I was recently on a plane from San Diego to New York City – a 5.5 hour flight – armed with nothing more than a book. I settled in, and was pleased to see a documentary on the offered docket of in-flight entertainment, one that I had been wanting to watch but never gotten around to it. It was about Fred Rogers, better known as Mr. Rogers, called Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
I didn’t watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood growing up, I don’t think. What I mostly recall from my RGB cathode-irradiated youth was Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokémon and other Japanese shows of the convulsion-inducing ilk. Slightly before that – or perhaps concurrently with, it’s all a hippocampal haze – were the Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network shows like Hey Arnold!, Animaniacs, Dexter’s Lab, Johnny Bravo, et. al. Foggier still are recollections of Nick Jr. (short for Nickelodeon Jr.), a set of programming that was hosted by that disembodied proto-emoji, the definitive little brother to Orwell’s Big, known simply as Face. That era of my televisual upbringing was stocked by Rugrats and Blues Clues, and more (my apologies to those programs who lent a hand in raising me that I am forgetting to thank).
But my childhood did not feature Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. PBS, in large, I remember being pretty averse to. I never watched Sesame Street. Where was the action? I only remember ever watching The Magic School Bus while at school, particularly when the teacher wanted to demonstrate the concept of friction(?) and human biology – I’m sure you remember that age-old episode where they shrink the bus and go inside poor young Arnold—the stuff of legends. Never Arthur, nor that insufferable cue-ball Caillou, or the cringey kids of ZOOM.Between the Lions bored me. Zoboomafoo admittedly had its moments. I vaguely recall watching a little Wishbone in my day. But Dragon Tales? Blechh. I remember thinking myself too cool for those semi-educational, moralizing kiddie shows, even when I myself was a kiddie. The world of fast-paced, flashy and amoral entertainment had already seduced me by the time I was five or six.
I feel that I am worse for it. While we all acknowledge how formative those years are, we as a nation, or as a people, perhaps do not consider enough media’s early role in forming children’s characters and psyches later in life. I would guess that for many parents—and I’m not on my high horse here, I don’t even begin to fathom the difficulties of child-rearing, and hopefully won’t have to anytime soon—the goal of children’s media is to keep their attention occupied for chunks of time. Not to educate them.
Watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I learned about the father of kids educational TV, and his philosophy. For Fred Rogers, a child was not just a pre-person, a cog yet to turn out in its function, but a full human being already, albeit with yet unformed concepts of the world (and smaller limbs). His program gave that full person the respect it was due. In its three decades on the air, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was always fighting an uphill battle to compete with the fast-paced, irreverent kids shows featured on major networks, Yet it managed to last for 33 years, from 1968 to 2001. It stood tall through fraught cultural periods, times of factionalization and division in America, and various national disasters and tragedies, not only moving through them but confronting them, addressing them and explaining what they meant to children watching at home. The show took on concepts like death and addressed segregation. When Bobby Kennedy was shot, it told children about the word “assassination,” and explained why it happened. The program respected kids’ full humanity enough not to leave them in the dark.
Human beings, as a rule, I think are more attracted to brighter lights, bolder headlines, and flashier graphics, just as I was as a kid. We also want things simplified and narrowed. It’s understandable – looking at the whole world with a constant, open-mind is not only exhausting, it’s terrifying. It can feel like open water.
As a result, much of our television programming today caters to that fear. Though the program Fred Rogers created for children was vastly more sophisticated than the crap being propagated for adults on stations like Fox News, it’s certainly of a much less popular kind. In 2007, Fox and Friends did a segment on Mr. Rogers. In the bit, the hosts suggest that Rogers—who died in 2003—was responsible for “ruining an entire generation.” They blamed him for the putative entitlement of the millennial generation, saying that he told children that they were special “even if they didn’t deserve it.” They vapidly sermonize: “He didn’t say, ‘If you wanna be special you gotta work hard.’ The world owes you nothing and you gotta prove it!” One of them avers: “This evil, evil man has now ruined a generation of kids.”
