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1. A Search for Meanings
I went hunting in on the Internet today, the day that Christopher Dorner has apparently died, looking for meaning — specifically, for the meaning of “dorner.” (You cope with the sourness of a now-apparently-completed ten days of hell in your way; I try to distract myself in mine. I supposed that in a way this search for serendipitous meaning is my equivalent of astrology, but with less math.)
The Dorner Company: is a manufacturer’s representative specializing in equipment for water & wastewater treatment plants, power plants, industrial processing facilities and original equipment manufacturers. Our commitment to and our partnership with the industries premier manufacturers, as well as a vast selection of valves, actuation, and other fluid process control equipment allow us to provide the best product package to fit your needs.
But there’s also this, from Dorner Conveyor:
The right conveyor system can improve your line’s efficiency and productivity, leading to a stronger ROI for your plant. From custom conveying solutions to belt and part replacement, you’ll find the right fit for your line with Dorner.
As a leading conveyor manufacturer, we provide a wide range of flexible solutions for industrial, packaging and sanitary conveyor automation needs. Contact us today to learn more.
Dorner conveyor systems are flexible, easy to select, easy to acquire through efficient delivery and easy to integrate with our world class support network.
I imagine that it’s been a tough six days, since the Dorner Manifesto emerged, for both companies. I continued looking.
“Dorn” is a German word for “mandrel,” for “thorn,” and for “spine”; “Dorne” is the plural. The German-English dictionary has no definition of “Dorner.” One who uses a thorn? One who darns — surely that use of needles is related to “dorn” — as in mending socks? One who has a spine? One who works a mandrel?
“Mandrel”: there’s a word that I’ve probably skipped over in context at some points in my life without ever bothering to define, probably presuming (wrongly) that it had some relation to the blue-rumped mandrill baboon. I looked it up.
man·drel or man·dril. n.
- A spindle or an axle used to secure or support material being machined or milled.
- A metal rod or bar around which material, such as metal or glass, may be shaped.
- A shaft on which a working tool is mounted, as in a dental drill.
Here’s a new-and-improved mandrel used in Pinewood Derby cars for the Cub Scouts:
Man-drill. Drill-man. Axle. Broken axle. Broken to pieces. I suddenly flash on an association that had been bumping around deep inside my unconscious mind: Gil Scott-Heron’s beautiful and mournful song of broken dignity, “Pieces of a Man.”
I saw my daddy greet the mailman
And I heard the mailman say
“Now don’t you take this letter to heart now Jimmy
Cause they’ve laid off nine others today”
He didn’t know what he was saying
He could hardly understand
That he was only talking to
Pieces of a man
I saw the thunder and heard the lightning
And felt the burden of his shame
And for some unknown reason
He never turned my way
—Gil Scott-Heron, “Pieces of a Man”
And that seems to fit. Moving on.
The word “Dorne” will be familiar to some of us for another reason: as the southern region in Game of Thrones, the HBO show based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.
Seven centuries after the Andal invasion, Aegon the Conqueror invaded Westeros and in his War of Conquest subjugated all of the Andal kings one by one, except Dorne, which successfully resisted the Dragon King. Whereas other kings and lords had taken to the field against Aegon, or clustered in castles, the Dornish refused to give open battle and allow Aegon to deploy his dragons. Instead, they turned to ambush and raids, striking quickly and then slipping back into the desert or through the mountain passes, where even the dragons could not find them. In time, Aegon pulled away from Dorne.
So what have we collected so far in this search for meaning? Valves and fluid processes. Conveyors. Thorns and spines. A spindle for machining material; a rod to shape it; a shafe used to drill. A lathe and a crank. Axle, broken. Pinewood Derby, Scouts. Ambush and raids.
And need I point out that “dorne” is only one letter-pair transposition of “drone,” rumored at one point to be used to track him down (if for surveillance) or kill him (if weaponized)?
Enough foolishness, enough distraction, enough free-association. Time to face it; time to think.
2. “The question is, what would you do to clear your name?”
Christopher Dorner was a good-looking man, as someone on Facebood noted he looked a lot like LL Cool J in his youthful prime. Big man, beautiful smile. From his manifesto, like the quote above apparently directed at his friends: “You are saying to yourself that this is completely out of character of the man you knew who always wore a smile….” Yes, had I known him, I imagine that that is exactly what I would be saying. He’s was a man with, for the most part, good cultural taste — taste that, thanks to his manifesto, now threatens to damn the unwilling objects of his admiration:
Larry David, Kevin Hart, the late Patrice Oneal, Lisa Lampanelli, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Louis CK, Dave Chapelle, Jon Stewart, Wanda Sykes, Dennis Miller, and Jeff Ross are pure geniuses.
Ellen Degeneres, continue your excellent contribution to entertaining America and bringing the human factor to entertainment. You changed the perception of your gay community and how we as Americans view the LGBT community.
Christopher Walz, you impressed me in Inglorious Basterds. After viewing Django Unchained, I was sold. I have come to the conclusion that you are well on your way to becoming one of the greats if not already….
