Questions, not assumptions

David Busch

Even though I saw my poker stack slowly dissipate and my last Christmas Ale sweating in the warm hands of my friend, Friday was a glorious night with the stars glistening hope for the future. The game ended and a couple of close friends from Akron wanted to come out to Kent with me for the night. Conversation was simple, catching up on past adventures and forgotten memories. The cool air of fall seeped into our bloodstreams. As my last friend climbed into the car and we hopped on to Interstate 77, the conversation changed.

My friend had just been watching the news headlines of the Fort Hood shooting and had wanted to hear our opinions on it. I was hesitant at first. Do I have an opinion on this issue? Soon, before the conversation got in-depth into the story, Nadal Hasan’s Muslim identity was associated with this act. I spoke up and an arrogant and unnecessary debate ensued. One friend argued that it was another political conspiracy – Hasan was placed there to commit this crime. Another friend argued that it was the fault of just religion that Islam led to this tragic act. And my last friend tried to keep some type of balance in the debate, constantly asking how journalists and the media should report events of this nature.

The debate exploded – touching on religious, social and political issues. We had completely deviated from the real debate, the root of each of our passions. I kept on speaking up, raising my voice unnecessarily. I was unsuccessful in what I was trying to get across. I was unsuccessful in how I spoke my opinion. No ground was made in the debate; it ended. Most of my friends laughed it off, their opinions were said, and that was the end of it. They enjoyed their night at Kent, with endless draughts of Poets at Professor and games of Jenga. My night, however, and the days that have followed have been wrought with questions about that debate.

The event at Fort Hood was an absolute tragedy. Thirteen people killed, 31 injured. And behind these numbers were stories, family members, emotions and memories of lives that were lived and unlived. Now, in the aftermath, how does the nation react?

Since Sept. 11, America has lived and is still living in a social narrative that is seeing the world as a struggle between the West and terrorists – maybe, even, good and evil. And when an event of this nature happens, especially with Hasan’s Muslim identity, do we again, as a nation, fall victim to this social narrative of the modern world? Do we make simple associations and accept stereotypes?

Other problems and dilemmas of America slowly seep to the surface from this event: Why was there a subsidized police force for an Army base? Why is America obsessed with guns, especially with another fatal shooting in Orlando, Fla.? What does it mean to have 24/7 media coverage on one individual – his life, his religion – open to the constant judging eye of America? Does anyone have the right to judge? Each of us has a past and never is it perfect.

I have questions. I want to know what drove Hasan to join the military. I want to know what it felt like, as The New York Times reported, to endure the condescending remarks that some of his military comrades made to him for his Muslim identity. I want to know what it means to the relatives and friends of Nadal Hasan. I want to know what it means to you as a person – not what you think of Hasan or the event but how you feel about it. And, maybe, I won’t receive answers but more questions. That’s okay – that’s the beauty, the true essence of debates. As history shows, never are there simple cause and effects, never are there simple answers.

The debate with my friends ended without progress, without learning. We all made assumptions that did not educate us. It’s easy to judge and to assume, but it’s harder to question and to understand. In the aftermath of this event, what we need in America is more questions, not assumptions. That is the media’s duty, the politicians’ duty – but most of all it’s our duty as individuals.

David Busch is a junior history and psychology major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].