Auburn University today confirmed that an herbicide commonly used to kill trees was deliberately applied in lethal amounts to the soil around the Toomer’s Corner live oaks on campus, and there is little chance to save the trees.
The State of Alabama recently has had to endure considerable shame over one of the most rediculous and pointless crimes I’ve ever had the misfortune to see committed. Despite the petty and utterly useless nature of the crime, it has become the story of the month as people somehow are drawn to this travesty like a driver rubber-necking a really bad car crash. Perhaps this story has been so widely chewed over because the emotions it evokes have struck a cord in our national psyche. In the blog post below, I’ll lay out my theory as to why this act of pathetic nastiness resonates so extensively.
For those of you who haven’t heard the latest joke at Alabama’s expense yet, I’ll briefly re-hash the fulsome and scurvy details. Two 130-year old live oak trees have been deliberately poisoned on the campus of Auburn University.
It started when Auburn University won all it’s football games this past year. They were crowned national champions. After each of these grand victories, Auburn students indulged in the relatively harmless practice of drinking something that tastes a wee bit different than bottled water and then draping roles of toilet paper over two live oaks at an intersection known as Toomer’s Corner. It’s one of the many bizarre but essentially benign rituals that occur every year as part of SEC Football.
But this time, someone had to be a kill-joy. A disgruntled and ignorant fan of Alabama’s other semi-professional football franchise, The Crimson Tide, decided to take herbicide and poison the two old trees. That way, he wouldn’t have to watch the intoxicated, happy fans of his rival garnish them with the outhouse tinsel.
Suffice it to say the police have the man in custody. That tends to happen when you do something that pathetically worthless and then call up talk radio to brag. I won’t link to this man’s name in any way and extend his fame to 15:01. He simply doesn’t deserve it. We’ve all seen the rest of his family get dragged forth from the double-wide and taken away in the back of the cruiser towards the end of any episode of COPS. He’s just one lucky phone call short of an appearance on The Jerry Springer Show.
The question becomes why would this resonate? The crime was puerile, the provocation was non-existent and the perpatrator was a washed-up, old pickle-face of a has-been. Yet, the story is still being beaten like a dead equine mammal. I think this happens because people see this as a metaphor for what is happening in our society.
The spiteful, malicious act displays two traits that seemingly describe an occasional obnoxious person a lot of us come in contact with these days. The perpatrator lacks the ability to make much of himself and profoundly resents everyone who enjoys life more than he does. Not only that, he feels justified in destroying something just to lash out at the people he resents for having more.
It’s an ugly, frustrated mentality that drives a person to either think or act in such a deleterious fashion. It’s a twisted form of equality at the zero. If he can’t have it, you won’t either. Sadly, it reminds me of a column Fred Reed wrote about The United States of America.
Add it up. A frightened people over-controlled, having no communal roots, blocked by government from raising their children as they see fit, parlously indebted, sexually confused, and lacking a sense of permanence or of a connection with the natural world, both of which have since time immemorial mitigated a certain emptiness in human affairs. Like a dog tormented by evil children, the country is ready to bite. And it does.
While I find Fred Reed fascinating to read and always good for a laugh, I often tend to disagree with his conclusions. The first time I read this piece, I strongly differed from this one’s conclusion as stated above. But now, given the nihilism of Jared Laughner, the cynical games of Wisconsin’s “Education” Association, and the utter, vacuous dumb represented by the poisoned trees at Toomer’s Corner, I begin to wonder….
I start to ask myself how many people do I sit near at work that have a ticker attached to a stick of dynamite somewhere inside their wretched, tortured soul. One guy I know has a combative ex-wife and a messed up kid who hit puberty and has seemingly taken to questioning why he should bother. Another has a similarly combative ex-wife and a daughter who gets used as a proxy-war battlefield in the aftermath of a failed marriage. They seem like level-headed guys who handle their personnal demons – for now.
The economy stays bad, America seems to decline and the culture gets more corsened and raw with each passing year of movies and musical acts. I wonder how long the Toomer’s Corner Herbicidist is going to be such an exceptionally bad exception. The Bell Curve has seemingly been dragged in the wrong direction. What’s average now would have rated disgusting in a better age passed.
Perhaps the idiocy perpetrated at Toomer’s Corner was just that – idiocy. Sigmund Freud famously explained that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But the story stuck in people’s minds. It stuck there because we either know or have known people used-up, fed-up and no longer really trying to make the world a better place. There are just enough people who fit the tree-killer’s profile to make us all just a little uneasy as we hear about the two live oaks that were killed out of pointless and malicious spite.