Almost in a regular way since, we have been visited by other outbreaks of random violence directed at our schools. Sometimes these have been at the hands of an individual, at others part of a conspiracy of a few. More than once we have witnessed violence perpetrated by organized hired hands of the state. I think of the Kent State massacres conducted by the Ohio National Guard and other violent intrusions of campuses by police and organized militia and not only within our borders. In 2004, Russian security forces stormed a school in Beslan where over one thousand hostages were being held. This military type intervention resulted in over 385 deaths. It is difficult to tell which is the most believable danger, the random outbursts or the reactions to them. In any event, anyone in attendance could perceive a realistic peril in the form of bullets whizzing by.
These outbreaks have spread out into other segments of our society. None of our institutions or establishments seem safe from this scourge. We have observed outrageous actions popping up during proceedings held both publicly and privately. Large scale attacks have occurred at business, cultural, religious, and sporting events. Assaults using military type ordnance have been visited upon even small family celebrations. Often responses to these acts of violence resemble commando operations and lead to further carnage and bloodshed. As a result society as a whole is exhibiting behaviors and symptoms that if observed in individuals would lead to a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Individuals may become infected with PTSD after either experiencing or witnessing an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury to self or others. Other criteria for this disorder are recurrent and persistent recollections of the disturbing event. Society may be inflicting itself with a type of this malady by virtue of bombarding the public with repeated graphic scenes of these traumatic actions by the media. In my memory, I can see both the moment that a sniper’s bullet struck John Kennedy‘s neck and the grimace on the face of his alleged shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald as Jack Ruby shot him in the stomach. These scenes whirl through my mind along with countless others of conflicts stretching from then till now. Prints detailing all these graphic scenes of violent death would take volumes. I am certain there are many folks in this world who have no trouble recalling the vivid image of a plane slicing through the World Trade Center. And this is only one of the images being stored in collective psyche.
If indeed we are inflicting ourselves with psychological distress due to overexposure to internal or external cues that resemble an aspect of traumatic events, then we can expect our reactions to be similarly disordered. Even innocent events can take on the appearance of credible threats. This in turn evokes responses that are overwhelming and inappropriately threatening. We are showing a marked pattern of reaction to many events as if they were genuine terrorization.
This makes responses overwhelming displays of authentic threats. Examples are police shootings of unarmed suspects, the overpowered raid on Mount Carmel Compound in Waco, Texas and even the large military operation to catch a few guys hunkered down in caves in Hindukush. I suppose, if I was a tribal person living in that area, I would feel my skies patrolled by Predator drones a credible threat. It can be easy to see this leading to an ever increasing cycle of violence. And in this scenario, it makes sense, a villager would take sides with whatever could offer security, even if this means an increase in brutal action. Where is the solution to this maddening state of affairs?
Perhaps, we have to look in diverse places for an answer. Since any reaction seems guaranteed to continue the cycle, a pattern of inaction may be called for. This brings to mind Scriptural remedies that suggest evil will fall of its own accord. Many traditions teach the value of sitting still midst the storm as a sure way to ride it out. Seafarers know that panic reactions can only lead to disaster. Accordingly, brushfire fighters learn the value of letting fire consume itself, meanwhile, lighting backfires to remove fuel. Even the Beatles suggested the answer in their popular tune, Let it be, “ and in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, ‘Let it be, Let it be. ‘”
Since, this solution suggests we act contrary to our psychological state and adverse to popular reaction, what is needed is Faith support. I envision a body of folks who hold one another up in Love and Peace, lest we stumble into reaction. In this way we can be witness with one another that indeed, Wonders and Miracles will arrive in the nick of time.