Major Nidal Malik Nasan. AP Photo.
Things aren’t always as they seem. This past Thursday, November 5, 2009, America was rocked yet again with news of a mass killing at an army base in Ft. Hood, Texas, resulting in thirteen fatalities and thirty one injuries. Unfortunately, people are shot and killed every single day, and because of that, society has become gradually more desensitized to violence over the generations. What makes this story particularly tragic, however, is that it took place on an army a base by a soldier, who shot not only fellow soldiers but civilians, as well. All the victims, soldiers and civilians alike, were innocent of any wrongdoing and were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when the suspected gunman, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, opened fire. The story gets worse and warrants even further prayer and spiritual evaluation when considering two more vital details about the the gunman’s identity—he is a Muslim psychiatrist.
Let’s deal with the psychiatric part of the equation first. No one imagines that people who have committed their lives and are paid to serve humanity in a particular field will one day end up doing the very thing they pledged their vocations and careers to prevent. Major Hasan is a soldier, charged with the task of serving and protecting his country, who killed and injured multiple individuals, and on top of that, he’s an Army psychiatrist, charged further with the task of evaluating the mental capacity of the people with whom he is serving. Clearly, his mental state compromised his ability to serve in both capacities, hence the tragedy we are discussing. How sad! You count on soldiers and doctors to perform certain duties, but when they perform acts that directly contradict those duties, we certainly call the perpetrator’s credentials into question. While there is not an official word on motive, it is very important to note that Hasan had practiced at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. for six years, one of those years in which he received a poor performance evaluation before being sent to Fort Hood, from where he was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq on November 28. Exactly how upset he was about his imminent deployment and whether that sent him over the proverbial edge is highly debatable and can be speculated until the cows come home, but there is a more important facet of this story to discuss.
Now, for the religious part of the equation. As previously stated, Hasan is a devoted Muslim, who further reports claim had very strong misgivings about participating in a war against fellow Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan It was reported that fellow soldiers in a graduate military medical program, at various times, heard him utter “anti-American propaganda” and argue that a war on terror was a “war against Islam,” but did not write a formal complaint out of fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim student. By most accounts, Hasan appeared to be a nice guy whose feelings about the war really got to him, moving him to do things he would normally not have done. If all of those reports are indeed factual, then this story is even more tragic than meets the eye. Clearly, the brother needed some help, and people, in the name of political correctness, were too afraid to help him. Fear of religious discrimination should not have prevented soldiers from doing their due diligence in filing the complaints to the proper authorities; had such been done, perhaps thirteen families would not be dealing right now with crippling loss.
It’s more than unfortunate that such fear could have possibly kept people from doing their job, but because of a dark history of incendiary discrimination over the generations, sensitivities are up so high that people have been rendered ineffective at performing their duties. A lot of blame is available for the passing, but a more productive discussion here would be about how to begin to change perceptions so that people, regardless of ethnicity, background, beliefs, or creed, are not afraid to live their lives. The United States is powered by diversity, in that those whose families came here no more than 400 years ago far outnumber those whose ancestors are indigenous to this country. So many people have lost their lives because of religious intolerance, and much of it, unfortunately, has been at the hands of Christians. When will we learn that it is not acceptable to treat anyone differently than we want to be treated, just because of our beliefs? When will those who claim to be Christians finally start living their lives like Christ lived His? It sounds simple enough, yet we continue to do it. Yes, we have religious standards and strong beliefs, but we don’t let them compromise our humanity. Every Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Universalist is not evil and deserves to be treated with respect; blanket statements about groups of people are never acceptable because things aren’t always as they seem, and each of God’s creations is unique. Prayerfully, we’ll one day learn this so innocent people can stop dying.
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