Books

If You ‘Like’ Mein Kampf

After the deadly shootings in Arizona over the weekend, we take a look at people who claim to ‘like’ Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” Read More

By / January 10, 2011

Here is a quick rundown of my initial thoughts upon hearing that somebody went on a shooting rampage in Arizona; killing a 9-year-old girl, a federal judge, and critically injuring Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  Even now, at the time of this writing, this is an incident with little to define it aside from its senselessness.

In no particular order, I thought to myself:

  • This might be a terrorist attack.
  • The congresswoman is Jewish. Maybe it was a hate crime?
  • Is this a 2nd Amendment obsessive out to prove a point?

I’ll admit that each notion has me pigeonholing the shooter; when, in fact, I had no real picture of his motives.  The killer could have been mentally disturbed and firing without reason or the whole ordeal could have been a robbery gone wrong.  But in the culture of fear we live in, and given the location of the shooting, was I really wrong to think any of those things?

Answers surfaced in less than a few hours, and people tried to piece together what had happened in that Arizona grocery store.  With some knowledge of the shooter, the questions people were asking weren’t that different from my own.

Was Jared Lee Loughner taking Sarah Palin’s target map seriously?  Was he a fringe Tea Party supporter?  Was he a left-wing anti-government nut making a statement?  Nothing was too clear, except for a few hard to decipher ramblings in the form of YouTube videos, and a Myspace profile that was quickly taken down.

Loughner’s Myspace profile was short-lived, and I have to assume the site was rightfully trying to distance itself from the tragedy.   Minutes before the profile disappeared, somebody thought fast enough to grab a screenshot, which quickly spread to every single newspaper and website in the country.   The profile listed Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf as a favorite book.   Along with Hitler’s book were novels that sit on many of our bookshelves and are required reading in high schools across the country, from Orwell’s Animal Farm to Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

Some folks could play armchair criminologist and piece together a profile of the suspect just through his reading tastes, but the very mention of Hitler’s book, along with the fact that Loughner actually went on a shooting spree, gives me no reason to think the guy is anything but a crazy idiot – not some complex monster fueled by intense political conviction.

Who really thinks Mein Kampf is a ‘good’ book?  Go to a Nazi rally and I’m sure you can find fans; maybe if you’re a fictional character from a Don DeLillo novel, or a real life person who studies the Holocaust for a living, you might have reason to care about the book.  But nobody likes Mein Kampf. It’s a hateful book written by a hateful man, and it holds only historical significance.   Even Hitler’s buddy, Benito Mussolini, said the book was “a boring tome that I have never been able to read.” Who else gets enjoyment out of Mein Kampf?  People like Matthew Swift, a student accused of a plotting a Columbine-style massacre at a Manchester school a few years ago.  His other favorite books were on homemade firearms and survival guides.

At the risk of getting too personal, when I was in high school I had a friend who we will call Bob.  Bob liked Dungeons and Dragons and began to develop a liking for the anarcho-punk band Crass around the same time I did.  While my enjoyment of the band was more superficial, Bob tried to genuinely incorporate the politics of the bands into his very young life.  Bob’s interest in anarchy gave way to an interest in other political systems and ideologies.  Before I knew it, and without warning, Bob began carrying around a copy of Mein Kampf, defending murderous dictators and saying things like “Fascism isn’t necessarily Nazism” or “Hitler had an artist’s point of view”  — statements I found both incredibly bothersome and strange, considering Bob’s father was a Jew.  Bob’s newfound view caused the dissolution of our friendship until several years later, when we’d found ourselves studying at the same 24-hour diner located in-between our respective universities.   We struck up a conversation, and I felt it needed to be asked: why had Bob embraced people like Hitler, even if it was for a such a short time?  His answer was hardly shocking: he told me that he was young and angry at things he didn’t understand.  He was looking for an identity of his own, and that seemed to be a good way to find one.   Did he regret it?  “Absolutely,” he told me,  “nobody really liked Mein Kampf, except idiots.”

As I write this, I know little to nothing about Jared Lee Loughner, and about his motivations or thoughts, and for all I know, it might be weeks before the entire puzzle is put together.  I still shouldn’t make any accusations before then, but I do know he ‘liked’ Mein Kampf.

I feel pretty safe saying that if you, like Loughner, actually derive pleasure from Hitler’s book, please stay really far away from me.   You’re an idiot.