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November 24, 2010 8:34 AM   Subscribe

War veteran barred from college campus for frank words on killing. After publishing essay on addiction to war, Charles Whittington must obtain psychological evaluation before returning to classes
posted by fixedgear (115 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy shit yes, get that man into psychological treatment and off the street for a little while. We shouldn't be afraid to hear the true stories of war. But we also shouldn't pretend that people who have been damaged by it aren't damaged.
posted by 256 at 8:40 AM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


I also have to admit that I was feeling great sympathy for the man until he said "raghead."

Then I felt sick at myself for being able to overlook his love of killing more easily than his casual racism.
posted by 256 at 8:43 AM on November 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


He's already undergoing psychological treatment, as he mentions in the article. There's no reason to believe his impulses under control. This is just the college covering its ass in a "post-VA Tech world".
posted by bluejayk at 8:44 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


256: would you feel better if he said sand niggers? Or nips, krauts, frogs, or eye-ties?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 8:45 AM on November 24, 2010


Then I felt sick at myself for being able to overlook his love of killing more easily than his casual racism.

You can't expect the military to be efficient killers if you don't allow them to dehumanize the people you want them to kill.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:47 AM on November 24, 2010 [39 favorites]


That's a rather pathetic set of options, Old'n'Busted.
posted by dhammond at 8:47 AM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Besides the fact that this guy is damaged by war and that is very sad, two more tangential things disturb me about this story:

1. He drove drunk and injured three people and the penalty was 3 months in jail. Really? I thought Texas was all crazy with the over-the-top law and order, but you can be reckless with the lives of other people, injure three people and only go to jail for 3 months?

2. This essay is an A? I found it kind of repetitive and directionless.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:49 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


dhammond: then what word would you prefer, if you were a war veteran and writing this essay?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 8:49 AM on November 24, 2010


2. This essay is an A? I found it kind of repetitive and directionless.

Not to dump on Community College of Baltimore County, but I'm not sure they have the most rigorous English program.
posted by saturday_morning at 8:51 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Then I felt sick at myself for being able to overlook his love of killing more easily than his casual racism.

I live in a military community, so I'm no stranger to terms like this. If they are ever said in my home, I clearly tell the person responsible for the comment that words like this are not welcome and I don't appreciate that they be used in my presence, particularly not on my property.

I do understand though, that this is a part of war. As Old'n'Busted points out, this is nothing new. People often use slang to dehumanise their enemies, and I understand this. It's a way of separating yourself from the atrocities you're committing.

I wouldn't hold his language against him. It's been trained into him. What can we expect?
posted by sunshinesky at 8:52 AM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


or yeah, what Joe Beese said.

/never previews
posted by sunshinesky at 8:54 AM on November 24, 2010


.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:55 AM on November 24, 2010


Old'n'Busted: No, obviously not.

Joe Beese: Yes. I know. The dehumanization is horrible. But it's not worse than the killing. I still have a ton of sympathy for this man. My comment was more about how unpleasant it was to me to realize that my thinking of war is shocked by the dehumanization but not by the killing.
posted by 256 at 8:55 AM on November 24, 2010


I'd say the school acted appropriately. Reading his "essay" (included at the end of the article) I'd say there's valid cause for concern about this young man. It's not like they just kicked him out for some "frank words" they didn't like; more like, his words revealed that he's very disturbed and might be a danger to himself or others, and they want to be sure he gets some help before allowing him back on campus. It's all very well for his family and friends to swear he's harmless, but they wouldn't be the ones holding the bag for seeing the warning signs and not doing anything if he DID ever snap and hurt somebody.
posted by Gator at 8:56 AM on November 24, 2010


For me an important point:
"In fact, fellow veterans raised concerns about the article, says Mike Brittingham, a former Marine who is studying air traffic service at the college. Brittingham says campus veterans worried that Whittington's word's would portray all of them in a negative light.

'I think the main point is that he does not express how most veterans feel,' Brittingham says. 'Being in the military is certainly not about going out and being addicted to killing people.'

Brittingham says he contacted campus safety officers and the president's office with concerns about the article and says the college acted properly in barring Whittington from campus. He adds that the college does an excellent job of working with veterans to process their benefits."
posted by ericb at 8:58 AM on November 24, 2010


If he's already undergoing psychological treatment, it should be that much easier to get an assessment of his mental fitness, shouldn't it?

Post-VA tech or no, I'm damn sure I wouldn't be sending my kids to share a class with someone who feels that "killing is something that I do not just want but something I really need so I can feel like myself."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:58 AM on November 24, 2010


I wouldn't call it dehumanization. History shows there's nothing more unique to humanity than intra-species slaughter.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:00 AM on November 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


dhammond: then what word would you prefer, if you were a war veteran and writing this essay?

Maybe you're just missing my point, but some folks (including myself) are uncomfortable with racist slang like "raghead." That there happens to be other racist terms that someone could've used instead is irrelevant.
posted by dhammond at 9:01 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


...my thinking of war is shocked by the dehumanization but not by the killing.

256, I have the same reaction, and I wonder if that's a result of having experienced some degree of racism in real life (not necessarily directed at me, but having been in the room when it happened) but never actually having to deal with humans killing other humans.
posted by saturday_morning at 9:01 AM on November 24, 2010


1. He drove drunk and injured three people and the penalty was 3 months in jail. Really? I thought Texas was all crazy with the over-the-top law and order, but you can be reckless with the lives of other people, injure three people and only go to jail for 3 months?

Assuming he didn't have a prior record for drunk driving, three months is pretty much the "over-the-top law and order" response. Where I work, he'd almost certainly get less.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:04 AM on November 24, 2010


I was disappointed that this was called an "essay".

This is how a few of my buddies talk, when we're sitting around talking about old times. It's almost conversational, and yeah, casual.

As far as I know, not one of my buds thinks of this as an addiction -- more of an almost casual way of talking about how deplorable we felt shooting at other human beings.
posted by dwbrant at 9:05 AM on November 24, 2010


CNN coverage [video].
posted by ericb at 9:06 AM on November 24, 2010


Thank you for posting this. I think any kind of glimpse we can get into what life can be like for some Veterans is a step closer to being able to help them.

I can't imagine what it's like to have years of training and indoctrination to do a job, and do it well, only to be hurt so badly by that job that I can no longer do it and I end up surrounded by people who have no frame of reference for understanding an integral part of who I am.

