Yesterday on the road I caught a tune on the radio with lyrics something along the lines of “you’ll remember me for centuries.” It got me thinking of similar expressions I’ve heard of late regarding the Germanwings crash… a lot of people, lacking any better explanation, think that the co-pilot was suffering from depression and decided that rather than just shooting himself in the privacy of his own home decided to take out a plane full of people so that he would be “remembered forever.” Maybe that was his thinking. But… he won’t be.
People committing horrific acts are a distressingly common occurrence. But how often does society *really* remember them? Sure, *some* remain household names generations later… John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin. But others fade *fast.*If I asked you to name the “Aurora theater shooter,” how long would you have to think about it? The Newtown shooter? Colombine massacrers? There were nineteen hijackers on 9/11. Quick: name five of them.
Then there were the guys who dressed up in body armor and robbed a bank in Los Angeles a few years ago. The guy in the McDonalds with the AK-47. The Achille Lauro hijackers. The cult leader in Japan who had his followers set off nerve gas. Any of the “we’re taking this plane to Cuba!” hijackers. The DC snipers. BTK. The Egypt Air copilot who crashed *his* plane. Sure, we all remember the name of Mao… but how about his Generals, or the myriad of functionaries who carried out the acts of democide that characterized Chinese Communism?
If you’ve got a *good* memory… sure, you can probably recall them. Or if you have access to Google or Wikipedia. But for the most part, these people make a dent in the news cycle, and then fade. Once the legal wranglings are over and out of the news… they get shoved out of the public consciousness. Hell, who remembers any of the mass murderers from the 1870’s?
So if you are a nutjob who wants to be remembered forever… killing a bunch of folks ain’t gonna do it. Even if you pull it off, your chances of being remember more than a decade down the line by more than a few family members and historians is lower than the chances of some random high school jock actually Making it In The Big Leagues.