This principle is really applicable to a lot of groups out there; I'm
framing it in terms of Jews because that's how I started seeing it,
because of current events.
With the nomination of Joseph Lieberman as Vice-Presidential
candidate, an Orthodox Jew has been thrust into the public eye in a
new way, and people who have never even seen a Jew are suddenly
learning that they're all over the place, and how some of them have such
seemingly strange customs, and yet they can be so normal and part of
everyday society. Hence the principle, here framed in terms of Jews:
The Axe-Murderer Principle: Jews are like axe-murderers. They
look just like everybody else.
The point of the whole thing is bringing home the reality to people that
Orthodox Jews, whom they may only have heard of as some weird folks who live
elsewhere, can really be "normal" people, engage in "normal" professions
(teacher, bricklayer, Senator, etc) and generally seem like perfectly
"regular folks" in today's society. There was a big article about it
in the New Jersey section of the New York Times last fall (1999) (I
know, there was a picture of the back of my head in it). All about these
normal people doing normal jobs... but they don't know what traffic is
like on Saturday because they never drive then! (imagine!) The
nomination is showing more people this principle.
As I said, this of course applies to a lot of groups that "normal" folks
sometimes have trouble relating to, like gays, lesbians, Wiccans,
bondage fetishists, yes, even Fundamental Christians. They're all like
axe-murderers; one might be the guy over in the next cubicle at the
office and unless you got to know him you'd never know.
Note: the analogy made here between Jews and murderers
is purely for shock/humor value. I'm an observant Jew myself. The
same for the other groups mentioned above (well, not that I am one, but
that I don't intend that they share any of the bad aspects of
being an axe-murderer.) The phrasing was inspired by a scene at the end of
one of the Addams Family movies (I think the first), in which
Wednesday, dressed in her normal clothes on Hallowe'en, says she is
going as an axe-murderer, because they look just like everyone else.