Something has gone terribly wrong in the entire reaction to the Ft. Hood massacres, as evidenced by the media, the administration, the military authorities, and perhaps the public at large. There seems almost a dreamy disconnect from the terrible fate of the slain—as if we are innately impotent to stop such mayhem, or are above the fray and so like Platonic Guardians must remain deep in contemplation about how in theory we can persuade the Hasans to cease and desist—as if our therapeutic stance in the first place did not encourage and embolden such monsters to act.
Not a “tragedy”
So I am tired of the use of the word “tragedy”—the Greeks’ original invention that grew out of a “goat song”. True, it has come to mean “calamity”, but tragedy’s essence is a central character, flawed rather than inherently evil, at war with, and at the mercy of, larger, immovable forces like fate, destiny, and the gods that overwhelm an Oedipus or Ajax—through a fatal flaw, hubris, or happenstance. The horrific resulting collision can bring education and even entertainment to an audience— Aeschylus’s “learning through pain.”
Sorry, Major Hasan just doesn’t rate. He was not a “tragic” figure, just a tawdry murderous killer, who in premeditated fashion bought guns, planned his killings, and tried to locate his personal failings within some sort jihadist war against the West. Our slain soldiers were the result of an evil act, a one-sided horror story, not a collision of human and divine wills.
Enough of ‘Why did he do it?’
I am also tired of the asinine questioning, “Why did he do this?”—as if we are to be perplexed that Hasan the deep philosopher inexplicably committed mayhem. We have reached real Bathos, when talking heads ponder whether trying to contact al Qaeda is really that bad, or whether yelling “Allahu Akbar” as one blows apart human flesh is really an act connected to radical Islam.
(By the way, do we really, in the style of Mohammed Atta’s father, need another pathetic interview beamed from the Middle East with the aggrieved relative, who swears on television that his progeny could not have possibly done the crime? And do we need another Western “thinker” writing that our armed forces attacking suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban in Predator strikes is the equivalent of Hasan shooting uniformed soldiers—as if those in uniform of a democratic state, training for or in war, are the same as those out of uniform committed to theocratic absolutism through the deliberate killing of civilians or the unarmed? If we kill the non-combatant in Waziristan, it is through error mostly brought on by the deliberate terrorists’ use of “shields”; if Hasan does, it is by intent; those at Fort Dix are enlisted in a cause of freedom and consensual government; Hasan in his hour of carnage enlisted in a 7th-century cause to extinguish it.)
The evidence is pretty clear. 1) Hasan did not want either to leave the army and pay back the cost of his education loans, or stay in and deploy to a war theater that was heating up; so (2) he sought a desperate solution to both dilemmas, one that might elevate his tiny psychodramas into some sort of cosmic “meaning” through mass murdering in cowardly fashion.
(I say cowardly since his victims were (a) trapped in a confined place, (b) unarmed, (c) unaware and unsuspecting of a fellow officer—the only constraints on his death toll were the mechanics of adding additional clips until police arrived.)
That is not to say Hasan did not “believe.” He most surely did see the West as pathological, and the never-never-land of 7th Islam as paradise, one obtainable should Hasan, as others have, martyr himself for the cause.
The murderer as hero