Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded 29 in a shooting at Ft. Hood on November 5 of this year. Everyone agrees on this fact. Why he did it is still up for speculation.
In his memorial speech Obama said, “It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy, but this much we do know – no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts, no just and loving God looks upon them with favor.” Absolutely, I agree. But would Obama have said just that if the killer had been Christian? The main focus of the speculation on Hasan’s motives is religion. He is Palestinian-American and practices Islam.
Popular culture in the United States is not very friendly to Islam. According to Steve Deace of WHO radio (an AM station out of Iowa), Islam is irreconcilable with the American Dream, “every bit as much as communism or Nazism.” I wonder if Deace has ever met anyone Muslim. Or a communist, for that matter.
More than likely, Hasan’s religion wasn't the most relevant. He was one of “only 480 psychiatrists – military civilian and contractors – serving about 553,000 active-duty troops around the world” according to the Iraq Veterans Against the War. In their Veteran’s Day Letter to Obama they argue that Hasan simply broke. This is not so uncommon.
The weight of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) leads 6,000 veterans (out of the 25 million) to commit suicide every year, a statistic I got from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The VA can document an additional 1,000 suicide attempts every month. Bearing the emotional burdens of soldiers who’d been deployed 4 or 5 times, and without an outlet to relieve himself, Hasan flipped.
My point is: no matter the reason, flipping out and murdering a bunch of people is never okay. Another bad thing is labeling an entire group of people as terrorists. Assuming that an entire racial/religious identity is in cahoots with whoever the US happens to be at war with is the same philosophy that led the US to put Japanese folks in internment camps during World War II.
We have a lot more rights than a lot of other countries. This Veteran’s Day, let’s take advantage of the things that make this country livable. I’ve got a couple of methods in mind:
We need to respect our Freedom of Religion and the diversity that inspires. We need to fight racism whenever we encounter it, no matter who says it or why.
We need to use our Freedom of Assembly to make Congress ashamed of the fact that almost a quarter of the homeless are veterans. We need to actually support our troops and demand that they get all of the benefits they’re entitled to.
PTSD is not a new issue, and neither is racism. If we plan on living in a nation where all people have freedom and are respected, we need to remember our parents and grandparents standing up for each other when it seemed most difficult. If we plan on living in a nation where all people are respected, we’re going to have to fight, like they did, to make sure that happens.