John and Ken from KFI, never mute your facts and personal opinions. You are one of the few media personalities who speak the truth, even when the truth is not popular. I will miss listening to your discussions.
Cardinal Mahoney, you are in essence a predator yourself as you enabled your subordinates to molest multiple children in the church over many decades. May you die a long and slow painful death.
Westboro Baptist Church, may you all burn slowly in a fire, not from smoke inhalation, but from the flames and only the flames.
Pat Harvey, I’ve always thought you carried yourself professionally and personally the way a strong black woman should.
And there’s more. Read it for yourself, now that he’s dead; he address it to, among others, you. The link is to the site “rapgenius.com,” which sort of brilliantly decided to load the entire manifesto into is database of raps and use the same tool it uses to explain references therein to annotate this one too. It doesn’t sound like rap, though; what it sounds like is a very long message written in a yearbook to those to whom one wants to explain oneself before one is gone. (Did we think he’d live? He told us flat out that he’d never see The Hangover 3.)
As a fellow severe depressive, currently relatively smoothed out with a daily dose of SSRIs, I’ve started valedictory letters like that on more than one occasion over the years. (In fact, much of my blogging itself — this piece included — could be fairly viewed as one very long such letter.) Why devote so much effort to that? Well, what is it that we value in modern life? To a great extent, it’s our attitudes, beliefs and opinions, which explain to others who we are — or, once gone, who we were.
(What do men and many women talk about along among those of their gender — or sexual orientation? Often it’s variations of “I’d hit that!” Who cares who you’d have sex with? People don’t seem to care who cares — this expression of tastes that one will never get to satisfy seem to be part of what we want to convey across the world. Relative to this, telling the world how much you enjoy Ellen DeGeneres and Dennis Miller is benign. Well, enjoying DeGeneres is, anyway.)
So I do get the whole last part of the manifesto — and I get the righteous indignation and desire to reclaim a whole from one’s pieces of the first part of it. The only part of the whole damn thing that I don’t get is the killing innocent people. He seemed to realize the likelihood of that reaction, and asked, in essence — “what would you have had me do?” The enormity of his actions appears to have been a blind spot for him.
And I have to admit that in many ways he sounds like he was a very smart guy. (That’s not necessarily a compliment, just a fact. ”Smart” does not imply decent or wise.) He knew what he wanted to accomplish and for the most part he did it. (He also didn’t kill people whom he easily could have killed; the man he carjacked today, the housekeepers who discovered his hiding place, whom he bound but let lived. A peculiar morality operated within him. He was willing to kill innocents to hurt his enemies deeply within their hearts — but apparently not otherwise.) And he was right that such a murder was a way to galvanize the police forces and the citizenry, that it would call attention to his case and his charges and concerns.
Consider this: due to his actions (and the public perception of their facial plausibility) Chief Beck is reopening the whistleblowing case that ruined him — and rightly so. Would that have happened had he taken what I have argued with friends was the path that would have been effective without being heinously immoral, the public self-immolation path of the Buddhist monks in war-era Vietnam and of Mohammed Bouazizi in Tunisia — the man who kicked off the Arab Spring over a not-so-dissimilar wrongful act by another female police officer? Oh, I’d like to think so — but I also suspect that in thinking so I may be deluded. My only real surprise here is that Dorner didn’t disappear down a deep well or a rock crevasse, never to be seen again alive or dead, so that the specter of his eventual reappearance might, like the never-apprehended Zodiac killer, continue to haunt and taunt his targets for decades.
Does any of this justify the killings of innocents like Monica Quan and Kevin Lawrence? Noooooooo! Does it justify the killing of those whom he decreed were guilty, like the law enforcement officers in the Inland Empire? Noooo — although I can understand how he might have thought so without being quite as much of a monster. But for him, being considered a monster was obviously the point: those killings were attention-getters — and all the more so when it became clear that they weren’t a mob hit over drugs or gambling debts but reprisal against Quan for a wrong that Dorner thought her father had committed against him. If he was calculating how best to get attention for his crusade, he chose an extremely effective path.
But remember — that was not his stated goal. ”What would you do to clear your name?” This quest of his did not clear his name; it muddied it for as long as people will remember it. Whistleblowers — including (or maybe even especially) ones telling the truth for no reason of personal profit — routinely get abused. Now, if his name gets cleared (and others punished), it will be a relative footnote to his story. But I doubt that any conclusive evidence would come from it, because his murders have raised the stakes.
(An aside: you don’t blow the whistle because you expect to be rewarded for it and the blowing of the whistle rarely results in a direct hit. You blow the whistle because even a close miss is often enough to get an organization to change its wrongful ways. Hopefully you get rewarded and hopefully not punished, but anyone who makes any promises on that score is probably selling something — possibly you. Readers will already know about Bradley Manning and Julian Assange; you may have forgetten or never have known about Adm. Hyman Rickover, “Father of the Nuclear Navy,” who was sacked early in the Reagan Administration for taking on the Defense industry, on the pretext of his taking relatively minor gratuities over 16 years from a person whose fleecing of the public he was pursuing like a pit bull. Read sections 5-8 of that Wiki piece.)
