Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ethics, profiling, and Major Hasan

The tragic killings at Fort Hood have again raised the issue of profiling, and of treating people as individuals rather than as part of a group of “others.” The Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey, has told Army leaders at all levels to be on the lookout for an anti-Muslim backlash that would hurt Muslim soldiers and damage the Army’s diversity, which he called a great strength.

My friend Jack Marshall has written eloquently in his blog, ethicsalarms.com, about the price of American principles, and about how we must always treat people as individuals and not as members of some group.

I posted a comment on his blog about the human tendency to fear the “other”–Muslims, homeless, African-Americans, cops, people with odd accents, etc. I wrote that our leaders need to constantly remind us of our shared humanity, like Bush did after 9/11 and like Army leaders are doing today. Jack pointed out the real trap to that attitude…

“is when one individual appears to confirm a negative stereotype. Hasan shouldn’t be regarded as any more of an “other” than you are. There were plenty of German-Americans in the forces during WWII (indeed, the commander!), but nobody regarded them as threats…they were Americans. Hasan is a perfect storm of factors leading him to this, and maybe someone should have caught the warning signs earlier. But his religion and nationality were not among them.”

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