“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” -Matthew 12:25

This last week, I purposely withheld any commentary on the mass murder that took place in Orlando, Florida. I sensed from the beginning that there was going to be more to the case than “radical Islamic terror” or “anti-homosexual hate.” Indeed, there appears to be a heavy dose of both, but it is also apparent there were other psychological aspects at work. A surprising amount of background information has already been made public that confirmed my reservations, and I’m sure there is more information to come. My suspicions were based on many years of dealing with such people (yes, the characteristics of this perpetrator are not unique), my work with risk assessment, a continued study of critical incident management, and a good old fashion hunch. Something about this incident seemed unique that I thought would set it apart from others and premature speculation would be regretted. The proof of that last consideration is already playing out in the knee-jerk reactions we’ve been seeing from politicians and pundits.

Unfortunately, each time a mass casualty incident occurs people immediately slap their personal agendas over the top of them and try to claim the episode as an example that proves their hypothesis, political view or prejudice. Politicians on the left and right, along with the ever-present talking heads on every news network, start going off like a barrel full of skyrockets set alight. BOOM! BANG! KABLAMMO! And, we all hang on for the rush…

“Gun Control!”

“Immigration control!”

“Radical Islamic terror on our doorstep!”

“Insufficient mental health resources!”

“Homophobia!”

“Islamphobia!”

“Racism!”

“Intolerance!”

“Religious freedom!”

“Rampant narcissism!”

…and the list of issues, special interests and national concerns goes on and on. Some with very good reason. But we really need to take a breath and examine the particulars of each case to properly understand what we are dealing with, the ramifications, the options available to us, potential solutions, the best responses, the consequences of those reactions, and where cooperation and possible compromises would do the most good. We can do so now, while we have time, before this type of violence builds momentum and we see an increase in frequency and intensity. But, no. Descent is the order of the day…like with everything else.

We are living in a time when our society is divided and antagonistic. We have two political front-runners for the Presidency that are breaking records in the polls for “disapproval.” These two are disliked by the majority of voters on both sides of the spectrum, but have managed to garnish enough votes through the primary election process to lay claim to their respective party’s nomination…for the Presidency of the United States of America! Even those in leadership positions in their own parties are cringing. What? How did that happen? There’s not enough room here for a proper analysis, but here we are.

Our current President has a fragmented track record for leadership. The only people who give him high marks here are those who are devoted fans who seem committed to the idea that he can do no wrong. Descent among his department heads is epidemic. All of his former Secretaries of Defense have voiced significant criticisms and concerns…while he’s still in office. That’s unheard of even in the most fragmented administrations. His former Secretary of State, and one of the Presidential front-runners, has publicly disagreed with him on foreign policy. There have been scandals in almost every one of his federal agencies, including his Secret Service. His intelligence and justice department heads have repeatedly contradicted his positions on issues. He might be able to dismiss scuffs with his Labor Secretary, but blowing off those who hand you security briefs is another matter. And now over 50 diplomats from his State Department (traditionally not a haven for the hawkish) have formally protested his strategies in one of the highest profile hot spots in the world.

The Congress and Senate aren’t doing any better. Democrats on the left, Republicans on the right and never the two shall meet. “Bipartisan” doesn’t even seem to be in their vocabulary most the time. Things are so bad that Democrats even walked out on the Republicans’ call for a moment of silence for the victims of this last week’s terror attack! Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

They say, “Life is politics and politics is life.” The trickle down of the antipathy from government leaders into day-to-day public discourse suggests that is true. It’s not unusual for friends and family to turn on one another in spasms of volatility. Anger is routinely demonstrated on our highways…”road rage” is no longer an aberration. YouTube.com is full of videos showing people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds slugging it out in public places.  Problems with “anger management”? Yeah, I’d say so.

With the obvious serious challenges facing our country in the near future, can we really afford this preoccupation with inter-tribal conflict? Can we safely engage in backstabbing while the very real adversaries of our nation become increasingly aggressive towards us overseas and domestically? Calling for restraint for the sake of our values and heritage is noble. But running to our corners to spring old mantras onto the mat to wallow around ineffectually while groundswell builds for the next round of terror does no one any good. Remember, violence follows patterns as sure as water runs downhill.

I’ve heard that “crisis breeds camaraderie.” I hope we don’t have to wait for a good old-fashioned ass whooping before we learn the value of collaboration, conciliation and…dare I say…common sense.

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Photo by Jonathan Parker via Flickr