Tennessee Shooting Update: Critical Witnessing

Unfortunately, one of the wounded from Thursday’s shooting in Tennessee has succumbed to his injuries.  The sailor, Petty Officer Randall Smith, passed away on Saturday.  As a frequent Facebook user, my timeline has many black ribbons from military supporters as well as articles about armed civilians protecting recruiting centers.  The sentiments are honorable, even if their effectiveness might be simply measured in a sporadic newline or as a ‘trending’ subject for some time before being unearthed again next year.  As time effectively softens the edges of this tragedy, the evaluative process will unfold with less emotion, harsher criticism, and the typical subjects will be covered: how have the individuals affected “moved on/moved forward,” how have politics changed/remained the same, and how will/does the community remember our fallen Marines and Sailor (or is the community still interested in honoring their time here on Earth)?

There will be public pain displayed in various ways for some time and then the public gaze will shift elsewhere.  I do not say these things to bring further hurt among those who lost their loved ones.  I make this statement because the spread of mass violence is becoming more common.  As consumers, perhaps as a result of social media in its overabundance, it’s more common to share stories of grief.  Certainly, there are positive and negative consequences of such actions–we find greater strength to face our own battles and hopefully, act as good audience members to those sharing their grief so publicly.

This spring, I had the great opportunity to read Elizabeth Dutro’s Writing Wounded.  This article was presented to two peers and I as a trio of literary pieces, but this one spoke to my heart the most.  For many reasons, highly traumatic events have marked time in my life.  I vividly remember the pain of certain experiences, some, in particular, I still haven’t shared with family members or friends.  I don’t enjoy being vulnerable; my mom specifically spoke to this characteristic in her journal to me.  I was a 15 year old kid crying in the bathroom away from my family when I learned of her cancer diagnosis.  I also hid away from the world when my first Iraq homecoming became my biggest frustration.  (I am working on sharing this process currently, but this story can be shared another time.)

As our society learns to embrace our storytellers, like the families of Tennessee’s fallen service members, I also implore you to politely remember others who perished late last week.  My stance will not necessarily be popular, but I make this statement today as one of America’s Iraq veterans.  ISIS killed 120 Iraqis, wounded 140 more in an exceptionally brutal attack last Friday.  Unfortunately, acts of Muslim terrorism taint the perception of Muslims everywhere.  In our battle to not let ISIS win, I ask of you all today to think of the pain for those families who lost loved ones in Iraq last Friday.  Their pain mimics our own.  They need our prayers and support in their time of crisis, just like we’ve extended our hearts to our nation’s service members who died in Tennessee.



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