Two dull and crazy guysWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
“The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Isn’t evil supposed to be seductive? The siren call of wickedness is fun and temptation; that’s what makes immorality so dangerous and recklessly thrilling. When the devil comes a callin’, shouldn’t that apple in her hand be shiny and bright red? Satan doesn’t show horns and fangs; she looks mannered and cultured, slightly superior, with a British accent, ageless, slender and blue-eyed, impeccably dressed. Kind of like Sting.
Satan occasionally shows herself as a wild-eyed lunatic like Adolf Hitler or Charles Manson, but at her best, she’s smooth-tongued and classy, as John Milton captures her in “Paradise Lost” and Don Henley portrays her in his song, “In the Garden of Allah.” It helps me deal with evil to think of its human form as cunning and witty and supernaturally devious; I’d hate to think the human race could be consistently fooled by a demon with no more grace and intellectual gravity than your basic civil servant.
Today’s villains are as dull as dishwater, with none of classic evil’s je ne sais quoi. That doesn’t mean their deeds are any less reprehensible, but even über-bastards like Osama bin Laden are wimpy little men who strike terror through their followers but have no personal aura of evil any stronger than those kids who hang outside convenience stores.
Billy Joel once sang he’d “rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints; the sinners are much more fun.” That nicely sums up the dichotomy, but at least two non-convicted murderers, O.J. Simpson and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad aren’t fun, seductive or beguiling.
They’re boring, monotonous, silly little people with warped brains, crypt-cold hearts and slimy, mosquito-infested souls.
Try slogging through the text of Ahmadinejad’s Sept. 24 speech at Columbia University (the text is available at www.nowpublic.com/people/text-columbia-university -speech-irans-president-ahmadinejad). You may be struck by his ignorance at denying the Holocaust, denying there are homosexuals in Iran and denying his role in anything more threatening than a bake sale, but your primary emotion will be boredom. It’s horrible, academic piffle with zero eloquence or appeal.
Here’s Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust rhetoric: “ … if, given that the Holocaust is a present reality of our time, a history that occurred, why is there not sufficient research that can approach the topic from different perspectives?”
Even if you give him some slack for the English translation, is there anything in that statement that frightens, challenges or intrigues you?
I have never met Ahmadinejad; it’s possible he is much more intimidating in person and that his demeanor matches his evil, but that’s not the impression one gets.
I have met O.J. Simpson, and can report that for a man who killed two people, got away with it, and regularly finds himself in trouble, he’s as boring and small-minded as it gets.
O.J. is back in the news because he allegedly threatened to kill a South Florida handyman he accused of sleeping with his girlfriend, and for his alleged Las Vegas hijinks, which include five felony counts, including assault and robbery with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
The two hours I shared with O.J., during a 2001 interview for the South Florida Business Journal, were among the most surreal of my career, and I’ve interviewed Carty Finkbeiner and John Robinson Block on their respective turf, so I’m qualified to judge surreal.
The interview was supposed to be about a new business venture Simpson was promoting, but despite all efforts to keep the session on track, all O.J. wanted to talk about was O.J. He complained about the media, bellyached about the civil suit he lost to Ron Goldman’s family, carped about the media some more and moaned about anything that bugged him, from his girlfriend’s demeanor to the tiring party scene in Miami.
Bracing myself to meet a murderer, a slasher, I expected cunning. I expected Hannibal Lechter. Instead, I found myself facing a Scooby-Doo villain, a sad, dull little man made of smoke and mirrors. A mosquito, not a raptor. His lackluster persona during those two hours does not lighten the blood on his hands, but it taught me that evil isn’t always wrapped in a seductive, alluring veneer.
Sometimes evil, like anything else, can be smaller than life, even if it has larger-than-life consequences.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.