That Dominique Venner’s death
hedged the American conscious
comes as little surprise.
we might as well appreciate the headlines,
which survived a half-day
within the modern stream of techno-news
and could have, for all intents and purposes,
been inspired by Camus.
“Right-Wing Writer Kills Himself in Notre-Dame Cathedral,”
read The New York Times.
Unsatisfied, I click, READ LATER,
letting the story mature
in the journalist petri dish,
hoping to extract a sample of meaning,
from the Senseless human experiment.
“The man, identified as Dominique Venner, 78,”
the smart author resumes,
“left a letter ‘addressed to investigators’ in the cathedral
before shooting himself in the head.”
Before shooting himself in the head,
Before coroners arrived,
pronouncing him dead.
But with each impending detail,
I felt myself drawn farther and farther
from the truth,
from the intellectual closure,
that I had pursued since the story surfaced.
Inside the somber,
wherein pious Catholics crooned French prayers –
beautifully, I imagined –
a physically unremarkable historian
paced toward the alter,
and raised a gun
to his head…
must have echoed for a half-eternity
in that airy,
holy edifice –
continued to resonate,
in my mind,
as I feign acceptance.
More than sadistic intrigue,
more than literary curiosity,
I was compelled to Venner,
like a meek mortal on a pilgrimage,
for some ethereal satisfaction,
for some semblance of reason;
I stare into the microscope, adjust the magnification, until –
several days later,
I found an article on a French blog:
“Exclusif: Les raisons d’une mort volontaire”
Exclusive: The reason for a voluntary death
Doesn’t “suicide” translate into French?
Is it morbid to wonder?
Beside a photograph of the elderly écrivain,
a transcription of his “voluntary death” letter.
I don’t speak French, I’ll admit.
I employed a translating application to the task
of decrypting the doctrine
In the second paragraph,
More beautiful in French, it read:
“Alors que tant d’hommes se font les escalves de leur vie,
mon geste incame un ethique de la volonte.”
While many men are slaves of their lives,
my gesture embodies an ethic of will.
“Je me donne la mort afin de reveiller les consciences assoupies.
Je m’insurge contre la fatalite.”
I give myself over to death to awaken the slumbering consciences.
I rebel against fate.
Again, consumed with dissatisfaction,
I turned to Camus.
Absurd, brilliant Camus,
who invented the paradox,
upon reexamination of The Rebel,
granted me vicarious exoneration.
He wrote the following:
“The spirit of rebellion can only exist in a society
where a theoretical equality
conceals great factual inequalities.
The problem of rebellion, therefore,” –
this is key –
“has no meaning within our Western society.”
Ah-ha! C’est clair!
It makes sense,
In Camus, I saw the err of my judgment,
saw where I was led amiss,
on the conduit to enlightenment –
The New York Times.
My first impression of the story,
was sullied by the editorial impetus
to present information
to supplant existentialism with
I was, like most Americans,
prejudiced by politics.
But Camus, brilliant Camus, delivered me.
The disconnect between
political affiliation and philosophic ideologies,
manifest in the reporter’s piece,
primed me to accept the dichotomy,
the American mentality.
categorized before humanized,
“Right-wing” i.e. conservative i.e. Republican
It didn’t have to be said.
But bigoted as Venner’s alleged Homo-Xeno-Phobia was,
his “voluntary death” was perverted by banners,
misrepresented by captions.
I’m not arguing that his actions were noble,
nor do I aim to censure The New York Times
for its faux pas;
but, for those of us who read,
with terrible interest,
the dubious headlines,
and who accepted the partisan pretense,
as the definitive,
as the “raison” behind the gore
on the Notre-Dame alter;
and who, subsequently, felt unsatisfied
by the notion that such a decisive gesture
could be explicated by words
I will say this on our behalf:
we are Victims and Proponents
misled by the idea that man is banally rational,
that extremism is exclusive
to the foolish,
to the irrational,
and that there is no middle road.
We accepted ostensible triviality
because the action, we held, embodied futility.
But let this be a lesson for now:
If the shot echoes without respite,
if the inkling of discontent
skulks inside you at night,
then you owe it to yourself,
to delve deeper –
and you owe it to Dominique Venner
to seek meaning
devoid of politics,
and notwithstanding the pervasive inclination to reject futility
for the sake of cerebral convenience.
READ LATER, think now.