Fort America

It seems to me that the tragedy at Fort Hood on Wednesday was almost inevitable, and, also, perfectly symbolic of this country’s almost total disconnection from the central flow of humanity.

…Here’s a man, Major Nidal Hasan, who had made numerous official requests to be let out of his contract with the army; who, in fact, had hired a lawyer to represent him in his efforts to break his contract.
I realize that the Army had put him through both undergraduate and medical school and that he owed them his time and professional services (I think it was nine years as a psychiatrist that he owed them). That’s only right and fair. But you might think that, upon seeing such resolute dedication to ending his connection to the Army, it might lead his superiors to consider that he would certainly not be performing what was a very delicate and difficult job to the best of his ability.
If I was a returning war vet, I sure wouldn’t want to be telling my nightmares to some man who wanted so much to get out of his job.
That job was, indeed, listening to the bleak, horrible stories of men and women who came back from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan… But here he was Maajor Hasan, a Muslim, who, after the death of his parents, had become increasingly religious… A man who, for years now, had aggressively argued that the US should not be in Iraq and Afghanistan… A man who, also for years, had been called a “camel jockey”?or maybe worse?by soldiers in various places he had served…
In fact, one of the phrases occasionally used by some American soldiers when referring to Arabs is “sand nigger.”
And consider… Although the racial and religious profile has changed over the years, when a disproportionate number of enlisted men and non-commissioned officers were white and poor and from the South, you still have serious strains of basic American racism and an intolerent brand of Christianity running through the Army.

George Bush originally referred to the invasion of Iraq as a “crusade”?until his corporate/politcal controllers told him he was queering their pitch with his foolish religious references.
An organization called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has, for the last three years, monitored Christian proselytizing in the military?most egregiously at the Air Force Academy?but, really, at military installations and units all over the country and the world.
This ignorant, decidely un-American practice naturally started under Bush?as might expect, but it still goes on. In fact, there have been complaints to The Foundation from soldiers at Fort Hood that there was Christain proselytizing at some of the schools on the base.
And, finally, who is Fort Hood named after? John Bell Hood, a Confederate general from Texas. General Hood was, by all accounts, a brave man and someone, I suppose, some Texans are proud of. But why is a United States military installation named after a man who fought for the right (no matter what else he thought he was fighting for) to preserve slavery?
All of these things are deeply, thoroughly, sadly American…

Because an amazingly high percentage of US troops in both war zones have returned to the US with post-traumatic stress syndrome?almost completely mentally disabled?The Pentagon has taken to assigning therapists to units in combat areas.
You might see this as an enlightened move on the part of the Defense Department?the awareness that combat, especially prolonged combat, and more especially in countries where the population has little in common with (or liking for) Americans in the first place?creates almost unbearable mental and emotional stresses in the men and women serving there. During WW 2, when combat soldiers risked their lives to liberate a town somewhere in Europe, the local population were ecstatically happy to welcome them. That must have provided at least some balance and validity to the endless hardships and horrors of that war. Such is most definitely not the case in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You could also see this assignment of therapists to combat zones as a clear sign that?as in Vietnam?we are fighting vastly unpopular wars; unpopular at home, unpopular in most of the rest of the world (including our usual allies in Europe) and unpopular in the very countries in which we are figthing. And, most importantly (again, like Vietnam) unpopular with the very soldiers who are doing the fighting.
It?s a very good idea to provide professional counseling to the soldiers in combat areas. But that is a only a small island of sense and compassion in the much larger sea of senselessness, and thoughtless devastation that these wars/occupations represent.

So, take a man who desparately wants out his job, who is a religious Muslim, who is isolated and depressed, who is opposed to the US presence in these countries, who is the subject of ethnic and religious insults? Take this man and inform him that he is will soon be sent, as a Major in the US Army, to Iraq or Afghanistan. Does that make sense?
Maybe in the Army it does.

Now, the Army and the FBI are going to put together a “profile” of this man so that they can more accurately predict in a timely manner if someone else might be reaching the boiling point.
We don’t need a another goddamn profile. The boiling point?the point of critical mass?has long ago been reached. Major Hasan’s terrible actions were the inevitable, perfect expression of the our whole country’s ignorance, grandiosity, bigotry, and fundamental loss of the basic sense of right and wrong.
Now, there are 13 people whose lives are suddenly ended, dozens wounded?some probably severly crippled for life? several hundred friends and family members who will never really recover from what happened, and thousands of soldiers about to be deployed who are, without even having served in a combat area, already mentally destabilized.

People who are ignorant and bigoted, or who want to have their military (or political or media careers) boosted, might welcome this? “Its 9/11 all over again! Another dastardly, cowardly, anti-American act committed by evil Muslims! Shows you why American boys and girls are over there fighting those sand-niggers!”

Is at all possible that we could actually learn something real, lasting and constructive from this horrible tragedy? I wonder… I don’t know if our culture is capable of learning anything any more. It seems to me that our projected superiority and insensitivity generates angry responses that are then used as rationales for our projected superiority and insensitivity? an endless looping circle of empty, murderous behavior. Its the same kind of thing you saw with imperial empires?Rome, England, Spain, The Soviet Union, Germany, Japan… and now the United States.
…What we might learn, if its at all possible, is the ancient, universal, knowledge of the way to treat other human beings: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Major Hasan is the lead character and his terrible act is the basic plot of the dark novel that is American History.
We started out with the best intentions?at least theoretically?and, from time to time, we have done great good in the world. There are, as Lincoln said, “better angels” in our nature as a country. I wonder if there is still time to discover them?

– Mike Feder (New York City – November 10, 2009)

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