We often focus upon the wrong questions when senseless tragedy occurs. Hoping to undo the event. Hoping that it could never threaten us. Hoping to exonerate ourselves, somehow. That Aaron Alexis, the shooter at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, was viewed as a "good" person doesn't fit our narrative. He must have been evil, cowardly and deranged. He "snapped." Nothing at all like us.

In fact, he and many other violent individuals could be us. His act was really suicidal (as is typical in these cases). His rage consumed him, those whom he deeply resented, and innocent victims. While there were likely predisposing factors in his childhood, in his access to military training and in the use of weapons, humiliation was likely the trigger. Profound rejection(s) by friends, family, employers, coworkers, neighbors, strangers. Failure(s). Conditional love, or no sustained attachment. What likely snapped were fragile threads connecting him to hope in himself, in others, in the future.

There will be crime reconstructions, event "autopsies," and new safeguards and policies debated. We all worry we could be the next victims, and life is random. God didn't choose the deceased or save those who escaped (though you may feel differently and derive some comfort). While trying to protect ourselves, we should strive to avoid lighting fuses in others, adding to their misery or enabling violence in any way. Not to excuse this crime, coddle a killer or blame the victims — just to realize the bell tolls for all of us.


The writer is a psychologist.

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Sadly, it felt like business as usual on Tuesday, just a day after another deadly mass shooting in our country. People seem less and less interested in what is becoming a common event in our society, not to mention the numerous people who die in other gun-related incidents every day. I challenge any politician to have courage this November and in future elections. Risk your seat of power in exchange for meaningful gun control legislation for your country. Anything less is cowardly.