Last month, Major Nidal Hasan killed 13 people and wounded several others in a massacre at Fort Hood. Newly revealed details depict an outrageously delicate handling of Hasan preceding the killings. For instance, Hasan’s superiors at Walter Reed Medical Center found him to be incompetent and a danger to his patients’ mental health. His peers worried about his “paranoid” and “belligerent” behavior. He openly defended suicide bombers and communicated with Jihadist websites and clerics. Officials even held a meeting to discuss the question of whether Hasan might be “psychotic” or capable of fratricide. In the end, nothing was done – Hasan was transferred to Ft. Hood in hopes he would change his ways. We now know the result.
This sort of evidence demands an explanation. Who could have been so negligent as to forgive and ignore this pattern of behavior? Why were these facts evaded and the situation passed off like a hot potato? Why didn’t anyone take responsibility and do something, anything that might have prevented these murders?
While it remains to be seen where the individual blame will be placed (if anywhere), there is something far more troubling: that those officials and everyone else who crossed Hasan’s path were all doing exactly what they should—according to conventional wisdom. That wisdom, as proclaimed by every dominant cultural, educational, religious, and political voice is: don’t judge. It takes many forms as we hear it: always give someone the benefit of the doubt—there is no black or white—to each his own—no set of beliefs or culture is better than another—avoid confrontations—don’t say anything that might offend someone.
Such tenets of multiculturalism and the rise of political correctness have been recognized and often criticized, but they are only the most visible ideological symptoms of an insidious disease that has infected our culture: the unwillingness to morally judge others. Thus, the officials at Walter Reed were not knowingly-immoral derelicts: they acted in accordance with what they’d heard countless times. Their willingness to continuously overlook Hasan’s glaring incompetency and dangerous character was perfectly in accordance with the widespread, accepted practice of turning a blind eye for the benefit of others and not causing a stir.
Limiting blame in this case (though blame is certainly due) to particular individuals would be an evasion of the actual philosophical culprit: our cultural fear of judgment. If nothing else comes from this loss of life, it should serve as a wake-up call to reevaluate this premise and an impetus to reassert its antidote: not an avoidance of judgment, but the recognition that it is vital, not only in day-to-day life, but in our very self-defense. Judgment entails recognition of facts, the acceptance that facts are what they are, and that they have real consequences. If the military had exercised proper judgment of Hasan by this standard, it is likely that the massacre may have never occurred. Though it’s too late for that, it is only by embracing the value of objective judgment that we will be able to prevent such acts in the future.
Posted by Noah Stahl
on December 4, 2009. Filed under Culture, Winter 2009-10.
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The Undercurrent's cultural commentary is based on Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism. Objectivism, which animates Ayn Rand's fiction, is a systematic philosophy of life. It holds that the universe is orderly and comprehensible, that man survives by reason, that his life and happiness comprise his highest moral purpose, and that he flourishes only in a society that protects his individual rights.
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