When 9/11 struck, a collective sigh of relief was heard from among the Filipinos I knew in the United States. “Thank God the perpetrators were not brown,” they cried, although I’m not sure what skin pigmentation they would assign to Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorists in the Middle East. If not also brown, then what? Tan? Olive? Bronze?
I’m sure the Chinese in the United States felt the same way when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor during World War II. Except, in their case, they could not say, “Thank God the perpetrators were not yellow.” But, how do you go about explaining to anyone willing to listen, that not all Asians are Japanese and, more importantly, that not all Japanese are kamikaze pilots? Or, conversely, how would you feel if you were Japanese-American, and your remaining relatives in Japan blame you for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Prof. Grant Goodman, who served in Japan with Gen. MacArthur immediately after the war, writes in his memoir that he personally knew some Japanese-American soldiers who committed suicide while they were on active duty in Japan, because they were so unhappy about who they really were, and how they were perceived by the rest of the world.
The story about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and what drove him to do what he did in Fort Hood, TX is hard for us to comprehend. That he was a conflicted Muslim living in the shadow of 9/11, that he was an Army psychiatrist who had to deal with the gruesome stories being told by the walking wounded returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, that he was a physician who could not heal himself, turning himself into the very enemy he had been taught to fear and hate, is something no one will ever understand, not unless you’ve ever been ashamed of, or felt guilty about, the religion and/or the skin pigmentation which you just happen to share with “the bad guys.” This time, the enemy within is really within—deep, deep within oneself. I hope none of us ever have to go there.