I only hope for the best for this Veteran - hope that he continues to get therapy and continues to improve himself and will find his own place in the world that's left for him.
posted by jillithd at 9:06 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


That essay was not very well-written. And frankly, "When I stick my blade through his stomach or his ribs or slice his throat it's a feeling that I cannot explain, but feels so good to me" makes me kind of skeptical altogether.
posted by lullaby at 9:07 AM on November 24, 2010


I find it pretty sad -- and unfortunately not at all surprising -- that we're willing to punish a vet like this, not for having psychological problems or for being "a danger to himself or others", but for writing about his experience. As always, the worst crime guys like this can commit is to fail to shut up and fade away... same as it ever was.
posted by vorfeed at 9:08 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


One other thing--when I was in grad school I took an American History class because I was thinking about teaching. A guy who took the class the year before was invited to speak on Viet Nam. He had fought there for a year on the border. Nearly every day he was sent out on patrols to kill NVA soldiers. He was extremely frank--he said he cried and vomited the first time he was in a firefight. The class grew silent. After the first time, he continued, "you learn to enjoy hunting humans."

That guy was telling it as it was. I have no doubt that some sort of primal circuits get activated and people do enjoy this.

That's why they get so fucked up coming back.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:09 AM on November 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


Yeugh. I understand the impulse to try and get people motivated about writing by appealing to their personal experiences, but English teachers/profs seriously need to stop watching so many movies-of-the-week and goading their students into confronting trauma that they're unequipped and unqualified to address. A piece of writing dealing with emotions and experiences that raw and unpleasant is pretty much beyond critique as writing, so what was the point in having him write it (at least in that class)? Save it for the shrink or Civics or the Internet or wherever it might actually be at least marginally constructive.
posted by wreckingball at 9:11 AM on November 24, 2010 [16 favorites]


I don't see how it is a punishment, vorfeed. Jail is a punishment. Requiring that someone receive psychological screening after writing a graphically violent first-person essay should be SOP, whether that person is a war veteran or a high school student.
posted by muddgirl at 9:11 AM on November 24, 2010


My father was career Air Force, and was a Forward Air Controller in Vietnam. Shot down in North Vietnam, he was very lucky evade capture and complete his tour. Just the one tour. I grew up as his personal therapist - hearing the horrific stories over and over, sometimes with a little more revealing detail. I knew I never needed to go to war by the time I was old enough. I had had enough already.

When I was in high school, I read a book written by a man who had served three tours in Vietnam, flying AC-130s out of Thailand. The writer wrote how he hated the war, the reasons for it, but he returned to help his comrades in arms.

When I mentioned this to my dad, his response was instant. "Bullshit. He loved the killing."

I think the elephant in the room about war is that some young men love killing, they love the idea of it, they love the idea of unrestricted violence. The horror of war is when they discover that they don't like it so much when they actually do it, and when they actually have to bear a burden of guilt that they did not anticipate having. There is also some cognitive dissonance about it - they enjoy the combat, the adrenaline, the power - but they hate the results, or they realize they don't hate it as much as they should, and feel guilty about not feeling more guilty.

Someone once asked my father about Vietnam, about the killing. He told them "It's like having a really good jack off. It's a lot of fun when you are doing it, but you feel pretty dirty after."
posted by Xoebe at 9:12 AM on November 24, 2010 [23 favorites]


I think there's an important lesson for everyone here: Lie.

It doesn't pay to be honest with people. As soon as you exhibit any honesty about your feelings you will be ostracized.

A secondary lesson: Thoughts directly translate into probable action. If you ever thought about harming someone you probably will. You're already a criminal. Please turn yourself in to the local authorities.
posted by ruthsarian at 9:13 AM on November 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


You know, this is getting me angrier and angrier.

The idea that we "punish" people by asking them to discuss their mental processes with a trained professonal? Fucking bullshit. Is it "punishment" to require a yearly physical (as is required for my job, and many others)? Is it "punishment" if I get injured on the job and my company requires me to be evaluated by a doctor before I'm allowed back to work?

Why do we pridefully neglect mental health? Why do we see injuries to the brain as "natural" and something that should be ignored or personally overcome?
posted by muddgirl at 9:19 AM on November 24, 2010 [24 favorites]


He may have joined up because he was already twisted or he may have been twisted by the army, but he's twisted. A guy who has enjoyed killing people and apparently looks forward to killing some more is not the kind of guy you want at the coffee shop or in the car behind you or in a college classroom or anywhere else but on the battlefield or under enforced psychiatric care.
posted by pracowity at 9:23 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Um, from the article:
But Whittington, 24, says that he has his violent impulses under control with the help of counseling and medication and that the college is unfairly keeping him from moving forward with his life
He's already getting help.
posted by lullaby at 9:24 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:24 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the elephant in the room about war is that some young men love killing, they love the idea of it, they love the idea of unrestricted violence.

I'm not sure about this. If there were that many young men who liked the idea of killing people, then wouldn't that show up somewhere in popular culture? I mean, if this were really the case, then you'd think that there would be a market for movies or video games that featured violent conflict as a key part of the plot. The death-fixated veterans are clearly psychological outliers, a tiny minority capable of enjoying the thrill of the hunt, and stand far apart from our otherwise pacific society.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:24 AM on November 24, 2010 [36 favorites]


But Whittington, 24, says that he has his violent impulses under control with the help of counseling and medication and that the college is unfairly keeping him from moving forward with his life

He's already getting help.


Yes, I know. If this is the case then either the school is in error or it should be easy for him to provide the documentation necessary.

I am not responding to the spefics of this case but to the general tone from some here that mental health care is a punishment.
posted by muddgirl at 9:29 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's nothing wrong with writing about the horrors of war.

However, when your essay reads like it was written by a deranged serial killer who is determined to kill again, it's foolish to believe that there isn't going to be some sort of intervention.

Fortunately, we live in a society where we're aiming to *help* this guy, rather than to punish him.

And something about the whole "Support the troops/vets no matter what" mentality really rubs me the wrong way. What we did to the Vietnam veterans was undoubtedly wrong. However, I can't help but think that the outright glorification with which WWII veterans are treated is just as wrong, and helped later generations forget about the horrors of war. I'm not sure that we'd have been quite so gung-ho about the Iraq War in 2004, if this generation had already fought another ground war.

I'm glad that the men and women of our armed forces have volunteered to do our "dirty work." I also fully support providing our veterans with the full resources of our society to help them overcome the physical and psychological horrors of war. However, I also believe that our soldiers should be held to a moral standard. In this particular war, I have not seen the evidence to show that the US Military has done that. Frankly, this guy should not have been allowed to remain deployed for as long as he was. Any soldier that expresses joy at killing needs to be plucked from the battlefield immediately.

