David Ammerman is a holy warrior.
At the beginning of this month, he went up to the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes outside Francis of Assisi Church in Auburn, New York, and started pounding the hell out of it.
He had a hammer and he went after the Blessed Virgin’s head and face and hands.
When he was done, her hands were gone, her face was irreparable, she was destroyed.
He admitted his crime to police, and told them why he did it. According to the authorities, he said he did it because he couldn’t stand the fact that Catholics were praying to the statue.
He’s not Catholic.
And though Catholics would probably point out that they don’t actually pray to statues, David Ammerman believes they do and he wasn’t going to stand for it.
He disagreed with someone else’s religion, and he used violence and criminal conduct to try to stop them.
He’s been charged with felony criminal mischief.
Which is a great start, but a woefully inadequate finish.
A man disagrees with a religion, so he violently attacks an object of veneration at a place of worship.
Isn’t that a hate crime?
Isn’t that a bias crime?
Shouldn’t this be on the national news? Shouldn’t somebody from the civil rights division of the Justice Department be flying in from Washington? Shouldn’t the police or the district attorney have charged this guy with something more than industrial-strength vandalism?
Let me repeat: A man disagrees with a religion, so he violently attacks an object of veneration at a place of worship.
He is accused of committing a felony crime motivated completely by religious antipathy.
And he gets criminal mischief.
Which is a pretty good illustration of another double standard in the era of political correctness.
Let’s take this same crime and change the sign over the door. Instead of happening at a Catholic church, let’s pretend this happened at a Jewish synagogue.
Let’s say someone thought Judaism was a false religion and they committed a similar attack upon a Jewish place of worship. What if they broke in and destroyed the congregation’s Torah.
It’d have “hate crime” written all over it.
Ditto if someone broke into a mosque and vandalized it, or went into a Buddhist temple and smashed the Buddha.
If either of those things happened, it would be a national news story. Al Jazeera would be editorializing about it.
And the government would be all over it.
The federal and state governments would get into it and you could be sure charges would be brought.
The same is true if some act of vandalism was committed against a black church.
All those reactions to a crime against a place of worship would be firm and sure – as they should be.
A crime against a mosque is a hate crime. A crime against a synagogue is a hate crime.
And so is an attack against a church.
Sadly, the double standard of political correctness ignores that latter fact. The inequality of political correctness is that it ignores bias crimes against anyone other than minorities.
Catholicism has been the largest religious denomination in America since the 1860s. Catholics combine with Protestants to make Christianity America’s majority religion. Catholics are square in the center of America’s mainstream.
And consequently they get short shrift.
We’ve bought into the lie that bigotry can only be manifest by social majorities and that the bigotries of minorities are somehow justified, and steadfastly ignored.
Not that David Ammerman is a minority.
Other than the fact that only a tiny minority of people in the United States would discriminate on the basis of religion, much less take a violent act based on opposition to the peaceful faith of another.
The first crime against the people of St. Francis of Assisi Parish was that a bigot took a hammer to their statue. The second crime against the people of St. Francis of Assisi parish was that the criminal justice system and the law of the land failed to protect them or properly characterize the crime committed against them.
It wasn’t criminal mischief, it was religious bigotry.
And it should be denounced as such.
Certainly, the offended parish may choose to forgive – that is its prerogative. But the broken law must still be addressed, and so must the hateful motive of religious bigotry.
A hate crime was committed.
And nobody cares.
And that’s another hate crime of its own.
I shaved Saturday.
I stood before the mirror in a motel a thousand miles from home and I lathered my face. All of my face. And I dragged the rusty travel razor across it until I was clean shaven.
It was the first time since January 3, 1985.
A streak I had expected to continue the rest of my life came to an end just shy of 29 years in. The constant of my adult life, facial hair, is gone.
It’s a metaphor.
It’s a sign.
It was a move I contemplated for about 30 seconds, a rationale I conceived and executed, and now it is done.