To me, the “millennial entitlement” narrative is complete tripe. Moreover, to suggest that telling a child they are special is coddling them is ridiculous. Perhaps we should repeal child labor laws while we’re at it. What’s particularly disgusting about the segment is that it’s so careless. The concept behind it is so thin, yet it was rolled out willy-nilly—an approach that was completely antithetical to Mr. Rogers,’ who was gentle and considerate of how everything he said could leave a profound impact.
The Murdoch-ian program merely found a crease in the skin, an angle, and pursued it to its utmost, either unaware or apathetic to who it might impact, and how. They created a trashy, paltry narrative because they could, and because it was flashy and polar and bold. They did this, likely, despite knowing that it didn’t hold more than a sip of water. They knew it was incomplete, and rather vicious. They knew it would sell. Because a partial narrative is far more comprehensible, and digestible, than the whole truth—and a lot more conclusive, and comforting. That’s something universal—the desire for narrative satisfaction, drawn out of a story that is too mysterious to wrap our heads around completely.
To many, Mr. Rogers was a soft-spoken old codger who wore cardigans and was a little too interested in children. Making such an offhand and derisive assumption about him—dismissing him, calling him a coddler or weirdo or, in the parlance of our time, a “snowflake” (made ironic by the fact that Rogers was a registered Republican his entire voting life) – that’s exactly the sort of thoughtlessness he fought and taught against. Because it’s self-protective; a partial, societally-approved line that keeps one from trying to see the whole picture, and moreover, inside themselves.
Though from afar he seemed a paragon of virtues like kindness, empathy, patience and especially perseverance through love—the closest thing to an American saint I can think of— Won’t You Be My Neighbor? does not portray him as flawless. Just as someone who tried his damnedest. That’s one of the documentary’s salient points: no one is the whole package, no one is perfect, not even Mr. Rogers. He embodied hope, yet when the documentary reveals that when PBS asked him to do a series of PSAs to address the tragedy of 9/11, he doubted himself, struggling to see how it would make any difference. At times, even he could be cyncical. Mr. Rogers was not the second coming of Christ—as his son jokingly refers to him onscreen—he is not someone prohibitively pure and therefore not worth the effort to emulate. The only solution he could ever offer us was to try: to do “whatever we can to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own -by treating our ‘neighbor’ at least as well as we treat ourselves.”
He didn’t know all the answers, and never purported to. The only belief he ever espoused was that life, in all its mystery, in all its uncertainty and even scariness, was always worth it. In 1997, Rogers accepted an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement. In his acceptance speech, he told this story:
“Last month a 13-year-old boy abducted an eight-year-old girl; and when people asked him why, he said he learned about it on TV. ‘Something different to try,’ he said. ‘Life’s cheap; what does it matter?’
Well, life isn’t cheap. It’s the greatest mystery of any millennium, and television needs to do all it can to broadcast that – to show and tell what the good in life is all about.”
The word “wholesome” is a sort of derisive or at least dismissive term, used to describe campy sitcoms and families with golden retrievers featured in their Christmas cards. Ironically, the term is used to describe that which tells a partial story, one that excludes the tragedies and terrors of reality. But real wholesomeness describes that which never shies away from truth, and never takes an easy way out—like hatred, or anger, or fear—but looks at everything as being part of the same lovely thing, and responds in kind. Wholly. When you regard the avatars of its antonym—partiality, telling half the story—like Tucker Carlson and other manipulators, benders and fracturers of truth (i.e. liars)—one can see that wholesomeness, or the pursuit of it, is the truest and best way a human being can aspire to see, and act. Even if it’s not always comfortable.
It can be terrifying, trying to see everything as it is, and Rogers was not immune those fears and doubts. Nor was he immune to hopelessness and despair, and even anger, the documentary shows. He simply tried to respond with love, and never stopped. He fought the good fight. Rogers kept a quotation by his desk that he frequently referenced in the speeches he gave. It’s from The Little Prince, written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery:
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret;
it is only with the heart that one can see rightly,
what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
It’s hard to communicate the message that he tried to – that there is a truth, a beauty, a love that you cannot see. The big, underlying thing that can’t be talked about adequately. It’s easier to gravitate to the easily identifiable messages that are beamed at you constantly from every medium. But that underlying thing is the real truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. You may not discover it in a pure, distilled form that you can mainline like a tincture of Tucker Carlson’s poncey face. But you’ll probably be better for trying, and you won’t be deluding yourself. As for me, I’ll never join them. So I might as well try to beat ‘em.
