Thursday, February 22, 2007


Sometimes you gotta just love the news. In "Sword seized after man mistakes porn for rape," we read the story of James Van Iveren, resident of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, who charges into his neighbor's apartment after hearing screams that he believed to be a woman crying for help. Actually, he heard his neighbor's porn video.

This is so deliciously lurid. CNN, in a sidebar, bullets out the story highlights:

  • James Van Iveren says he feels "stupid" after breaking into neighbor's apartment
  • Neighbor says Van Iveren held him at sword-point, demanding proof he was alone
  • Neighbor says he played part of the pornographic movie for police
  • Van Iveren charged with criminal trespass, criminal damage, disorderly conduct

You really can't make this kind of stuff up. But at the same time, where's the human interest here? This is cast as News of the Weird, and surely it qualifies. But I believe James Van Iveren is a true American hero. This is a man who ran to the aid of what he believed was another human being in peril, with no regard for his own safety or the possible consequences of his actions. Instead of raising him up as in icon of the good that can be found in humanity, he is being slapped with a bunch of criminal charges.

There is very little doubt, in my reading of this story, that Iveren acted in good faith, even if he does look like a serial killer. Yet instead of forgiving him for what appears to be an honest mistake, the outcome just reinforces that people should mind their own business and not get involved. The absurdity of the story on the surface belies the truth: we are a society that increasingly mistrusts itself, and punishes altruism.

Then again, maybe he's just crazy as a crack-house rat.

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