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One Mundane News Day

Posted by Bob · May 30th, 2004 · 10 Comments

There was a sad and remarkable juxtaposition of news articles on the web Friday. I saw the same thing on many news websites but the San Francisco Gate (sfgate.com), probably intentionally, put these two articles back to back:

(05-28) 09:06 PDT BALTIMORE (AP) —

Two young relatives were arrested in the deaths of three children found slain, one of them decapitated, in a Baltimore apartment, police said Friday.

At a news conference, police identified the suspects as Adan Espinosa Canela, 17, and Policarpio Espinosa, 22. They are cousins and are related to the victims although it was not immediately clear in what way.

The children were identified as 9-year-old Ricardo Espinoza; his 9-year-old sister, Lucero Quezada; and their 10-year-old cousin, Alexis Quezada, a boy. One child was beheaded, the other two partially beheaded.

Source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2004/05/28/national1206EDT0587.DTL

(05-28) 06:48 PDT VATICAN CITY (AP) —

Pope John Paul II warned several U.S. bishops Friday that American society is in danger of turning against spirituality in favor of materialistic desires, giving way to a “soulless vision of life.”

Source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2004/05/28/international0948EDT0540.DTL

The point of this blog entry can be summed up this way…

Is our culture just getting numb to the value of human life? Did our culture ever have a “soul”? Are we in decline or is this how we’ve always been?

Beheadings in Baltimore? Didn’t we just live this horror weeks ago in Iraq?

WEST CHESTER, Pennsylvania (AP) — The family of a businessman who was beheaded after he was captured in Iraq cried Tuesday when they learned details of his videotaped death.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/05/11/berg.family.ap/index.html

And it continues. This is also from Friday but in California:

A woman who helped kill five people detailed the full depravity of the crimes Thursday, describing a house of horrors where three people were beaten and dismembered, a rottweiler was fed human flesh, and the architect of the slayings said he was guided to kill by a higher power.

Source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/05/28/BAG546TEUM1.DTL

Also from Friday in Pennsylvania:

PITTSBURGH, Pennyslvania (AP) — A man was arrested and charged with strangling his aunt with a phone cord and stabbing her boyfriend to death because she wouldn’t give him $20 to buy crack cocaine, police said.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/05/28/crack.killing.ap/index.html

Ironically, also from Friday:

WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s prison population grew by 2.9 percent last year, to almost 2.1 million inmates, with one of every 75 men living in prison or jail.


All these articles in one mundane news day. There is nothing sensational about their reporting or presentation, it’s just a day. Did anyone else notice them? Are we so conditioned to seeing this that we don’t notice them anymore?

Fresno, California was shaken by this news report in earlier this month:

FRESNO, California (CNN) — Police investigating the Friday discovery of nine bodies piled atop one another in a Fresno, California, home plan to charge 57-year-old Marcus Wesson with nine counts of murder, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

Dyer said it appears that Wesson is the father and grandfather of two of the youngest victims. He believes Wesson had children with two of his daughters.

The female victims were 24, 17, 8, 7 and two were just 1 year old. The male victims were 7, 4 and 1.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/West/03/13/fresno.bodies/index.html

What would a one-year-old do to deserve to die? Two human lives stopped for twenty dollars. Three children beheaded by one family, nine killed in another.

I ask again, is our culture just getting numb to the value of human life? Are we meant to feel safer when one in every seventy five American males is behind bars?

I confess that I love a show on HBO called “The Sopranos”. Growing up outside of Boston in Italian neighborhoods gives me limited but special insight to these characters. In real life I have met some psychopaths who were members of this elite “family”. They were selfish, ruthless and prepared to kill to preserve what they had or to steal yours. But they had a code. As brutal as it was, it was still a code. I realize it’s a stretch to nobilize their lifestyle but it seems noble compared to the headlines from this mundane news day.

One of the best-selling video games today is “Hit Man”. Just how many do you have to kill to get to the next level? What are we teaching our children with this stuff?

But even in the game you don’t have to get as close to your victim as these people had to in real life. These murders were up close and very personal, in some cases by members of the same family.

In my selection of a news article about the Pope I am not advocating a religion, but I do have to ask if our culture is embracing a “soulless vision of life”?

If you had to describe the average American to someone from a foreign country, how would you describe them? Would your visitor believe you when they read the web on one mundane news day? And would your description of the average American contain a moral code of any kind? If you and your visitor were visiting a big city, how would you tell them to treat strangers?

