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.