August 23, 2013

"Antoinette Tuff Had Empathy for the Georgia School Gunman. We Can Learn a Lot From Her."

Writes Dahlia Lithwick.
In her first interview after the standoff, Tuff mentions that in the initial terrible moments she thought about a sermon series on “anchoring” that her pastor had been preaching, and it helped her to see that Hill was bereaved and in pain, and she was praying for him. I don’t know anything about anchoring, but I know I want to learn. Tuff’s compassion and her ability to see herself in her assailant (and him in her) might be as useful a way to think about school violence as any other I’ve seen. In the course of a few days, Tuff proved that the national debate doesn’t have to be about “bad” guys and “tough” guys (or even just “guys” at all). This doesn’t have to be about lose-lose split-second decisions or the simplification of complicated situations for political gain. She shows that this debate is about ongoing, years-in-the-making problems: isolation and loneliness, medical failures, depression, and the allure of being a copycat in a culture that celebrates violence. She shows that polarizing debates about bad guys and good guys in the heat of battle are both fatuous and pointless.
Much more here, with details about the hour-long interview Anderson Cooper did with Tuff last night. I highly recommend that. You'll see that Tuff is very strongly grounded in religion — more than Lithwick seems to want to talk about. I don't think religion is essential to developing the kind of skill that Tuff displayed, but it is most certainly Tuff's own understanding of why she was able to do what she did, as she continually returned to statements like "God gives us a purpose in life" and "God has a way of showing you what's really in you."

20 comments:

Inga said...

Some people are innately good, some people are good because they follow religious precepts.

Both types are what we need more of.

Moose said...

Due to her religion she wasn't afraid to die. That gave her the ability to talk to the gunman fearlessly but humbly, which I'm sure won him over.

What I don't get is the "in your face NRA" attitude that Lithwick had in presenting what was a singular person in an extraordinary situation that would be impossible to predict the outcome of.

SJ said...

Some shooters can be talked down.

Some require Mr. Colt (or Herr Glock, or Signor Beretta) to talk them down.

It's better to have several options available when attempting to deal with a shooter.

traditionalguy said...

DeKalb county is home of many black evangelical churches that teach a faith that empowers women and men alike.

For their members inner strength in a crisis is spelled Jesus. Prozac, Zanax and Dilantin are unnecessary.

Anthony said...

If Tuff was truly trapped, then trying to talk the shooter down is as reasonable a anything else. But if there's a plausible way to escape (or shoot back), choosing to try to talk the shooter down takes more courage, because you can't know if it will work, or backfire. That kind of courage is more likely to be found in deeply religious people. I say that as someone not very religious - probably not enough to take that risk if i had other options.

Ann Althouse said...

@Anthony Yes, this is what I was thinking. It's not the courage to try to talk one's way through it that is impressive here, it's the actual skill and the fact that we are judging it in retrospect when it happened to have worked. The man in question knew he was off his meds and was sane enough to know that and be worried about that. Could Tuff have talked Adam Lanza or Jared Loughner down? Who knows?

In the interview with Anderson Cooper, Tuff talked about considering running, but she knew that if she did that, he would have proceeded to go off and kill the children. Even if one were willing to save oneself at the expense of the children, could you count on running away in that situation?

What were the choices?

Another thing is that she herself had been suicidal, so that in addition to the belief in heaven may have made her more accepting of losing her life.

YoungHegelian said...

Notice the word Lithwick can't bring herself to use, an omission that says much about her view of the world:courage.

Because, just being in front of a gunman, even if you're armed, won't do you a lot of good if you don't have the courage to do what needs to be done.

In case after case, these gunman come in with a plan in mind, and when someone breaks the execution of the plan, they just collapse giving up or shooting themselves. It is the person of courage who with a gun, or a thrown chair, or, in this case, kind words & the well-placed question of "Do you really want to do this?" throws the spanner into the shooter's works.

God bless the aptly named Ms Tuff. Actually it seems He already has...

Paul Zrimsek said...

Considering the total incomprehension with which Lithwick famously reacts to the most basic ideas of conservative judges, I think it would be pretty entertaining to watch her try to empathize with a school shooter.

Sigivald said...

Also, some times talking a gunman down works.

Other times you get killed.

Probably most times.

Like Moose points out, the idea that that result is anything but an outlier is hard to reconcile with ... the entirety of human history.

HT said...

the Slate piece quotes NRA LaPierre:

"the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

"Only" is italicized.

Watching snippets on youtube, you do see that for her it did become about empathy. Regardless of whether she could've talked down other violent shooters, I could see in the interview that for her it was about empathy.

Chuck said...

The profile in courage that the left really missed -- no surprise -- was this one:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/media-s-double-standard_745833.html

When Floyd Lee Corkins (quick, anybody know who he is?) walked into the Family Research Council offices in Washington prepared to shoot the place up and die himself in the process. Because he hated the FRC's politics. He nearly killed the African-American security guard, who courageously stopped him.

Somehow, Dahlia Lithwick, Joan Walsh and NPR missed that story.

The Godfather said...

What's Dahlia's point? She says she isn't calling "for us all to emulate Tuff’s indescribable personal strength and empathy in crisis situations", so I guess the NRA option is still on the table, right?

But she says we should "emulate these behaviors and qualities in noncrisis situations", we should display "empathy" and "patience" in our "everyday policy discussions about guns and mental illness and making our schools safe." Why? What does this courageous woman's behavior in a crisis have to do with how we should behave in "noncrisis situations"? Probably empathy and patience ARE good things to bring to policy discussions, but if they are, it's not because of what Ms. Tuff did.

jeff said...

She was very impressive. However, this is much like Gandhi's nonviolence. Sometimes you get a America or England. Most times you get a Nazi Germany or Communist Soviet Union.

MrCharlie2 said...

"Due to her religion she wasn't afraid to die"

isn't fear of of the reason for religion.

i mean we solved irrigation a few millennia (1000s of years) ago.

MrCharlie2 said...

sorry for being snarly

Rocketeer said...

The World Needs More Compassion. But it would be wise to keep a pistol in its back pocket, just in case that doesn't work.

RiverRat said...

What I think you're all missing is...whether you call the motivating force "God", "Nature" or "responsible parenting" it's all societal ethics.


William said...

I saw part of the interview. Her kindness and decency shine through. That had to be a big factor in talking the shooter down. It's hard to murder someone kind and decent. Brave people are easier to kill.

Illuninati said...

Yesterday we were talking about 3 racist Blacks who shot a white man in the back. Now we are talking about a courageous black woman who helped save many lives. She has committed her life to living for a good God, the three young men have dedicated themselves to evil.

Abolishing prayer in public school has consequences. Unfortunately, because of militant atheists, the young men couldn't learn about a good God in school. They could learn that Christians are ignorant bigots who oppose the agenda of the good people, the Marxists. The chickens have come home to roost.

ken in sc said...

Mr. Charles, fear is 1st grade religion. You need to go back to Sunday School.