September 18, 2013

Editors' Comment on Recent Naval Yard Shooting

The Editors

It appears that Aaron Alexis, the gunman in the massacre at the Washington Navy Yard, was a Buddhist. In the Washington Post a headline reads, "Buddhist community ponders apparent link between their faith and Navy Yard shooter."

We don't think questions like "What does it mean to be a Buddhist?" or "How could a Buddhist do such a thing?" are at all relevant here. There is certainly no need to defend Buddhism or to look specifically for Buddhist lessons in what happened. This tragedy did not happen because of or despite Aaron Alexis's connection with Buddhism. It happened, as similar mass killings have happened, because a deeply troubled person with easy access to high-powered firearms went on a horrific rampage. There is no reason to think that without a change in our gun laws these tragedies will cease and every reason to assume they will continue happening, as they are, with increasing frequency, and we can be sure that people of any and all religions, and no religion at all, will continue to be both perpetrators and victims. For all of us, whether Buddhist or not, that is something worth pondering.

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kartbayii's picture

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kartbayii's picture

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tozcaleather's picture

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khare's picture
Halflotus's picture

Characterizing him as Buddhist may not even be entirely appropriate. News reports indicated that he hadn't visited the temple in over 2 years. And I've seen no evidence that he continued his practice otherwise.

"Former Buddhist" may be a more appropriate characterization.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Wonder if "Black community ponders apparent link between their race and Navy Yard shooter" would've gotten the Post more traction.

Halflotus's picture

Not sure I see your intent with that statement.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Post and other unmindful media sensationalizing Mr. Alexis' past activities as possibly connected to his crime, no matter how irrelevant.

mahakala's picture

How exactly do you know what details of his life were relevant or not to this particular event?

Im more inclined to think his entire life was of complete relevance to this particular event, including any and all of those aspects which involve things you would rather not associate with such an abhorrent situation.

Everything is connected. If you want to talk about karma, and collective nature, then you should attempt to realize this. Your lack of comprehension regarding the coherence of sequential events is not an indication that such coherence does not exist. Rather, it simply indicates your lack of comprehension.

On the other hand, its quite easy to comprehend why you would not want to associate murder with buddhism, or a particular racial community - especially in light of your particular sense of identity. As a card-carrying Buddhist, you should attempt to realize this as well.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Even fewer details of Mr. Alexis' life experiences are available because of his death. No one will ever know what motivated him to randomly kill 12 innocent strangers. The most relevant sequence of events is laid out in the article: Mr. Alexis' growing mental instability, his professional connection with the US Navy, and his easy access to high caliber firearms. Most other conditions are tentative at best, if not irrelevant to the reality of the investigation.

Halflotus's picture


D. Anderson's picture

I am surprised no one mentioned violent entertainment and video games?

Dominic Gomez's picture

Violent movies and games are outward symptoms of 3 innate poisons, which Buddhism addresses.

Homohabilis's picture

Like nearly every other mass shooter in recent years, this poor fellow was doped up on psych meds. See "Like nearly all other mass shooters, ex-Navy shooter Aaron Alexis was also being treated with psychiatric drugs".

But of course, that is not a relevant fact to Big Media, owned and operated by the same interlocking set of corporations that own and operate Big Pharma. So what are they going to say? "Hey, it says here this guy was a Buddhist. Is that weird or what?" "Yeah, okay, use that for the lede."

As for "changing gun laws", I assume you mean the usual. I thought Buddhists were supposed to be realists, not dreamers. Depriving honest citizens of the right to defend themselves, while leaving deadly weapons in the hands of criminals, is not the solution to "gun crime". Note that Alexis carried out his crime in a "gun-free zone", where there was no one who could fight back. What a remarkable coincidence!

And why was the Navy SWAT team told to "stand down" at the scene? As usual, there's more to this story than we'll probably ever know.

But it certainly has nothing to do with Buddhism, despite efforts to distract your attention.

zebu111's picture

The gun laws do not need to change, people need to change and become Buddhists.

zebu111's picture

Again, according to the FBI statistics, for the past 20 years violent crime has been trending downwards even though the U.S. population has increased by over 56 million. This past year, violent crimes were 36.9% lower than the 1993 level despite a 50% increase in gun ownership. Guns don't kill, gun control does.

T N Args's picture

Gun deaths have been about 10.3 per 100,000 per year in the USA every year since 2000, not changing.

That's bad. And it's not getting better.

In Canada it is about 2.6. In the UK it was over 2.0 about 20 years ago but is currently around 0.5. That is a rapid improvement, unlike the USA.

The USA is in a terrible state, and Obama's action should have been shouted for by the people as strongly as they shouted about Vietnam. I suppose the big worry in shouting against guns in USA is that your opponents are ARMED TO THE TEETH!

Halflotus's picture

Guns are all but illegal in Mexico and it has an extremely high crime rate.

