Friday, November 13, 2009

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, What's 'Obvious,' and Common Sense

I'd better start this post by stating that I don't think killing people is nice.

I also think that it would be nice if everybody would decide not to be naughty.

And, that if everybody also decided to be nice, and not be naughty: that would be nice.

Judging by the last few thousand years of human history, that's not gonna happen any time soon.

On Thursday, November 5, 2009, last week, Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot quite a number of people. Just over a dozen died, more than twice that number were injured.

That wasn't nice.

It wasn't nice that someone shot Hasan, either: but under the circumstances, I think I won't complain too much about that bit of "gun violence."

Major Hasan and the Usual Suspects

So, "obviously:"
  • The Ay-rabs are to blame
  • Them Muslins are to blame
  • Guns are to blame
The first two are a bit more "obviously" bogus conclusions, since America's dominant culture doesn't approve of racial discrimination: at least, not against people whose ancestors don't come from northwestern Europe.

Blaming guns, though - and blaming those people over there who own guns - seems to be a cherished belief among the self-described 'better sort' in America.

Richard Daley, Mayor of Chicago:
"Everyday in society someone is being killed unfortunately. America loves guns. We love guns to a point that we see the devastation on a daily basis. And you don't blame a group. You don't blame a society, an immigrant community because of the actions of one group -- you can't -- one individual, you cannot say that."
'Everybody knows' that guns make people kill other people.

Lots of Guns, But No Bodies on the Street

Sometimes, what 'everybody knows' isn't so. Kids used to bring hunting rifles to school routinely in the small town where I live. We don't do that now, since our leaders have made new rules about those nasty guns (rifles, actually - but never mind that). The point is, with all those firearms in and around the school, nobody got shot.

A skunk was blown up, but that's another story. And involved explosives, not firearms. ("A Woodpile, a Skunk, and Dynamite: Remembering the Good Old Days," Through One Dad's Eye (December 15, 2007))

The point is, I don't think that the residents of this small central Minnesota town are intrinsically better, more intelligent, more reasonable, and more reliable than everybody else. At least, I hope not. And, although the school is now nicely gun-free, quite a few of us own guns. And we don't shoot each other.

Guns, Hoplophobia, and All That

Mayor Daley's statement depends on an assumption: "We love guns to a point that we see the devastation on a daily basis." The assumption seems to be that, if those nasty guns weren't around, people would be nice.

Okay, let's say that America's leaders decide that everybody should be nice, and not own those nasty guns.

People - those of us who aren't making a living by dreaming up rules for the rest of us to live by, anyway - are fairly bright. Even those who make a living by breaking the rules are often bright enough to not get caught for a while.

So I think it isn't entirely unreasonable to suppose that if our leaders dream up a rule about nobody being allowed to own or carry a gun: people who routinely follow the rules, like soldiers, will follow that rule, too. And people who routinely don't follow the rules: won't.

Never heard the word "hoplophobia?" I'm not surprised.
" 'Hoplophobia (n) - mental disturbance characterized by irrational aversion to weapons.' 1"
(December 23, 2007)
The dominant culture of America feels that guns are dangerous things, and are to be feared and shunned. And see nothing odd about that. Why should they? Everybody they know feels the same way, and they often read in the best newspapers and magazines that they're right.

I agree that guns are dangerous, and that not everybody should use one. I also think that cars are dangerous. As well as lawn mowers, ladders and buckets.

For that matter, computers are dangerous. But that's another topic. (June 27, 2008)

Being Nice, Being Real

I think it would have been nice if, as Major Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood, someone had
  • Perceived that the Major was feeling a need
  • Opened a dialog with Nidal Malik Hasan
  • Formed an encounter group from among the survivors
If Nidal Malik Hasan was a nice person, he would have nicely sat down and communicated his feelings.

Of course, if he was a nice person he probably wouldn't have opened fire in the first place.

Maybe the problem isn't guns. Maybe the problem is that sometimes people decide to be naughty.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.