One of the most famous songs from Mr. Roger’s neighborhood goes like this:
“It’s you I like, it’s not the things you wear. It’s not the way you do your hair, but it’s you I like. The way you are right now, the way down deep inside you. Not the things that hide you. Not your caps and gowns, they’re just beside you. But it’s you I like. Every part of you. Your skin, your eyes, your feelings. Whether old or new, I hope that you remember, even when you’re feeling blue, that it’s you I like. It’s you, yourself, it’s you. It’s you I like.” Today, lots of people would dismiss that as “liberal snowflake” blather.
Fittingly, the word “chimera” has various meanings. The first, historically speaking, refers to a beast from Greek mythology. Like other Greek monsters – the Centaur, the Minotaur, the three headed dog Cerberus, Medusa, the Sphinx, some amphibious versions of sirens, the harpy, the hydra, etc. – the chimera is a biological union between different things, grafted together (rather haphazardly). The resultant union is discordant and strange, producing a bestial creature that often serves as the antagonist to the Greek hero. See: the Minotaur to Theseus, Medusa to Perseus, the sirens to Odysseus. Specifically, the OG chimera of Greek mythology is fire-breathing hybrid creature with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. From the mythological meaning comes a second one for the term “chimera”: a medical term for organisms carrying two genotypes for the same trait, causing a muddling or gynandromorphic effect that manifests in things like heterochromia (having two differently colored eyes) or the possession of both sex organs.
While genetic chimerism is real, the monstrous chimeras of our mythologies are definitively not. Moreover, they seem purposefully outlandish. Garish creatures with Frankenstein(…’s monster)-esque exposed seams and of Turducken grotesquery, impossibility feels to be tied inextricably to their incongruous multiplicity. They cannot exist, especially since the disparate animals that anatomize them already stand alone elsewhere. The amalgams are therefore perverse. Unnatural. It makes sense, then, that the second definition of “chimera” offered by Merriam-Webster is this: “an illusion or fabrication of the mind; especially: an unrealizable dream.” The chimera is often judged horrid and generally evil. But what its concoction invokes foremost is power. Divine potency. Certainly there is a devilishness to the sirens and harpies, a hellish ferocity in Cerberus, and yes, a terrifying, rabid aggression in the hydra, the minotaur, the namesake chimera (all of which might be interpreted as an agitation for such a sordid existence). But there is also an arch beauty in the seraphic Sphinx. A pure majesty to the horse-bird Pegasus. And let us not forget that angels, too, are hybrid creatures, and they are glorious harbingers of the divine. Hindu and Egyptian gods with animal heads were celebrated and praised, not reviled as orcs and used purely to blame worldly pitfalls (as the Scylla and Hydra were blamed for treacherous vortexes that ensnared Greek ships). The point being that the chimerism that pervades various mythologies does not necessarily carry a monstrous or evil valence with it – it only suggests power.
The chimera is many things at once. It wears many hats – or, more aptly, it has many heads. But its duality – or triality, or quaternality, etc – is inharmonious. Sometimes monstrously so, but always remarkably – anyone can see the incongruency, and the more obvious or garish, the more monstrous the creature is likely to be. The subtler combos – man and winged creature, horse and winged creature, woman and fish – are less jarring. To be sure, those transmogrifications in which the human head is conserved are certainly more savory, because even if the combo is inelegant – as one might aver about the centaur, or even the mermaid – at least it doesn’t forsake human sensibility and intellect for snarling bullishness, or the replacement of a pretty face with vegetal fish-eyed countenance. In the case of human-animal hybrids, distance from humanity is connected to repugnance. In the case of those creature collages that don’t have any human parts, it’s the sheer number of ill-matched pieces that quantify their abominability. A hydra – while scary by nature – is less off putting than the original, Iliadian chimera, which looks like something cooked up in a mad geneticist’s lab.
