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Jewish World Review April 13, 2001 / 20 Nissan, 5761

Stanley Crouch

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Two murderers, two
twisted fantasies -- AT this point, about 250 people have asked Attorney General John Ashcroft for permission to see Timothy McVeigh executed for the Oklahoma City bombing. One mother believes that seeing him die will release her from the sorrow that has dominated her life since her 4-year-old girl was killed.

Ronald Short, our own man from Queens, confessed a few days ago to murdering his two sons, one 7 and one 3. Short was not a political activist given to terrorist homicide like McVeigh. He was not trying to tell anybody anything or get revenge or let the world know that there were those who would not sit still and let the government "get away" with the bloody bumbling in Waco, Tex.

Short had other things on his mind. He was troubled because it seemed to him that his wife would leave him and take the boys back to her homeland, Poland. Short was not going to have that. His kids were not going to forget about utopian Queens and grow up as Poles. Father knew best. He did the job with a hammer and a hatchet. Then, his boys, all life gone from them under the pressure of the blows and the chopping, were placed on a shelf in a room where coal was stored in one of the buildings that Short managed in Chelsea.

The very blackness of the lumps of coal mirrored the darkness providing the fire Short needed to slaughter his own children like some demonic patriarch in a bloody fairy tale.

In another fairy tale, some guy who thinks that the nation needs another hero becomes an avenging angel in his own head as he plots to make the federal government pay for its misdeeds.

The complete disregard for the lives of those who would normally be considered noncombatants in a war was an odd thing on the part of a man who had served time in the military. That is why he can refer to the murdered children as "collateral damage." He feels no remorse.

He is only a soldier in a mighty crusade to save our rights and our liberty.

Short now wants to bring everything to a close and take his punishment. I have imagined how terrified the second child must have been if he saw his father murder his brother in front of him. I imagine that is a terror Short will never forget, or the weight of the weapons, or the weight of their still, still bodies, or the trembling that probably came over him as he left them on a shelf.

McVeigh may have his audience of 250, but all they will see is the champion mass killer being injected and falling asleep, never to wake again.

I don't know if that will pay for all the pain he shoved into people's lives. No punishment could reach that.

Short probably is paying. He seems, unlike McVeigh, to understand the horror of what he did. But neither fatal injections nor the recognition of savagery brings anybody back. They only remind the rest of us that complete safety   —   for men, for women, for children   —   is a fantasy. talk.

JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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