The Price of American Principles

As everyone knows by now, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, a 39-year-old Arlington-born Army psychiatrist, shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, wounding many more.  Although he originally told the Army that he was not especially religious, Hasan had become a devout Muslim in recent years. You didn’t have to be the Amazing Kreskin to predict what the combination of a Muslim soldier and a shooting spree would spark from some voices on the Right: immediate “I told you so’s” about how politically correct squeamishness prevent sensible profiling that could prevent such tragedies.

Conservative fire-breather Michelle Malkin provided a retrospective of recent Muslim killers, including one of the D.C snipers, on her blog. “Ain’t tolerance grand?” Malkin wrote, pointedly. It was so predictable, in fact, that two of the major TV network news shows  left Hasan’s Muslim faith out of its news reports, an irresponsible, craven, stupid act that defied journalistic ethical standards. Americans need to know Hasan is a Muslim, and need to hear the arguments of Malkin and her ilk, so they can emphatically reaffirm American values by rejecting them.

Did you ever wonder what would have happened if an American citizen of Japanese descent had performed a similar murderous act during World War II? Why, public sentiment would have been clamoring for us to lock up all….hey, wait a minute! We did that, didn’t we?  We thought that there was an appreciable chance that some Japanese-Americans would have more loyalty to Japan than their country of birth, and in the interest of national security, violated a large chunk of the Constitution by putting American citizens in prison camps because of their heritage. We have been apologizing ever since, for it was an un-American policy.

Malkin and others, however, still believe that the logic of the Japanese internment was sound, if not the particular application. Their mockery of “political correctness” and “tolerance” is code  for fear all Muslims. To them, Hasan’s name, ancestry and religion added up to three strikes: he shouldn’t have been in the Army, and he shouldn’t have had access to guns. Because you know, Muslims want to kill us all.

Well, some undoubtedly do. So, probably, do some do some Protestants, who just haven’t had the opportunity. The Virginia Tech shooter was Asian. The Unibomber was a Harvard grad. Muslims have no monopoly on potential killers. When all is known, the deadly rampage of Nidal Hasan may  teach us that people who counsel returning war veterans may need counseling themselves. It may turn out that he was so fearful of his imminent deployment to a war zone that his mind snapped. Maybe he has a brain tumor, like Charles Whitman, the Texas tower sniper. Or maybe, just maybe, he had been recruited into a jihadist organization, as some assert.

None of these possibilities argue for denying Hasan, any Muslim citizen of the U.S., or any citizen at all, absolute freedom to pursue any occupation he or she wishes, without fear of bias, discrimination or persecution. It is really that simple.  The principles of the United States of America, as definitively articulated by Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson, could not be clearer. This country does not pre-judge a man, woman or child based on anything but their personal character, accomplishments and conduct. That is at the core of the soul of this nation. It’s true that Abraham Lincoln would have lived if the government rounded up all Southern sympathizers, including a famous ham actor who had never performed a violent act in his life.  It is certain that Sharon Tate and her unborn child would have survived if police had arrested all revolution-preaching  hippies in the Sixties. American didn’t do it, can’t do it and still remain America. Because American can’t do it, people died…at Ford’s Theater, in Beverly Hills…and at Fort Hood.

Part of the price we pay to keep American principles alive is the periodic tragedy committed by someone who by some calculations–usually after the fact calculations— posed a greater risk than the average American. This is not something the families of the Fort Hood victims want to hear now, but it is true.  Maj. Hasan had every right to live his life exactly as he chose right up to the point that he started shooting, and so does every citizen of this country, Muslim, Japanese-American, actor or Harvard grad.

Hasan is an American who used his freedom to do terrible things, as any of us can. The only way to insure against those terrible things is to take away his freedom, and ours, before terrible things happen, even though there is no way to know if they ever will.  In a nation, this nation, dedicated to ethical values, that is not an option. A basic tenet of ethics is that one must not respond to a wrong with wrong.  It is crucial that we remember this, as we confront the tragedy of the Fort Hood murders.