The thing about the chimera – and what I speculate is its point, if I can use such a word – is that they are purely impossible except in a world of fantasy. Whether or not the monsters of Greek mythology or Frankenstein might have ever been fully believed as fact I can’t truly claim to know (Frankenstein was written in 1823, and people were fooled by Orson Welles radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938). Yet, when you consider the modern, non-academic definition of chimera – an “unrealizable dream” – we can take these mythic figures as having at least transformed into symbols emblematic of impossibility, purposely unbelievable. If that is the case, what is the meaning of their apocrypha?
I think that the chimera symbolically exists to demonstrate that being many things at once is an impossible dream, one that causes much suffering. It’s as futile an effort as all the king’s horses and all the king’s men trying to reassemble humpty dumpty. Unlike in Frankenstein, stitching together a collection of dead things will never make a live one.
Such is the endeavor of fighting against a life in conflict. Living too many ideas of a correct life at once – dividing our allotted attention among the fantasies of who we ought to be, dispersing our focus among our daydreams like the ambulatory functions distributed among the multiple heads of the lion-snake-goat hybri – leads not to erudition, though it can, or a polygluttonous appetite for learning and a Renaissance-range of skills, though it might. It leads to a variety of lives halfway-, or third-of-the-way, or quarter-of-the-way-lived. Fractious, conflicted, and ultimately confused. As someone important says in the Bible in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
I quote the Bible not because I am Christian, but because this idea of living a muddled, multiplicitous and therefore uneven life – and the response to the problem of chimerism – exists in so many religions, within that metaphoric Zen nougat at their bases, which Aldous Huxley, in his book The Perennial Philosophy, called “the unitive knowledge of the divine ground of all being.” The key word being unitive: unifying, self-coalescing. Anti-chimeric. Many of these religions have come to suggest that the achievement of our reconstitution requires abnegation; charity; penitence. And surely it does, at least in a sense. Yet we circle back to the metaphoric interpretations of the wisdom in religion that “Perennialism” favors. Though charity and abnegation are certainly vital, for them to be prerequisites to self-actualization is illogical, even impossible. Pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps cannot be the way. Solving a conflicted mind with a conflicted mind is like paddling against a river to pacify the current, stirring a spinning cup of tea backwards to neutralize its whirls. If charity – enacted charity, for true charity is not offered as a deliberate act but a natural one, springing forth from an anonymous and empty consciousness – but if charity practiced is a requirement and not a symptom of the aforementioned enlightenment, then it is because it demonstrates to the practicer the joy of being momentarily outside of oneself, offering a sample of the pure ecstasy of being outside of a fraught and conflicted consciousness (which is probably the same as a burst of dopamine in your head, but lets not split hairs, and I’m no scientist). Still, the Buddha eschewed asceticism, and Zen monks do not subscribe to nor prescribe any stringent meditative or charitable practices, because they know that right-thinking does not come necessarily from right-doing. Not to say that exercise can’t help clear a muddied mind, but that a mind that is fundamentally split cannot be “solved” by contradictive action. And trying and trying to conquer, to polish, to scrub away the conflicts and imperfections of the mind is a bit like trying to scrub off a leopard’s spots.
Is our conflicted nature really our nature? Is it inherent? Probably. It could be that we picked it up, accumulated tension from a world built to make us split at the neck. But in my assessment (and other, more educated opinions from more educated folks) our status as chimera is more likely attributable to our existence at a liminal evolutionary stage. As the late Terry Pratchett wrote poetically that human beings exist at the “place where falling angel meets rising ape.” So we’re caught between unfettered, ethereal, transcedent life and unfettered, corporeal, unthinking bliss. In the meantime, we dither about in the middle. Fettered.
