"They weren't in Iraq," author Dinesh D'Souza said on television Thursday night, analyzing the culprit. "They were living a normal, everyday life."
Oh, Mr. D'Souza, I beg to differ.
Major Nidal Hasan may not have been in Iraq, he may have never been placed in the center of combat, and he may have spent his working hours in the so-called comfort and safety of Walter Reed Army Hospital, but he was certainly not living a normal, everyday life. And because of his actions yesterday, he most certainly never will.
What, may I ask, is normal about Major Hasan's life? Is it his committed objection to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that makes him so normal? Possibly. Lots of people proudly object. Is it his past desire to enlist in the military against his parents' wishes and proclaim his love for this great country that gave his immigrant family a chance at success and happiness? Could be. Lots of military members have proudly expressed this as reason enough to enlist. Is it his love of God as a Muslim and not as a Christian that enabled him to live a relatively quiet life in America? Sure. Lots of people live this way and enjoy their normal, everyday lives. It doesn't make them any more spectacular than the next guy.
But Major Hasan wasn't your normal, everyday guy. He was a psychiatrist who cared for those returning from the horrors of war. Imagine the stories, the tears, the rage his patients must have carried. The separation experienced by these young men and women from their families - sometimes over a year's worth of a normal, everyday life must be recovered - and their fear of adjusting to a normal, everyday life. A car backfiring can ignite the memory of a roadside bomb that killed two of their buddies. That's not normal. Learning how to eat with their left hand because their right hand was blown off. That's not normal. Listening to these soldiers, day in and day out, trying to help them process the worst time of their lives even as they fear the worst is yet to come. That's not normal, either. Just how heavy is the weight of the world? Ask one of those guys, they'll tell you.
Unfortunately, Major Hasan was also a man who initially became a pysychiatrist to help returning soldiers but whose intentions trumped his ability to do just that. His personal and spiritual objections against the wars fueled his failed attempts to stay out of the warzone as a conscientious objector. And this, understandably so, pissed him off. His performance on the job suffered and his personal views became so distorted that he eventually snapped.
Major Hasan seemed to be carrying the weight of the world. Nobody asked him how heavy it was but he was obviously hellbent on telling us. He was the psychiatrist who needed a psychiatrist, not a lawyer. He was the psychiatrist who needed a pyschiatrist, not a transfer from Walter Reed to Fort Hood. He was a soldier who needed the Army to protect him just as he was assigned to protect the mental health of other soldiers. Where the hell was the Army?
I'm not defending him. Not completely, at least. Maybe it's the soft spot in my heart for anyone who has the balls to join the military. Maybe it's the hardened spot in my heart for the politicians who've decided that the mental health of our troops should take a backseat to lining their own pockets with a pay raise. Either way, there are so many elements involved in this disaster. Too many of them were obvious signs of distress.
So as Fox News and CNN declare NEW DETAILS EMERGE!, keep in mind that these so-called NEW details were witnessed by Army officials long before the tragedy in Fort Hood. They gave Major Hasan a poor performace evaluation. He was overheard making comments about "the enemy" and it was assumed "the enemy" meant the terrorists. He was accused of sharing his anti-war views with his patients. Why did nobody follow up? Why was he shifted from one post to another and not dealt with? Why was he deemed unable to perform his duties on American soil but then given a stamp of approval to perform his duties in the field?
Unless the mental health of our returning troops and their families becomes a priority, it's possible this could happen again. We've already chosen to ignore the increase in soldier suicides and domestic violence and it took us years to recognize the shoddy conditions in our country's VA Hospitals.
We can't ignore this.
"The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." ~~ General Douglas MacArthur
November 11, 2009: Wow. Was I ever wrong in assuming that Major Hasan was a victim of the system, too. I am, however, leaving this post up because I still strongly believe that the Army missed alot of signs. Or did they? Did these signs get swept under the rug? Did they get thrown to the wayside in order to make sure enough mental health specialists would be available for placement in the field?
I'll be honest here. I don't see the good in people. I'm not a forgiving person. I rarely extend sympathy to anyone who has committed such an atrocious crime, for whatever reason. And for me to actually defend this man is way out of my character. Immediately I was sure the perpetrator was a military member who didn't want to be deployed. I looked at my father and said, "How horrible would that be if the shooter was a Muslim?" I'm quick to assume and I'm difficult to convince otherwise. So, I guess I've learned a lesson here. But I still think this could have been prevented and this incident casts a heavy shadow over the Army.