Over the years, I’ve noticed that Saturdays seem to be the day when NPR reporters take a deep breath from the toils of the week, settle down with a steaming cup o’ joe, and recharge their batteries by indulging in a little calisthenic empathy for the pointedly unsympathetic: child killers on death row, for example, or gang members terrorizing neighborhoods full of innocent people they don’t bother to interview (because it would just be perplexing to listen to the grandmas explain that what they really need is more police protection from gangs).
There is a frisson of self-righteousness in such behavior, and a bonus frisson of danger, imagined, not real, of course, because no child killer or gang member worth his salt would bother to shank the PR machine. So, through their empathetic identification with vicious sociopaths, the reporters get to feel simultaneously superior to everyone else and victimized by society.
Just like vicious sociopaths do.
Anthropologists have some term for this behavior, I’m sure. I like to call it “soul-sickening excuse-mongering for brutal criminals.” And this Saturday was certainly no exception: in fact, you might call it a paragon, or pinnacle, or watershed.
Or, you might just call it a new low:
Suspected Fort Hood Shooter Saw Toll of PTSD
It seems unfathomable that an Army psychiatrist trained to heal soldiers with psychiatric injuries could then fire on fellow soldiers. . .
Nader Hasan, cousin of the alleged shooter, suggests that one factor may have been that the Army psychiatrist had treated scores of soldiers and Marines who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD.
“He had people telling him on a daily basis the horrors they saw there,” Nader Hasan, told the New York Times. . .
Hasan, you see, just felt too much, according to both his cousin and this reporter, who has decided that this is the true story, rather than taking the killer at his word and deed — that Hasan obviously felt not too much but too little, felt nothing, really, for the humanity and suffering of others.
It’s either that, or his crime was a pure act of identity-based violence on the part of a committed terrorist. But we couldn’t possible talk about that.
Of course, there is no actual proof that Hasan was traumatized through witnessing the suffering of other soldiers, let alone that this trauma is what drove him to assassinate a dozen-plus people and shoot many others in a carefully premeditated crime. There is proof that he is the killer, which is of course why the reporter goes to pristine lengths not to jump to conclusions about his guilt (“suspected” killer “alleged” shooter) while jumping all the way to the conclusion that trauma is in fact what drove him to kill.
You really have to walk in these guys’ shoes to see it the way they see it, man.
The reporter also describes Hasan as one of the “unsung heroes” bravely helping undo the “stigma” of post-traumatic-stress-disorder (only not so much, now).
Because, you know, when there are a baker’s dozen innocents to mourn and bury, it’s important is to reflect on the ways their killer made all our lives better:
When I first did stories about troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, it was NPR policy to spell out post-traumatic stress disorder. Now we routinely just say, “PTSD.” The reason is that most everyone now knows about PTSD. And the condition generally stirs sympathy, some of its stigma is now gone.
Military psychiatrists are the unsung heroes of that significant change. They’ve been strong advocates for troops with PTSD. They’ve insisted that psychiatric illness be seen as an injury of war, just like an injury caused by bullets and bombs. They’ve educated families, who often are the ones who persuade soldiers to seek treatment.
Hasan may have destroyed all of those families, but he was helping them, too.
So let us pause in the greedy, self-centered regret for the murdered soldiers to recall that, thanks to military psychiatrists like Nidal Malik Hasan, NPR reporters no longer have to stumble over eight whole syllables when they want to misuse the term “post-traumatic stress disorder.”
They can misuse it in four syllables now.
If NPR had one drop of shame coursing through its veins, it would punch itself in the face.