Dick Cheney's America is a place so cutthroat that a 78-year old man gets shot by his own friend and the dominant response across the country is laughter.
Now I don't know Mr. Whittington. But I have never laughed at anyone being shot in my life before. Let alone someone older than my parents.
So what is it about Dick Cheney that brings out the worst in us?
Is it his secrecy? -- the secrecy that mocks the openness we all idealize as being the core of our democracy? Are we so tired of watching Mr. Cheney obstruct access to information about his activities that reading the Texas Parks and Wildlife Hunting Accident and Incident Report online gives us all a brief holiday in our hearts?
Is it his arrogance? - the sense that he is above the law - that makes us relish the sheepish sight of him being interrogated by a park ranger?
Is it Mr. Cheney's ruthlessness? The feeling that after sending thousands of American boys and girls into harm's way with an apparent lack of concern and advocating torture as a component of state policy, there is a certain comfort in imagining him at the bedside of someone in pain?
Is it Mr. Cheney's callous use of the gun-law issue, among so many, as a wedge to create division in this country -- the sense that, for all his administration's advocacy of the unfettered right to bear arms, he is found in violation of simple Texas registration requirements? Has he been, as it were, shot with is own gun?
Is it Mr. Cheney's masterful dominance of the media in recent years so that the sight of Scott McLellan scrambling to control a situation spinning out of control - even to the point where past press secretaries Fitzwater and Fleischer are appalled -- is just so irresistible?
Is it Mr. Cheney's questionable acquaintances? After so many mystery guests at energy meetings and 5 years of an administration rife with rumors of cronyism, does the image of a Bush-supporting lawyer shot on an elite hunting outing seem poetic justice?
Perhaps it is all of these. But what frightens me is that when one of Mr. Cheney's shotgun pellets slipped into Mr. Whittington's heart tonight and Mr. Whittington himself slipped into cardiac arrest, I find even Mr. Cheney's allies at the DrudgeReport rubbing their hands in ghoulish expectation. With a headline that reads CHENEY FACES GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION IF MAN DIES, I fear that too few prayers going out around the country tonight are directed at the vulnerability of Mr. Whittington's life and too many at the vulnerability his death might bring to an overly-powerful Executive Branch.
As for me, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Eugene Jarecki's new film WHY WE FIGHT, an examination of the anatomy of the American war machine, is currently playing in theaters nationwide.