I found this post tucked away in draft mode, all but forgotten, and I think it deserves to see the light of day. At first blush it may puzzle some regular readers, who deem it (at least) tonally incompatible with my recent rants on race, thugs and the like. I believe that readers who draw that inference are also drawing unwarranted inferences about my outlook in general, and probably need to give my posts a closer read. Sorry.
With that said, some weeks back there was a story in the paper about a veteran who returned from Afghanistan haunted by horrific memories and blighted by PTSD; after an escalating series of mishaps, he ended up killing his fiance's mother and himself. The tone of the story is understanding, warm, sympathetic: "look what this poor guy went through." And I don't dispute that. Nothing said here is intended to minimize what our fine young men and women faced (and continue to) in Iraq and Afghanistan; if you want to get a bit better idea of the horror, as well as the sheer pointlessness of it all, I suggest you pick up a copy of Jake Tapper's brilliant and mesmerizing book, The Outpost.
|Brains get blown out here at home too...as in this drive-by gang hit.|
Some might say—as judges will at sentencing—that there are countless kids who grow up in terrible circumstances yet don't go on to commit atrocities, thereby implying that this kid, too, should've been able to "suck it up" and turn his life around. By the same token, there are many vets who come back from war having seen the same ugliness as the guy who committed the murder-suicide above, and they don't become killers. They become teachers, bankers, engineers, writers. They marry, have families and live happily ever after, or at least no less happily than any of the rest of us. So why the special compassion shown in our coverage of the minority of GIs who collapse into tragedy?
Can we not agree that many of us are subjected to horrible things, and that we are affected in many different ways, to many different degrees? We are also very different people going in, such that some of us are better equipped than other to handle adversity (and even outright horror). Some of us are stronger, have more of a moral core or internal clock, to begin with.
How about sympathy for all? Or sympathy for none. The selective application of sympathy makes no sense to me.