- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Waco Tribune-Herald. April 4, 2014.

Whatever the cause of this Fort Hood tragedy, simmering anger is somewhere in the mix

News of another deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood, 4½ years after a one-man act of jihadist terrorism claimed 13 lives at the same post, can’t help but further demoralize Americans. Even if the shooting had nothing to do with terrorism this time, it suggests a disturbing failure somewhere in our society. It seems we’re powerless to escape this simmering anger that, when it finally explodes, demands victims.

“The scenes coming from Fort Hood today are sadly too familiar and still too fresh in our memories,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a statement that perhaps best represented public sentiment as news of the tragedy unfolded Wednesday evening. “No community should have to go through this horrific violence once, let alone twice.”


Yet is it coincidental that, as the first reliable reports appeared online via respected news organizations, public commenting below the bulletins immediately launched into virtual fistfights - some crassly worded and grounded in proud ignorance - over President Obama, the Second Amendment and immigration? Too many Americans are quick to blame, quick to simplify, quick to vilify, quick to hate. At times, it seems we really need no foreign enemies; we have one another.

Initial reports described Wednesday’s shooting as a “soldier-on-soldier” incident, indicating it was not terrorist-related - unlike the November 2009 attack by then-Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 people and wounded 32 others in a display of solidarity with Islamic radicals. It proved to be the worst mass murder at a military installation in U.S. history. Hasan, found guilty of premeditated murder last year, became a symbol of how homegrown jihadism can evolve in the ranks of the U.S. military.

This time, the cause is harder to figure. By now, readers know the shooter, Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, 34, at least seemed a good and decent sort. A quiet student in Catholic schools, he was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He married a childhood friend, was a father and served briefly in Iraq (though not in combat). Before that, he served in the Puerto Rican National Guard. He is remembered by neighbors as friendly, even as he received treatment for anxiety, depression and sleep problems. No evidence of any connection with extremist groups has surfaced thus far. On the other hand, some family friends say he was upset over the recent deaths of his mother and grandfather.

And now Lopez is dead after a shooting rampage that claimed the lives of three others and wounded 16 more before he reportedly turned his recently purchased .45- caliber Smith & Wesson on himself.

So what lessons should we draw from these shootings, especially without the conventional terrorist tag to pin on it? Will they say something of the traumatic strain of and damage to the psyche of so many military personnel exposed to today’s warfare, even among those not necessarily in combat? Will they reflect badly on how society supports or doesn’t support its troops and their families? Will they reveal something of the stresses placed on an all-volunteer Army?

And whatever the ultimate cause, is it enough for us to do something about it? Are we willing, for instance, to concertedly address the obvious animosity in our society for the good of our troops and their families - and our families as well? Or will we demonstrate we have learned nothing in the gunfire, death and grief of another shooting incident at one of America’s largest military bases? Worse, have we become numb to these events after rampages such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter?

And why are those who suffer mental turmoil, whatever the reason, increasingly disposed in our society to pick up a weapon and take it out on others in blind and vengeful rage when something finally snaps?

These are questions every thoughtful American should ponder, even as the national news media quickly shift focus from Wednesday’s rampage to other topics. Indeed, other than brief teasers referring readers inside, neither The New York Times nor The Wall Street Journal - two very different but well-read newspapers - devoted any coverage to the Fort Hood incident on Page One. For their readers, the Supreme Court decision on campaign finance led the day.

More obvious questions will be asked in the days ahead involving everything from post protocol on weapons to possible inconsistencies in Lopez’s treatment for anxiety (though a diagnosis for post-traumatic stress had not so far been made). But as possible feelings of dread and shock subside, attention should turn not just to our society’s responsibility for the trials and rigors we put our all-volunteer military through but the examples we set as citizens in how we employ the very freedoms that they must protect and defend.

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The Dallas Morning News. April 2, 2014.

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