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American Existentialism: Jared Loughner

By Michael Moriarty
web posted February 7, 2011

While Jared Loughner's list of favorite writings run from Hitler's Mein Kampf  and Marx's Communist Manifesto to George Orwell, Hermann Hesse and Ernest Hemingway, a mysteriously missing set of fashionably well-respected names are the French Existentialists, such as Abert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre.

By the time I had finished that relentlessly compelling tale of gratuitous murder and vague redemption (Albert Camus' The Stranger which ends with the words, "all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration,") my sense of the world had been shattered into a thousand pieces.

The essentials of this quote are from Stranger In A Strange Land – The Enduring American Appeal Of Existentialism, Nick Gillespie's still startling review of George Cotkin's Existential America.

With the endearing confession I can share with Mr. Gillespie about existentialism – "I still never quite understood it" – I suddenly began to comprehend a few things I had not even dreamt of during Freshman year at Dartmouth and the existential labyrinths of Philosophy 101. The course was taught devoid of the endless examples of senseless murder available even then. Somehow the anti-hero of Albert Camus' The Stranger was held to be examined in an a-historical vacuum. The ghosts of Jack The Ripper and Lizzie Borden were just begging to attend class; but the Professor would not even utter their names.

After this past week, however, and the nightmares rolling out of Tucson, Arizona, with the massacre there, the insane slaughter handed out to all of America by one Jared Loughner?

Cotkin's most original insight is something that escaped Camus and the others: "Existentialism, American style ... jibes well with American antinomianism, that willingness of the lonely individual to rebel against entrenched authority in the name of his or her most intense beliefs. Antinomianism, like existentialism, challenges easy certitude, entrenched religion, and moribund political assumptions."

Scary?

Quite possibly.

This is Jared Loughner, as attorney pro-se, defending himself in court.

The crime in Albert Camus' The Stranger is merely a small example of the massacre in Tucson which America may never recover from. Yet the obscenely joyous anticipation within the murderer that "a huge crowd of spectators … should greet me with howls of execration"?

This, for an existentialist apparently, is not insanity.

This is classic anti-heroism.

"L'enfer est les autres!"

"Hell is other people", as a profoundly existential character proclaims in Jean Paul Sartre's No Exit. The brilliant critic, Walter Kaufmann, encapsulated existentialism as defined by the 4 D's: "death, despair, dread and dauntlessness". According to the likes of Jean Paul Sartre, Jared Loughner is the quintessentially existential anti-hero.

Jared Lee LoughnerTo a French existentialist, Jared Loughner is not insane.

He is "dauntlessly" addressing "death, despair and dread" with a defining existential act, multiple versions of that apparently liberating but cold-blooded killing in Albert Camus' The Stranger.

Is existentialism a true philosophy?

Or is it merely a rationalization for the "enlightened despots" of France, from 18th century Robespierre to the 20th century's Jean Paul Sartre, to either commit mass murder or openly relish the shameless homicides of Jared Loughner, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, et al?

I believe Existentialism is the 20th century effort of French intellectuals to rationalize their horridly bloody, 18th century revolution. Existentialism was, and still is for many Frenchmen and women, the effort of intellectual supremacistsin Paristo defend what is the heart of the French Revolution and the rationale for the French Guillotine: it was the Existentially justifiable thing to do at the time.

Death, despair, dread and dauntlessness!

This is the moment in which I must remind my readers of the true enemy of the French Revolution. The ultimate and permanent enemy of the French Revolution was not the aristocracy nor even the bourgeoisie.

It was and still is the Catholic Church.

In addition and more to the point of this article, the number one enemy of the Progressive Revolution or the Obama Nation's "Fundamental transformation of the United States" is not the Tea Party but the Catholic Church. Rome's unflinching and unwavering condemnation of abortion strikes at the very cornerstone of Progressive philosophy, strategy and visions of the future. While the very black attire of Catholic priests similarly signify the very existential themes of dread, death and despair, the antidote, however, is not a mindless or homicidal dauntlessness.

It is Life!

Life, life and more life!

Life that is even more dauntless, forceful and abandoned than the mad eyes of Jared Loughner.ESR

Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at rainbowfamily2008@yahoo.com.

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