I wanted to write in partial defense of the Army, by offering what I think is a fair indictment of our country at large as it relates to the shortcomings exposed in the recent report. While the investigation certainly raises troubling questions about the Army’s response to the warning signs that surfaced in this case, it seems to me that the purported warning signs themselves raise some awkward questions that our Government, and society at large, don’t want to answer. In particular, I mean the observation, repeatedly decried by liberal and conservative alike, that MAJ Hassan considered himself a Muslim first and American second.
To put it simply, I consider myself a Catholic first and anything else second, be it American citizen, friend, etc. By that I mean if pressed to choose between allegiance to my faith and to my country, I pray for the courage to maintain allegiance to my faith. Now, I have never seen nor do I expect ever to see a time when I would have to make so tragic and terrible a choice. I love my country, and try every day to be a loyal citizen. But my faith demands that I strive to love my God with my whole heart, soul, and strength. And my hope is to follow in the footsteps of St. Thomas More, the patron saint of statesmen, by ensuring that I live as “the King’s faithful servant and God’s first,” whether or not it cost me my life, as it cost him his.
I expect, and hope, that this candid profession would not scandalize many who heard it, but that is because it seems clear to me there is no fundamental conflict between my Catholic faith and its tenets and my responsibilities as an American. So, we must ask those decrying the Army’s failures, should the Army react differently to a Muslim Soldier making the same profession? Although the furor seems to have passed, the same question was raised by the Ground Zero Mosque controversy. Some suggested the ground was too hallowed, but the mosque would have replaced a Burlington Coat Factory. Some prominent conservatives suggested moving it several blocks away, which seems like a neat avoidance of the fundamental issue. Are we, as a country and a government, going to maintain that all religions are equally compatible with American values and civic virtue, or not? This is the uncomfortable question that those who are pointing fingers at the Army should ask themselves.