I am sincerely asking your opinion. Does America have a soul and, if so, are we losing it?

Categories: Culture Wars


10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mark // May 30, 2004 at 9:02 pm


    I understand your concern. In some areas, like the way Americans conduct themselves in starting and fighting wars — we do appear to be backsliding.

    Overall, though, I think this country is becoming more moral as the years progress. Whenever I hear someone long for the “good old days” when things were supposedly better our country was supposedly a more moral place, I ask them to name a year. Typically, they pick some time in the 1950s.

    I then point out to them that in the 1950s:

    – A man could beat his wife and/or his children to a bloody pulp and no one would likely turn him in to the police. If they did, nothing would likely be done. Women were largely considered to be the chattel property of their husbands.

    – Someone could be drunk in public and we’d all think it was funny (remember how we used to laugh at the character Otis on the Andy Griffith Show?).

    – Certain persons were denied membership in civic clubs, denied access to quality public education and higher education, denied the right to eat in restaurants or stay in hotels because of the color of their skin or because of their religion.

    – Certain persons were denied the opportunity to vote because of the color of their skin.

    – Someone could actually kill another person who was a member of certain minority groups and literally get away with murder without so much as a slap on the wrist.

    I could go on. Yes, friends, those were the “good old days.”

    Are we perfect now? Of course not. But all-in-all, I believe we are better as a nation and getting better all of the time.

    We have always had crazy and ignorant people among us. We probably always will. But the actions of a few morally-bankrupt souls — whether they murder innocent children or start unprovoked wars while lying about the reasons — do not destroy my faith and my pride in America as a whole.

  • 2 nick meyer // May 30, 2004 at 10:37 pm

    Bob again you make us dig deep and think. I have to agree with Mark on this one. America as a whole does have a soul and conscience. I used to think of the 60’s as carefree and easy living. But in hindsight we really were’nt as easy going as we’d like to pretend to remember. Growing up in the L.A. area we had the Watts riots, Charles Manson, the late 60’s early 70’s brought us the SLA. All this as a youngster was very close to home and now looking back very scary. Although now instead of sitting in our front yards in the evening and enjoying the cool summer air we hide ourselves and our famalies in our back yards. Clovis does not have a record of drive bys or such but you never know. Are we safe anywhere and can we go too far to protect our famalies?

  • 3 abi // May 30, 2004 at 10:40 pm


    Remember that the US has a population of nearly 300 million people. This assemblage of horrors takes in Baltimore, 2 cities in Pennsylvania, and two separate times in California. It’s pretty widely scattered.

    I think some of the feeling that these horrors are all around us is the product of more reporting of distant horrors in the media. Take child abduction and murder. We read about so many terrible cases that we’re starting to curb our kids’ freedom. But the statistics show that the proportion of these crimes is just the same as it was in the 1950’s – we’re just hearing about them more.

    I admit, it wasn’t until I moved to Edinburgh that I realised how violent many American cities are. There are no places here that I wouldn’t go during the daytime, and relatively few that I would seriously avoid after dark (a good thing – it gets dark at 4pm here in winter). The British perception is that it’s to do with the quantity of guns around. I suspect it’s more complex than that. But I don’t think that violence is necessarily escalating.

  • 4 Nat // May 31, 2004 at 8:02 am

    “Certain persons were denied the opportunity to vote because of the color of their skin”

    Certain Liberals around here carefully omit to mention that Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, a former member of the Klu Klux Klan, voted AGAINST the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall as the first non-white Supreme Court Justice and AGAINST The Civil Rights Act.

    Not only did Byrd vote against the Civil Rights Bill, he actually tried to filibuster it. Not only did Byrd vote against Justice Marshall, he made ugly, racist remarks as recently as March 4, 2004 when he said:

    “There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time; I’m going to use that word.”

    He later issued a statement apologizing for his remark. However, not ONE Liberal politician called for Byrd’s resignation or censure. Because Byrd votes reliably Liberal (he even voted against impeaching Clinton although he said, in his mind, he was for it), he can do or say anything he wants.

    Yes Sirree. As long as you vote the Liberal way, why any extreme racism you may have engaged in is conveniently overlooked.

    But if Byrd were a Republican …

  • 5 Bob // May 31, 2004 at 9:00 am

    Thanks for (almost) everyone’s input.

