Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Navy Yard Shootings: Terrorist, Crazed Gunman, or Victim? Anything's Possible!

Having been the victim of whistleblower retaliation three times in the last 5 years, I would NOT be surprised if the Navy Yard shooting suspect was a victim of harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation, what I call "Institutional Terrorism".

My core values are selflessness, loyalty, integrity, compassion, excellence, dignity, and respect, and I believe in DOING THE RIGHT THING, something that has caused me a great deal of personal and professional grief over the course of my life as many of you know. Telling the truth and feeling obligated to report wrongdoing are not qualities everyone appreciates as I have found out.
Currently, neither I nor most of the world know what prompted the suspect in the Washington DC shootings, Aaron Alexis, at the Navy Yard to lash out indiscriminately, killing a reported 12 souls and injuring at least as many. But I can speculate as I have in previous recent articles.

From reporting my bully of a boss at one of the country's largest general contractors to human resources in 2009 to filing a discrimination and retaliation complaint against a University of Missouri - Kansas City (UMKC) associate dean in 2011 to reporting whistleblower retaliation by a government contractor and the Department of the Interior just this year, I had no choice but to act if I were to be able to look at myself in the mirror each morning.

Unfortunately, neither private business nor government institutions care about employees or customers (people) and do not hesitate to lash out at those they see as a threat. Why? Because they can!

They, the individuals and institutions that will not hesitate to ruin a person's life if we do not conform to their expectations or, God forbid, threaten their existence or livelihood in the case of the gross fraud, waste, and abuse I and many others have witnessed and reported, are not concerned about being held accountable for their actions or inaction.

Discrimination and retaliation laws in this country, particularly whistleblower retaliation law and policy, have been degraded since the Bush (II) administration and are rarely if ever enforced because of the high costs involved with investigating or prosecuting cases and because attorneys will not touch a case unless there is a high probability of success and six to seven figure settlements. Pro bono you say? Yea ... right!

Lawyers will do nothing "for nothing" unless forced to or unless there is national media attention in the cards. Knowing that, corporations and other large institutions know they can get away with attacking employees and customers because they know, in all probability, that they will get away with it.

Back to Alexis and the tragic massacre in Washington DC. I have no idea what compelled this man to lash out at coworkers, but based on my own experience, other mass shootings (aka "going postal"), and knowledge of human behavior, there is a chance that this man had been persecuted by a fellow employee or supervisor and was let down by a system (supposedly) designed to protect him.
Having experienced the frustration that comes with whistleblower retaliation firsthand, I can tell you that retribution against attackers, at least the thought of such, is a distinct possibility. Add anxiety, depression, and loss of job, home or relationship to the thought of retaliating against our attackers and you have the making of a time bomb waiting to explode.

Most of us have the positive values and resilience to deal with such thoughts or temptations to act more humanely, more reasonably than others in those situations. But a small minority of the population, those overwhelmed by stress for example, do not.  Was Alexis one of them? Only time will tell.
One thing is for sure, Alexis, a Navy Reserve veteran, will undoubtedly be categorized and condemned, as are most Veterans, as being "aggressive" and "threatening", and has already been labeled as having "anger problems" in a Fox News (@FoxNews) report just hours after the attack. I have written extensively about false perceptions among the civilian sector about Veterans, lumping us all together and generalizing that Veterans are "all angry, aggressive, and threatening" because that is how we have been portrayed in the media for decades, if not centuries.

Murder has declined sharply over the last 20 years, but mass murders have increased significantly since 2002. On average, 14,000 Americans die by the hand of an other each year and mass murder (shootings) has spiked with dozens murdered each year in 6 of the 7 most recent years (Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Sandy Hook, Navy Yard). A total of 167 souls have died through mass murder in the last decade. Considering the fact that mass murders have become more prevalent recently, it appears to me that the stresses of war, the aftermath of 9/11 and threat of terrorism, a faltering economy, and degradation of whistleblower retaliation protections may play a critical role. The chances are astronomically AGAINST being the victim of mass murder, but proportionally MUCH HIGHER (when compared to murder in general) than just a decade ago.

When will this madness stop? Most likely, never. Until Institutional terrorism is addressed and laws protecting citizens from the powers that be are given more than "lip-service", there will always be those who feel their only course of action is violence when their back is against the wall. Or maybe Alexis was just a nutcase. That is a distinct possibility and, as more information is released, appears to be a very likely "part" of the story.

God bless the dozens of men and women killed or wounded in this horrible tragedy and God bless the families left to deal with the resulting grief and loss from a life cut short or severely disrupted by such an event, including the Alexis family. My prayers are with each and every one of you.

C.T. Sorrentino, LtCol, USAF (Ret)

Key Words: Aaron, Alexis, Navy, Yard, shooting, violence, Washington, DC, NavyYardShooting, killed, murder, mass, murderer, shooter, military, Veteran, reservist, wounded, dead, institutional, terrorism

This article does not represent the views of Help4VetsPTSD, Inc. in whole or in-part and is provided merely to generate discussion regarding the treatment of Veterans, a cause near and dear to our hearts.

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