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Returned the Yiddish book to the library and skimmed a book about the Eric Rudolph case. Not only has Eric Rudolph recently been sentenced to life, but the case is also timely because another man with two first names, John Roberts, may actually turn out to reverse Roe vs. Wade, although this time through means other than pure evil.

I read in the NYT that a doctor at a clinic bombed by Rudolph confronted him at the trial. She tried to dress him down. Whenever I see pictures of him, he seems insufferably smug, as if he is absolutely sure of the rightness of his cause and furthermore, convinced that his opponents are foolish and stupid.

It was much the same with the Unabomber, who taunted the FBI and his victims (like Gelertner). Before the Unabomber was caught, a lot of people thought he was cool because of that police sketch of him in shades and that hood. He railed against science and technology, and technophobes and luddites cheered him on. Then when he was revealed to be a scragly slob, and, moreover, an old school geek who wrote incomprehensible math papers, the same people dropped him like a ton of feathers or a ton of bricks, it doesn't matter which because they both weigh a ton. I thought that was ironic. These trendoids cared more about his hygeine than the fact that he killed people.

(Actually, as revealed in The Atlantic, the Unabomber--as I will call him because I can't spell Kacynski or whatever--signed up for a psychological experiment at Harvard, in which after befriending him, a trained lawyer betrayed him, caricatured and demolished his worldview. All while his vital signs were impersonally recorded for further study.)

Anyway, this doctor told Rudolph that he hadn't been so clever: his schemes had been foiled and the clinic's work went on as before. Perhaps not for very long, now that John Roberts seems headed toward confirmation.

* * *

Entering college, I believed in the Democratic platform, but there were two issues I had reservations about, affirmative action and abortion. My position then can be thought of as a universalist approach, that clearly fairness meant treating everyone equal, and that the rightness or wrongness of abortion didn't have to do with what the individual woman carrying the fetus thought. It was probably not coincidence that, as a white male, I thought conditions most favorable, or least harmful, to my group followed from universal principles. Later I learned that crucially important nuances applied to these situations, and finally, they became not nuances, but new principles. I debated Judith Thompson's transfused violinist and Dennet's conditions of personhood and Peter Singer's version of utilitarianism, followed Dershowitz's metaphor of floors and ceilings.

I think that at age 17 I briefly flirted with these ideas means that now, when I see them, I feel I see through their appeal. Pro-lifers stomp their feet and say, "But it's not ok to choose to kill someone! Slaveowners couldn't choose the death of their slaves! A fetus is human!" And I think, "That is the argument of a 17 year old. Can't you suggest something more sophisticated?" Whenever anyone suggests something is obvious, I conclude it is wrong.

* * *

The Rudolph book is not very well written. The sentence structure doesn't vary much. There are too many points of view, and the attempt to get inside the heads of the major players is frustrating. But you can't go wrong with that story, really.

Richard Jewell, for example, got tangled in. His is an elemental story of someone falsely accused, like Kafka's Joseph K. Even Bill Clinton, trying to ooze out of the Monica predicament, compared himself to Richard Jewell, which, of course, he wasn't like.

I was disappointed to think that the doctor's upbraiding of Rudolph, suggesting that abortions would go on in spite of terrorism, appears not to be a winning hand. I imagined myself there trying to lecture the guy, instead attacking his belief system--perhaps like the lawyer who tore about the Unabomber in that Harvard experiment detailed by The Atlantic. I thought the beliefs driving his antiabortion terrorism might have been similar to what I thought at 17, and that I could wipe his smugness away by showing how simplistic his core beliefs were.

So I raced ahead to find out: what did this guy actually believe? And I was disappointed at the stupidity of it. I did not think it was possible to be that stupid and yet to be that smug about it. I mean, he's not only dumber than dirt, he's dumber than the dirt that perished because it was not fit to survive in competition with the regular normal dirt that's under our feet. There you have it: Eric Rudolph looks up to dino-dirt.