There is no glory in war.

posted by schmod at 9:31 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Requiring that someone receive psychological screening after writing a graphically violent first-person essay should be SOP, whether that person is a war veteran or a high school student.

I find this attitude way more chilling than the fact that some soldiers (who are trained killers, after all) enjoy their job, feel deeply conflicted about it, and grapple with that problem in community college English essays.

This isn't about helping this guy. This is ass-covering by the administration in case this guy flips out.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:31 AM on November 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


I mean, if this were really the case, then you'd think that there would be a market for movies or video games that featured violent conflict as a key part of the plot.

Whaaaat? You have to be kidding. If not:

Call of Duty

Battlefield

Soldier of Fortune
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:32 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reads Pater Aletheias' comment, takes sarcasm detector in for recalibration.
posted by fixedgear at 9:34 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The death-fixated veterans are clearly psychological outliers, a tiny minority capable of enjoying the thrill of the hunt, and stand far apart from our otherwise pacific society.

I will say this - three of my nephews were loving, extremely compassionate boys who joined the military after school. After being sent over multiple times, they are now back in the states - and are just like this guy. All of them have discussed with me the thrill of killing, how they can't wait to get back to kill some more, and how out of touch they feel with the world today.

This is not rare, as far as I am concerned. It's the norm. They get together with other buddies and talk about killing. a lot.
posted by bradth27 at 9:38 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure about this. If there were that many young men who liked the idea of killing people, then wouldn't that show up somewhere in popular culture? I mean, if this were really the case, then you'd think that there would be a market for movies or video games that featured violent conflict as a key part of the plot. The death-fixated veterans are clearly psychological outliers, a tiny minority capable of enjoying the thrill of the hunt, and stand far apart from our otherwise pacific society.

You're being sarcastic, right?

On preview, thanks, AElfwine, my point exactly.
posted by dbiedny at 9:40 AM on November 24, 2010


He's already getting help.

And that's excellent, but he needs to keep getting that help until he doesn't need help anymore before I'd want him in a classroom with me.
Instructor: "Tell us all a little about yourself."
Student A: "Well, I've just come just back from Iraq, where I discovered that killing people is something that I do not just want but something I really need so I can feel like myself."
Students B through Z: *transfer to another university*
posted by pracowity at 9:40 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Instructor: "Tell us all a little about yourself."
Student A: "Well, I've just come just back from Iraq, where I discovered that killing people is something that I do not just want but something I really need so I can feel like myself."
Students B through Z: *transfer to another university*


It's really sad you feel that way. He's probably the safest person in that entire classroom.
posted by ruthsarian at 9:48 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sarcasm detectors available at the front desk when you check in folks.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:48 AM on November 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


History shows there's nothing more unique to humanity than intra-species slaughter.

there are other species that kill one another, sometimes en mass, so it is 1) not unique to humans.

Additionally, what we currently refer to as war is a pretty stylized action. There is a lot of contention about weather war is inherent or social. After many years studying the topic I tend to fall down on the side of: War, as we currently fight it is very much a social institution. It takes a lot of cajoling, resources and effort to maintain a war for any length of time. I have no quibble with an assertion that conflict and a certain level of violence may be inherent, but war... no not really.
posted by edgeways at 9:49 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whittington seems baffled at the reaction to his work and the comparisons to Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter. "That guy wasn't a veteran or a soldier, and he was mad at the school," he says. "What I'm writing about has nothing to do with the school. Really, it's through writing that I've been able to deal with things...

Exactly. BCC, shame on you.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:51 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


On reading the responses to PA's comment, I'm forced to conclude irony really is dead, just not in the way Jeb Purdy meant.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:53 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyone who questions whether perpetrating violence is addictive should also question why so many people are addicted to violent video games and even team sports such as football.
posted by mareli at 9:58 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


That essay was not very well-written. And frankly, "When I stick my blade through his stomach or his ribs or slice his throat it's a feeling that I cannot explain, but feels so good to me" makes me kind of skeptical altogether.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that getting close enough to stab someone is usually frowned upon.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:02 AM on November 24, 2010


It's a joy to know that our trained killers are backed by legions of stereotypical middle school vice principals. That is the formula for a really lovely society right there. Hire him to do the killing, punish him if he thinks about it.

The bit about the knives in his essay made me skeptical of him, but I think he's just being florid.
posted by furiousthought at 10:03 AM on November 24, 2010


I tell you what -- for someone who claims to be most happy when he's sticking his blade through another human's stomach or his ribs or slicing another human's throat, there's something really peculiar listening to him whine about how community college is 'preventing him from moving on'.

It does make you pine for the days when a crucial part of being a soldier was knowing when to keep your big yap shut.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:04 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Saying you enjoyed killing isn't why he needs to be evaluated. Not understanding that those hearing this won't just take it as an academic assignment shows poor reality testing.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:04 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The writer (and his instructor) may have been a bit rash to think that essay would play well in a public forum, but apparently they haven't gotten to the "audience awareness" unit of the course yet.

Just how many phone calls do you think the BCC administration got from students, parents, faculty, and staff after that piece showed up in the campus newspaper? If something like that appeared at my school, our "student risk assessment committee" would kick into gear within about 3 minutes. Every time a shooting incident happens, everyone crawls up the officials' collective ass about how it should have acted on signals, blah blah blah.

I am not a member of the college administrator fanclub, but here I'd say they're more about the prevention than the ass-covering (mainly for slimy PR reasons, but still).
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:14 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree with muddgirl, why is anybody viewing what happened here as "punishment"? Despite the provocative framing of the FPP, the guy was not just summarily kicked out of school for writing some "frank words." He was basically just temporarily suspended because he wrote some things that made people AFRAID of him, and as soon as he can show them that he's not a danger, he can come back.

That said, I can understand why he might feel like he's being punished. I've been on the receiving end of some forced mental health care in the past, and it can be incredibly humiliating. Not everyone who works in mental health is as compassionate as they should be. It sucks to be told you have to have your head examined, it's embarrassing, and the stigma attached to this kind of thing is unfortunate, and wrong, and unhelpful, but it's still not punishment. If we could all stop looking at it that way, it would be a step towards removing that stigma.
posted by Gator at 10:20 AM on November 24, 2010


I served a year in Vietnam. I was a medic so I can't comment on this guy's feelings about killing. I would caution any returning veteran of any war anywhere to be extremely careful about sharing your feelings and experiences with people who weren't there. They will probably never in a thousand years know what you are talking about. And if you are going to be talking about your combat zone experiences with other vets, I would caution you to be completely honest with your fellow veterans. You don't have to keep anything back from them but don't try to make anything up either. If any of your fellow vets suspect that you are spinning bogus tales of heroic gore in an effort to audition as this generation's Rambo, you will experience rejection. In summation:

1. Don't waste your time telling the truth to civilians.

2. Don't be so stupid as to lie to other people who were there.
posted by Uncle Chaos at 10:24 AM on November 24, 2010 [14 favorites]


On reading the responses to PA's comment, I'm forced to conclude irony really is dead, just not in the way Jeb Purdy meant.

