Another birthday is approaching, so naturally it's an anxious time.
Not for me. For all of you.
I don't have worries about getting older, but I do have worries about how American society will once again survive the vortex of bloodletting, violence, and terror that has traditionally surrounded my birthday, April 20.
April 16, 2007: A psycho gunman kills 32 students at Virginia Tech.
April 19, 1993: ATF agents storm the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. A fire kills as many as 76 people
April 19, 1995: The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is bombed, killing 168 people.
April 20, 1999: Two students go on a shooting rampage in Columbine High School, killing a dozen students and a teacher.
So when people ask me what I want to do for my birthday, I answer: "Turn off the news and avoid public gatherings."
I'm fortunate that most of these events happened past my formative years. I hate to imagine the damage it would cause someone born the week of my birthday in, say, 1990 to know that every candle likely represents another murderous rampage. I can think about all of this stuff on an intellectual level, rather than having it damage developing emotions.
Adults: Make a wish!
Earnest kid: No murders please, no murders please, no murders please!
Is there any possible explanation for this concentration of horror?
In fact there is.
I share Adolf Hitler's birthday.
That makes us both either late Arieses or early Tauruses. I think Hitler was more of a Taurus, don't you? More bull than ram?
And I'm not saying that all of the horrific memorials this week has earned are tied to Hitler's birthday, but if you watch the news on any of the surrounding days and something bad happens, it always gets a mention.
April 20 is also the birthday of all sorts of important people, like Napoleon Bonaparte and, according to the Internet anyway, the prophet Mohammad. Plus, there's Joey Lawrence.
Hitler's the one people know, though. At least the really bad people.
(Do you think Hitler tried to do spectacularly bad things on his birthday, too? I mean, things that were even worse than those he did on the rest of the days of the year? Was he like: "Hey, it's Hitler's birthday Let's go for France?")
Anyway, it is what it is, and so I consider myself linked by destiny to be a part of the balancing out of good-versus-evil on this birthday karmic teeter-totter. On one side forever sits Hitler, and on the other side there's me and, again according to the Internet, Carmen Electra, Jessica Lange, and the aforementioned Lawrence. I think each of us on this side of the totter has a role to play. I see myself taking an imposing seat around a semi-circular construction of raised desks akin to the Justice League, with Electra and Lawrence debating Robert's Rules of Order before we all decide exactly what to do next. Lange adds a necessary aura of gravity to the place, so she's a keeper.
It's not all bad sharing a birthday with such important people. I also take lessons from my birthday brothers and sisters. From Hitler and Napoleon, for example, I learned never to invade Russia. And from Carmen Electra, I've learned that cameos are well suited to my acting talents.
Another lesson, if a negative one: I work to keep my ego in check (although putting myself in the same paragraph as Joey Lawrence may suggest otherwise). And as a small man, I've learned that world domination is not the appropriate way to compensate for my stature, and so I make myself content with sarcasm.
And then there's this fact, which I put on the positive side of the teeter totter, a choice that's fairly easy to make when you consider that the alternative is Hitler: 4/20 is considered national stoners' day, a day when it's acceptable to skip school and work and ponder life.
Only, as I understand it, stoners' day didn't arise from any grand historic 4/20 stoner accomplishment--though that phrase itself may be an oxymoron, come to think of it. And I have to say that it wasn't really a phenomenon that I was aware of when it would have been any use.
Still, these days the mere idea of it gives me comfort, even if these days the idea is the only comfort I gather from it.
But maybe Hitler, Napoleon, and I--there I go breaking that ego-in-check rule--could have used a little more focus on the 4/20 aspect of April 20, and a little less focus on the whole Hitler's-birthday angle. (And yes, I do see the chronological problems with this scenario, but let's leave it be, shall we? My birthday is coming up.)
Because if more murderous lunatics concentrated their efforts on the 4/20 aspects of April 20, I'm convinced I'd have a better birthday. And can't we all unite behind that?
Managing Editor Patrick Howe has a birthday coming up. Help him celebrate by not sending any e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org.