The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Aaron Alexis’

ARE YOU NUTS? OR IS IT ME?

As I look back over my life I realize that I have had to make many decisions –choosing between two or even more alternative plans of action.  Some of those decisions worked out well – others, not so much.  I have always replayed the thinking that went into those poor decisions to see where I went wrong – not for the purpose of beating myself up in a frenzy of self-flagellation but to avoid repeating the mistake in the future.  But even after deciding on a path that didn’t work out well, I’ve never questioned the state of my mental health.  Until now.

As we have embarked on peeling back the onion which was the life of the mentally disturbed Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis, as I suggested in an earlier post, more information would be uncovered and dissected by the media.  After all, they have space to fill.

One of the assertions that was made truly stunned me.  That was that, besides the obvious, Alexis’ several detentions for shooting a firearm in his apartment and shooting out someone’s tire; informing the police in Rhode Island that he had to move to three different motel rooms in one night because “the voices” were pursuing him, a message they apparently ignored; we should have seen his potential for being a violent person for one obvious reason, that being that he was a loner and didn’t have a Facebook account!

Perhaps not being a Facebook subscriber is an indication of mental illness.  I have read countless studies that suggest a majority of the homeless who live on the street have mental problems.  Obviously, when you’re living in a cardboard box you aren’t likely to have Wi-Fi up and running to allow you access to the internet on your laptop.  And while you might consider connecting at your local Starbucks, I wonder if you would be any more welcome there than those carrying weapons – or whether you could afford any of their beverages.

There are a number of people whom I know who feel that Facebook provides them with a valuable way to communicate with their families in an efficient manner.  That makes sense to me.  But I wonder how many of the subscribers utilize the platform in that manner.

My sense of the “social media,” mainly derived from anecdotal evidence and from the statements of those who are avid users, is that it they are a crutch which people who have difficulty communicating or relating to other people on a direct, interpersonal basis prefer to use to express themselves.  One of my acquaintances who is an active Facebook user, recently broke up with his girl friend by sending her a text message, announcing the end of their relationship.  Such is our modern, technological world.

It is always dangerous and probably inaccurate to make sweeping statements about any group of people, particularly when they number in the millions, and expect that we are categorizing them in an accurate manner.  Having made that disclaimer, I look at the social media with a certain amount of distrust – if only because they themselves admit that at least twenty percent of the profiles which are listed are either misleading or outright false.

As a child I was extremely shy – overly so.  I do not know if that was a result of a poor self-image or what other reason there might have been that caused me to be that way.  It was not because I was ugly and the kids made fun of me – I wasn’t.  It was not because I struggled in school – I excelled there.  It was not because I had no talents – I was musically gifted.  It was not because I was unpopular – my classmates generally liked me and sought me out as a friend.  Nevertheless, I was extremely reserved, introverted and uncomfortable when I met new people.

Fortunately, I overcame that.  But the way that I overcame that was that I had to overcome that to survive.  There was no anonymous platform called Facebook behind which I could hide.  My experiences and those of my contemporaries naturally forced me into associations with others on a direct, person to person basis.  That was the only basis that existed and I am grateful for that.  But I wonder if I had grown up today with the anonymity of the internet, whether I would ever have had to face dealing with people on a one on one basis and might still be that shy, introverted child.

If you were to take a poll of everyone with whom I have dealt during my life, I suspect there are a few of those who would check off the box marked “Dislike.”  But those would be very few in number.  (There’s no pleasing some people).  But I am confident that an overwhelming majority of the people who know me would be pleased at our association.  But the kind words or accolades of others doesn’t validate a person’s behavior.  That has to come from within the individual.

If I were to do something wildly outrageous, I suspect there are a sufficient number of moral heathens in our global society who would enjoy my performance and actively share that with others of their fellow degenerates.  My Facebook “Like” button might well get near being worn out.  So does that constitute an endorsement for my behavior?  I guess if you look at the raw numbers you might say that it would.  But if you consider the character of those who are the plebiscite, you might draw a different conclusion.  We all know that bad news sells.  So does bad behavior.

Several years ago I was playing poker and seated across from me was a fellow who claimed to be one of the people involved in the “Girls Gone Wild” tapes that were being sold on television.  He went on for some time about how much money he and his partners had made with this venture.  I believe that he was probably telling the truth.  Other than the ads, I never viewed the tapes, and based on what was presented in the ads would certainly not purchase an hour and a half’s worth of watching young women getting drunk and allowing their libidos to take over their actions.  But there are people who have different tastes and who found these tapes entertaining and titillating.  Would I feel proud if a large number of these went to my Facebook page and clicked the “Like” button?  I don’t think so.

If I saw a value in the social media I would have a presence there.  But I don’t.  I would rather have a sage person offer me good constructive criticism than a group of self-absorbed, self-adulating people tell me how wonderful I am and want to be my “friend”.  But that’s me.  I guess that makes me suspect in the minds of the madding crowd.  And that’s okay.

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  What’s yours?

