WESTBOROUGH, MA January 2, 2017 I grow contemplative with the change of each calendar year and wonder where the time has gone since 2000 when one of our closest friends dressed as the pink millennial elephant and danced on the front yard to the delight of the four boys who were stuck at home with nothing to do. It was a big surprise to us all and was meant to make us laugh and bring joy. I cherish these friends and am fortunate to have so many more. For those of you who regularly read these posts I wish you all a happy new year – one that is safe and prosperous. I expect that most people wish others peace and prosperity on New Years Day.
Intuition and deviance
I know there is a subset of people who may not be who they would have us believe they are. The world has seen unconscionable acts of barbarism in lone wolf terrorists in 2016 that I will not revisit here. Deviance comes in many forms of disguise. Workplace violence is nothing new and continues to be on the radar screen of human resource and security experts. Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, a disgruntled television reporter killed WDBJ colleague Alison Parker and her cameraman as she did her job on live television. He had been escorted off the station property following repeated attempts at bullying the people he worked with in Roanoke, VA in summer 2015. The live twitter posts, videotaping the shooting, and horrific execution of the victims by Flanagan will be a specter for years to come. People may have anticipated this behavior by looking closely at his prior employment patterns and behavior that were highly erratic. Mental health advocates might argue that Flanagan had depression or some other debilitating psychiatric illness that he chose to ignore. In his 23 page manifesto he cited discrimination, harassment and bullying as the reason for his actions.
“Like dozens of mass killers before him, the shooter embodied a deadly mix of resentment, delusion, and thwarted aspiration” according to Sarah Kaplan (Washington Post, August 27, 2015).
Each of us needs to be aware of our environment and the possibility of a wolf in sheep’s clothing in our midst. Do not be surprised by the behavior of wolves – especially those looking to feed their hubristic conceit. Relationship and intimate partner violence takes on special significance in this new year and there are well documented red flags that forewarn offering a glimpse of the wolf lurking below the surface flash and excitement of what is new. Gavin deBecker offers the textbook – The Gift of Fear as an essential reminder for each of us to closely be aware of our inner feeling states such as the sense of fear – when in the presence of those who might do us harm. Understand fear as a prehistoric memory trace genetically programmed into each of us. It allows us to feel a warning as the wolf gets us in his sites. deBecker owns a security firm that provides employee threat assessments and interviews victims to see what they were thinking and feeling before being attacked. Many reported an odd sense of foreboding just before being assaulted or attacked. By listening to and acting on one’s internal sense of fear you may save your own life.
The possibility of home-grown violence erupting in the life of the average American is greater than ever before. As recent events have illustrated there are marginalized people living on all sides of us – some of whom are brooding – blaming. The reasons for homegrown violence: relationship and workplace violence are very complex and beyond the scope of what can be explained in these pages. As a society the identification and containment of those who depravedly evoke fear in others is requisite to social order. The next generation of leaders should find a balance between public safety, treatment and rehabilitation for those living with mental illness and ardent protection from the brooding haters who dress as sheep in order to make us afraid and bite our throats.
Happy New Year and be aware of your surroundings and watch for the wolf in sheep’s clothing.