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Killing becomes a drug, and it is really addictive. [Turn the sound down on the link.] I had a really hard time with this problem when I returned to the United States, because turning this addiction off was impossible… I still feel the addictions running through my blood and throughout my body, but now I know how to keep myself composed and keep order in myself, my mind.

Whatever else you want to say about this writing, produced by an American veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, you have to admit it’s pretty good. Straightforward, direct, honest. The image of the addictions “running” through the writer’s blood is excellent.

The essay in which it appeared earned an A in a college writing course. Indeed, so impressed was the writer’s professor that she encouraged him to publish it in the school newspaper.

That’s when administrators saw it. They’ve barred him from campus until he gets a psychiatric evaluation.

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Journalists covering the story have had no difficulty finding an idiot to insist that a writer who stresses the control he now has over himself has actually written “a cry for help… [He] clearly wants and needs a psychiatric consultation.”

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Here’s how the college should have handled this. By all means call the guy in for a chat with the provost or whoever. Don’t immediately hit him up with You’re scary. You need to get your head examined. Just talk to him. Have a campus shrink join you for the chat. Give him a chance to demonstrate that he’s okay – a reflective, damaged person working out his thoughts about his experiences in an essay.

Maybe the chat reveals that he is unhinged. Then the college can in good conscience make him keep his distance. But just because a person has written in an unnerving way about what it means to be a soldier does not mean he should be silenced.

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6 Responses to “Verbal Warfare”

  1. DM Says:

    Since when can a university administrator ban a student and order him to undergo medical examinations? Ah, maybe in the US.

  2. Michael Tinkler Says:

    “a reflective, damaged person working out his thoughts about his experiences in an essay.”

    Exactly. Goodness know that in my line of work we get self-portaits as crucifixions often enough. Do we call Counseling? Not till we chat with each other and find out it the painter is interesting or scary.

  3. Tony Says:

    That is so weird. What he was writing about is exactly what won The Hurt Locker all those Academy Awards.

    I think it’s also odd that we should glorify these wars in this country, but not allow our returning vets to speak honestly of them. Whittington made neither actionable nor vague threats. He just simply articulated his reactions to combat. And he did it quite well, it seems.

    I appreciate what happened at Virginia Tech, but we seem to have become a nation of nervous nellies, fearful of our own shadows.

  4. Bill Gleason Says:

    Having had to deal with a few scary students…

    It is interesting that the original paper was apparently thought to be praiseworthy by the writer’s professor. This implies to me that she felt his writing and comportment to be acceptable. You would think that the administration would work with the faculty member to try to determine whether there was a problem, rather than summarily dismissing him unless he got a psychiatric evaluation. If the faculty member has a good relationship with the student it is often possible to arrange a consult with someone in the student health service.

    In one case a student was unhinged and had to be removed from a program and from campus. In another, very similar to this one, everything worked out and the student eventually became a pharmacist.

    I think the key is trying to get the student to voluntarily talk to someone qualified to make an evaluation. This is obviously facilitated by having faculty members who actually know students.

  5. david foster Says:

    There is probably kind of a Pascal’s Wager going on in the minds of the administrators….If they guy *really is* a dangerous nut, then the downside of what could happen is almost infinite…and even if the probability is very low, well .0000001 times infinity is still infinity.

  6. bfa Says:

    The provost, professor, etc. are not experts, and can’t (from a legal perspective) evaluate this person for his potential to go, well, batshit crazy. If this student were to go nuts and shoot people, and it came out later that this essay existed, the university would be liable. Insisting he be evaluated is simply covering their asses, something everyone should do at all times if they don’t want their life ruined by bloodthirsty lawyers.

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