Saturday, 14 May 2011

Jeff Hall - another Bin Laden moment

‘Any man's death diminishes me,’ wrote John Donne, ‘because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.’

A noble sentiment. Any death is a blow to mankind as a whole. So, because we are part of mankind, it damages each of us individually too. 

It’s a view that’s sometimes gets tested quite hard. For instance when Osama Bin Laden was taken down. Hey, he was Bin Laden. He died. That diminishes me, sure, but it also leaves me in a world that’s just a little bit safer, a little bit healthier. Doesn't that make it hard to feel any real sense of bereavement or do any actual mourning?

I mean, if anyone can be said to have broken the bond that links man to man, it has to be Bin Laden. He led a campaign of indiscriminate destruction of others, without a thought to whether they were innocent or guilty of any offence against those he claimed to represent.  ‘I am uninvolving myself in mankind,’ he seemed to be saying, so why wouldn’t we respond ‘then don’t expect us to be involved with you’?

Even so, perhaps a little more restraint in the partying that followed his death might have been more,well, becoming. Perhaps we could have adopted an attitude that the bell tolls a bit for us because it tolls for him, and that's no cause of celebration, but because it mainly tolls for him, perhaps we'll learn to live with it.

That’s the same sort of feeling I got when I read about the strange case of Jeff Hall in California. Jeff was one of these selfless people who give up their personal time to unstinting service to their community, though in his case it was more specifically to his race. They expect little in return, satisfying themselves with the right to strut about in a smart black uniform, exercise ruthless authority over their underlings and indulge their taste for unsavoury ideas. Jeff was the organiser for the South Western United States for the National Socialist Movement, which strives selflessly to rid its great nation of the lesser races (non-Whites, Jews and so on).

Well, it seems poor Jeff has been shot by his ten-year old son. Shot and killed. No more shall we enjoy his fine presence bestriding the American political stage.

A child killing his father – it’s the stuff of tragedy. A real horror. How will the child ever come to terms with what he’s done? Even though, apparently, Jeff was already preparing him intensively to follow in his father’s footsteps, inculcating in him all the principles he held dear, including his probably idiosyncratic view of the sanctity of human life.

Despite that invaluable grounding, the child is still going to have to learn to live with having broken one of the great taboos of human society. And we in Europe might seize on this opportunity to bemoan once more the easy access to guns that makes the USA so prone to this kind of terrible event. A bad business, we could say, and shake our heads wisely in despair.

But hold on: he was Jeff Hall. It’s another Bin Laden moment, isn’t it? Take a look at the picture the press carried of him. There he is posing with every sign of pride behind a banner with a swastika on it.

All deaths diminish me, but some a lot less than others
Any man’s death diminishes me. Well, it does. But sometimes that mournful feeling comes tinged with a light touch of relief.

As for Hall Junior, I can’t help feeling that what we should be giving him right now isn’t so much a trial in a juvenile court and a long custodial sentence, but counselling and help to rebuild his life.

And perhaps a medal.


Mark Reynolds said...

What I've learned from that story and photo is that Master Race standards are considerably lower than I'd thought.

As to OBL, I think God (or his transcriptionist) said it best in the Proverbs: "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he is overthrown."

On the other hand, I'm not sure God was necessarily referring to hate consumed mass murderers, so even He might be inclined to look the other way on this one.

David Beeson said...

Isn't that proverb from the wrong set of Scriptures?

Awoogamuffin said...

An interesting point made in a "This American Life" podcast (do you listen to that one?) is that the college kids celebrating on campus at the news would have gone through their adolescence in a post 9-11 world. Just as they were reaching the age where they would be aware of politics, Bin Laden would have struck. They were celebrating because the boogeyman had just been killed.