05 November 2009

Amoklauf, Mutiny or Terror?

Some reporters this afternoon compared Fort Hood to a college campus, and the comparison probably seemed natural once a soldier had run amok on the nation's largest military base. By the latest count he (or he and his accomplices; details are still being sorted out) has killed twelve people and wounded thirty more. The one person assumed with certainty to have done the shooting has been killed. His name indicates Middle Eastern ancestry. He was a major who reportedly served as a mental health officer. Second-hand reports, conveyed by Senator Hutchinson, state that the major was vocally unhappy with his imminent deployment to Iraq. But because the question of accomplices remains unresolved, the nature of his attack remains so also. Was it a failure of the "physician heal thyself" principle in which the shooter simply snapped and ran amok? Was it an act of resistance against his deployment, or a conspiracy against it involving others similarly assigned, and hence a kind of mutiny? Or was it worse yet? At the moment we don't know whether this man was even a Muslim, but already we can guess that this will not be good news for Arab-Americans or any Americans of Muslim ancestry, all of whose patriotism or reliability will probably be questioned by professional hysterics. It might be preferable if this man were proven to be merely mad, or so extravagantly, idiosyncratically mad that the act could only be attributed to his individual lunacy and not to some imagined treacherous blood. But whatever made this man tick until he exploded, this is a sad day for the country. Every so often, and really too often, men like this give Americans a glance at a cracked mirror image of themselves, a grotesque reflection of our national persona that nonetheless shows us a truth about the country that some would rather deny. But while they deny the reflection they keep the mirror, and then act shocked every time they see the image again....

Update: Last night a general told the media that the shooter is alive and his death is "not imminent." Meanwhile, another of his victims has died.

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