It's been a few days now since news first broke that the hallowed oaks at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn had been poisoned.
The alleged perpetrator of this vile act has been caught, incarcerated and made bail. The initial rush of outrage has subsided somewhat as both Auburn and Alabama fans settle into a "What now?" mode.
Amid calls for peace from the governor and the presidents of both universities, the average Alabama fan apparently feels that enough time has passed that they can shed the veil of faux sympathy and express some of their real thoughts and feelings.
Chief among those is the sentiment that “They are just trees and can be replaced.”
This is technically true. But as I noted in a previous article, this displays a complete lack of understanding of the meaning of tradition.
Those trees—the trees that have stood on that corner for decades, the trees you can plainly see in grainy black and white photos from near the turn of the century, the trees that have been a part of Auburn before Alabama inflated its first football—are sacred to Auburn fans.
If your beloved dog dies, you can get another dog. But can that dog ever truly replace the one you lost?
Those were just ships that sank in Pearl Harbor; you can build more ships.
If your coach dies, you can get another coach. Maybe that concept will resonate with 'Bama fans. Can you so blithely substitute one icon for another?
One of my earliest memories of Auburn football is of walking to Toomer’s Corner with my grandfather and my dad. My wife, born an Alabama fan, converted within sight of the trees. I took both my daughters to Toomer’s Corner as soon as they were old enough.
Those trees and the rituals they host are woven into the tapestry of what Auburn is and what it means.
Now, thanks to the heinous actions of a depraved individual, my children have been cheated out of sharing that history with my future grandchildren.
They won’t be able to stand under the same trees that shaded their great grandfather on a Saturday afternoon and hear the whisper of history through the branches.
There are plenty of other trees on campus. Sure, you could walk a block and roll the tree in front of Anders Bookstore but it wouldn’t be the same. It’s not the act of rolling the trees that matters; it’s the tradition and what it means.
Those Toomer’s oaks are part of that tradition and can never be replaced.
As a way to assuage their own guilt for feeling some internal glee, perhaps, many 'Bama fans have adopted the stance that “the trees were going to die anyway and the pressure-washing after they got rolled was pretty much killing them.”
First of all, the removal of the rolls from the trees is handled in such a way that the trees suffer no harm. But even if that weren’t so, how Auburn fans handle our own trees is vastly different from some blithering idiot Alabama fan poisoning them.
Hey, mister 'Bama fan. You sit there stuffing your face with Hot Pockets, pork rinds and Dr. Pepper. Your only mode of exercise consists of 12-ounce curls. That spare tire you carry is probably doing damage to your heart. You’re going to die anyway. Think through that for a minute. Want to change your logic?
The most pathetic commentary comes from those who consider the poisoning of the trees a justifiable act in a battle of pranks.
Somebody taped a Cam Newton jersey to the Bear Bryant statue. Auburn stickers were placed in Tuscaloosa. Grass seed was spilled on a lawn to spell out the score of the 2010 Iron Bowl.
Don’t start nothing and there won’t be nothing, Auburn fans.
All those things happened. All are harmless. Stickers can easily be removed, although some forget that Tuscaloosa has the biggest Auburn alumni club in the state. The jersey could be pulled off with a simple tug. Additional grass seed could be added or just wait until spring until it all turns green and the score would vanish.
Poisoning sacred trees is not an appropriate response.
You put a "kick me" sign on my back? Hahaha. That’s funny. Hey, I’ll take a machete and hack your dog to death. That’ll be fun.
Wow. You wrote on my car windows with shoe polish? What a crazy prank. I’ll take a couple of sticks of dynamite and blow up your garage.
Anyone who would consider the criminal act of a deranged psychotic a reasonable response to a harmless prank illustrates their own depravity.
Far too many 'Bama fans fit this profile.
Beyond that, the timeline doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The man who allegedly poisoned the Toomer’s trees did so before the score sprouted in the Tuscaloosa grass. You can’t retaliate for something that you’re unaware has happened.
A few have tried to distance themselves from the alleged poisoner, claiming that he’s not an Alabama fan and is from Texas.
He named his children Bear and Crimson. He’s wearing Alabama shirts and caps in every picture available save his mug shot.
No, he’s one of yours. You can’t hide from that fact.
What we as Auburn fans also understand is that this so-called lone gunman is representative of far more of your fanbase than the few rational and reasonable Alabama fans would care to admit.
From an extremist view this is little different from the attacks on the World Trade Center. A monument to what we are was demolished by an enemy that hates us, hates what we stand for, writhes and squirms in jealousy at our every success and wishes us to be obliterated from the face of the earth.
Yes, we can rebuild the towers. They were just buildings, steel and stone and glass. Yes, we can replace the trees. They were just trees. But we can never restore what they meant. Things will never be the same.
In terms of horror and loss of life, no, you can't draw a direct parallel between the two events. But the symbolic meaning behind the two share the same sentiment. Both were hostile acts intended to strike at the very heart of a society.
Do we blame only the individual terrorists who perpetrated these acts? No. We can and should blame the culture that bred them, the seething cauldron of hate and jealousy that spawned them.
Are all Muslims extremists bent on the destruction of America? Are all Alabama fans psychotic and bent on the destruction of all things Auburn?
No to both. But enough of them are that the brush is broad. It paints well.
As Auburn fans watch with mounting revulsion as Alabama fans, and sadly the Alabama media, crawfish away from and attempt to minimize the crime that was perpetrated on Auburn as a whole perhaps this horrible act will become our rallying point.
Maybe from now on, we won’t take the constant cruel jokes and jibes with such good humor. Perhaps now we won’t tolerate the unbridled Alabama arrogance with a smile.
When you poisoned our trees and tried to murder our tradition, you took things too far.
This wasn’t a lone gunman. Each and every one of you who has celebrated, condoned, shrugged off, excused or justified the act of poisoning the trees is just as guilty as the man who did the deed.
You love to call yourselves the 'Bama nation. We are the Auburn family. Nations fall, Tide fans. Nations fall.
Families? They’re forever.