Apparently (I only skimmed) he was a subscriber to the "Christian Identity" movement, which holds that yeah, the Bible's all literally true, but those evil Jews put themselves in it--and Jesus was really not Jewish at all. I mean: with all those miracles and Son of God stuff and partings of seas and Sun stopping in the sky, and we all come from Adam and Eve--all that, and the only thing you can question and doubt and suspect is different from the way it's written down is the race of some characters? Not to mention that there is documentation outside the Bible (Josephus) on Jesus.

[Yeah, and maybe the Buddha was a Native American, Mohammad was Inuit, and Martin Luther was an Aboriginee...]

* * *

The day, my day, was a bust.

Last night's dancing was fun. There was a guest DJ, but I showed up halfway through his set. Someone asked me how I liked it and I confessed I didn't know that much about the music at goth night, as opposed to '80s night. My body likes what it likes.

There were times when I thought I had some good moves going. A woman talked to me at the bar and--playing against type, I shook her hand and asked her name (she came in with a guy though).

I wasn't the only one to use the "Ohio monsoon" phrase. Leaving the club at 2:15 am we found ourselves deluged, and hid out under the ledge for a while.

Today I think my body successfully resisted my obligation to do anything useful. Many of the useful things on my list are "you have to do this to fit in with society and the world" kind of things. My body rebels, I get horny, I stare off into space, I surf the web.

Now perhaps I've recovered from dancing enough to be lucid enough to do something.

I also have some entertainment: I've rented a Penn and Teller show about Bullshit on DVD, and also Constantine with Keanu Reeves. I wanted to see Hotel Rwanda, but it was out (I considered buying it though.) At first the subject seemed daunting, depressing, and an uncomfortable duty for me to learn about--although it is something I can no longer affect (Darfur is another matter--although it's hard to affect anything, given the US does not have a popular vote.) Reading about Rwanda in Salon, however, provided the key word by which it has entered my consciousness: it is incomprehensible. The Yiddish book, just returned, had also made me think about the Nazi genocide of Jews.

Date: 2005-07-22 01:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Actually, a significant number of Kaczynski's fans never dropped him. I see the argument occasionally, and get into Internet fights with people who subscribe to it, to this day—that, yes, there was something mentally wrong with him that caused him to actually kill people, but the thesis put forth in his manifesto was actually right on, and there's something sinister in the push to declare him generally insane, as if the Powers that Be had to do this in order to discredit his powerful ideas. There was that guy who wrote for McSweeney's who made a huge deal out of his correspondence with Kaczynski in prison; he seemed to be in this category.

It bothers me because, at heart, Ted Kaczynski was an intellectual who became a violent anti-intellectual. His general argument wasn't so much anti-technology as it was anti-knowledge and anti-learning, yet because he particularly picked on people whose knowledge (like his) was in the sciences, those whose education was in the humanities actually had a reason to sympathize with him.

And unlike many of his sympathizers, I do see a direct line from his thesis to the desire to kill people. Kaczynski was, among other things, a textbook apocalyptic; he thought that Western society was absolutely doomed to crash violently in the near future, that this would involve among other things the punishment of people he regarded as wicked, and that it would be worse the later it happened, so a person of good will should work to bring on the crash as soon as possible. Forget trying to make things better, trying to help people in your own little way; the proper and humane response to the world is HULK SMASH.

The skeleton of the argument is not novel. Regardless of its merits in any particular case, it's a line of reasoning with a long, long history of producing violent fruitloops, both religious and secular (and in more limited contexts, in which the people who get smashed are far away, it can be even more tempting: see neoconservative writings on Middle East policy).

Date: 2005-07-22 07:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I forgot to mention that I think Rudolph and the Unabomber will be in the same prison (the supermax in Colorado).

I never read the Unabomber's manifesto on the grounds that terrorism should not be rewarded with attention. However, I gathered it had something to do with alienation, technology, control, and the works of Joseph Conrad.

Links aside, I think humans and their ideas are so complex that it's impossible to dismiss an idea based on generalizations from who proposed it or where historically it has led. I just didn't want to go: "Hm, this guy blows people up and taunts those he has maimed. Of all the political manifestos out there going unread, this is the one I better read!"


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