    Regarding the “good old days”, I agree with Mark that we have progressed but perhaps what scares me more is the amount of families involved in the most headline catching brutal murders.

    Abi, I also agree that the news just flies around the world now and the more sensational the better. But that is what started my curiousity, is this a new level of brutality as the “old days” or just the same level as before, just being reported?

    And Nick, you grew up in a remarkable time in a remarkable place! A lot of what you refer to helped define that generation for everyone, not just those from LA. Everything you mentioned was an event owned by an entire generation.

    As regards to Clovis, I think that place like Clovis get their start when people move out of bigger communities with the intent of going somewhere quiet to raise their kids. So far Clovis has been able to keep that purpose as demonstrated by their school system and their very low profile crime. I hope for your sake it stays that way.

    Nick, in a previous comment you mentioned that you drive a Harley. I’ve got a Vulcan 750 for now but hope to get something bigger for the wife and I to ride longer distances. Maybe we should hook up and ride together! I’ll bet we could discuss politics and always be friends because it’s almost impossible to not to like another rider!

    In fact, I leave on a 600 mile ride in early June through the Mojave. Yes my bike is water cooled and yes, I’m nuts.

  • 6 Mark // May 31, 2004 at 9:00 am

    Let us all pause and thank our lucky stars that the party of Strom Thurmond, Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Patrick Buchanan, Rush (hillbilly heroin addict) Limbaugh, William Rehnquist, Trent Lott, and David Duke is showing us the proper way to live when it comes to race relations.

    Let us also be thankful that one Republican who visits this site is showing us, by living example, the way Christians forgive those who ask to be forgiven for their sins (as Robert Byrd has).

  • 7 Rick // May 31, 2004 at 9:40 am

    If Byrd were running for President, you can bet I’d be much more interested in digging in to separate the truth about whatever he’s done from what you say, gNat.

    There are several reasons why Byrd hasn’t gotten much attention on this board. (That is, not counting the fact that this re-directing of the thread is tangential to Bob’s original post.)

    First, Byrd isn’t running for President. He isn’t out there telling people that he wants to be the most powerful executive officer of a free and democratically-driven country while simultaneously saying that “there ought to be limits to freedom.”

    Second — and related to the first issue — we can’t realistically dig into every life-changing issue of the day, let alone all those and the issues you feel are important. If you were capable of drumming up a readership without needing to ride my coattails, you could start your own blog to do this, but you would fail. You would fail not just because of your own intellectual inabilities, but because you would run into the same time barriers: No one can cover every wrong.

    Third, even assuming you speak the truth (but see below about that), you most often wish to attack “Liberals” for the same things “Conservatives” do, while apparently failing to recognize that Conservatives also do them. Bob, myself and others have been noting actual wrongs done as part of obvious and consistent policies of the current Administration. If it’s true — and even though it’s you making that claim here, it’s possible there’s some truth to that from the little bit I’ve read elsewhere — that Byrd is a racist, that does not mean that all “Liberals” are racist any more than President Bush saying “There?s a lot of people in the world who don?t believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern” is clear evidence that he is a racist. (You mean all Americans are the same color?)

    (Sidenote: Not that this matters as pertains to issues that may be brought up by anyone and not that it will mean that all conservatives are racist, but “why isn’t gNat talking about this?”

    Unsurprisingly, [Pat Robertson has] taken Rush’s ball and run with it into an even uglier area. The Racist Reverend tried to demonstrate that black people do benefit from “social concern” by comparing McNabb to actor Morgan Freeman: “He started off playing a chauffeur in ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ and then they elevated him to head of the CIA and then they elevated him to President and in his last role they made him God. I just wonder, isn’t Rush Limbaugh right to question the fact, is he that good an actor or not?” Um, reality check, Pat. Morgan Freeman is an actor. He’s [sic] hasn’t actually been promoted from chauffeur to God. You know? It’s all, like, an illusion. Of course, the implication here is that as far as Pat Robertson is concerned, black people should stick to playing chauffeurs and let white people deal with the business of playing God. Incidentally, in between playing a chauffeur and God, Morgan Freeman also played, among other things, the roles of a slave (“Amistad”), a slave (“Glory”), a murderer (“The Shawshank Redemption”), and, oh look, a murderer (“Nurse Betty”). Presumably Pat considers these to be more appropriate roles for the three-time-Oscar-nominated actor. — from “The Top Ten Conservative Idiots (No. 130),” on The Democratic Underground.