It's terribly foolish to think that banning guns will magically result in less crime. Bad guys don't adhere to laws.

buddhaddy's picture

The USA IS in a terrible state. However, it is this "you owe me regardless of whether i earned it or not" personality that we are collectively growing. It's mostly due to almost free-for-all welfare, disability, food-stamps, nobody should be judged, no losers, no winners, and on and on. When most people were responsible to put their own food on the table, (regardless of what the rich had), and responsible to find or create their own job, (when regulations didn't make it almost to daunting to consider creating a new business), the national soul didn't have this kind of mind-set. Do any of you realize that there was a stock market crash a few years before the 1929 crash? why didn't we have a great depression? because the government let it crash and recover, all on its own. Did anyone starve? No, because people helped one-another. Fine me one historical fact of anyone starving to death during the great depression, the dust bowl, etc. When you are told that you don't have to pull your own weight, (regardless of the cause of your state of affairs), you lose something from your humanity. People are killing each other because of a national soul that is losing itself, not because of guns.

sallyotter's picture

You say that no one starved during the stock market crash before the 1929 crash. How do you know that? How can you show the unmarked graves of the starving? Can you document the starvation deaths of the poor anywhere in the world 80 years later? No, because they don't matter.
My understanding of compassion is, if someone is need and I have more than I need, then I share without judgement as to why they're in need. It's none of my business.

buddhaddy's picture

In healthcare, I still talk to some of those who were around during that time. there were many, many charitable people and organizations. you are correct. I cannot say with certainty that there are no unmarked graves. However, you are using that detail to avoid the discussion. Read the books of the time, the newspapers, the history about the time, instead of just picking out a mathematical detail to base your reply on. People took care of people. If anyone starved it was because they couldn't get to where the food was, and no one knew they were there. People taking care of people is a beautiful thing. somehow, when government tries to do it, it turns ugly. And people lose their sense of life.

Tharpa Pema's picture

"if someone is need and I have more than I need, then I share without judgement." I really like this, sallyotter.

buddhaddy's picture

Ditto. give. don't ask others to give in your place

Jack Foreigner's picture

Um, as a society, we all give or take -- and wouldn't you rather live in a giving society??

Unfortunately, the powerful make the laws and naturally their laws benefit themselves first and foremost.

What was that about asking others to give in your place again?

zumacraig's picture

Yes, free for all welfare and food stamps are the cause of gun violence. The poor and their innate laziness just perpetuate it. Because of these moochers, the USA has lost its soul. Damn, these lazy poor people, besides living in their luxurious projects, eating free food are also upatriotic. It's obvious they've caused 9/11 and the recent financial meltdown. The worst is that they are not proud Americans and are the real underlying cause of gun violence. Amazing insight Buddhaddy! I mean, I really don't know how us lemmings would be able to understand the reality of the world, much less the dharma, if it wasn't for your enlightened wisdom. Namu Buddhaddy Butsu!

Rob_'s picture

You're right, you won't get any facts because such figures were never kept. But there is anecdotal evidence. If you wish to believe starvation can not happen in the U.S. due to some unfounded and unbounded faith, I can't stop you. Ignore any information I send you, I suspect you've had too many 24/7 binge sessions watching Fox News.

You've also repeatedly complained about Tricycle posting things about politics, suggesting this should all be about Buddhism. Who are you kidding? You can't stop talking about politics. Hell, this specific blog had a theme of guns, and you're here going on about your favorite (and only) topic, government excess and all the poor people dragging us down.

By the way, work on those addition and multiplication tables.

zebu111's picture

Of course you can't link to these stats because they're not true, here's the facts:
Violent Crimes per 100,000: Britain: 2,034 USA: 466

If gun control were effective, Chicago would be the safest city in the country. It's not, Gun Control Advocates have good intentions, But good intentions do not always yield positive results. Strict gun laws do not work because they take guns out of the hands of only law-abiding citizens.

JoseBuendia's picture

Zebu111, you need to get your facts straight! If you even read the statistics you cite, you would understand that "violent crime" as used in the study that you cite includes all sorts of crimes, including car thefts. It has nothing to do with debate about gun control.

The following are statistics are relevant. Between 2003 and 2011, the US homicide rate was four times the homicide rate in the UK. However, the use of guns in homocides in the US (2 out of every three homocides) far outstripped use of guns in the UK (one out of every thirteen homocides). This difference results in more than 12,000 more deaths per year by guns in the US than in the UK.

Of course, none of these statistics address the deaths of thousands of children each year (accidentally, by suicide and otherwise) resulting from the pervasive presence of guns in US households.

