April 20, 2009

Today in history

As almost anyone in media will morbidly inform you, ten years ago today Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Colorado and destroyed our concept of social safety by slaughtering their fellow students and several staff members. Of course, when one looks into history more deeply, it turns out lots of different things happened on April 20th. One item that has had a far more profound impact down through the centuries was Napolean's issuing a decree establishing Jerusaleum as a city where Jewish settlers and citizens were to be given precedence over Arab residents. Who knows, if Napolean had succeeded in his plan to use the Levant as a friendly base to counter the rising Turkish tribal leaders, perhaps all of western history would have been different. If nothing else, we can point to Napolean's decree as the moment where modern tensions between Jewish settlers and "Palestinian" residents began to build in earnest.

For what it's worth, I'd contend that April 19th is a date far more important to life in our modern world than the tragic events in Colorado on the 20th. On the 19th the British attempt to confiscate firearms held by colonists in Lexington and Concorde prompted the opening shots in the American revolution. Timothy McVeigh, in a fit of anger shared by many more people today than even he could have imagined back in 1995, bombed the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma. Timothy McVeigh (using common fertilizer, racing fuel, and a rental truck) killed far more people than Harris and Klebold, so why is the media filled with horror and revulsion over the Columbine shootings while ignoring Oklahoma City? If the conspiracy nuts are not right and the modern media does not have a secret agenda to propagandize the goals of the Brady Campaign and the United Nations, then why are they dedicating so many resources to the lesser of two evils? Maybe because it's easier to concoct a political campaign designed to ban ugly black "assault weapons" than it would be to justify a similar campaign against fertilizer and racing fuel? Rather than rabid elitists, perhaps the modern media is just lazy?

Of course, the 19th was also the anniversary of the Waco Seige and the wholesale slaughter of the Branch Dravidians. Were they killed by their insane leader setting off hundreds of gallons of stored fuel and ammunition, incompentent federal agents firing spark-emitting tear gas cannisters into those same stockpiles, or was it indeed an intentional massacre of an unpopular religious cult? Not even historians can agree on that one!

On the other hand, today, April 20th, is also the birthday of Adolf Hitler. It is not surprising that few people in media bother mentioning that bit of trivia. Today is also the birthday of Carmen Electra and Bruce Cabot. Oddly, Bruce Cabot died a few weeks after Carmen Electra was born. Reincarnation fans should have a blast connecting those two dots in the time-space continuum!

In all seriousness, it should surprise no one that April was and remains such a contentious and calamitous month, at least for the Northern Hemisphere. After all, April is the point where spring drives out the last of winter snows, making invasion simpler and counterattack more viable. Also in April, the raging hormones in many kinds of mammals, including humans, set off a mating frenzy matched only by insects and flowers. As any good biologist can tell you, mating frenzies are always accompanied by the vicious and often deadly infighting nature uses to establish dominance. Perhaps we are not so far above the animals as we would like to believe?

April is a powerful and powerfully important time of year. Always has been and always will be.