Yeah, maybe we shouldn't have killed all the hipsters.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:28 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's probably the safest person in that entire classroom.

So what if he'd said he was an ex-enforcer coming back from working with the Crips in LA and he need to inflict death? An ex-Taliban fighter for whom the blood of infidels on his hands is integral to his sense of self? Are those the safest people (wtf is a "safest person?") in the room?
posted by cmoj at 10:34 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it confirmed that Whittington actually killed enemy soldiers in the way he described? Maybe it was one soldier and he extrapolated. Maybe he didn't kill an enemy soldier at all, and is reporting what he felt he would or should have done after being injured. He was asked to write his essay, as a veteran, at the prof's request. Maybe he embellished his experiences. Regardless, he bared his thoughts and asked for the College's help that they're now sadly excluding.
posted by drogien at 10:34 AM on November 24, 2010


Uncle Chaos has it. I'm not a Vietnam vet (Gulf War I), but yeah, what he said.
posted by dwbrant at 10:34 AM on November 24, 2010


And that's excellent, but he needs to keep getting that help until he doesn't need help anymore before I'd want him in a classroom with me.
Instructor: "Tell us all a little about yourself."
Student A: "Well, I've just come just back from Iraq, where I discovered that killing people is something that I do not just want but something I really need so I can feel like myself."
Students B through Z: *transfer to another university*


So, we've had nine years of war, thousands of veterans have come home and gone to college, and... which school shootings have been carried out by combat veterans? Any of them? Has there been some outbreak of post-war violence on college campuses that I am unaware of?

Oh, and I never introduce myself as a veteran in my classes. It is very much not worth it.
posted by lullaby at 10:40 AM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


How is this young man's condition appreciably different from the kids brainwashed in radical mosques? Or the Israeli conscripts policing Palestine, for that matter? Does he deserve our sympathy more, or less than the jihadis he says he enjoyed killing? What were his motives for joining up in the first place? And, if this is the damage on the home front, where to next for a culture obsessed with soldiering?

War is totally human, totally dehumanizing. This is not a new, or a surprising story.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 10:48 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


well, so much for veterans fighting for our freedoms, especially the freedom of speech

it's a big lie

he came home, entered college, was asked to write about his experiences and he did so, in a way that did not show a general or specific intent to harm another non-combatant outside of the battlefield

no crime was committed and seeing as this is a state supported college, and based on what he wrote in a newspaper, i believe there's a first amendment case here

no, veterans, you are NOT fighting for our freedoms - for not only is it a dubious proposition that one can do so halfway across the world killing peasants, it's an even more dubious proposition that we still have those freedoms

i'm a little concerned, of course, about his mental state of mind - i'm a LOT more concerned about the mental state of mind of people who would ban a person from college for something printed in a newspaper - they are a lot more dangerous to us than he is
posted by pyramid termite at 10:48 AM on November 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


I like this comment from the brother:

He found the insurgents cowardly, prone to firing a few shots and then scurrying into the shadows.

Yeah, the cowards! Imagine not wanting to hang around for the privilege of getting blown away by the immeasurably superior firepower of the greatest military power in the history of the world. Scurrying bastards.
posted by Faze at 10:52 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


"The man who tells the truth is chased from nine villages"
posted by hortense at 10:53 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think that the school acted appropriately. People who have never been in wars cannot understand what happens in them and it must have been scary for students to read that essay.

I can't believe that we abandon our veterans after they've been to war. They need to be debriefed and given care as they transition back into a normal life. They need support groups. It's disgusting that the U.S. can just leave people like this man to cope with what they've seen alone. We are not raised in a society with war around constantly, and most of us are not prepared for for the reality.
posted by 200burritos at 10:55 AM on November 24, 2010


There is a long history of veterans coming back and not being able to reign in their impulse to kill -- if you read Paddy Whacked by T.J. English, about the Irish mob in America, it's astonishing how many of the mobsters he mentions were veterans who found it almost impossible to fit back into civilian life, and found working for the mob attractive because it gave them the opportunity to kill people.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:58 AM on November 24, 2010


...Why is anybody viewing what happened here as "punishment"? .... he wrote some things that made people AFRAID of him, and as soon as he can show them that he's not a danger, he can come back.

He's being stigmatized by the his instructor and the university, singled out as damaged and dangerous. He's had privileges revoked, namely his ability to attend classes, which he paid for. He's had his presumption of innocence removed; he now has to prove that he's not guilty of plotting to murder his classmates.

How do you prove that you're not a dangerous psychopath? Imagine if you got strip-searched every time you left a store on the off chance that you might be a shoplifter. How do you prove that you're not about to commit a crime?

Note that he's already in treatment for this. Note that writing about his experiences is part of him seeking help, by his own words. Don't think he doesn't know his damage. In the very process of seeking that help, he's had his life altered for the worse by reactions to his damage. Would we try to stop a victim of abuse from speaking about their experience? Why is he different?
posted by bonehead at 11:11 AM on November 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


For sure the school covering itself in case of an issue resulting in lawsuit. As for the name calling, remember that most people coming to this site are much less likely to use such terms or to accept them willingly. I know Nam vets who still refer casually to gooks and ragheads...never enters their mind to speak otherwise.

The recent film --??--that won an academy award made the point of the addiction to the highs of war.
posted by Postroad at 11:13 AM on November 24, 2010


Imagine if you got strip-searched every time you left a store on the off chance that you might be a shoplifter. How do you prove that you're not about to commit a crime?

Well, let's extend that. Let's imagine I had been trained by the government to shoplift, had done it for years, and had just written and published an essay about how much I love shoplifting and hard it is for me to control my impulse to do so.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:13 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Requiring that someone receive psychological screening after writing a graphically violent first-person essay should be SOP, whether that person is a war veteran or a high school student.

Holy cow this is a creepy stance to take. Thought crime, anyone? And yes, psychological screening when mandated by a fucking school administrator as a CYA measure IS punishment. Anyone who thinks otherwise is living in Star Trek Next Generations land.

I agree with whichever poster said that English teachers (or anyone) needs not ask if they don't want to know. I am reminded of this comment about the dangers of telling your lover they can do "anything," which I should probaby add to the metatalk thread listing comments that have stuck with me through the years.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:14 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


He found the insurgents cowardly, prone to firing a few shots and then scurrying into the shadows.

