While doing some household chores this morning, I had one ear on NPR's Fresh Air in a show entitled: "Extremism, Conspiracy Theory And Murder." Terri was interviewing Chip Berlet, who has studied conspiracy theorists and extremists groups for decades. (Berlet is a senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a Boston-area-based think tank.)
Berlet took us through the dense, dark forest of an endless number of hate groups and philosophies - the historical backgrounds, the justifications, the leaps of logic and, ultimately, the lone wolfs who take matters into their own hands. At one point, Terri - a sharp cookie if ever there was one - said, "Gosh, I'm having trouble keeping all of these straight here."
So, for the remainder of the day, while the front of my brain was worrying about air conditioning, thank you cards and rose food, the back of my brain - unbeknownst to me - was still chewing on all this.
Then, while driving around running errands later this afternoon, a conclusion I didn't know I needed hit me out of the clear blue sky. Beyond the obvious tragedy of cold-blooded murder fueled by racist hatred, it finally hit me what bothered me so much about the shooting at the Holocaust Memorial.
Like many folks I know, I had a weird reaction upon hearing the shooters advanced age (88) and why is that? Is it because we like to think of old men being kindly and somewhat at peace with the world? Is it because we all had grandfathers that age? Is it because we like to think of someone that age no longer being a real threat?
For me, it's because I so badly wished to believe that deeply-rooted hatred so white hot and so pure would surely eat one's organs so fast, they could not live beyond 30. I'd always considered hatred a real toxin so the reality that a person like James W. von Brunn could eat food, take showers and show up for work year after year, decade after decade, without choking to death on his own venomous bile genuinely alarms me.
And then another terrible thought occurred to me: What if it's that very marrow-in-his-bones-evil that is keeping him alive?
Great. So while the John Candy's and the Warren Zevon's of the world are ripped from us much, much too soon, we have this demonic senior citizen breathing our air year after year? Seems flat fucking wrong to me.
Honestly, I feel so naive and genuinely vexed with biology's random aim here. On good days, I'm an optimist that believes hatred will eventually die off. On my worst days, I think the human race has 200 years left on Earth, tops, before we rape the soil, waste all the water and kill one another in ignorance.
Somewhere in between, I like to believe that there is at least some karmic justice in the Universe and ugly monsters like this spiteful old man will get their come-uppance sooner rather than later.
I can only hope that the remainder of von Brunn's sad little life be long and deeply, profoundly uncomfortable.