SECURITY CLEARANCE AND THE NAVY YARD SHOOTINGS

Two days after twelve victims were killed and the shooter was put down the incident has already started to fade from the national memory and is getting little attention from the media.  Perhaps that is because no children were murdered; perhaps that is because no assault rifle was employed by Aaron Alexis; perhaps it is that he didn’t fit the profile of a serial shooter that being a young white male; perhaps it is that he didn’t seem to have a cause he was championing but may just have been a victim of mental illness.

Aaron Alexis’ life, or such of it as we have learned, isn’t really all that interesting.  And the media need to have an interesting story, hopefully replete with lurid past actions which allow the viewer to salivate over all the sordid details.  And the victims – well we have their names, their pictures, their ages, and very little attention has been paid to their lives or the devestation their families must be experiencing.  They’re even less interesting than Mr. Alexis.  They were just very ordinary people who went to work and were shot dead.  How dull does it get?

The one area of focus seems to be centered around a conversation of the fact that as a contractor for the Navy, Mr. Alexis had a valid, current security clearance to get on the base.  Supposedly, this is a rigorous process and a person’s entire life is subject to inquiry.  One can only wonder how rigorous this policy actually is – since at least three different episodes in which Alexis was involved have surfaced which a reasonable person might consider merited further investigation before issuing that clearance.

By now we all know that he shot a hole through the ceiling of his apartment which entered his upstairs neighbor’s apartment.  She claims that he complained about her playing music too loudly.  He says he was cleaning the weapon and it accidentally discharged.  No charges were filed.

In Seattle, he apparently shot another motorist’s tire three times.  The police investigated and sent a report to the City Attorney for review to see whether the city should prosecute.  Supposedly, the file got lost and nothing came of the episode.

Last, Mr. Alexis said that he was being bombarded with voices and hadn’t been able to sleep because they were constantly urging him to violence.  Apparently, the voices got their wish.

This is a moment in time when many have acceded to the notion that the bigger the amount of government, the better.  Unfortunately, as every business person knows, the bigger you get, the more difficult it is to manage efficiently.  And that is in an environment where your personal livelihood is at stake.  When you are not subject to any oversight and whether you perform well or poorly has no influence on the amount of your paycheck – well, we taxpayers may not be getting what we pay for.

With the expansion in the number of government employees and contractors it is not surprising that security clearance checks may not be as thorough as they should be due to sheer volume.  But there are other factors involved both in the clearance process as well as in our overall regulatory environment which might have contributed to the tragedy at the Navy Yard.

A long time ago, I learned that checking a person’s professional and personal references was a waste of time.  The reason – the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The only time I placed any faith in a reference was if it was for a white male – not one of the officially “protected classes” of people.  Other than for those prospective employees, I understood that former employers were too concerned about possible litigation should they give a bad, albeit truthful, reference.

And so what happens?  An employee who might have embezzled, been guilty of sexual harassment or who know what else would get a fine reference.  This, of course, benefited the former employer by avoiding the possibility of a lawsuit.  And, should the employee get a new position, it lowered their claims’ experience for unemployment insurance, thus lowering their rates and saving them money.  And that employee, unlikely to have reformed, probably continues the same behavior causing the same problems for the next employer.

Certainly, if I were an employer being asked about a prospective government employee for a security clearance, I would have to pause and ask myself, “How much information should I divulge?  After all – these investigators and those at the EEOC both are on the same payroll.”

Even if a person were to have a background that was truly clean of any imperfections or suggestive behavior, we know that there are life events which can change a person almost instantaneously.  So having a security clearance is no absolute assurance that a Mr. Alexis won’t make it on a secure base and perpetrate the crimes that he committed.

Besides improving the vetting process for security clearance, is there anything that could be done to mitigate the damage done at Washington’s Navy Yard – or for that matter, that would have mitigated the tragedy of Ft. Hood?  In respect to that we might look to the Executive Order issued by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 – declaring that military bases and government facilities should be “Gun Free Zones.”

What logic may have originally applied twenty years ago is certainly lost today.  I think that there would probably be a lot more robberies of Brinks trucks if the thieves knew that the Brinks guards no longer carried side arms but were equipped only with pea shooters.  One can only wonder how many fewer might have died either at Ft. Hood or the Navy Yard if personnel who were licensed and trained in the use of weaponry had access to those weapons and might have taken down Nidal Hassan or Aaron Alexis earlier than they were subdued or killed.

Given President Obama’s virulent anti-gun posture, it is unlikely that he will issue an Executive Order repealing the earlier one promulgated by Clinton.  Allowing armed, authorized personnel in our government facilities might be the best and most expedient deterrent that we could enact to avoid repetitions of these mass shootings.

But then, given the fact that President Obama is unwilling to release even his college or law school transcripts; his relationship with Bill Ayers – formerly of the virulent anti-war group the Weathermen which took responsibility for 12 bombings; and his relationship with Communist Frank Marshall Davis who swore an oath to the USSR – that is Stalin’s USSR – it’s unclear that even under today’s liberal standards for security clearance whether the Commander in Chief himself would qualify to receive one.

Tag Cloud