Letters: Mental Health And The Military, 'The Talk'

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NPR's Neal Conan reads from listener comments on previous show topics including how the military handles the mental health of service members, and what many African-American parents tell their children about how to behave around white people.

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

It's Tuesday, and time to read from your comments. Last week, after a member of the U.S. military was accused of slaughtering civilians in Afghanistan, we talked about how the military assesses mental fitness. Eman(ph) wrote from Sunnyvale, California, to say the entire discussion left him uneasy.

I feel very uncomfortable with the shooter-as-victim narrative that seems to be running through the U.S. media's coverage of the Robert Bales case, he wrote. Whenever there's a high school or college shooting in America, we're treated to extensive coverage of the emotional reactions of the victims and survivors. All I know about the people who were murdered in Afghanistan is that there were 16 of them. All I'm hearing is how tough it is for our troops out there. If it had happened on American soil, the conversation would be about the evils of terrorism and how to prevent it.

Just to note that the charge filed against Staff Sergeant Bales, a day later, listed 17 victims.

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin homicide, two African-American journalists joined us to discuss the conversations their families have had about how to deal with authority. Jeannie Whitesell(ph) wrote from Easton, Maryland, to tell us those conversations must be had by all. She wrote: I, a white mother of four sons and a daughter, also give them instructions on how they are to behave when stopped by the police. Be respectful. Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Don't make any sudden moves. This is something every responsible parent should teach their children.

And many of you wrote in about your experience with race and racism. Steve High,(ph) from San Antonio, emailed: Your guest mentioned that race is a construct and it's all in our heads. I wanted to share a confirmation of that. My wife and I, both U.S.-born Caucasians, spent time in the Southern Russia area near Chechnya. We spent enough time there to befriend many locals, and we spotted a racism there that was fascinating. It mirrored what we've seen in the Southern United States.

One race was afraid of the other. One race dominated the other. One race diminished the other's worth. But the two races appeared identical to me. Southern Russians and Chechnyans, along with everyone else in the region, looked like regular white people, yet the racism is every bit as strong. The difference between us and them, in the local discussion, was simply on where they were born. To us, this reinforced the exact argument the guest was making - this is all in our heads.

As always, if you have a correction, comment or question for us, the best way to reach us is by email. The address: talk@npr.org. Please, let us know where you're writing from, and give us some help on how to pronounce your name. And if you're on Twitter, you can follow us there, @totn.

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