Two senseless attacks, within hours of each other, 7500 miles apart. A mob of religious fanatics in Afghanistan, incensed over the burning of a Koran by a publicity seeking crackpot in Florida, attacked a United Nations compound, (apparently unable to distinguish the UN from the US), and killed everyone they could lay their hands on. In Los Angeles, two Dodgers fans attacked some Giants fans leaving one in a coma. The Afghanistan incident is not over; there was more violence today. The Los Angeles perpetrators are still at large, but it is likely they will be caught.
Kurt Vonnegut, in his novel Cat's Cradle, gave a name to the false associations people make with one another: granfalloon. The example he gave was "Hoosiers" as if people from Indiana shared some exclusive insight or destiny. Using a Calypso riff, he wrote: "If you wish to study a granfalloon, just remove the skin of a toy balloon." At their most benign, granfalloons are nothing more than fan clubs or Facebook friendships. At their worst, they're mobs.
Among the many features the two current examples have in common is that each dishonors the values the perpetrators claim to espouse. Mob violence is the self-aggrandisement of people who are otherwise empty, insignificant, and impotent.
Hieronymous Bosch felt the same way about the mob that rejoiced in the Crucifixion. How did the death of an obscure rabbi enhance their lives? What wrong were they righting? Bosch painted this scene twice before, but with less vitriol. We don't know much about him or his life, but clearly he was no stranger to cynicism in his later years.
With America at war in three countries that hate us, it's harder not to give in to such cynicism each passing day.
The Carrying of the Cross by Hieronymous Bosch, ca. 1510. Note Saint Veronica holding the cloth bearing Christ's visage. This incident, while not mentioned in the Gospels, is the Sixth Station of the Cross. Veronica, (aka Berenice), wiped the spit and mud from Jesus' face with her veil, cleansing him of the filth and depravity of mankind. Click on the picture for a closer look.