The argument can be made that it is precisely because of our predicament, our fascination in vacillation, our ability and proclivity to serve two, three, four or more masters that a perfectly, ecstatically imperfect life is possible. And its not after self-abnegation, abstemious practices, self-flagellation and demonstrative charity. It’s simply with the acceptance that our life will always be conflicted that the conflict resolves. Because when you realize you will always be multiple, you cease to be so. When multiplicity is the only option, then optionality dissolves (it’s only an option when there’s another, isn’t it?)
It’s possible that this particular age of existence is a bit stuffier and overcrowded and in your face with an overabundance of windows into other, seemingly “better” alternatives to your life than any previous generation. It’s certainly the case that we have access to more idealized imagery than ever before. Does it make us more dissatisfied and anxious to see these images, thanks to TV and movies and now social media? It certainly does something to us. I reckon that it does make things worse. Yet I can’t help but feel that the difference is negligible. After all, the dread of comparing oneself to others is nothing new. It’s a human foible as old as the ten commandments (read: thou shalt not covet), and though Instagram is essentially a delivery service of food for envy, it is not the reason human beings think in should/would/could hypotheticals more than they, well, should. Do you really think that if you finally manage to delete Instagram once and for all, you’ll suddenly be rid of envy, covetousness, anxiety? I’m willing to guess that you’ve probably deleted the app in a vain effort before, a gesture that you likely knew in your little pixelated heart of hearts was empty. It’s OK. This stuff, this uncomfort, this so-derided need for “instant gratification” from jackass condescending boomers, it’s all too deep, now. We’re steeped. We were bound to be, and it’s still OK that we are. But roiling against mal-tendency to imagine what we ought to do, to try to unchimera-ize ourselves is a self-surgery for which we are not equipped.
What is better – and indeed truer – is a simple acknowledgment: that we were never such a creature of conflict, such a grotesque mistake of nature as we shamefully imagine. The standard to which we are comparing ourselves – that’s the unrealizable dream. We, on the other hand, are the “perfect” reality. The platypus is no chimera – only through a lens of our querulous imagination does it all appear “unnatural.” Probably, gene-splicing and all that (see: I’m not a scientist) can and has created something unnatural, like the sterile mule, but the consciousness that the creature itself expresses cannot be “unnatural.” Even if a creature is born flawed; blind, deaf, dumb – it is still just as it should be, simply because that’s just how it is. Our proclivity to abstract, to envision other ways we could or should have been, it’s a gift, it’s a massive part of what make us human. We can’t reject that. We cannot abnegate, purge ourselves of our oft-lamentable hypothesizing ways, for a neuter, purgatorial paradise. We can only accept the vicissitudes of our constant conflict as features as necessary to our sight as the rods and cones in our eyes.
An Indian parable describes a group of blind men who hear that a new sort of animal has come to town. They go to check it out. Because they are blind, they must discern its shape by touch. One feels its trunk and says: “the creature is like a thick snake”. Another rubs its ear and say it is like a fan. Another its leg and determines it is more wall-like. Another feels its tusk and says it is like a spear. Which is it? It’s all of those things, and none of them. Nothing, and everything is a chimera. Perhaps more accurately, being a chimera – a strange admixture if uncomplimentary and clashing things, which can grind and scrape and hurt a bit – is not only natural, it is vital. Subjectivity mandates that all things are irreducible, infinitely interpretable. Nothing is one thing, only an incoherable collection of angles, points of view that are anything but absolute. The same goes for us. We are a mish-mash, and it is the friction between heads that actually illuminates our worlds, lets us see and examine the cracks between things. In essence, our conflict makes the world subjective. The solution to the wholehearted, anti-solipsistic belief that other beings are real, and therefore worthy of empathy, charity, is to fuse the objective and subjective, to make the distinction between them specious, illusory. It takes no shortage of whimsy, but mostly it takes love. Self-love foremost, which becomes love for the “other” (as the sense of otherness fades when the division between the external and internal world does). The mental habit of comparison is hard if not impossible to be scrubbed off our minds, but it can be realized and understood, and then it cannot harm you. This solution has so many different words and terms, and like the Perennial philosophy’s universal definition of self-actualization, the way to that end is similarly pervasive.