    As I’ve said before, both parties have their share of people who most people wouldn’t like. That fact isn’t an indictment of the party. Party policies are. End sidenote.)

    Fourth, your past posts, including your denial that the Constitution of the United States “a set of rules,” have convinced me that you are incapable of telling the whole truth. I’ve not seen one comment you’ve made yet that wasn’t a lie with just enough truth to make it appear instantly believable to a certain segment of the population. That’s one of the very things that I discussed in “Our Irrelevant Constitution.” In that article, I noted

    Because I chose to follow the principles of the First Amendment in the administration of my blog (not gNat’s blog), we have a perfect opportunity to see the ways in which the nation at large is suffering from the methods of Corporate America’s toady, the Republican Party. For just as in the situation on America’s airwaves, cable stations and in the print media, so it is here. Just as the Republicans cannot win a debate against the American people if the issues are discussed, so it is here. Just as the methods used in politics are to attack people, and avoid discussion of ideas, so it is here. Just as Corporate America, which is to say the Republican Party, must distract, confuse, or drown out that which is important to the average American &8212; even to the extent of trumpeting “news” about the war they started in Iraq all the time, to the exclusion of other issues — so it is here.

    So another reason we don’t jump on every happening that you find important is that many of them, as stated by you, are lies, which distract us from the real issues while we do the research to show that they are lies. How many comments have people posted here over the last few weeks showing that your comments were fictions? I’ll tell you how many: Too many to count. (Anyone interested in this simply has to go back and read old posts on this blog and the comments that go with them.)

    And that is, after all, your intent. Since the first day of your arrival here, you have not posted anything that wasn’t aimed at distracting from the issues under discussion. When you first arrived, I gave you the benefit of the doubt. When you lied, I thought you were simply mistaken and worked to post information that would actually inform on those points. And then came the days when you accused me of things that anyone — except you — could see at a glance were patently false; that is, they were bald-faced lies. What? Huh? What do you mean?

    In comments to the “Bush vs Eve” post, you (gNat) wrote:

    I am being oppressed by Liberals who deny my right to free speech at the very same time they are expounding about The First Amendment!

                                   * * *

    I have attempted to post my critique to the “Comments” section in this weblog but the Liberals here deny me publication of my views. This is SUPPRESSION of free speech right here in our country, Ladies and Gentlemen. It should shock all fair minded people to their core. The Liberals say one thing, while simultaneously practicing the opposite.

    You even went on (in that same comment) to claim,

    I have been deprived of my First Amendment rights by this weblog.

    Apparently, you mistakenly thought this blog was run by the government, or by a government official. Because as I’ve pointed out more than once, you (gNat) post because I allow it. I am not a government, nor am I a government official. The First Amendment only applies on this blog because I say so; otherwise, I am not bound to adhere to it.

    But because I was gone for a few hours one day and your post didn’t get on the board quickly enough, it was obvious (to you) that you were being censored. After all, look at all the other posts by you that didn’t get through. I only post what you say when you write nice things, after all. Surely, anyone can see that themselves, right?

    If only you had the intelligence to maintain your own blog. We could pop in there from time to time and say, “gNat! What about the jammies? Where are the jammies, gnat!?” and what a fun time you’d have explaining why you didn’t talk about the missing jammies, the colonoscopies performed with phosphorus-filled lightbulbs that work so well when they’re unplugged and shoved up someone’s butt.

    But what a difficult time you’d have keeping up both with the true issues and the ones you make up or twist from the fabric of the real world into your emotionally-diminished life.

    Not that I mean any of this as an insult, gNat. It’s just like when the Chinese called us “imperialist dogs” and then bought from us anyway. It’s just a matter of “style.” The fact that you are a liar and, possibly, demented, and that I then comment upon it is just my way of spicing things up.

    Let us know if you’re ever able to address the issues talked about here without needing to change the topic to issues not talked about here. Let us know if you’re ever able even to connect the things you talk about to what we talk about. I mean, if you can show some reason why Byrd’s beliefs or actions prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bush Administration isn’t bad for the country, than by all means, let’s talk about Byrd.

    Meanwhile, your village called. They want their idiot back.

  • 8 Nat // May 31, 2004 at 9:58 am

    Segregationist George Wallace was a Democrat.