The British Army had similar complaints about the colonists' fighting style in the American Revolution.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:16 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I find it really odd that when we have fatal mass violence in our classrooms (cf Colombine, et al) the outcry is "why didn't anyone see these students were a danger and intervene to protect people?" and then when an institution does intervene to protect its students, we're saying the guy is being stigmatized.

I am really not sure you can have it both ways, folks.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:18 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, let's extend that. Let's imagine I had been trained by the government to shoplift, had done it for years, and had just written and published an essay about how much I love shoplifting and hard it is for me to control my impulse to do so.

Ok, sure. But now you've decided you want help, so you talk about your problem. Now (and only now) you're being barred from stores or strip searched. Is you buddy's choice going to be to talk about his problem too, or is he going to keep quiet about it?
posted by bonehead at 11:19 AM on November 24, 2010


Ok, sure. But now you've decided you want help, so you talk about your problem. Now (and only now) you're being barred from stores or strip searched

You've invented a metaphor here. The school is not strip searching, nor are they barring them nonstop. If the store chose to turn me a way until I produced a note from my therapist saying I was safe to go into stores, that might be a closer parallel.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:26 AM on November 24, 2010


"Text DINING to 70701 to sign up for Baltimore Sun dining alerts. All subscribers are entered to win a $150 gift certificate to The Prime Rib."

I have to say, Baltimore Sun, this might not have been the best choice for "ad to be placed between two paragraphs of an essay that mentions stabbing people between the ribs".
posted by tractorfeed at 11:33 AM on November 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


One thing that seems to be getting ignored in this conversation is that this is Baltimore County and this man undoubtedly has classmates who might feel threatened by this: whether she's a recent immigrant from Pakistan who wears a hijab, or he's a third generation Arab-American, or he's a Sikh who this guy might think is a "raghead". I have huge sympathy for veterans and I wish our country did more to provide them mental health services. But don't the other students (and staff and faculty) who might read in this guy's essay a threat to slit their throats deserve some consideration in this conversation?
posted by hydropsyche at 11:33 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


From the essay:

Terrorists will have nowhere to hide because there are hundreds of thousands of soldiers like me who feel like me and want their revenge as well.

Yeah, I can see why a school might want to pull some CYA maneuvers here. This quote is a sentence after he mentions that he's addicted to acting out of hate and violence against “rag heads”

On preview: What hydropsyche said
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:41 AM on November 24, 2010


I highly recommend War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by chris hedges about this very phenomenon.
posted by lalochezia at 11:42 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the store chose to turn me a way until I produced a note from my therapist saying I was safe to go into stores, that might be a closer parallel.

Ok, sure, as long as you're willing to add being held up in the national media as an inhuman monster, I'll stipulate that too.
posted by bonehead at 11:42 AM on November 24, 2010


Well, shoplifting isn't generally considered to be inhuman or monstrous, whereas taking pleasure in killing people -- and admitting to missing it -- is. I understand and appreciate your concern for this veteran, but I don't think you've found the parallel that works, and perhaps you can appreciate why a school, when confronted with a student who admits to having murderous impulses, wishes to make certain their other students are safe.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:46 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am not responding to the spefics of this case but to the general tone from some here that mental health care is a punishment.

With all due respect muddgirl, and I do mean that, in this case I personally think it was a punishment. I have no doubt that when the school called him in he told them that he was already receiving treatment, because, well, that's the most relevant thing for him to say in the situation. The school also does not deny that.

So I agree with BitterOldPunk, this isn't about helping him at all. They didn't care what he said or what treatment he was receiving. The school's reaction is much more evident of stigma against mental illness.

My own experiences with stigma bear that out. People who don't know your history of treatment or who do know but don't care often will not hesitate to say you should "seek help" if you dare express what is really in your mind. I find it really dismissive and in this case the school's attitude is one of covering their butts, not doing what is best for the student. They don't really care about him at all, as is obvious from everything they said. And since they don't care about him, it doesn't matter to them that he is already taking care of his health.

he needs to keep getting that help until he doesn't need help anymore before I'd want him in a classroom with me.

Man this sucks. Do you have any idea how many people in your classroom, in your workplace, in your family even, have "bad thoughts"? What more can he do??

"Davis says the decisions to call Whittington in for a meeting and to bar him from campus came from administrators who were concerned about what they read. She says she is not aware of any concerns expressed by students. "

None of the other students complained and his teacher is the one who encouraged him to publish the essay. No one cared until a veteran's group complained. And why did they complain? Because they were concerned for his health? Because they were concerned for the other students? NO. They were worried he would make other veterans look bad and they wanted it to be clear that his perspective was in the minority. So they took it to the administration, who responded with their cudgel and BANNED him from campus (really?) until he receives treatment which he is already receiving. What was the point of all that? I think to knock him back down and to reinforce that he is not socially acceptable.
posted by Danila at 11:49 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


He called war a drug and wrote that killing "is something that I do not just want but something I really need so I can feel like myself."

I got your psychological evaluation right here, bro: you're a violent thug bastard, and I hate people like you.

That last bit wasn't really psychological evaluation, I grant you. I just threw that in for free.
posted by Decani at 11:53 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


So. One thing I never really learned to like in my classes (especially those university required public speaking and composition classes) was when people decided that an assignment means group therapy time. The teacher dropped the ball a bit in encouraging some Dead Poets' Society shit (Side note: why do teachers love that movie? The dude from House totally killed himself because of that teacher!)

It's a class assignment. A paper. The people in your class are not your friends, your peers or your allies. Your teacher is not your therapist. I think this chap has just learned a very important lesson about separating the personal and the professional - sorry it had to make the news and all, but save the addiction talk for livejournal and your psychologist.
posted by palindromic at 11:54 AM on November 24, 2010


Still, my question is, why punish someone who has clearly suffered, and suffered in society's name, who is already seeking help? What message does that send to his fellows? Is the take home message here suffer in silence or face ostracism? Why is that ok for soldiers and not for other victims of abuse and violence?

Is it because soldiers volunteer for it? Is being punished for being hurt also part of what we expect of them?
posted by bonehead at 11:54 AM on November 24, 2010


The guy sets off my bull-dar.
posted by LarryC at 11:59 AM on November 24, 2010


History shows there's nothing more unique to humanity than intra-species slaughter.