I will agree with one point that you make. Legal gun restrictions will have little effect on the US culture of violence. The only real change will come when people like yourself renounce violence -- even in retribution -- and voluntarily refuse to own or carry guns. When guns become unfashionable and are acknowledged for what they are -- as indication of an owner's unapologetically violent temperment -- then there is potential for positive change.

buddhaddy's picture

this note started out as good thoughts for buddhists. Just like the "christians" during the witch trials, no human is perfect, in their religion or out. Timothy McVey called himself a christian too. And I don't think the question "what is a buddhist" can have a definitive answer. The Buddha just as much taught that. However, why did it have do degrade into a statement about gun laws? Please tell me of one illegal thing that is not available to anyone who wants it badly enough? even in totalitarian countries? And, for that matter, please tell me of one illegal act that doesn't occur uncountable times every day? I expect these kinds of unmindful thoughts from some of the crazies, sitting in their parent's basements, living in their finite set of like-thinking blogs. But I did not expect it from the editor of Tricycle. I am relatively new to Tricycle, and thought it was going to be a discussion of spirituality and our lives as buddhists. While I enjoy a lively political discussion with people of all points of view, I don't expect the editor to express one. Sad.

Jack Foreigner's picture

You're a Buddhist and you don't understand the interdependence of all things??

There's no real distinction between self-improvement and enlightenment and the political implications which arise therefrom.

T N Args's picture

You mean, like Aaron Alexis did?

mards's picture

The guns laws DO need to be changed.

David Gould's picture

Just compare the murder by gun statistics for the UK or Australia with the US. We have gun control and it works. If you have a society where people carry firearms as a right, and as a social norm, you are saying that you are living in some mad Max kind of world of dog eat dog. Get rid of the guns.

buddhaddy's picture

Get rid of the guns how, exactly?

zebu111's picture

Of course gun crime is much lower, THERE's NO GUNS! But violent crime in general IS MUCH HIGHER because there are no guns.

As a matter of fact, armed robberies are up an astonishing 44%.

Rob_'s picture

Apparently you're unaware that snopes is a site that debunks a lot of information. The link you posted actually presents a long critique of the posting at the top. So the link you posted actually does nothing to support your case. Good job!!

T N Args's picture

This is not true. The academic study by Chapman (2006) showed that after the Australian gun buyback and anti-gun laws, there was no evidence of violence (including violence to one's self) going up in non-gun categories to compensate for people not having guns.

Richard Fidler's picture

You won't like to read a more nuanced comparison of crime rates in the US and Australia, but I'll give you a site that explains why such comparisons are different to make:

Doesn't it seem odd to you--even as a gun control opponent--that Australia has less violent crime than the United States? Do you know what it is like to live in Detroit, Chicago--or, for that matter, the rural South?Do you really think things are worse in Sidney?

jiwjrbus's picture

Schizophrenia affects one percent of the population, accounts for a fourth of all mental health costs and takes up one in three psychiatric hospital beds.

However, in contrast to what others have written in this feedback, violence against others is not characteristic of schizophrenia. Suicide, on the other hand, is quite characteristic.

ezaki.karen995's picture

I saw the first sensational headline but not much explanation other than he was a mentally disturbed man. There are many Buddhists who come to church, are reverends, or part of the Sangha and still do the most selfish deeds, say such hurtful words, and uphold false masks so this man is no different. He was part of the ones who are taking the 84000 path journey. I think he wanted some peace from his own demons.
The Buddhists should continue because the world knows much about the Buddhists in Tibet and at least how they live, treat people, and their beliefs.
The world and I are struggling to learn more about mental illness, schizophrenia, etc.

william allred's picture

Some raw data: In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicide deaths, and 11,078 firearm-related homicide deaths in the United States.
Some hyperbole, extracted from the editor's comments:"It happened, as similar mass killings have happened, because a deeply troubled person with easy access to high-powered firearms went on a horrific rampage."
Shall we talk about the lack of public outcry over the number of suicides by gun? Approximately three every hour of every day all year long, the Navy yard shooting was the equivalent of 4 hour suicide tally. What's up?
We have an opportunity every day to support, counsel and awaken the people who will die by their own hands, if we do nothing. Apparently nothing is being done.
We have a responsibility as tax-payers who fund the murder of innocents and patriots who are gunned down by our military in countries all across the globe; a number that rivals the annual national gun deaths, in-country.
So, really, what's the rationale for this editorial? Because we identify with someone who belongs to our club?
Humans are deadly. Chicago just surpassed NYC as the murder capital of these Un-united States.

I love my Aussie. Her demeanor, her instincts, her wisdom and loyalty. I also live with a human. Most of my time is spent with my 60 pound companion.Nothing more to say.

celticpassage's picture

It may be irrelevant, but it probably won't stop the anti-religious blaming religion anyway (in this case Buddhism)

bardo's picture

Dear Editor: What your thoughtful comment did not mention is that this person suffered from a mental illness, probably schizophrenia, easily diagnosable by his "hearing voices". Does not matter what religion someone is, a psychotic break results in much suffering and many times violence. Access to guns by psychotic people is the reason so many innocent people are dying. But saying he was "deeply troubled" does not quite reach the extent of the story that he had a disease that often leads to violence, religion, faith or philosophy notwithstanding. Thanks.

Dominic Gomez's picture

If anything this incident may prompt a wider, more open discussion among Americans about Buddhism.'s picture

Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I'm hoping it can help steer some of the conversation over the next few days. I'm a bit surprised by some of the things I'm reading and hearing.