    Segregationist Lester Maddox was a Democrat

    Democrat Governor Fritz Hollings flew the Confederate flag over State Buildings in South Carolina

    Interestingly, it was the Nixon Administration that began the Affirmative Action Program.

    Rush Limbaugh is a radio commentator not a Republican politician.

  • 9 Rick // May 31, 2004 at 10:12 am

    We could, of course, do this all day and night.

    At a celebration of Thurmond?s 100th birthday, Lott said: ?We voted for him. We?re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn?t have had all these problems over all these years.? He later claimed that he got caught up in the moment and apologized for ?a poor choice of words.? Far from being caught up in a celebratory frenzy, the ?Clarion-Ledger? newspaper in Jackson, Miss., disclosed that Lott had used almost identical language at a Nov. 2, 1980, rally with Thurmond. At the time, Lott said in Jackson, ?If we had elected this man 30 years ago, we wouldn?t be in the mess we are today.?

    A review of Lott?s record shows that not only has he actively opposed civil rights throughout most of his life, he and his family have been closely associated with White supremacy groups and ideas as recently as three years ago. Let?s begin with his family. — Curry, “Republicans are Casting their Lott with Racism,” BlackPressUSA.com.

    As I said before, there are people in both parties that most of us would not like. There are racist Democrats. There are racist Republicans. And beyond that there are racist Libertarians, racist Green Party members, racist independents. Racism is not limited to the members of a particular party.

    There are, also, party policies in more than one party which result in racism and/or disproportionately impact one race as opposed to another. In the Bush Administration, there just seem to be more of them.

  • 10 Mark // May 31, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    Fritz Hollings, as a young governor of South Carolina in the early 1960s, startled audiences by telling them that segregation was wrong and would have to end. If those aren’t the words of a racist, I don’t know what would be.

    George Wallace ran for national office as an Independent. If you read about Wallace, you will discover that he really didn’t expect people to believe the crap he spewed. Wallace and his aides, in fact, were astonished when they would get glimpses of the fact that rednecks really did take him seriously (for greater detail on this, read Dan T. Carter’s book, “The Politics of Rage”).

    Not to make excuses for the language Wallace used, many observers accept the premise that his words in the 1960s were not a reflection of his inner feelings — they were only what he thought he needed to say to get elected. In the 1950s, Wallace was the only state judge in the state of Alabama to insist that everyone in the courtroom address black attorneys as “Mr. Chestnut” (for instance), instead of using their first names.

    The first time Wallace ran for governor, he ran as a moderate. He lost big time to a firey segregationist. Although Wallace repeatedly denied it, several witnesses that election night claim they heard him remark, “I’ll never get out-ni****ed again!” Hungry for power, he turned his rhetoric to the themes that would get him elected. While in office, he put on shows like standing in the door of the University of Alabama to supposedly prevent it’s integration (he stepped aside after giving a speech). But he also vastly increased spending and teacher pay at state-run colleges for blacks.

    I was living in Alabama when Wallace took the oath for his final term as governor. By that time, he had apologized repeatedly for the things he had done as a younger man to get elected. In his final race, he carried more than 95% of the black vote in Alabama. If you had ever met his Republican opponent (as I did), you would understand why.

    In his twilight years, Wallace showed great remorse for his irresponsible speech. I had the chance to interview the man more than once in my early career as a television news reporter. I honestly don’t believe that as a younger man, Wallace ever imagined that his hateful speech would incite others to commit violence that resulted in the deaths of (among others) innocent children. In his later years, he realized that his lust for power had caused him to say things that DID wind up encouraging and contributing to the harmful acts of cowardly racists, and he felt tremendous guilt.

    In my lifetime, I have seen politics change. The progeny of those politicians who used to use the “n” word now use “liberal” in its stead. They use it with the same condescention and unleashing of bile.

    Much like the older and wiser George Wallace, Republican strategist Lee Atwater had feelings of remorse and guilt when he faced death at a relatively young age from cancer. As he prepared to meet his maker, he was truly ashamed of the way his past behavior, filled with duplicity and lies, aimed at personally destroying anyone with the nerve to be an opponent of one his Republican clients.

    I wonder how many of today’s Republicans (anyone who visits this site, perhaps?) will undergo similar transformations when facing infirmity or death, and will suddenly ask forgiveness for their irresponsible screeds of self-righteous hatred. Judging from what I have seen posted on this blog, they had best not ask any Christians for forgiveness!

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