Friday, November 06, 2009

Fort Hood

I was saddened to hear of the events at Fort Hood, a place I visited a few years ago while filming a commercial in Spanish for the US Army, and which I have fond memories of, believe it or not.  But immediately after learning the name of the psychiatrist who sprayed bullets into a medical center in the base I knew it was going to get ugly, because the guy has an Arabic name. The New York Times has not made much of his Muslim connection yet, except for a link to a CNN video that shows him wearing Arab garb at a convenience store, but Yahoo News is already out with theories about his involvement in Islamic extremism and the word terrorism is being bandied about and apparently someone at Fox News has called for investigating all the Muslims in this country. This should come as no surprise. Within this country's great tolerance for diversity also lies barely repressed racism, which becomes paranoid in times of crisis. We don't have all the facts about the killer now, but what is more troubling is whether we will ever be able to construct a measured factual picture of this man and his motives without the media (CNN, Fox News) distorting them to create panic and ratings.
Still, this tragic incident provides an opportunity for Americans to open their eyes to the two foreign wars that are killing and maiming civilians and American soldiers, far from these shores without nary a peep from society at large and no sign of improvement; on the contrary, with deterioration all around.
It is a fitting metaphor of how insufficient, to say the least, is the Army's handling of the consequences of these wars that one of their own psychiatrists is the killer. That he is a Muslim American with deep conflicts about being deployed is only a reminder that we are a diverse society. Americans have many origins and we are mostly lucky that we have many allegiances to our diverse roots. But unfortunately for some people (you know who you are, Red States), this is a perfect pretext for xenophobia.
This serves as a reminder that we are carrying on two wars, pretending they are happening too far away to notice, yet in a very small world. The chickens come home to roost in our own backyard, and instead of using this as a pretext to terrorize American Arabs, this should be an opportunity to ponder the usefulness of our military involvement where we are not welcome and where we don't seem to be making any progress.
In other words, let's get the hell out of Dodge.

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