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Norma Cook Everist Headshot

'Senseless' Does Not Describe Ft. Hood Shootings

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Senseless? Wednesday people will gather at Ft. Hood for a Memorial Service and "try to make sense" of the mass shooting last week which took the lives of 4 and wounded 16. We want to understand, make "sense." Investigators try to discover the "motive." The issues are more profound, more unique to each situation and also more common to all of us.

We may never know the precise "motive," but I do know these things:

We as a society need to stop using words -- publicly and privately -- like "crazies," "kooks," "weirdoes," to describe, and thereby dismiss, people who live with a mental illness. Do we use such words to describe someone with a broken leg? We need to learn about different kinds of mental illness, and that few are associated with violence. We need to recognize that millions of people, including perhaps ourselves, deal with depression and anxiety and take medication for sleep issues every day.

"Home base" is not always safe. I know you are supposed to be safe when you reach home base. (The baseball season opened last week, too). But much violence takes place at home, whether in a family residence, in a faith community, a business which is "like a family," or on a military base. Suicide and homicide rates are high "at home." Human beings have a difficult time being humane with one another. (For years we disregarded "domestic" violence as excusable.)

The response to a mass shooting of, "We need extra security" cannot be our most sensible approach. Fort Hood covers 340 square miles, the largest U.S. military base, with a population of 70,000, including 42,000 military personnel, family, and civilian staff. With contractors and others going on and off base each day, providing absolute security is an almost impossible task. The answer is not allowing more concealed weapons on base. Likewise a "sensible" approach of spending millions to add gun-power security to schools and malls leaves us more fearful, not more skilled at engaging one another safely with respect.

Once again a woman risked her life to save others. Had it not been for this (at this writing unidentified) military policewoman's courageous acts, the death count might have been higher. Kimberly Munley, a civilian police officer and her male partner stopped the shooter in the Ft. Hood mass shooting in 2009. Due to her wounds she can no longer work in law enforcement. They remind me of Antoinette Tuff, school clerk in Decatur, Georgia, who last August stopped a 20-year-old armed young man, off his meds, from a mass shooting by compassionately talking to him. This is not to set women apart, but to note the irony, that for so long women were not thought strong, stable, or sensible enough for military service. Or women might cause men to be distracted. The reality is that today women in our military are serving well and also are subjected to untenable numbers of rapes and other sexual assaults. Women are stable, strong and wise enough for war, in these cases, to stop the violence.

I know that there are people grieving, so many people grieving. Not to be forgotten are those in Puerto Rico, and especially the home town of a young man, an ordinary, patriotic man whose mother died last fall, who, like half the young men from his high school, join their country's military. And I grieve with the families of those killed and wounded at Ft. Hood, and with the families of the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day in this country. And I grieve with the families of those killed by guns every single day in the United States.

I know there are those who want more tests to "weed out" people with problems from the military. But how can we construct those absolutely accurate predictors? And when dismissed, where should such men and women go? To our street corners? Perhaps it was not a brief tour in Iraq that "triggered" (I hate that term) the shooting, but an argument immediately preceding the event. How can we know for sure the complexities of human emotions and motives?

So, what do we do?

More guns? I absolutely will not choose that option. Gun shops right outside the base, right outside, well everywhere. Guns in the home, guns more accessible, and guns in the hands of more people will mean these sad stories become more frequent.

Give up on humanity? No, I will not choose that option. But I will call us all to new commitments. Military bases, work places, school campuses, households, houses of worship are all places to notice those in need, to ask, to care, to really care. We know how to bond together after a tragedy. What about the day before, and every day?