Police brutality, Black lives matter, coronavirus, offensive statues, and gun rights -- you name it and it is probably one of the major issues we face in America today. And, yes, they are all real and extremely important. They occupy most of our time, and adherents of one or the other become intensively identified with the cause, to the detriment of anything else. Protests of all kinds erupt and demand this or that and, too much of the time, create fear among people and the destruction of property.
While not minimizing any of the above (and others), I would suggest that people today are focusing on the wrong things. Yes, we need to strongly confront these issues, but we also need to realize that there have always been bad issues in our lives. They just change from time to time. However, what does not change is people. I don't mean certain kinds of people; I mean people in general. We tend to care about issues, inanimate objects, and philosophical discussions and forget about the people involved.
Let me give you an example. When you go shopping, it is normal to experience a large number of people wearing masks and a lot of people who don't. Those who don't wear masks are exerting their personal right to confront the virus and any infringement upon their personal freedom, and exclaim that it is their right to decide whether or not they catch it or even if they die from it; and they are right. However, they are locked into a single issue and have forgotten about other people. I respect anyone's personal position on almost anything, but I do not accept another person's threat to my own life. Asymptomatic people may feel proud to exert their own freedom to not wear a mask, but they are threatening my life and I resent that intrusion into my personal aspirations for the future.
But let's look at the people who are involved today. What about the families and friends of those who have died by police brutality, coronavirus, serving in the armed forces, or through gun violence? It was disturbing for me to read about over 150 police officers in Minneapolis being diagnosed with PTSD and preparing to leave the police department. It is even more disturbing to note how many of the people who serve in the armed forces return home with PTSD. It affects far more people than physical injuries.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, referred to as PTSD, occurs whenever someone is exposed to such a high level of stress that so impacts him or her that they cannot get rid of it. It may last a few months, years, or as long as a person lives. Some of the symptoms include recurring memories or nightmares of the event, sleeplessness, loss of interest, feelings of numbness, anger or irritability, or constantly being on guard. The results of PTSD may include avoiding places or things that remind one of what happened, consistently using alcohol or drugs to numb feelings, causing personal harm to oneself, pulling away from other people and becoming isolated, or perhaps becoming overwhelmed with work. If these things occur in people experiencing PTSD, you may imagine what must be happening among their families and friends. There are a lot of people hurting or being hurt besides the one with PTSD.
We used to say these people should just be strong and get over it, but I can tell you that it is not that simple. I recently approached a man from behind that I knew and slapped him on the shoulder in a friendly way only to have him immediately respond by turning around and almost punching me out -- PSTD from a long time ago. I also know a man who served in the Vietnam War who, after years, suddenly discovered recurring thoughts in nightmares so that he could not sleep. He almost died until he obtained help.
So, while we are deeply involved in a lot of bad stuff these days, let's not forget that we need to remember how to help one another. There are veterans, police officers, tragedies resulting in injury or death, unemployed people, prisoners -- e.g. in jail, nursing homes, various jobs -- who are confined and cannot escape the coronavirus, and others who need our help; but let's not forget all of the other people connected to them as well. There will always be an issue or danger, but there will not always be human beings with the right to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
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Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.