Maybe history shows this, but biology doesn't. Animals from ants to chimpanzees do this. In addition, a lot of species don't hang out in big groups, so some of those may not be able to slaughter per se, but many kill members of their own species individually.
posted by snofoam at 12:11 PM on November 24, 2010


People are addicted to gambling, television and twitter, and according to some people in this thread, this guy lacks credibility because of the desires he expressed? What a joke. Real life doesn't have nice character arcs and tidy endings.

Take a young man during some of the most important years of his life, the years where most of us get to decide on the path our lives will take, force him kill 'ragheads' or be killed, and expect everything to be peachy afterwards? He is no more damaged than I would expect myself to be were I put through the same experiences.

When overcoming addiction, it helps to have a stable and supportive environment. No doubt he was trying to find that stable environment and work towards something in the 'real world', which would have immensely helped overcoming his addiction. Kudos to the college for kicking him out on his ass, I'm sure that will help.

It's not a bad article. The skeptics would be well advised to read it.
posted by ryanfou at 12:26 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nobody-to-root-for scenario, unless the dude wasn't already like that before the military got to him.
posted by tehloki at 12:27 PM on November 24, 2010


This is sad, but it seems like he wanted both attention and help and now he's getting both.
posted by snofoam at 12:30 PM on November 24, 2010


Also, it could just be me, but it seems like the 'high-ranking college officials' might be some of these loathsome moral objectors to the war, who weren't able to stop the war, and felt that any obligation to their countrymen was relieved because they disagreed with or felt betrayed by the premise of the war.
posted by ryanfou at 12:36 PM on November 24, 2010


ryanfou, I believe there has already been commentary to the effect that the college actually, in general, has done a good job accommodating vets.
posted by edgeways at 12:44 PM on November 24, 2010


Apart from Charles Whittington and his particulars, all I know is that if people like Dostoevsky, Musil, and Kafka were alive today they would wish they were dead.
posted by blucevalo at 12:51 PM on November 24, 2010


I've always heard that the key to a successful career is to get a job doing what you love.

Either we figure out a way to do without war, a way to do war without killing, or we commend this guy for taking his job to heart.
posted by fartknocker at 12:53 PM on November 24, 2010


...The dude from House totally killed himself because of that teacher!

Um, no he didn't.

Neil Perry (played by Robert Sean Leonard) killed himself as a result of the stultifying pressure from his parents' desire that he become a doctor and not pursue any other career path. He was under constant stress put on him by the overbearing strictness of his father (played by Kurtwood "Dumbass" Smith).

For appearing as Puck in a Midsummer's Night Dream (which his father had originally forbid his participation), Mr. Perry tells Neil that in retaliation for his defiance, he will pull Neil out of Welton and forcibly enroll him in Braden Military School.

At every turn Neil's dreams and ambitions were squashed by his Dad. He couldn't take it anymore and committed suicide.

It's the father who blamed the teacher, John Keating (played by Robin Williams) for exposing his son to other ideas. Keating provided inspiration to Neil and most of the other students" "O, Captain, my Captain!"
posted by ericb at 12:55 PM on November 24, 2010


edgeways: yes, I saw a bit about that, how they were commended for dealing with vet benefits... perhaps that is high praise I'm not sure. My comment was out of line and made out of anger, so I apologize for that.

If I could refine my point, it would be that regardless of whether one objected to or supported the war, helping to pick up some of the pieces when given the opportunity is the minimum duty of any patriot, or any moral human.
posted by ryanfou at 12:59 PM on November 24, 2010


Yeugh. I understand the impulse to try and get people motivated about writing by appealing to their personal experiences, but English teachers/profs seriously need to stop watching so many movies-of-the-week and goading their students into confronting trauma that they're unequipped and unqualified to address. A piece of writing dealing with emotions and experiences that raw and unpleasant is pretty much beyond critique as writing, so what was the point in having him write it (at least in that class)?

The whole wtfDeadPoets thing has already been addressed, but I have to say, I was more disappointed by this part that anything else in this story. I went into the article expecting it to be an interesting case study in writing as therapy, presuming that in a college English course there would be some valuable theory and criticism to be, you know, studied and learned from via the essay writing process. What was the student supposed to have learned from that assignment? There is a world of valuable writing out there on trauma and memory, identity and the role of narrative in shaping the reconstitution of oneself. Frankly, these are the sort of learning opportunities the government itself should be providing soldiers coming back struggling with themselves and their experiences, but given that this is a state school that I presume is being paid by veterans affairs, at least here in an English class setting there is an opportunity for this kind of productive work to occur. That essay was fucked up and not what I was expecting after the framing of the news article, but while the venue of publication may not have been appropriate, there is certainly a place for someone to express something like that, insofar as the act of writing is a therapeutic and ongoing process of coming to terms with traumatic experience and the residue of what he himself opens his paper by calling brainwashing. I hear the tacit nods of people here who share this experience and think it best to keep silent, and I think that's one of the saddest things, that there is no place among civilian life that they can be understood and accepted. And what's to be done? I am dumbfounded and just want to go collate appropriate theory, to assemble a course pack for the kind of information and education that this solider-student should have received. And I'm only a student and not a teacher, but if these resources aren't out there and made available, where the fuck will the need to write and comprehend find its outlet? From his own words writing is his way forward, and I don't see much of a path being laid forward for him.
posted by kaspen at 1:08 PM on November 24, 2010


I think the elephant in the room about war is that some young men love killing, they love the idea of it, they love the idea of unrestricted violence.

In the Army, I knew a guy who joined specifically so he could "kill people legally".

He also enjoyed telling everyone that he learned that you can use a tube of chapstick to lubr up someone's ass in Job Corps. Fun guy, no joke.
posted by Evilspork at 1:10 PM on November 24, 2010


Hemingway wrote to a general that he knew during World War II:

... writing is dull as hell after what we used to do. I haven't killed a son of a bitch for over four years now.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:25 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Still, my question is, why punish someone who has clearly suffered, and suffered in society's name, who is already seeking help?

Don't think of it as punishment. Think of it as making sure he is healthy enough to attend classes and that it is safe for him to be on campus. That's not punitive. Just because he's seeking help doesn't mean he's there yet in terms of being around his classmates, some of whom may look like the very people he feels addicted to killing.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:54 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


> People are addicted to gambling, television and twitter, and according to some people in this thread, this guy lacks credibility because of the desires he expressed?

1. Addicts do, in fact, lack credibility in general.
2. If someone is addicted to gambling or TV, they won't harm me or my friends. If they're addicted to killing, they might.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:06 PM on November 24, 2010


lupus:

> 1. Addicts do, in fact, lack credibility in general.

true. As do people overrun with guilt. That is also a bit of a red flag in his credibility. But unless there is some evidence or if someone can legitimately discredit his record, why not accept it at face value?

