First, this really goes without saying, our condolences to the families and friends of the fallen.
Second, our deepest sympathy to the community of Yarnell.
That being said, let’s review the past 12 months, as far as tragedy is concerned.
July 2012 Aurora Shooting
August 2012 Oak Creek Tragedy
September 2012 some random shootings
October 2012 Inglewood Shooting/Hurricane Sandy
November 2012 Hurricane Sandy
December 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn.
January 2013 pretty quiet, Brazil nightclub fire
February 2013 some shootings
March 2013 more random shootings
April 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing
May 2013 Tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma
May 2013 West Texas fertilizer plant explosion
June 2013 Santa Monica shooting
June 2013 Yarnell Hillside Fire
Our apologies if we have omitted anything.
***There was not a single month of the last 12 that did not include a shooting***
Times of tragedy have become increasing in frequency.
As a nation, how do we respond? What have we learned? Are we a nation that heals together?
It has become pretty standard procedure at this point.
Shock, media obsession, unite, divide, status quo?
Do any of these events change us as a nation?
I am going to guess, no.
This is not to discount any individual personally touched in tragic events. For many, trauma is life changing.
Following each tragedy is an agenda. Be it a political agenda, an extremist agenda or a well-intended agenda, there are opportunists at every level of our society. We don’t appear to be a nation that has learned to triumph over tragedy; rather we have learned to capitalize on it.
The Political Agenda — After Hurricane Sandy, we saw decimation of the majority of an entire state. Across the nation people donated money, donated blood and sent our prayers. We witnessed a political harmony we have not seen in years. Harmony soon turned to discontent, as evidenced in congressional debate about sending federal aid to New Jersey.
We saw less coverage about the community and more coverage about the political circus. People were suffering while opportunist politicians tried to score points with donors and rack up votes (and to send a message to Governor Christie). The punch line is one of the most vocal opponents of sending federal aid to New Jersey found his state in need of federal aid a few months later due to a natural disaster.
The extremist agenda — The Boston Marathon Bombings, we were horrified, how could this happen?
We were sad and frightened. Then we were proud and hopeful. The community joined together in assisting and supporting the police. The news broke that the suspects were affiliated with terrorist organizations, followed by an outpouring of hateful rhetoric and anti-Muslim sentiment. The anti-immigration or pro-citizen(?) extremist used this event as evidence that we must not allow any Muslim immigrants into the country.
(Probably the best example of the extremist agenda is the Westboro Baptist Church. It is a cult and a hate group. These are the idiots protesting funerals.)
The well intended agenda — My beloved mental health community saw an opportunity to communicate the needs of the mental health system and educate the public on mental illness after Tucson and Aurora. Their attempts, although well-intentioned, have not resulted in an increase in compassion for the mentally ill or an increase in mental health treatment and community resources. The public may be more frightened of people with mental illness. Stigma has actually increased. When the term mental illness is used, images of Jared Loughner or Jeremy Lanza now come to mind. It’s unfortunate because most of us are not violent. Unfortunately, the attempts to capitalize on the crisis have created a stronger association between mass shootings and the mentally ill.
What does this mean for our first responders? What message does it send to the men and women risking their lives for us?