"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Apr 7, 2011


I was once in the same room*, over a few hours, as Gary Bauer, Pat Buchanan, John Ashcroft and Alan Keyes.

This was the day I turned down an invitation to meet with the future President Dubya, in one of those cozy living room meet and greets.  It was the day a reporter friend got a call from Bay Buchanan, apologizing for one of Pat's notorious stickler umbrage takings. He wanted to tell me about it, so we decided to meet up.

A few hours before I allowed myself to be herded into the gathering of Presidential wannabes, the reporter and I found ourselves musing on politics and political fortune over excellent coffee imported from Montreal by our shitty mill city's then finest roaster (a friend, and for a while, my compassionate employer). I'd just signed on to another Republican's aspiration express. I was too late, and I'd bet on the wrong candidate. Dubya would soon snowball out of reach of all other contenders.

I'd sensed it then, gladhanding his campaign workers, watching their organization outmaneuver every opponent. I was lucky enough to be near to the center of the nasty little experiment in the (then new) corporatization of campaign structure. I got to see them do it - scratch Mrs. Dole's hopes and eyes out, dash Forbes against the rocks, whisper and rumor McCain into an eight year holding pattern.

Dubya's crew was masterful. They were at war, and they were the only people who knew it.

My reporter friend and I sipped at coffee and picked at croissants, discussing all this - he worked at remaining aloof, despite unreasonably passionate moral convictions; I tried to care, always failing for lack of a conscience and a reason to try out the feeling of loyalty. He would range from Bastiat to Baudelaire, cutting through his own arguments as a way of triplicating his dialogue with himself and others, backtracking to a point after following its logic to annihilation. I would pretend an investment in events which could never in fact overcome my composite detachment.

We both agreed that Dubya was a new thing - a variation, a Mule in the most Asimovian sense. Ending our conversation there, he dashed off to record a report, while I prepared my plastic and paternal concern, and returned to getting people to do things they would never do if plentiful food were equitably distributed.

Later that day, I met with the above mentioned men of Some Fame, shaking hands while a carried on with an impotent internal monologue. Bauer and Ashcroft were mild, soft spoken men. Gentle, for all that they would soon come to do and to explain away a comprehensive administration of deliberate horror. I remember now that I envied them their deep faiths, political and religious, while I simultaneously disdained them for it. Keyes was wild eyed, punctuating his speech with random gesticulation. As usual. I thought him a buffoon then. I still do now. A clown.

I never thought that of Ashcroft. I liked him, almost immediately.

And I knew him, from that handshake, as exactly the sort of unmovable administrators of death and destruction who remake human events, who by being who they are change how the rest of us live. How we exist.

Releasing his hand, the tactile softness of it still lingering, I had a compulsion to strike this man I found so pleasant in person. To strike him down and to kick him and kick him and to keep on kicking him. I have told this Ashcroft story before, but I have always omitted that eudaemonic compulsion. From shame. I was at the pivot of history. I knew it. And did nothing.

My reporter friend arrived. We retreated to a corner, again over excellent coffee.

I told him of the demiurge infecting me. He laughed, but I could not return him the favor. I had no humor. I had passed over some until then obscured border. I lost my balance, moving from my carefully constructed self, built over decades of self protection, to a man without any armor, without buffers, without any capacity to filter my experience. In a moment's release. In a literal instance of insubstantiation.

It would take a couple of years for this process to complete itself. I would hurt a lot of people along the way, having still any number of avenues to influence and power, but now armed with an ill formed conscience, with an uncontainable sense of outrage. With a compulsion to rediscover a long murdered fervor, to dredge up older sincerities, to ring them dry, to give them shape and a moral existence, to unleash them as guardian undead, patrolling the borderlands of my resurrected anger.

With the presence of myself riding my own memories. Inescapable.

That was then, and we're talking about a moment even earlier.

My friend took note of my expression. He muttered something about me being even more distant than usual. I told him, "Nothing further."

We soon felt out of touch. He needed me to be distant, but to pretend concern. He needed a sounding board. I needed him for the image of a self-confident conscience I'd long ago abandoned on the way to survival and self-preservation.

I still remember what I said to him, moments before I left:

"Empire, now. Or Balkanization."

I don't know why I said it. I can only remember really, really fucking meaning it. I remember ghosting myself, in order to say it.

I wish I'd been wrong.

But I'm glad I got to shake that one man's hand. It's the day which marks a necessary death. I would fall apart. Learn to panic. Unlearn how to be a conscientious sociopath. Start feeling. Begin to suffer. To hurt, for all that I'd done. For all that I could never undo.

And, within months, my wife was able to even like me, and not just love me.

(* - a deliberate but truthful amalgamation, to preserve for myself the illusion of privacy)


senecal said...

I'll trade you one for the portrait of Ashcroft. My brother, in junior high school, once dated one of Reagan's daughters. As he waited in the hallway for his date to come downstairs, he could hear the future Pres and some buddies in an adgacent den, telling jokes about "jews" and "niggers". This was the man who later became stereotyped as a kindly uncle who wouldn't hurt a fly.

Jack Crow said...

Barack Obama will probably never quip about jews and blacks. His noticeable dissimilarities from Reagan end at that point.

Like Reagan, and Dubya, Obama is a Mule.

senecal said...

I just like the disconnect between public image and private person. In a clinical way, I mean -- how twisted and tortured or seamless and effortless the bridge between one and the other.

Hey, for someone who hates the English language for forcing you to use a word like "wyf" (doesn't sound so bad in middle English), you use seem to revel in it in the current post.

K. Ron Silkwood said...

Thank you for this post, Jack.

Michael- said...

Wow Jack. That was a powerful post. You need to write a book, sooner rather than never.



PS - I retract my previous starements regarding intervention. The corporate-wall-street regime (empire qua empire) has totally co-opted the Libyan civil war.

I now realize it might have been better to let the rebels get slaughtered than to have them move closer to becoming like "us".

Anonymous said...

"conscientious sociopath" very well said.

as much as part of me wishes you had gone all bruce lee on all of their asses...prolly good you didn't. i mean, for starters, where would this fine blog be then?

Anonymous said...

It's quite possible you met my parents that day. They were active organizers for the GOP in NH, and specifically for Gee Dubbs.

Michael- said...


So your parents are alien lizard soul-eaters then? Odd.

Jack Crow said...


It was in Bedford. I skipped the living room deal with Dubya. I hate Bedford. Hate.


Thanks. I think. The rebels were never in danger of a massacre. That was Ob's "babies in incubators" moment.

I don't intend callousness, here - but the there is a firm, fast rule to insurrection: win, lose or beg for mercy. If rebels don't want their uprising co-opted, they shouldn't hand it over to the world's largest military treaty organization, fronting for a predatory death state.

K. Ron,

Thank you very much.

om/ar said...

I had a compulsion to strike this man I found so pleasant in person. To strike him down and to kick him and kick him and to keep on kicking him.

That's what separates most humans from people like him. Because if Ashcroft felt this urge, he would secret himself in a law library, find some precedents, make some calls and you would find yourself in a holding cell noted for the violence of its guards.

Jack Crow said...

Truth, om/ar. But, I have my own demons to bear. The moral high ground is not my native territory.