Friday, November 6, 2009

Somebody tell me how...

Before I say anything else on the subject, my condolences go out to the friends and family members of the victims of the Fort Hood tragedy. No one but those who are suffering from this dreadful incident can truly understand the kind of pain that they're enduring now.

With that said, I have but one question to chant like a mantra, over and over again...


  • How the heck does someone like Nidal Malik Hasan become a member of the this countries military?
Yes, as I type this I do realize just how loaded with racial and religious bias this sounds. Let me make my feelings clear, I am human, I am subject to all the conditioned feelings that the last 42 years of my environment have instilled, but I am keenly aware of them and I do not let them take over my objectiveness freely. My understanding is that Nidal is a citizen of this country, born here, and subject to all the rights and rules of any other US citizen.

As a US citizen, one of the many opportunities that you have is to join the military, Nidal chose that path and more power to anyone that does. What I'd like to know

  • How the heck did this guy get checked out as a stable individual worthy enough to be not just a soldier in the United States Army, but an officer?
Again, I don't care what his parents nationality is or who the heck he chooses to worship, what I'd like to know is how?

  • How does anyone obtain the rank of Major in the US ARMY without having a background check, one that should include a thorough psychiatric check.
Yes I do still realize that people are going to wonder at my motivations, am I suggesting that we should we perform this sort of check on everyone or just people of Muslim faiths? Again, I don't give a rats ass about your ethnicity, your sexual proclivities our your religion. What I do want to know is, as a person of rank, someone who holds a position of authority and can command others, do you have the mind set for the job?

Nidal Malik Hasan, clearly should not have been a soldier in the US ARMY, let alone hold the rank of Major. Reports of his allegiance to his faith over his service as an officer in the military of his birth country should have set off alarms long before Thursdays tragedy.

I guess that as much as I want to avoid it, or deny it, this does bring up the nasty subject of ethnic and religious profiling. As I said earlier, I too am subject to the effects of conditioning that my lifetime has instilled, but I'm aware of them and I do try very hard to consider how those feelings can effect my judgment.

When I see a man of Middle Eastern Descent sharing the same plane with me, my instincts are immediately defensive. All manner of media inspired prejudices begin to play in my mind for at least the first few seconds, until I remember where they are coming from, and I get a handle on them. It does not help me or anyone else who deals with these occasional insecurities, when a man like
Nidal Malik Hasan gives further fuel to the stereotypes.

The truth, is that anyone could have flipped out last Thursday, but because it was this man, our ability to interact and trust an entire culture, has eroded even more. Of course that works both ways, now if your a member of any Middle Eastern culture or creed, and you live in this country as a citizen or a visitor, you get to live with an ever growing measure of distrust over your own motivations and of those you interact with everyday.

As much a we all hate the term, as a species and indeed a predatory one, we (all of us) profile people. It's a survival instinct, we categorize people from the moment we meet them, we add details and update those profiles in our minds during and after every encounter. How we act on those profiles, how we let our own misconceptions effect our actions towards those people is where the term "Profiling" get's a bad rap.

I do believe in the use of profiling, especially when dealing in matters as sensitive as the security of this country and in the screening of people who wish to enter the military. Will people be offended by this, will they feel they are being singled out? Yes they will, but its the reality we live in.

On a personal note, I have friends and extended family members who are citizens of the US by either birth or immigration, and are of Middle Eastern Descent. Because this country has not seen fit to provide a solution in regards to air travel, they are not allowed the same check in procedures as I am, and that's wrong. Is this profiling? Yes. Is this profiling effected by misconceptions and a poor system of administration? Yes. Should it be fixed? Hell yes!

So how do we move beyond the Fort Hood tragedy? Carefully, and with an understanding that our world is effected by limitless misconceptions. There are a lot of people out there teetering at the edge of that chasm we call sanity. They are of all descents, religious beliefs, and color. They are your neighbors, your friends and your family. Heck, I've been there once or twice myself.