Friday, June 12, 2009

Had we but world enough and time/ To blame everybody but the shooter for the crime

According to her entry on wikipedia, conservative commentator Ann Coulter was born in 1961. Women lie about their ages all the time, so maybe she was born in 1960, which would serve her right since the country elected a Democrat as president that year. But regardless, I'm reasonably certain Coulter hasn't yet seen her fiftieth birthday.

James W. von Brunn, the madman who opened fire at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. earlier this week, is eighty-eight. If wikipedia has the date of his birth right, he was born in the summer of 1920, which means he began his unfortunate stay on planet earth before Warren Harding was in the White House.

This also means that von Brunn was forty before Ann Coulter was born, and he was in his seventies before Coulter became famous.

Once in a while you'll see on late night TV one of those B science fiction movies from the fifties or sixties in which dinosaurs are shown together with cavemen. Of course, if you have the most modest education on earth's history, you know that the dinosaurs had been extinct for tens of millions of years before people came along. But the movie maker, of course, didn't really care about this timeline, he just wanted to show an iguana, photographed to look gigantic, chasing an attractive woman in a mini dress made out of bear skin.

Similarly, Michael Rowe of the Huffington Post doesn't care about the von Brunn--Coulter chronology. To him, it's not relevant that James von Brunn was already a senior citizen, with hardened attitudes towards Jews, blacks, and anybody else who didn't fit his definition of the human race, well before anybody had even heard of Ann Coulter. Rowe is anxious to find somebody to blame for von Brunn's despicable act, and apparently it's too simple to just accept the fact that he was an evil man with a long history of violence, so he began his commentary on the shooting with a diatribe against Coulter:

"Ann Coulter, the self-described "conservative Christian" right-wing talking head, is much on my mind as I contemplate the horrifying images that came out of Washington from the Holocaust Museum, where white supremacist James von Brunn opened fire in an attempted mass-murder of Jews. His killing spree was cut short by security guard Stephen Tyrone Jones who put himself in the line of fire and died so others might live.
I am remembering an
October 2007 segment of the Donny Deutsch Show where Coulter asserted that America would be better off if everyone was Christian and that "the Jews" merely needed to be "perfected" through conversion."

To state the obvious first, how does an "award winning journalist and author" as Rowe's biography on Huffington Post declares, sit down two days after the tragedy, write "Ann Coulter is on my mind because of the Holocaust Museum shooting," and not immediately edit himself?

There are probably scores of commentators who might in the fury of initial composition write such a thing, but most have the sense to look at what they just penned, say to themselves "You know, that's not really an appropriate thing for me to say" and hit delete. Rowe went ahead with that sentence, composed several more paragraphs around that theme, and then posted it.

Some of you may be jumping up and down and saying "Oh yeah? Well what about the inappropriate things Coulter has written?" But of course, that begs the question why Rowe wouldn't say to himself, "I don't want to be hateful; unlike SOME commentators I could name," and immediately depress the delete key. The irony is that in calling Coulter hateful he comes across as particularly mean-spirited himself.

But back to the whole timeline point, you will notice Rowe doesn't mention that von Brunn was eligible for social security before Coulter ever showed up on TV. To hear Rowe tell it, you'd think von Brunn was an impressionable teenager who never read anything but Coulter's Treason.

Rowe snarls about Coulter's TV appearance in which she spoke of Jews being perfected. But if you think saying something like what Coulter did is the cause of the museum tragedy, and you pay as little attention to the timeline as Rowe does, you might as well hold English poet Andrew Marvell, who died in 1678, responsible for the shooting.

One of Marvell's best known poems is "To His Coy Mistress." It contains these lines:

"...I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews."

My now thirty year old college anthology includes a footnote to these lines that reads "According to popular chronology, the Jews were to be converted just before the Last Judgment."

Rowe probably won't write a post arguing that English professors are partly to blame for von Brunn's dark act because they teach Marvell's poem with its line that today seems anti-Semitic. But by bringing up Coulter, he surely has placed a foot on that slippery slope.

See, the minute somebody commits a heinous act and you start looking around for somebody other than the perpetrator himself to pin it on, there's no end to accessories to the crime. James von Brunn got his degree at Washington University in St. Louis, he served in the U.S. Navy Reserves, and he worked in a Madison Avenue advertising agency--and once again, he did all these things long before Ann Coulter was even a gleam in her parents' eyes. So should we look closely at von Brunn's contacts, the people who actually influenced him in college, in the navy, and in the workplace to see if any of them have some culpability in the shooting? By Rowe's logic, we should--but even he isn't going to follow through with that logic because he wants to slam Ann Coulter and not Washington University. (By the way, since von Brunn got his degree in journalism, he no doubt had to take a few literature classes and might very well have been required to read "To His Coy Mistress.")

You will notice that at the top of Rowe's post are hyperlinks to take you to articles concerning the keywords "George Tiller" and "Bill O'Reilly." Same song, different verse. Some people are trying to hold O'Reilly responsible for the reprehensible shooting of Tiller. No doubt there is also a crazy right-wing blogger or two out there blaming the slaying of Private William Long on Keith Olbermann, the Daily Kos, or some other liberal source that has bitterly decried the war in Iraq.

Enough, everybody. Can't we all just accept the fact that there are some hideously evil people in the world who would find an excuse to cause pain and misery regardless of what anybody else thinks or says?

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