Even after watching a wall of news reports about the tragedy at Fort Hood, I know very little. This is too big a jig saw puzzle to be fast-forced into comprehension. More hours have not created more understanding; in fact, despite the gaping freedom of wall to wall coverage, we were not enlightened with accuracy or detail. Military culture is self managed. Information was parsed and delivered as suited the officers and the command post. The media were left to regurgitate and extrapolate. CNN continuously took us on a tour of Fort Hood, because their magic screen lets them dolly in. It was filler until they had some facts to share. None came. They knew little. Twitter had few important details, because the Army locked down streams of dissemination. If there were accomplices, they were not to be assisted via electronics. We knew there was tragic carnage. Then we knew numbers, ascending. The shooter was dead. (5:30) Then alive (7:30). There were accomplices. (4:00) Suspected accomplices were released. (6:30) ABC and CNN identified him as a soldier with an Middle Eastern name. Fox hesitated to name the suspect until there was official confirmation. Then he was named: Malik Nadal Hasan. Then his name was changed: Nidal Malik Hasan. Conspiracy theories percolated.
Why did we position ourselves in front of the TV? I do not think this was the equivalent of gaping at an accident. There were no garish images during the lockdown.
We wondered if security had been breached. Such an assault on our servicemen is an assault on our country, on ourselves. We wanted to make sense of the irrational. We wanted to quickly repackage the facts so that we could feel safe. We wanted to have a story so we could believe that the world works in an orderly way. Then we needed to get used to the concept that sometimes there is no order.
In truth, we did not need wall to wall dissection by the news readers. We did not need maps. We needed patience, to wait until there was clarity. This is a story that is better peeled than sliced. Our military asks so much of its warriors, and they are mere mortals. It seems that countless young men have returned with post traumatic stress. Some apparently have pre-traumatic stress. Today, a soldier turned his back on his comrades, his training and his country. We will learn why. It is unlikely to be a sinister plot of terrorists, and it is sure to be tragic. Innocents have died. Families are destroyed. Children were traumatized.
The business of war is a serious business. Today its carnage imploded at Fort Hood, where men and women reside in service to our nation. That fact is enough for me to absorb right now. God bless the victims and their families. God bless America. May we always appreciate the sacrifices we ask of our troops and their loved ones. I am going to bed, knowing that I know enough.
One last irony: This Sunday night on Mad Man, Betty and her maid watched Walter Cronkite report on the death of President Kennedy. Social barriers fell away as they shared their sorrow. Then she saw Lee Harvey Oswald be killed live on TV. Innocence fell away. As I was watching it, I remembered how I felt when I saw those images as a kid. The show captured the moment that reality came into our sanctuaries, and we could not deny the evil in the world. It was destabilizing and scary. Our kids have never lived without such intrusions of violence and horror. We have seen other presidents shot at, federal buildings bombed, religious compounds burned down, the World Trade Center fall, ricocheting rockets creating shock and awe, kids killing kids- all of these and more, live and in color. Sad to say, we are still curious, but we are not surprised. I don’t like that. Good Night.
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