain the United States is incomplete. As a matter of fact, if the United States doesn’t head that list, the compiler is disingenuous.”
In Caitlin Kelly’s book, “Blown Away,” she shares compelling statistics on gun violence, attitudes and American culture. The Canadian-born New York-based journalist shares this from Mary Leigh Blek, nurse/mom turned activist when her son was mugged and murdered in Manhattan, NY, at just 19 years old:
“Our two barriers to sensible gun control laws are denial and apathy.
Most people just don’t think gun violence is ever something they will have to deal with personally, so they choose not to think about it.
Gun death is very traumatic so most people simply don’t want to face it unless they have to. When it comes knocking on your door, you’re very bowled over by it.”
I’m sure the families at Fort Hood this week are more than bowled over. And I’m sorry.
While I can’t claim to speak for all Americans in these United States, I can speak to my friends who want an answer about what is becoming of America.
In Defense of America
The gun crime statistics are one way of looking at this country; some of our once great cities do have a high rate of homicide or crime today. There’s no denying that, and no defense either. It just shouldn’t be. Period.
We all know there is plenty wrong with America… it’s in our news everyday. Someone, somewhere, is always airing our ‘dirty laundry’ in public. It’s embarrassing, yes. It’s humbling, yes. Other countries don’t understand why it’s allowed.
But, in defense of America, that’s exactly the point. That’s what is still right about America.
We grew from just this reasoning, the gradual realization that full public discourse was necessary, both the good and bad.
The original homesteaders to this land weren’t out to create some new experiment. They came here for the most part to extend and expand what existed… New Amsterdam became New York, our “New England” region was a land grab for old England- a new source of wealth.
My earlier post described how the Carolina colony that later became our states of North and South Carolina, was the center of French, English and Spanish intrigue and became a center for human trafficking- a condition we deplore today and are still trying to rectify because we weren’t there to prevent this history from being written.
We’re still trying to learn our lessons. We still make mistakes.
This land had supported countries in Europe for well over one hundred years in some places before the colonists said enough is enough, we want a better system, something radically different.
These United States represent that radically different place and system.
Where there was oppression in the old countries, the pendulum in America swung opposite to freedom, maybe too much some would say. Yet our freedoms reflect the frustrations of the time.
Where there was tyranny, there is the right to self-defense, both in the rule of law and in the physical protection of persons and property. Interpretation of those rights lands us in the mess we have again today.
Where there were ruling classes that kept indentured servants and slaves, we now have independent society that rewards education and free thinkers, which at times unfortunately also may give opportunity to those who seek to mentally enslave others through slick rhetoric, emotional dependence, and peer pressure.
We need the pendulum to swing back to a moderate position between encouragement for free thinking and choice; and protection for those who can’t make good decisions for themselves. We need to go back to teaching responsibility for use of our freedom.
We discuss this everyday in papers, in various online fora, between neighbors and disagreeing social help groups. Everyone thinks their group, their opinions are right. We discuss, debate, defend; we twist the truths of others to distort, denigrate, and disprove “facts” to suit our sides; we get passionate, powerfully agitated, and pensive; at some point hopefully we also listen, learn, and level our feelings into reason.
This is America. Born of frustration, built in fury.
We are passionate about the rights we took for ourselves. We don’t need more, we need to use the ones we have more carefully. We need to sit and reflect for a long moment… again… to make sure the way we are using our freedom is still the best way.
In defense of America, the pendulum is still swinging. We are not perfected, we are still developing.
It took 150 years to make the initial leap. Another hundred years to realize that states’ rights did not trump human rights. Another hundred years to understand that human rights meant ALL humans regardless of color.
By 2064, marking the end of the current hundred years (if that pattern holds), we should be due for another shake up.
Maybe by then we will have evolved to understand the sanctity of ALL life, not just in black and white terms, but also in terms of born and unborn, straight/LGBT (and all the other letters that come under this broad umbrella)- whatever ways we can be alive- even as that encompasses how we treat those whose bodies remain alive, but whose minds have been compromised through dementia. malnutrition or lifestyle choices we don’t understand.
Everyone will continue to have opinions, passionate thoughts and emotions. Many will have some basis in fact, some will be delusional at best. Hopefully we will listen and act, in that order.
For our foreign friends (and detractors perhaps): We understand we look crazy to you at times. Maybe we are.
In defense of America, however, I would rather give freedom to 100% of our people and deal with the question of what to do when a small percentage abuse that freedom, than take away the ability of 100% of our people to live free just to control the few that would violate that trust if given the chance.
Given the events of the last month, I would rather try to understand and come to grips with Fort Hood and its grief, than live in the kind of fear of “what happens next?” that Ukraine, Crimea, and minority groups like the Tatars (who only in the last 2-3 decades were allowed to resettle after 80 or more years in exile) are experiencing. What next? No one really knows.
Yes, America is tragic at times, Yes, we talk freely, if too loudly, and we disagree mightily. I may not agree with my neighbor’s choices, but I will defend his right to hold his opinions, because I was taught of the times when people here couldn’t voice opinions.
My neighborhood is made up of young veterans starting families, and old people who introduce themselves every other week because they can’t remember meeting us before. We are single, married, Polish, Guatemalan, Russian, English, French, Scottish- and that’s just this street. We aren’t a melted pot of culture. We’re a stew with distinct flavors and colors.
I like America, even if I don’t love it all the time. Like now. I don’t love the way our system allows ‘idiots’ or (as in the case at Fort Hood) mentally disturbed members to get us off track from building a really good place to be.
I don’t love the way people will react in the coming days, focusing on name-calling and mud-slinging instead of being rational.
But, in defense of America, this is the way it works.
For all of you who don’t understand America, maybe this will help: think of what you are seeing, then take the pendulum to the OPPOSITE extreme.
What would America be without discussion?
What would America be without the freedom to make choices?
Choices. Even the seemingly really bad choices like being homeless or living on the streets (for some it is a choice), ending up as a high school dropout, a pregnant teen. Even the seemingly illogical choices, like staying in school and getting a medical degree with staggering student loans because there was no one to support, and then working in inner city clinics for almost nothing.
The Founding Fathers (sorry ladies, even though we had strong influence, officially it was mostly the men- that was the system at the time) chafed under the lack of input into the way they were being ruled, the lack of choice, the inability to self-determine their future. What would America be without the freedom to make choices? Look up dictators and monarchies.
Beyond our sympathies and condolences that we offer to the families and friends of those lost and injured in the latest tragedy at Fort Hood, I would also like to offer my own version of a Serenity Prayer, In Defense of America.
May I one day have the clarity
To understand there will be things I cannot change,
To have the commitment to work on the things I can,
And the patience to know we are still a work in progress.
Let me live one moment at a time,
And allow my neighbors to do the same,
Knowing that hardships are part of the price
For living in a place worth saving;
Not as it is, but as it could be;
Not as I would make it, but as open and tolerant as it should be;
Trusting that the reason this place was created
Is reason enough to let everyone enjoy it,
That we all may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with whatever we believe comes next,
Knowing that this is reason enough to take care of each other.
Now and forevermore.