Sunday, November 8, 2009

Reasonable and Unreasonable Responses in the Wake of Fort Hood

The responses to the murders at Fort Hood continue to interest me, from the outrage expressed over the apparently flippant attitude of the President on national TV shortly after the shootings, to the concerns expressed regarding anti-Muslim backlash, to the efforts of some to use them as a basis on which to question American foreign policy.

It may be argued that each response is understandable, given human nature.  That may well be true.  But such responses also raise questions regarding what response is reasonable, and what should be of primary concern.

After stopping the killer, the first concern, obviously it would seem, should be taking care of the wounded.  That is being done.  It's even possible that all may agree this is the case, even in this curious, disconnected world.  Determining why and how this happened is a legitimate concern, correcting mistakes made which could have prevented it from happening, if any, is another; taking steps to prevent such things from occurring in the future is yet another.  The law should take its course.  Those seem to be reasonable responses to the killings.

One might feel outrage that the President acted inappropriately on national TV, and say so.  That may at least be an understandable immediate response.  Continuing to express such outrage, and writing about it repeatedly, or commenting on it before cameras repeatedly, however, doesn't seem a useful response, and clearly is not intended to address the event itself and its aftermath.  Concerns regarding anti-Muslim backlash may also be understandable.  However, such concerns as well do not address what happened, or how to prevent such things from happening in the future.  The same may be said regarding criticism of foreign policy.

As to the latter two, it may be argued that they do address potential causes of such killings.  Some are claiming that the shooter was reacting to being harassed for being a Muslim, or that such things are to be anticipated when we are in conflict with Muslim countries.  However, neither such harassment, if it occurred, or the foreign policy involved, can reasonably be said to justify the killings.  People who feel they have been verbally abused in some fashion, or disagree with U.S. policy, should nevertheless not kill people.  The fact that they do so is not in any legitimate sense caused by the verbal abuse, or foreign policy, unless we are to take the position that murder is a legitimate, or somehow necessary or probable, response in those circumstances.  Why, then, emphasize such things in responding to the killings?  What purpose does it serve to do so?

When not directly involved in a horrible event, we generally, and those in the media in particular, tend to use it in some fashion to make points we/they consider important in some sense, but which ultimately fails to address the event.  We lose sight of the event itself; it diminishes in importance, and our often disconnected opinions and concerns take priority.


  1. Well put. I applaud your taking advantage of the event of the Pres. and the media taking advantage of this event to make this political statement about how this tactic is too frequently abuses the nature of the event itself.

  2. I cannot help but enjoy ambiguity. Many thanks.