National Tragedies, Condensed

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Felix Fenelon, a critic and writer who, starting in 1906, was known for his short columns in the French newspaper Le Matin, and for his precocious ability to summarize human tragedies, including horrifying acts of crime, in three condensed lines.

Itai Ben Dror
Ilan Asayag

For example, he wrote: "As the train started to slow down, the mademoiselle opened the cabin door. She leaned out. A speeding train coming in the other direction smashed to pieces both her skull and the cabin door."

Hundreds of his short reports were eventually published in the volume "Novels in Three Lines," and they are characterized by a light, ironically wry, tone. After all, nothing could be more absurd than growing addicted to detailed or enthused descriptions of tragedies, and to wallow in specious sorrow about their contents.

The extent to which such sorrow is contrived could be gleaned from the fact that from Sunday to Tuesday this week, the country loudly grieved over the murder of three children by their berserk father, Itai Ben Dror. Then, on Tuesday, national mourning switched its focus to a new tragedy: the crash of the Israel Air Force helicopter in Romania, in which six Israelis and one Romanian perished.

Suddenly, the earlier tragedy left the stage. The new tragedy swelled in scope, before heading into the horizon. Thankfully, as these lines are written, a new catastrophe has yet to occur.

Did the story of the lunatic who murdered his children really deserve more than three lines? After all, the item conveyed nothing new: There will always be nutcases, and there will always be murders. The only thing that has changed is the loss of discernment on the part of those who cover acts perpetrated by deranged persons: That is, what has disappeared is a distinction between good journalism, and cliches.

Here are two cliches that had a field day at the beginning of the week: 1 ) "How is it that they didn't read the writing on the wall"; and 2 ) "Nobody noticed anything strange about them. This was an entirely normal family." The mendacity of these cliches derives from their assumption that there is, somewhere in the world, a model "normal family." In fact, no such family has ever existed, or could exist. In the lexicon of social welfare authorities, a "normal family" simply means one that does not bring any of its problems to their attention, and thus manages to hide its less attractive traits (traits that any family has ) from its neighbors. And with regard to "the writing on the wall:" Such a cliche contradicts the very essence of the human condition, which always contains elements of free will and the unexpected.

Expansive media coverage of atrocities such as the one at the beginning of the week leaves an impression that the number of dangerous lunatics among us is rising all the time. In fact, to be nuts has become rather fashionable these days. Take, as evidence, the fact that after he murdered his three children, this psycho received an "honor guard" consisting of an ambulance and a police escort to ensure that he would not, heaven forbid, put an end to his own life; he was put to bed in light-blue pajamas, and became a television celebrity. No doubt, he will receive free psychiatric care; attempts will be made during his treatment to uncover the mysteries of his soul and identify the unconscious motives that compelled him to carry out his deed. In the end, he will claim that the confession was forcibly extracted from him, and he will be acquitted on grounds of reasonable doubt.

Nowadays, you are only crazy when you do not declare yourself to be crazy! In my opinion, we ought to be more concerned about the lunatics who do not define themselves as such, and roam freely about, such as those who believe themselves to be Napoleon and think that Israel is a great empire that is soon destined to vanquish Iran and, after Iran, the world as a whole, so as to teach the world a thing or two about 2,000 years of anti-Semitism. With their foolish words, these undeclared psychopaths can ruin Israel's relations with friendly nations, while moving soldiers around as though they were mere pieces on a chessboard.

Take Romania, for example. Suddenly it has become clear that Israel has reached the Carpathian Mountains, not with the intention of conquering them, but rather with the aim of using them to train for missions on mountaintops still farther away, perhaps Ararat, perhaps Everest. Maybe Kilimanjaro, who knows?

So here is the basic summary of the weekly national psychiatric report: Up to Monday, we dealt with the tragedy of three young victims of a crazy murderer. From Tuesday, we dealt with six victims, the best of the best in the country, who were sent by a nut or several nuts to carry out their military fantasies. Neither dressed in blue pajamas or whisked away in an ambulance, their handlers will continue to sit in their seats of power, as decision makers who imagine in their hearts that not just the Temple Mount, but the whole world, is in their hands.