autoAmerican Anarchy imitates art

You can’t even make this stuff up anymore.

In “Animal House” the fun loving boys of Delta Tau Chi threw the Homecoming Parade into chaos with their tricked-out DeathMobile. And we all laughed.

In Stephen King’s “Mr. Mercedes” a psychopath runs his luxury car into a crowd at a jobs fair, killing 11. We all shuddered.

But art is a pale imitation of life in autoAmerica. And so what to say about the would-be Mr. Mercedes who plowed his real-life DeathMobile into a Christmas Parade in Wisconsin, killing at least 5 (at last count) and injuring more than 40?

By the aftermath, with signs of the carnage still littering the streets, a New York Times reporter observed that “along the parade route, resting against the entrance to The Steaming Cup coffeehouse, three lawn chairs were illuminated by flashing red and blue police lights.”

“Two of the chairs — one pink, the other blue — were child sized.”

Just another mass atrocity in autoAmerica? One of those gut-wrenching news events that grab our attention for maybe 15-minutes before we go back to living our “normal” lives? Too bad. Too sad. These things happen.

The sheer savagery of the slaughter is certainly worthy of at least 15 minutes of our time. But how many of us paused for even 15 seconds to ponder this recent headline?

“Pedestrians deaths in 2020 increased by 21 percent from 2019 — the largest annual increase since such data collection began in the mid-1970s — according to a report released Thursday by the Governors Highway Safety Association….

This despite the fact that “Fewer cars were on the road last year. Most travel ground to a halt, and many employees stopped commuting, working from home instead. Theoretically, anyone on foot should have had fewer chances of being hit by a car.”

We know that happened in Wisconsin was at brutal crime. But we tend to shrug off happens to thousands of pedestrian victims of auto violence each year as simply the cost of living the way we are accustomed to living in autoAmerica.

We like to drive. And we increasingly like to do so in vehicles that are larger, faster, more powerful and packed with more distracting features than the vehicles we used to own.

So should we really be surprised that our vehicles are increasingly becoming the “weapons of choice” for spreading terror? Or that road rage seems to be running rampant in autoAmerica?

Don’t believe it? Just ask the cops.

A New York Times investigation of more than 400 police shootings around the country found that officers routinely said they shot unarmed motorists because they were afraid of being run over by their cars.

“Some officers who fatally shot motorists didn’t appear to be in any jeopardy at all,” The Times reported. “In some cases the vehicle was stationary, even incapable of moving. Yet prosecutors found that the claim that officers feared for their lives or the lives of others was enough to justify all but the rarest of shootings.”

And that’s not entirely a bogus claim. The Times continues “Moving vehicles can be deadly. Nine officers have been fatally run over, pinned or dragged by drivers in vehicles approached for minor or nonviolent offenses in the past five years.”

Which brings us back to the Christmas Parade massacre in Wisconsin.

In an eyewitness account published in USA Today, Angelito Tenorio concluded: “The world here has been very heavy with the recent verdict in the Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the last thing we expected was a mass casualty event at the Christmas parade.”

But when you think about it, perhaps the obvious link between the Kyle Rittenhouse trial and the Christmas Parade killings is that, like our guns, our vehicles also seem to be increasingly more sophisticated, more powerful and more efficient when it comes to dealing out death.

Indeed, I suspect that if Rittenhouse had used an SUV instead of an assault weapon that night in Kenosha there might not even have been a trial. Maybe just some points on his mom’s drivers license.

Because just as our increasingly permissive Stand Your Ground laws provide cover for armed vigilantes, so are we rushing headlong to excuse acts of road rage vigilantism.

Granted, there is no Second Amendment cover for the carnage we wrought every day on our streets and highways. But this is autoAmerica after all, and for all practical purposes, our Founding Fathers were Henry Ford and the Dodge brothers.

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