On January 3, 1985, I reported for Advanced Individual Training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. I had graduated from Basic Training the week before Christmas and after a holiday exodus at my wife’s parents I caught a bus and reported back to duty.
It was in the student barracks, I think it was Bravo Company, and as we loitered through the day expecting the rigors of basic to return at any moment, we new students instead found ourselves in a surprisingly relaxed environment. We were people, and treated like people, and other than something to report to in the morning and something to report to in the evening, and some school in between, our lives were pretty much our own.
Heck, some of the students were wandering around in civilian clothes.
And some of them had mustaches.
And I grabbed the first one of those and asked him exactly what was going on. He told me that the standard was nothing more nor less than the Army regulation and when the cadre finally showed up I asked a genial-looking sergeant what that standard was.
In layman’s terms, it couldn’t extend beyond the corner of the
mouth, and it couldn’t look like Hitler’s. Other than that, you are good.
So I never shaved again.
By the end of the week I had a mustache, and for all the years since I’ve had it or something like it.
When I got out of the Army, I experimented with beards, which have come back since for the occasional deer season. The defining look, however, has been a goatee. About 1990, or a couple of years after, I grew a goatee. When I’d grown up, goatees were for beatniks or guys trying to look like the devil. They were an odd and unseen style.
But they came in, at first with Hispanic guys and black guys, and I grew mine. I was a newspaper columnist then, and I wrote about it, and it was what the young guys were doing.
Over the years, those young guys have aged, I have aged, and the goatee is now the signature of the middle-aged man. They were red or black when they came in, and have mostly grown salt-and-pepper or white since. They are the style of the grandfathers, in a way that DAs or flattops were a generation or two ago.
The mustache went with Burt Reynolds, the goatee has grown long in the tooth, and now the young guys are influenced by Hugh Jackman.
But facial hair for me has not really been about style or look. It has been about manhood, about the fact that if you can you do, and that men have facial hair because men have facial hair. It has also been a connection for me to that distant day when I was a private in the Army.
And my streak has been important to me. Streaks are always important to me. Continuity and familiarity count to me. I crave stability in a world and a life that are innately and inescapably unstable. And I’ve had facial hair because I have facial hair, because it’s just my way. Because since that day long ago when Army regulations gave me the power to choose for myself, I’ve chosen for myself. It’s as much a part of me as where I was raised and how I came to be me.
My daughter the soldier remarked several months ago that she had never seen me clean shaven. None of my children had seen me clean shaven. My wife had not seen me clean shaven. My daughter had suggested some sort of a wager, where the stakes would be my goatee.
The wager didn’t come to pass, but as six of us were sharing a motel room outside Fort Benning this weekend – one of them my son-in-law, just a couple of weeks away from a deployment to Afghanistan – the idea came to me.
Literally, in front of the mirror, taking my turn in the bathroom. It came to me to shave, until he got back, to retire my whiskers as a nod to my daughter and my son-in-law for their service. To satisfy her curiosity, to respect the danger he will face.
As kind of an odd thing that maybe only a man with whiskers could understand. And even then, only the rare man.
I walked out and they shrieked.
My adult daughters said they loved it. But they are gracious and courteous, and they would say that no matter what. My little son Robbie, on the trip with me, said he didn’t notice a difference. My wife is uncertain and my second son, Jack, says he hates it.
I’m reminded that I don’t have any lips, and that I don’t have a very good shaving technique, but other than that I don’t notice or care much about it. I feel sick and sad that I broke my streak, but I’m glad that I did it.
I started growing my whiskers on January 3, 1985, while a private in the Army. I grew them until November 23, 2013. I will shave until my son-in-law comes back from the war.
And then I will give up shaving for a while.
(Photo cred: Goldblatt & Associates, P.C.)
I was honored to spend some time today with the attorney representing the woman on the other side of this Rick Springfield deal. New developments yesterday led to the case being dismissed today. Listen below to hear my conversation with Kenneth Goldblatt.