3. Fringe theories: Was it righteous action … or was it all a frame job?
Of the two sorts of reactions I’ve seen supporting Dorner’s actions, one drives me crazy and the other I simply think is wrong. Some people — a loud minority within Occupy among them — are so committed to the notion that the LAPC is evil that by exposing it — even involving murder — Dorner becomes a hero. I’ve been mostly telling these people to get the hell away from me and don’t publish such theories — thankfully, they’re mostly republishing what other shadowy groups have said — under the Occupy name. Most who have spoken up have reiterated that yes, we are a non-violent group, and killing an innocent couple in cold blood in their parking garage is not actually non-violent.
Others suggest that this is all some sort of a frame job: we don’t know that Dorner really wrote the manifesto — or at least they deny that he wrote the damning sentence in his first paragraph:
I know most of you who personally know me are in disbelief to hear from media reports that I am suspected of committing such horrendous murders and have taken drastic and shocking actions in the last couple of days. You are saying to yourself that this is completely out of character of the man you knew who always wore a smile wherever he was seen. I know I will be villified by the LAPD and the media. Unfortunately, this is a necessary evil that I do not enjoy but must partake and complete for substantial change to occur within the LAPD and reclaim my name.
Well, I suppose that I can’t prove beyond a doubt that he did write it, but the alternative scenario seems to go several miles beyond being far-fetched. It is consistent with the voice of the rest of the manifesto and the rest of the manifesto is consistent with his actions and expressed beliefs over the past decade. He took what happened to him awfully seriously — and rightly so, because police brutality is awfully serious business. But, as sometimes happens, injustice drove him mad — left him as “pieces of a man” — and he had been well-trained in what to do in such a situation. He killed people and roiled those who oppressed him. I don’t think that we have to look for much of an explanation beyond that.
What’s funny is that the loudest local voice against excessive use of police force, John & Ken-aligned FFFF, drew a very different lesson from the example of Dorner — although I can’t quite figure out what it is:
It appears that in the police business potential violent instability is seen as less of a problem than a tool to be unleashed on an unruly citizenry. All of which begs the questions: how hard is it to become an LAPD (or Fullerton) cop, particularly for ex-soldiers, and why in the world aren’t we weeding out the Christopher Dorners before they get a badge and a gun?
“Why aren’t we weeding out those who whistleblow against police excessive use of force?” FFFF seems blissfully unaware that, had they known of Dorner’s charges before now, they’d have been supporting his case and celebrating his efforts. Why did the LAPD hire him? For the same reason that FFFF would have supported him – they didn’t expect him to go nuts.
Before I end this section of our tour, I’d like to note one thing that applies to lots of people on FFFF and a fair number of commenters here. Do you know how your argument for the Second Amendment is that people have to be able to be armed well-enough to fight back effectively against an oppressive government? Well how’s that working out for you right now, folks? Because that’s just what Dorner did.
4. A Thorn for All Time
I put CBS local news anchor Pat Harvey’s name last among the laudatory excerpts above because she and her partner were the people from whom I got the news since about 5:10 this afternoon, when my wife mentioned to me that she wanted to watch the news because they’d evidently caught Dorner (I hadn’t known this was going on) and at one point she blurted out that this was a relief to, among others, those who were listed, like she was, in the manifesto. She had been briefed repeatedly (I think she said by Charlie Beck himself) about the scandal and, acknowledging her conflict of interest, was glad if it was over.
I too like Pat Harvey (like I said, Dorner for the most part had good taste), but she’s wrong here. It’s not over. Like Waco, like Ruby Ridge, people aren’t going to just forget about this. But aside from being urban and well-covered, this one had something else that may create problems for all those who captured at least his negative attention: his “hit list.”
I don’t think that people have entirely grasped how big of a problem that is — and why those affected by some connection to him can’t rest easily. Apparently, Dorner pretty much knew that he was going to die violently. He also (John & Ken fan that he was) may have understood that many people would find his example of resistance inspiring. What he did was leave instructions for those who want to continue his path of carnage. I won’t be surprised if some people — for now, let’s call them “Dornerites” — continue to carry out his grudges.
The final revenge of Christopher Dorner on his enemies is that he’s set a vicious example of retaliation against those who have wronged one — one that if it happens in this country has more often involved kidnapping than murder: going against innocent members of their families. The police may think that they’re going to stand down now — but as soon as someone connected to someone on that list gets killed, we’re going to see a convulsion like this all over again. That means more innocents killed; that means a harsher police state; that in turn means harsher resistance. Dorner’s manifesto was in part a call for gun control — maybe he knew that his support for it may be a kiss of death for that as well.
Or who knows what he was thinking? The man was crazy. Brilliant and crazy. Brilliant, crazy, and left in pieces.