At Fort Hood, Texas, yesterday the unthinkable happened: An Army psychiatrist – a major – opened fire on a room full of soldiers who were getting checkups before going to Iraq. The carnage left a dozen dead and sent 31 others to the hospital, some in critical condition. One of the wounded died during the night. Riddled with bullets from military and civilian police responding to the attack (photo at right), the shooter still survives, and with him a list of questions that may never be fully answered.
As authorities search for a reasonable explanation, they are left with few alternatives, none of them very convincing.
Though American born, the killer has a Middle-Eastern name – Nidal Malik Hasan. His family is from Palestine. He is a devout Muslim. And he was known to oppose the war in Iraq. Based on that evidence, there is surmise about the possibility of a “political” motive. Did Nidal Malik Hasan (photo below) become so infuriated by the massacre of Muslim Iraqis by American forces that he was driven to seek revenge?
He is a psychiatrist who listened to the horror stories of dozens of American soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Could the relentless parade of shared nightmares, spawned by horrendous battlefield experiences, have so affected him that he erupted in blind rage?
He was slated for deployment to Iraq, and did not want to go. After hearing so many blood-soaked stories from others who had served in that theatre, did he react in uncontrollable terror at the prospect of being immersed in that horror himself?
Perhaps one – or all – of the above. But…
My first question would be: Were drugs involved? When I covered killing sprees as a reporter, I found that in most cases the perpetrators were “in an altered state.” They were in the grip of some mind bending chemical that released the savagery buried beneath their veneer of civilization and made the unthinkable doable.
Or, unintellectual as this may seem, was some supernatural force involved? I know, Sandra says I am “surprisingly” superstitious when I say this, but I am tempted to believe in “possession.” During my days as a reporter, I sat in many a somber courtroom, listening to some killer recounting the events that got him (it was never “her”) there. And sometimes I would wonder at the way in which the testimony was delivered. The killer seemed to be describing someone else’s actions, as if he were only a bystander while the crime was being committed. It seemed to me as if the accused killer’s body might have been taken over by some external force.
I know, there probably is a much more prosaic explanation in the psychology text books. I am just relaying the lurid impressions of an unschooled mind. But I still wonder: Could the biblical stories of demonic possession be real? Could evil forces be lurking among us? Is the Devil stalking the earth, looking for prey? Are demons waiting for an opportunity to control our minds and bodies then take our souls?
Intellectually, I find all that hard to accept. And yet…
Should we cross ourselves as we hear or read such horror stories and remind ourselves that “there but for the grace of God go I”?