Over this past weekend, a 38 year old American Staff Sargent walked off of his base in Afghanistan and murdered 16 people in their homes. Afghans and most thinking people were outraged but some American politicians have criticized President Obama and Defense Secretary Panetta for offering an apology to the Afghan people. These same politicians also criticized the president for apologizing for soldiers who burned copies of the Koran. Those criticizing the president and his staff for making apologies are members of the Republican Party, some of whom are running to replace Barak Obama as president of the United States of America.
Why do these Republicans believe that our government should not seek forgiveness for burning texts considered sacred by most Afghanis? Why do they think we shouldn’t say “We’re sorry” for killing 16 of their people? Because book burnings and spree killings are part of the fabric of American culture and these politicians are “conservatives” who, of course, want to preserve our values and traditions.
Ray Bradbury wrote his science fiction classic “Fahrenheit 451” in the US for a reason, namely, we Americans love book burnings. Since the attacks on 9-11 Koran burnings have made news around the country. In Florida, where I spend a lot of my time, Koran burnings are held by preachers, bikers, neo-nazis, fundamentalists and just about any of our other fine citizens so often they don’t even make the news anymore. Book burnings are downright American and our people, according to politicians like Newt Gingrich, should be allowed to make ourselves at home no matter the sensitivities of the local population.
Thrill killings, spree killings and mass murders are as American as apple pie, baseball and the KKK.
For those of you who don’t know our proud history of seemingly random violence, I’ll provide a brief introduction but for those of you who want an in depth look at this issue from a most serious approach I recommend “American Violence” (available from Amazon) by Richard Hofstadter, a book I had assigned in high school and I feel that anyone who wants to take a look at this proud portion of our nation’s history should read.
Nathan Leopold and Robert Loeb, a wealthy pair of extraordinarily intelligent young men who had both, by age 19, graduated from college and started law school, carried out the first smash media successful thrill killing. The two believed they, in the Nazi meaning, were supermen (Uber Mensch) and that the law didn’t apply to them. So, to prove their notion of self importance, they set off on a Wednesday afternoon in 1924, kidnapped and killed Bobby Franks, a son of another millionaire, as he was walking home from high school. The killing thrilled Americans with lurid front page news, a level of fame we reserve for our most notable homicidal maniacs. Sadly for the statistics on the back of the famous murderer trading cards, Leopold and Loeb only killed the one guy.
The first real American style spree killings were carried out by Charlie Starkweather and his underaged girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, who was only 13 when the pair met. In January 1958, Starkweather visited the Fugate home and killed Caril’s parents and two year old sister when he found she was not home. Upon her return, the duo hid the bodies and spent the next week in the house in Lincoln, Nebraska. On the run, this couple, upon whom the movie, “Natural Born Killers” was based, would kill another 7 Nebraska’s. Caril Fugate would receive life in prison for her crimes and was paroled in 1976. Starkweather, a major innovator in the American art of spree killing would be executed for his efforts. Clearly, our Republican politicians must feel sad thinking of the inventor of a great tradition in the United States of America having been killed by an overreaching government.
The sixties were a productive era in AMerican mass murders, spree and thrill killings. Who can forget Charles Manson, and his “Family” of murderers in the Hollywood Hills of Southern California? Their actions resulted in a number of books, including “The Family” by former Fugs singer Ed Sanders, my personal favorite of the lot. The Manson Family’s deeds would also result in a number of movies and other celebrations of their actions.
The Zodiac Killer, one of America’s favorite serial killers, has never been caught so provides US cable television channels like Investigation Discovery (ID) with hours of entertaining content to broadcast to their viewers.
More recently, a pair of high school students at Colorado’s Columbine High School took to their school and killed 15 people including themselves. This event has also led to books, movies and all sorts of ways of celebrating this American pastime.
Not to be outdone, our college students got into the game at Virginia Tech. where an immigrant (also rare in these cases) killed 33 students and faculty, including himself. I haven’t noticed books or movies about this incident yet but this can be the result of racist Americans not wanting to celebrate the efforts of an East Asian killer.
These are only a few of the many spree, thrill, mass and serial killings in America’s long and proud history of such. Clearly, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, true conservatives, know we shouldn’t apologize to the Afghani people for just making ourselves at home. What did the people of Afghanistan think might happen when they politely invited heavy bombing of its civilians followed by a decade long occupation by our troops? Obviously, our boys would make themselves at home.