2 is possible, I don't think anybody would criticize the school for doing something, but I at least object to the heavy-handed approach that they took.
posted by ryanfou at 2:33 PM on November 24, 2010


Got a Marine in the family who joined up a few months before 9/11 in order to be able to put it on his application to the highway patrol.

Very sweet kid. Went to Iraq for two thirds of a decade and came back a sniper instructor.

Still in the Marines, don't know if he still wants to be on the highway patrol.

Do you want him to be?
posted by jamjam at 2:44 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't think of it as punishment.

Intended or not, his punishment is a direct consequence of that teacher's and university's actions. There's a lot of it in this thread alone: attacks on credibility, villification, personal attacks. What are talk radio and the media concern trolls going to do to him? Is he going to be in better mental health because of this, less of a danger to society or more?

Unintended consequences are a bitch. If untreated mentally-ill soldiers with potential for violence are the goal, then job well done. If quiet reintegration into society is what you want, then "no tolerance" rules need a rethink.
posted by bonehead at 2:49 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, it could just be me, but it seems like the 'high-ranking college officials' might be some of these loathsome moral objectors to the war, who weren't able to stop the war, and felt that any obligation to their countrymen was relieved because they disagreed with or felt betrayed by the premise of the war.

Yeah, I think that's just you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:04 PM on November 24, 2010


I've had an account for awhile without posting, as usually someone voices my opinion far more eloquently than I ever would be able to, but I feel like people are missing the mark entirely about where the fault is in this situation.

It's not about the college requiring this guy to provide a psychiatric assessment of himself (which I find deplorable, but I can see their viewpoint on the cya front), it's about how this story became public.

If it was this guy who went to the media after being suspended from school, then there's nothing to complain about. The school has a right to protect its ass as much as the next institution. If however, the college is responsible for this story becoming public, then the college is at fault for unnecessarily stigmatizing this guy (who obviously is already having problems re-integrating himself into civilian life). This could have been dealt with much more quietly.
posted by FuzzyLumpkins at 4:11 PM on November 24, 2010


I first heard about it a couple days ago from the Chronicle of Higher Education which links to this Baltimore Sun story which is more or less the same as the one in the post, and is primarily told from his point of view, suggesting either he approached the Sun, or they approached him and he agreed to be interviewed. In either case, I think the Sun articles both are clearly him trying to publicize this story (whether he ought to be doing this is and whether his lawyer and family ought to have discouraged it is another thing entirely).

I have not read much at all from the school's point of view, except the very brief comments in the Sun story suggesting that they are doing what they're doing out of concern for Whittington's mental health and the safety of the other students.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:45 PM on November 24, 2010


There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.
Ernest Hemingway

I came across this quote today - guess its true for some, maybe many.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:23 PM on November 24, 2010


"War is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians."

"The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug."

-Chris Hedges

When we ask people to do terrifying and uncivilized things, like killing other human beings, what do we expect as the results? That trained killers are going to come home and talk about puppies?

We send people off to war and then we're shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that some of them actually enjoy doing what they were trained to do. It's about as shocking as Abu Ghraib. Which wasn't shocking at all to anyone paying any attention to anything. Distrubing maybe, but definitely not unexpected. Baltimore County Community College can kiss my ass.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:36 PM on November 24, 2010


I was rather angry about this. You didn't see the V-Tech or Columbine perps express their feelings before committing their crimes. And this young man was already getting help. All they did is alienate him and make him an object of interest in the devil's media. I don't care if it was him or not, if the school went public, shame on them. If he went public, then he probably had no choice and want to bring his story to the public arena since the school(s) are unyielding over things like this.

Don't think of it as punishment.

You sir, are a joke. He is already living a punishment, one the military should be paying to fix.
posted by nomad005 at 2:46 AM on November 25, 2010


I am not a sir, and I already explicitly said that we as a country ought to be doing more to help all veterans, because their injuries both physical and mental are our responsibility. And in particular we need to be doing more to help Mr. Whittington because he is obviously very ill.

I also said that students who might feel threatened by his essay have a right to feel safe on campus.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:15 AM on November 25, 2010


Very sweet kid. Went to Iraq for two thirds of a decade and came back a sniper instructor.

Still in the Marines, don't know if he still wants to be on the highway patrol.

Do you want him to be?


Yes. I want police officers who have self control.

The military, but I suspect the Army most of all, needs to work better on their indoctrination program with an aim to helping people cope with the bad shit that will happen. Adrenalin makes people like things. People need to realize that they didn't really enjoy the killing- they enjoyed the rush.

I also said that students who might feel threatened by his essay have a right to feel safe on campus.

Their feelings are their own problem. They have a right to a safe campus. The college can't control whether their precious feelings are hurt or not. Lots of people *feel* unsafe because of internal prejudices, not because of reality.
posted by gjc at 6:30 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I also said that students who might feel threatened by his essay have a right to feel safe on campus."

Mmm. Do they have that right if anything makes them feel threatened? What if they are genuinely afraid of an ethnic group or communism? There's always a line, surely; it's hard for me to imagine that you are advocating that no student can ever be exposed to potentially threatening material.
posted by jaduncan at 7:34 AM on November 25, 2010


No matter what the instructor thinks, your community college intro to writing class is not a directed group fucking therapy.

It's as simple as that.

If this were an essay about how he wanted to kill himself, how when he imagines sticking his blade into his neck, it's a feeling that he cannot explain, but it feels so good to him, would you really be standing up to defend his right to be attending the school? Or would you say, "hey, he says he's getting help, but maybe it's not working? Maybe, since he writes that he lied to his doctors about how the pain he was feeling to get back to combat in the essay, he's being less than truthful to his therapist, psychiatrist, and to the school? Maybe they have a right to check to see if this guy isn't lying to these people, and to the school, too?"
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 8:50 AM on November 25, 2010


"People need to realize that they didn't really enjoy the killing- they enjoyed the rush."

Needs to be emphasized.

I was well acquainted with violence before I went into the military. And I was a hunter as well. I understood the adrenaline rush and the attachment that can form to precision in execution, particularly under duress.
There is a difference between the killing itself and high levels of performance required in extremis.
They are closely related, but it is easy to conflate them and feel that there is an attachment to the killing. (Any satisfaction in meting justice aside - anyway that's satisfaction in ending pain and suffering not the killing itself).

Hemmingway hunted in his youth. I don't know how much fighting he did. Humans are not as good eating as deer (at least, I've never tried long pig), so all things considered, I'd rather hunt deer.

