Fort Hood: The tip without the iceberg

I really appreciated this column by James Fallows on the Fort Hood shooting:

In the saturation coverage right after the events, the "expert" talking heads are compelled to offer theories about the causes and consequences. In the following days and weeks, newspapers and magazine will have their theories too. Looking back, we can see that all such efforts are futile. The shootings never mean anything. Forty years later, what did the Charles Whitman massacre "mean"? A decade later, do we "know" anything about Columbine? There is chaos and evil in life. Some people go crazy. In America, they do so with guns; in many countries, with knives; in Japan, sometimes poison.

We know the emptiness of these events in retrospect, though we suppress that knowledge when the violence erupts as it is doing now. The cable-news platoons tonight are offering all their theories and thought-drops. They've got to fill time. I wish they could stop. As the Vietnam-era saying went, Don't mean nothing.

This doesn't mean that these sorts of things can't be prevented or minimized, of course. That's why we have things like law enforcement and social services.

We're supposed to think that this particular man-made natural disaster is more 'relevant' due to the fact that the shooter was Muslim:

I am not arguing, of course, that American Muslims, as a whole, are violently unhappy with America (I've argued the opposite, in fact). But I do think that elite makers of opinion in this country try very hard to ignore the larger meaning of violent acts when they happen to be perpetrated by Muslims. Here's a simple test: If Nidal Malik Hasan had been a devout Christian with pronounced anti-abortion views, and had he attacked, say, a Planned Parenthood office, would his religion have been considered relevant as we tried to understand the motivation and meaning of the attack? Of course. Elite opinion makers do not, as a rule, try to protect Christians and Christian belief from investigation and criticism. Quite the opposite. It would be useful to apply the same standards of inquiry and criticism to all religions.

Other than this shooting being rather poorly timed, given the political context, I don't see his point.

Here's another Atlantic blogger:

If we grant that Hasan was motivated by religion, what does that actually tell us? What is there  beyond the fact that people will, at times, interpret religion as a justification to commit heinous acts?

Jeff asks what we'd say if a devout Christian had attacked Planned Parenthood. Fair enough–we have a pretty good corollary in George Tiller. I could be wrong, but I don't recall a lot of "media elites" trying to divine what Tiller's death said about Christianity, itself. Again, beyond the fact that some wacko interpreted Christianity to mean he had the right to shoot people, what else would there be to say?

That's really my issue. What is the big "thing" that we should be seeing, in this case? What are those elite blinders preventing us from seeing?

This, in better expression, has always been my issue with 9/11 and the 'Clash of Civilizations' it's supposed to symbolize.

Religion motivates people to do really awful things. So do politics, race, sex, money and World of Warcraft. If a group of militant left-handed people flew planes into buildings tomorrow, that wouldn't symbolize some sort of dominant hand-based Clap of Civilizations. It's just be a bunch of crazy-ass people doing crazy-ass shit.

I'm not saying that 9/11 or Fort Hood shouldn't be investigated, or that we can't take any lessons from them. But the real issue for us to confront is, how do we prevent crazy-ass people from taking out their crazy-ass shit out on the rest of us, regardless of their motivation? I know we all hate the term 'War on Terror' now cuz it's gotten us into sandy, mismanaged wars, but it's is actually an accurate name for what the West needs to wage, as long as you accept that terror is a methodology, not a belief.

If we think our cities are at risk of earthquakes, we retrofit our buildings and devise systems for predicting them before they happen and repairing the damage after. Fort Hood and 9/11 don't symbolize a Muslim threat to Christianity any more than Columbine symbolizes the trenchcoat's threat to the T-shirt. 

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2 responses to “Fort Hood: The tip without the iceberg

  1. kel

    I think the difference is that Christianity is "privileged" in the US and most European countries. If I hear about a crazy Christian killing people for his or her idea of what the religion means, I will think "Hah, idiot, Christianity is not like that" and I will think of my Religious lessons, my Christian family, my Christian friends. And I will know that most Christians do not commit mass murder and that Christianity is not about the killing.Muslims though, are rarer and not powerful (as in, I might have had a few lessons about Islam at school at the most) and it is easy for people to exclude them as friends for being different. So, if the news media talks about a crazy Muslim killer, doing it for Islam, I might start thinking that all Muslims are like that and it is what Islam is about. So, I think the "elite", whoever they are, are trying to say it isn't about Islam because… well, because one crazy adherent does not taint an entire religion?Or maybe he did it for other reasons. And you were not comparing like for like. If a Christian killed a bunch of soldiers, their religion would not be seen as pertinent.

  2. if you'll recall, trenchcoats were outlawed for quite awhile in a lot of public schools–at least they were in my neck of the woods. the fashion world breathed a sigh of relief.

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