8 thoughts on “The Price of American Principles

  1. Good piece, Jack. There’s a human tendency (universal, I’d guess) to fear the “other”–Muslims, homeless, African-Americans, cops, people with odd accents. Our leaders need to constantly remind us of our shared humanity. Bush did that after 9/11 by embracing Muslim Americans, Army leaders are doing it today. We ought to be impatient and intolerant of such as Malkin, Glenn Beck, and Lou Dobbs who denounce the “other.”

    • The real trap, which we are seeing with Hasan, is when one individual appears to confirm a negative stereotype. Hasan shouldn’t be regarded as any more of an “other” than I am. (Admittedly, I am a little strange. Ok, than you are.) There were plenty of German-Americans in the forces during WWII (indeed, the commander!), but nobody regarded them as threats…they were Americans. Hasan is a perfect storm of factors leading him to this, and maybe someone should have caught the warning signs earlier. But his religion and nationality were not among them.

  2. My heart and prayers go out to all the victims, and the victims family and friends.

    From all the news reports it appears this Major is a career military man and that in his current position for less than a year and was not going well. He did not want to be deployed and in fact wanted out of the Army, so he paid back his military student loans and hired an attorney.

    The reason may have been that he was being harassed and called names like “camel jockey ”. I guess all that sensitivity training for those with bigotry tendencies are all for not. (Can training real change the way you were brought up?)

    Another reason is called PTSD by proxy, the stress of treating PTSD in other soldiers make you go a little crazy yourself. Its even more stressful because most of the higher ranks don’t even believe in such thing as PTSD. Their denial prompts them to tell suffering soldiers to “drink it off.” Some civilians in the defense dept feel the same way no doubt IMO, it’s why hardly anything is mentioned of PTSD until one of these violent episodes occurs. These people see PTSD as a cop-out or an excuse. First we need to have an understanding that PTSD actually is real before we can ever hope to help treat it (does anyone believe that being shot at or killing your fellow man is not going to affect you in some way either then or in the future?). I guess with the high soldier suicide rate before and after deployment kinda takes care of the complaints from coming in (so those who said he should have just killed himself, well that’s already happening ). What real pissed me off when I heard that the military was trying to say that some soldiers coming back from this war with PTSD or other psychological disorders had “Pre-Existing Conditions” and that the military would not pay to treat them, I think it has been corrected but what a bunch of asses they break you and don’t want to pay.

    The final issue is why does the military want to keep people in their ranks that no longer want to be there is it just sheer number? I mean is it ten percent, twenty percent. Is it that it is the only contract in the US that you can’t get out of unless to kill yourself or kill your fellow soldiers? It does not make any sense to me.

    I guess the Major could just be another wacko like Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nicholas, of course McVeigh was executed and apparently because Nicholas became a Christian he received a life sentenced. I real think if he gets that far the Major will get the former and not in a million years the latter.

    This is so messed up, hopefully they will make some changes that make sense.

    • There is no way the military could operate if it allowed soldiers to quit as soon as they found their jobs distasteful. It IS a contract, but it is also a commitment to serve according to the country’s needs and values, not your own. Recruits know this, and a huge percentage on soldiers in combat would get out if they had the chance. Still, they stay and do their duty, which is what they should do. Of all the factors in Hasan’s rampage, the fact that he didn’t want to be deployed should have the least weight.

  3. Jack–Not sure what you meant by “huge,” but you might be surprised at how many stay in when faced with combat AND the chance to get out. This is demonstrated by the re-enlistment rates, which are about as high as they were in peacetime when soldiers didn’t face combat.

      • At re-up time soldiers are free not to re-enlist. They’ve fulfilled their commitment. Many re-enlist, for a variety of reasons, one of which is of course a feeling of moral obligation to not leave their buddies.

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