"students who might feel threatened by his essay have a right to feel safe on campus"

The key difference here between the VTech shooter (et.al) and this guy is discipline and training.
There are many, many people who imagine sticking knives into others (as evidenced by how many who do and how many others who write about it). And there are many educational institutions that overreact to anything about violence put down on paper (elementary school kids suspended for writing something too gruesome on Halloween essays or involving gunplay, high school students suspended for the word 'bomb' appearing in their term paper, etc.).

Cho (VTech), Kazmierczak (NIU), the Columbine students, and others, all showed evidence of erratic behavior and were often on some sort of prescription medication for anxiety or depression, etc.
So the idea that this guy - just for the essay or erratic behavior - should be barred from campus until he gets a psych eval as some sort of safeguard is silly. Other shooters have seen psychiatrists. Were taking medication. Etc.
They are obviously covering their asses.
Whether they have some other choice given the environment is debatable. Individuals are often moral, ethical, supporters of human rights and just. Institutions - very rarely.

(I won't get into how smart it is to ostracize someone under mental duress and demand they're - what is the idea there really? Protection from lawsuits aside I mean. Psychological screening? Plenty of ex-cons going back to school. Are they supposed to be vetted? Someone who kills in war is somehow more of a reprobate than someone who does it over drugs? Or out of some glamorized gangster culture? Or because he likes beating his wife and doesn't want her to leave? As far as I know, the background check is more important for most jobs than a psychological screening.
Given the respective odds I'd be more worried someone at a college is a pusher than a killer.)

Then there's the fact this guy is a vet. The concept being I guess that if he wanted to do some damage, he certainly could because he's trained and dehumanizes people etc. (Wonderfully built concept that last bit. One can aim the derogation "You dehumanize people!" at anyone and conclude they are scum without the least bit of self-consciousness or trace of irony).
Couple things there. A bit ago I mentioned I could be considered 'dangerous' to someone (here, but also elsewhere in brief).
Funny thing - everyone thinks they're dangerous.
Its odd. I could say "Yes, I'm an astronaut" and no one would say "Well, fuck, I could work for NASA if I really wanted to." Say "I'm a quarterback for the Patriots" you don't get "I could play in the superbowl too if I hit the gym a bit more."
Start talking about the potential for physical violence - everyones' a bad ass who is just one storefront martial arts class away from being a one man catastrophe.

But people don't know WTF they're talking about. Without the ability to rationally plan and coherently execute that plan, no one is very dangerous.
Which is why, for example, so many extremists fuck up so royally at being terrorists.
Even an infantryman - any infantryman - is dangerous because, at the very least, he's got small fire teams of other people with rifles and specialized battlefield weaponry acting in concert with him. Often he's got a communications set up, air support, cadre for medical treatment; he's had teams who have been there before him and done reconnaissance, he's had officers and staff plan, at least generally, for his being in that area around that time and he's part of a mission within a larger ongoing strategic operation.

This is somehow implied as being a part of him if he 'snaps.' As though he can somehow marshal these forces and summon these weapons as though they were integral to his being.

The reality is without this kind of support and prior planning he's about as dangerous as anyone else is operating alone with a firearm and in a mentally unbalanced state.

That latter bit is important. Because without planning, and in a mentally unbalanced state, me, you, John Rambo, anyone, is at about the same level of dangerousness.

It's the mental unbalance and the lack of the discipline that renders most people less dangerous than they might be were they to have, say, centralized planning and decentralized execution in an operation designed to inflict mass casualties, cause widespread damage to infrastructure, sow confusion by killing key officials and technicians from long patient watches of their habits.

No, if they 'snap', any advantages they have - most of which come from cooperation anyway - they're going to lose.
Cho killed 32 people. Major Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 (and was stopped by a civilian police officer). Without coordinated fire, surprise, planning, it's far harder to kill in greater numbers even with weapons with large magazines and/or a high rate of fire.
Cho had a pair of pistols.
What made him dangerous was his mobility, surprise and his constant change of tempo. (one advantage madmen and certain SF types seem to enjoy).
Other than that, the guy was stopped by blocked doors.
Unless all vets get supermuscles, I don't see how the case would be different.

But all this is from preconceptions from movies and other more perception based concepts.

The real question is - are students safer on campus with a veteran or a non-veteran in a case where either appears to have the potential to be a psycho killer.

Well, yeah. Because of their discipline.
One would wonder why there aren't more inter-unit killings or more Full Metal Jacket type disasters in boot camp. You are being trained to kill. You are being drilled emotionally. Why then don't you kill the asshole(s) who are making your life miserable? The ones who are screaming in your face? The ones who demand you kill some other guy who is less easy to kill than they because he will be shooting back at you?
Discipline.
Whittington is trained to take orders and to restrain himself from killing.

His complaint is not that he can't go without killing, but rather, that it's hard.
Well hell, plenty of people on this board - in this thread even - have leveled verbal death wishes or danced on people's graves (verbally) after their deaths.
They have no system of restraint in place and have not been tested under fire as Whittington has.

Yet they're allowed greater latitude in their written sentiments.

Indeed, one can see the elements of training referenced in Whittington's essay: "There are several addictions in war, but this one is mine."
He's disparaging of what happened in his training, using the words he was given in training.

He likens it to a drug. We recognize the idea that many people are helpless before their addiction. Typically we help them even when - especially when - they are putting up no active resistance to it. That's usually an indicator they are most in need.

And usually they have no resources with which they can deal with it.
This guy does.

I won't say that people wouldn't castigate Whittington if he were a heroin addict and said something like "I had a really hard time with this problem when I returned to the United States, because turning this addiction off was impossible. It is not like I have a switch I can just turn off."
Because plenty of people use moral condemnation on drug addicts. They're 'weak' etc.

Lastly - it's not a great essay, granted - but if you can't see the tone shift between talking about being brainwashed and the anger he's got from training to the use of "rag heads" and using the "Terrorists will have nowhere to hide" stock type patriotic phrases you're f'ing blind.

He can't be adroit in his use of subtly and transposition of emotion because, what, he's a vet? Or because he's in community college? Or because we want to believe so badly other people just have to be single dimensional?
Think he really wants revenge on the rag heads?

On the other hand, most people trot out their own old stand-by issues anyway, vets are great. Vets suck. Iraq bad. Blah blah blah.

Very rarely do we see something for what it is and let ourselves be affected by it rather than the other way around.
We're so fortunate our educational institutions protect us from that as well.

I mean - unfamiliar things we have to struggle to comprehend because they're outside our experience could be dangerous, because the people who experience them firsthand could be dangerous.
We would all live forever otherwise. Which, gee, is the goal in life isn't it?
posted by Smedleyman at 12:02 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


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