I don't know about you, but this has been too much déjà vu for me. Gunman with a history of mental illness enters a building to which he has legitimate access, opens fire, and mows down multiple innocent people. An outraged public demands better gun control. Media track down the gun purchase, only to discover that it's entirely legitimate. A nation mourns.
My heart aches for the families of the dead. But doesn't the fact that this continues to happen suggest that we need to consider a different approach to the problem?
As I've been following coverage of the event, I've been thinking a lot about Antoinette Tuff. Remember her? The Atlanta elementary school bookkeeper who averted the school shooting at McNair Discovery Learning Academy back in August? If you haven't listened to the full 911 recording, you owe it to yourself to do so. It's a remarkable example of our potential to humanize others, even in the moments in which they seem most inhuman:
Tuff begins the encounter by relaying the gunman's demands to the 911 operator. But soon she begins to interject her own responses to his comments, and that, in the end, is what changes the situation. In the moment when she chooses to validate him as a human being, to see him as something more than a gun-toting maniac, the monologue becomes dialogue: "He said he should've just went to the mental hospital instead of doing this because he's not on his medication. But do you want me to try - I can help you. Let's see if we can work it out so that you don't have to go away with them for a long time." As the conversation continues, Tuff connects with the shooter through her own vulnerabilities. She talks with him about her own suicidal thoughts, her separation from her husband, her multiply disabled son. And then, the part of the conversation that blows me away every time I hear it: "It's going to be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know I love you, though, OK? And I'm proud of you. That's a good thing that you're just giving up and don't worry about it. We all go through something in life."
Love him? Remember, she is talking to a stranger who was, not minutes before, armed.
When, I wondered, was the last time someone said that to him?
What I don't understand is if Aaron Alexis was hearing voices six weeks ago, and actually told people about it, actually asked for help, why wasn't there someone to help him? Where was the Antoinette Tuff of the Navy Yard?
Peach Walnut Salad with
Honey Mint Vinaigrette
Here's a vinaigrette in which the tang is tempered by local honey. Invest in a good one, because you will be able to taste it.
12 mint leaves, julienned
1/4 c. honey
2 T. rice vinegar
6 T. vegetable oil
4 or 5 ripe peaches, peeled and cubed
1/3 c. walnuts, toasted
8 oz. mixed greens
Whisk mint leaves, honey, rice vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Continue to whisk while pouring in vegetable oil; mix until emulsified. Add peaches and toss to coat.
Empty mixed greens into a large bowl. Top with peaches and walnuts, and toss gently. Serve.