I purposely did not watch much of the news last night because of the shootings at Fort Hood. As soon as I heard that the shooter, Major Nidal Hasan, was a Muslim, I knew the slant the story was going to take. At first, I was impressed with the fact that the news I did read and hear (online and radio) was reporting that Major Hasan was born in Virginia. By this morning, however, there was an addendum to his biography that said his parents were of Jordanian descent. The mainstream media has now corrected themselves and lists Hasan as Palestinian descent. This told me all that I needed to know about the obvious bias that the news networks were reporting. On the way to work, the radio stations did not disappoint. They had, indeed, started stereotyping. And it all began with a video showing Major Hasan in his traditional Muslim dress.
As I sat at the railroad tracks, watching the empty coal train go by, I thought about the fact that the United States of America has become a place where stereotypes are acceptable. The day after 9/11, my nephew told me how he and his friends beat up a Muslim kid at his school. He didn’t understand why I was so angry at him. “He’s just a Muslim and they hit the twin towers,” was his response. Already, in his mind, it was acceptable to beat up someone because of a general affiliation with a particular group of people. Since that time, at least in America, society has accepted as normal the stereotyping of an entire race or religion based on the actions of a single individual.
We have so bought into this myth that, almost immediately, Muslim groups around the country have condemned Major Hasan’s actions and done everything short of apologizing for being Muslim. Why is this even necessary? Where were the Christian apologists when Tim McVeigh blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma City? Why is it not necessary for Christians to apologize when abortion clinics get blown up and abortion doctors are murdered? When has any religion stood up to say that they abhor someone’s actions when they beat up and/or kill a homosexual?
Today, there was another shooting, this time in Orlando, Florida. I have yet to hear from any Hispanic groups apologizing for or condemning Mr. Rodriguez’ behavior. You won’t. We simply say that person was a nut, crazy, or a troubled person. In such cases, we are able to separate the troubled person from the group. Not so, it seems, with any Muslim.
No group of people should ever have to apologize for the actions of a single person. That person along is responsible for their actions. By allowing an entire group to be collectively guilty, you are, in fact, saying that no one in that group is capable of acting respectfully towards other human beings.
As an American, I’ve grown up hearing that we’re supposed to hate all commies and the Russians. Then it was Hispanics. Then, just Mexicans because someone decided that all other people of Hispanic origin were suddenly okay. We were supposed to hate the French and eat Freedom Fries, but that was just stupid. French fries are good. So is French wine. And, so are the French. Now, we’ve moved on to hating Muslims. All this hate is a result of the actions of a few. It does not, and never has, reflected the entire group.
On the way home from work, I was listening to the Thom Hartmann show. He was discussing the fact that he has been bombarded with mail claiming that this terrible tragedy is proof that Al-Qaeda has infiltrated the US military and that all Muslims should be immediately expelled from the military. Sadly, this does not come as a surprise to me. We do not wait for the facts to come out. We do not wait for all the information to be gathered. We use a knee-jerk reaction to condemn people, before we even have a hint at the truth.
I suspect that, in the end, we’ll find out that, after spending eight years being harassed for being Muslim, after listening to the all the stories of soldiers that were deployed and redeployed again and again, not being able to get out of the military, and then being told that he was being deployed himself was too much for Major Hasan to bear.
While I do not condone Major Hasan’s actions, I can understand where he couldn’t take it anymore. I see it more logical that a man snapped than an Al-Qaeda plot. I believe that this had more to do with Americans failing to help a fellow American and soldier in need than an insidious plot to destroy the United States. When we inevitably look back at this story, the tell tale signs that Major Hasan needed help will be there. We either didn’t see it or chose not to.
We allow ourselves to stereotype people because it’s convenient. Instead of being open minded and helpful, as we claim to be, we find the closet scapegoat and point fingers at it. The only thing that ever ends these situations is some sort of tragedy. Until we learn to stop being judgmental of other people’s beliefs and ideas and learn to get along with people that are different from us, sadly, nothing will change.