Disbelief, denial can obscure the truth

Published 12:01 am Sunday, April 21, 2013

In times of crisis and tragedy, disbelief and denial come hand in hand.

Our nation, our state and our community have experienced a bit of each of these in the last week.

The Boston Marathon bombing caused many of us to jump to conclusions about who must be responsible for the deadly bombing.

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How many of us when hearing about the bomb blasts immediately conjured up images of the Middle Eastern attackers of Sept. 11?

My hand is raised.

It just makes sense. Our minds go with what we know and what our experiences have shown us.

We know that Middle Eastern, radical Islamic terrorists hate us, and we know they want to kill us.

So imagine the collective surprise when the first images of the suspected bombers didn’t look like what we expected.

They didn’t look like the Sept. 11 terrorists.

In fact, they looked like Americans. As their identity was revealed, we learned that one of the two was, in fact, an American citizen.

Both men had spent a considerable amount of time in America and at least the involvement of one of the pair of accused bombers came as a shock to those who knew him.

Monday afternoon, if someone had asked, I’d bet the majority of Americans would have believed the bombing was at the hands of someone from Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan.

It’s our natural tendency to avoid thinking it could potentially be “one of us.”

Yes, I know the two brothers were originally from Russia, but for all practical purposes, they had been living here for years. They were, as far as many around them could tell, living successfully in America.

Our American way of thinking about such things can be limiting at times. In some ways, many of us think that if all of the foreigners who hate us could just live here for a while and in turn understand how great America is they wouldn’t hate us so much.

But the reality is the folks who hate America — foreign or domestic — do so not because they don’t know the wonders of America, but because they feel our culture attacks Islam. They feel that since we’re a democratic nation that all Americans are thus responsible for our military action overseas. Beyond that, they’re repulsed by our American culture.

But all of that baffles most of us. We remain in disbelief.

Last week’s other big news involved the alleged mailing of poison-laced letters to President Obama, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and a north Mississippi judge.

Again, most of us probably believed it was some far-away character causing this.

As information started trickling out on Wednesday night, a number of Natchez residents were in disbelief.

Could the man accused of sending the letters really be from Natchez?

It seemed baffling at first.

“No way.”

“That can’t be right.”

“It must be someone else with that name.”

We were mostly in denial.

But as more and more information became public the reality sunk in.

The man charged in the case was, in fact, the man who grew up in Natchez. He’d performed for crowds at the Jim Bowie Festival in Vidalia just last year.

In times of crisis, our gut instinct can often be proven completely wrong. That’s the case here.

Disbelief and denial are two powerful entities that often rear their heads in times of crisis.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.