Living Lessons Blog

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The Holocaust Museum Tragedy

Thank you, Officer Stephen Johns, for your service to your country.

Yesterday, you lost your life while protecting several thousand people inside the Holocaust Museum from the homegrown threat posed by James Von Brunn. It’s my hope more facts about your life and character will be broadcast louder and longer by mainstream media than known facts about the lunatic who took your life.

I, for one, want to know all about you. Where did you grow up? Do you have children who are mourning the shocking devastation of the loss of their father? Why were you known by your colleagues as a “gentle giant?” Where did you attend school? Who are your parents? Teachers? Friends? Who loved you, Stephen Johns?

Tough economic times bring the James Von Brunns of this country floating up to the surface like pond scum — the pond on which our leaky canoe of state is simply doing its best not to capsize. The Stephen Johns of this country are bailing as fast as they can, invisible, in the back of the boat only getting to see where it’s been still having so very little say about where the boat is…heading…if it manages to stay afloat.

White supremacists truly believe that by characteristics of  “race” alone — a completely artificial, man-made concept — whites own this world. Everything and everyone on the planet is here to serve their needs, desires, dominance and entitlements. Always have been. Always will be.

White supremacists are our homegrown version of a Taliban. Historically, white supremacy is rooted in and justified by self-proclaimed Christian beliefs.

I’ve seen nan0-splashes of hatred squirting out of my own family members when they perceive their financial well-being threatened by people they love. Being empathetic, I can imagine how feelings of fear and insecurity are easily and unconsciously projected out onto strangers inadvertently engaged in a silent power struggle for what appear to be limited resources.

With 600,000 people identified as out of work and thousands more unemployed but no longer receiving benefits,  with the dominance of manufacturing of hard goods in America a thing of the past and hard goods jobs outsourced beginning in the Reagan era, with California on the edge of an infrastructure abyss, we can expect to see more expressions of panic of the Von Brunn variety in a country where legitimate and sane gun control policies remain out of our collective reach and the racial divide is not healed but only tentatively bridged.

Jews running the banks? Negroes running the country? A white supremacists worst paranoid nightmare. I felt exactly the same sense of fear and loathing when Dubya was running the country and white male CEOs and their Wall Street accomplices ran our economy aground. The difference between struggling with policy course corrections while saddened, subdued and sane citizens swallow the bitter pill that America’s best days are forever a thing of the past and a homegrown American Taliban chief executing a plan for cold blooded murder at a public institution?

That difference is hate.

As in any great drama, there is a good guy and a bad guy. As in many great American dramas, there is a shoot out. A hero and a villain. Who is in which role in the shooting at the Holocaust Museum depends on your internal perspective.

What about hate? What about innocence? What about denial? What about the deeper questions? You know, the ones we didn’t ask when 9/11 happened. Every time hate comes riding in with an intent to kill on a red horse of denial and hate meets up with innocence we have an opportunity to see our bloodstained and distorted human nature more clearly.

Who are Americans really?  When are we going to understand that we are failing to nurture emotional intelligence in our schools, public and private? When are we going to have the national conversation about the pond scum? The ones among us who are so deeply polluted with hatred that what appear to be non-human outcomes are created by human minds, hearts and hands in the blink of an eye? When are we going to confront and take responsibility for our nation’s dark side?

Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, James Von Brunn — a distinction between these three men is only a question of degree. They are three branches reaching out from the same tree. Hatred gives license to torture prisoners of war, hatred roots for our President’s failure and hopes for more economic suffering in nation brought to its knees by hatred disguised as a love for democracy and the American way of life, hatred justifies killing for its own sake.

The news cycle will feed on this bizarre collision of national values for seventy-two hours, perhaps a bit more. Through Officer Johns’ funeral. Through Von Brunn’s medical treatment  and legal due process. Presuming he survives, which is going to cost us taxpayers a bundle, Von Brunn will get free medical care, a roof over his head and three squares a day for the rest of his life. Now that’s an entitlement plan. Will Von Brunn be water -boarded for information that will keep us all ‘safer’?

I want to know what our pastors, churches, school boards, principals and teachers are going to do following this tragic incident to flush out our homegrown white supremacist haters? James Von Brunn was once a child without a rifle, and like it or not, he is an American. He’s one of us.

Officer Johns was one of us. Most of us will find it more palatable to identify with the fallen hero in this drama. In my view, for that very reason, this is a uniquely American tragedy.

1 Comment»

  Seth Anderson-Oberman wrote @

Damn!! right on point! Thanks for the clear analysis. It serves a nice counterpoint to the pablum we’re getting from major national media..

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