Fort Hood Shootings and the Prophetic 'IF'

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow 11-06-2009

One reader wrote me to ask: " "What effect will the Fort Hood shootings have on the American public's perception of Islam?" That question asks us to be foretellers, fortune tellers, to predict. But The Shalom Center has had the holy chutzpah to call ourselves a "prophetic voice," and that voice is about "forth-telling," not foretelling. About "if," not "will."

The prophets spoke always with an "if": If the community chooses to oppress its workers into slaves, then the owners will themselves become slaves to Babylonia. If the slave-owners will free their slaves, they will be freed from the yoke of Babylonia." (That was Jeremiah, as the Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem, speaking forth a challenge, at once a warning and a promise, to the conventional practices and power structures of his society.)

From that perspective, the prophetic question today should be a challenge to power and convention: "What effect should the Fort Hood shootings have on the American public's perception of the Afghanistan war?"

For anyone who lived through the Vietnam War, Fort Hood recalls the epidemic of "fragging" late in the war -- that is, enlisted men throwing fragmentation bombs at the officers who were ordering them into hopeless, senseless battle.

In Fort Hood, if the reports and claims from the police and military are correct (we already know that a number of falsehoods were reported as facts), an officer, a physician, trained to heal traumatized people from the maiming of their souls, was refused an exit from the soul-destroying prison he begged to leave.

If the reports are accurate, it seems that he broke, choosing murder rather than the nonviolent forms of resistance he might have chosen. In that sense he replicated the violence of the war he abhorred and the violence that kept him in the Army against his will

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