Recent acts of mass violence have pitted liberals and conservatives against one another. Both sides have argued that the killers' ideologically laced statements prove the bankruptcy of the others' political views. Neither side, however, seems to understand or appreciate the deep psychosis that causes acts of mass violence.
While mass murderers often embrace extreme political or religious views, mental illness makes them susceptible to extremism in the first place. According to Dr. Steven Dinwiddie, a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, commentators who blame religious zealotry for Hasan's killing spree miss the mark. Dinwiddie says:
I think it would be a mistake for people to theorize [he did this] because he is an adherent of this or that religious faith. . . .The mental illness comes first, then flowing from that is the adoption of perhaps, unusual, religious beliefs" (bracketed text in the original source).When commentators adhere to political agendas and discard intellectual integrity, facts rarely matter.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell and Hasan
Recent reports indicate that military officials knew that Hasan's upcoming deployment to Afghanistan caused him severe emotional distress. Also, according to unnamed sources quoted by ABC News, the military knew months ago that Hasan tried to establish contact with Al Qaeda. Nevertheless, Hasan remained in the military and did not face discharge proceedings or questions about his fitness to serve.
Apparently, the military retained a person who suffered from known (or reasonably discoverable) psychological problems and who attempted to contact an anti-U.S. terrorist group. Meanwhile, the military continues to enforce Don't Ask, Don't Tell and to discharge mentally fit and loyal gay and lesbian servicemembers. No theory of military preparedness can justify this perverse outcome.