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California crazy crosses the line

Sep 2, 2003 9:19 AM

Last week’s chat was about culture in California.

This week it is about craziness there, craziness above and beyond the election lunacy that is only a month away.

What California air does to the human mind and spirit is something science has not yet solved or explained, but all one needs to do to start a mini revolution there is to Proposition someone. Proposition with a capital P, not the kind found at a Vegas bar.

California has dug itself so far into a dungeon with its countless propositions that it may never get out. Put it on the ballot and they’ll vote for it, whether they understand its significance and potential results or not. The mantra of the Sixties was "If it feels good, do it." The mantra of the last decade or two in California is "If it sounds good, vote for it."

But Californians, however guilty they may be of thoughtlessness and superficiality, do not deserve what happened recently in West Covina.

Thugs there ”” and that’s what they are, whether they consider themselves environmentalists or whatever ”” burned 50 new Hummers at a car dealership during a night of looting and destruction reminiscent of Kristelnacht in Germany.

No religious or racial overtones were evident in West Covina. No rational reason was involved. It was vandalism on a grand scale, the same vandalism, and presumably the same people involved, who were responsible for a $50 million fire weeks earlier in San Diego, where they destroyed a construction site for 1,500 apartments and left a note, "You build it”¦we burn it."

  A group of crazies called the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for both atrocities, leaving spray painted calling cards in West Covina that read "gross polluters" and "fat, lazy Americans."

I hold no brief for Hummers. I happen to think they are stupid in design, insane in intent, and wasteful in function. They are bought by people who like to show they can afford $50,000 for a toy, but can’t afford a tank. Owners of 22 of them who belong to a club called Hummers Owners Group ”” whose acronym should be HOG ”” showed up at the dealership after the fire, ostensibly to show support for the dealer, who was covered by insurance. They might have spent their time more profitably looking for the louts who set their icons on fire.

We also hold no brief for the inanity of remarks attributed to a lawyer for the dealership that lost the Hummers. Speaking of the automotive Incredible Hulks, he said, "They burn gas”¦ so what? That’s not the way to look at it. A lot of people buy these cars because they’re safe. A lot of women buy them for that reason. They’ve got a patriotic feel to them, especially after 9/11."

Hummers have about as much to do with 9/11 as I did with the car explosion at the Shiite mosque in Najaf.

To invoke any 9/11 connection with Hummers is ludicrous, especially for a lawyer, and in some ways sacrilegious. If the idea is that a gas guzzling monstrosity evokes images of 9/11 because it looks like an army vehicle, then sell Jeeps. But Hummers have nothing to do with 9/11, nor do a host of other things either blamed for or credited to that disaster.

This country needs a lot of fixing these days, in Washington and everywhere else. One of the things it needs is to make examples of hoodlums, whether simple minded or technological, as a deterrent to wrongdoing. One of the things it does not need is anarchy, and any group that goes around torching property is comprised of anarchists. Catching and punishing people like these might be one of the things Tom Ridge and his bosses should think about with their Department of Homeland Security. None of us is secure if the events of San Diego and West Covina go unsolved and unpunished.