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Toxic Violence part 2

April 19, 2013

This post started as a section in The Toxic Conversation About Guns.   The topic grew to the point that it needed a post of its own.

We think gun owners understand violence.  Well, we do.. and we don’t.  We understand that violence happens.  We understand our moral duty to retreat.  We understand the right of self-defense when violence can’t be avoided.  We imagine that education leaves us immune from the psychological effects of violence.  The truth is we are not immune.   Any normal person will be affected unless they are a veteran with extensive combat experience.  Here is an example  to illustrate my point. (1)

Imagine you and your family are sitting in your home on some quiet evening.   The doors open suddenly without warning, and four armed gang member beat you and your family.  They trash your house as they look for valuables.   The whole experience is a loud violent blur.  Things happen quickly and the robbers are gone in 30 seconds.

You feel devastated as you recover in the hospital.  You ask yourself over and over what you could have done to protect your family even though you were surprised, out manned and outgunned.  It is painful to look at your injured family.  You’re absolutely convinced you could have done more and should have done more.  You tell yourself over and over that  you should have done more!

You and I sympathize with anyone who experiences such an attack.  We understand and share that self-doubt that follows after the assault.  Now ask yourself this question and see what changes-

Would the victims feel the same way if identical injuries were caused by a tornado or a lightning strike hitting their home?

The injuries are the same, but the psychological response is far different.  No one thinks they should fight off a tornado.  Instead of feeling guilt you are profoundly grateful that you and your family are alive.

Do you see what changed?  An accident isn’t evil, and evil isn’t an accident!  A physical attack is psychologically toxic precisely because of the malevolence one person directs at another.  Every attack is personal.  In the home invasion example I mentioned, the attack was willfully aimed directly at you and those you love.  All personal violence leaves us filled with doubt and self-recrimination.  Even a clear headed victim is filled with doubt after such an attack.  We torture ourselves with doubt rather than accept our ongoing vulnerability.  That is absolutely normal.  I don’t think we should expect anything else.

It does give me a small glimpse into what our returning combat veterans bring home with them.  Bless them all.

Rob the blessed

(1) I first heard an example like this from Col. David Grossman, and I took it without permission.  We can argue that combat veterans are extraordinary.

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