What it takes is loving one’s conflict by understanding it not as discord, but as a natural state of being. This is the lesson of the perennial philosophy, expressed in so many different platitudes, yet all espousing the same thing. It is to live in the present, by recognizing that the disharmony created by comparison – whether comparing your own woebegone circumstances to someone else’s experience, or to your own, previous state where you were happy(er), or even a future/hypothetical state that could be better – is part of the only existence that there is, and loveable for its intricacy if not for its particular social currency (that is, its own instagrammability/lackthereof). To love the negative, the neutral and the positive equally is to erase their distinction. It is amor fati, to love fate – and that means all fate. It is the love of whatever circumstances have befallen you. As Joseph Campbell would say, it is to mythologize your life – to turn your life into a story of incomparable mystery – by accepting the particular peculiarities, the idiosyncratic anatomy of your personal chimera. Let it be your spirit animal, strangely shaped but not misshapen, warped in form but not deformed, utterly unique – without a referential model to which it may be compared, and therefore always exceptionally beautiful.
The world—my Amerocentric ass says, the world, immediately presuming that America equals the entire world, well, let me take responsibility—my world, through the lens of a twenty-something white guy from Indiana, has reached a level of absurdity for which even my comic books did not prepare me. Over the last year, bearing witness to the utter inanity that is the Trump administration and the state of America at-large has changed a lot about what I thought I knew.
Boundaries were always the reason for our comfort, I guess. And perhaps that is the problem that Trump’s election is indicting. Boundaries that made things black and white, good and evil, Jesus and Satan. Politicians were bred from the start to become those banal, symbolic figures who are clean and rigidly-defined if incessantly demure. There was a gap between us, and them. But somewhere along the line, the integration of media into the everyday-American’s life breached the boundary, that televisual Great Wall that made children ask their parents what planet the TV-people lived on. It could have been social media, putting our own faces up on a screen with Myspace, then Facebook and the rest; or it might have been reality TV and the more obscure parts of our heterogeneous culture making it on mainstream television. Either way, the dam has been knocked down. And the era of segregating truth from fiction has gone the way of the dinosaur.
I think we are still in the stage of looking at one another and asking “is this really happening?” And who can blame us? The surreality of the world we have sewn is definitely hard to accept. It defies all that we been raised to expect (perhaps my generation [b. 1994] is the cutoff]) Yet we cannot turn to any other planet for find company in our misery. We have no context to know whether or not this is atypical for the evolution of a species angling toward some kind of transcendence—we think.
And so, the idealism that inspired us as young children—noble, but still part and parcel of the binary-thinking that has led to our breakdown—must also be traded in, for a new—and though it may feel inappropriate, light-hearted—pragmatism, that accepts the limitations of our yet transient individual existences. Meaning, we must accept, even embrace the absurd, and take advantage of the malleability that this newfound post-truth culture has given us. And that is why I am asking you to consider a seemingly ridiculous possibility for the 2020 United States Presidential Election: NBA coaches Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich.
The use of words like “segregation” and phrases such as “black and white” in reference to the American Platonism of the last 50 years was not accidental. I believe that race relations, especially between black and white people in the United States, are the biggest reason for the violent energy that has befogged our country. I think that, despite dissolving the lines between pedigreed politicians and cultural figureheads, the current administration has sought to sustain itself by denying the primary reason behind its own path to power, by saying: things are simply what they are, tautologically. By reducing things to a singular physical version of themselves, they oversimplify and thereby attribute cause to the most superficial dimension of any issue. Crime in black communities is therefore attributed to physical blackness, rather than any underlying cause that you can name (poverty, social inequality, etc.) The ease with which proponents of this physical reductivism are able to dismiss this “underlying cause” theory as lunacy—in a national, gaslighting trend—is enough to infuriate those who are committed to a spectrum-based (or what some might call an “open minded”) approach. It’s enough to make the most anti-second amendment “liberal” want to buy a gun, and I believe it is at least in part the inspiration behind radical leftist movements that harken back to Che and Fidel—also icons, also idealists.
Perhaps I’m wrong; perhaps history will forever be motivated by clashes between extremes. Bloody revolutions and the like. But aren’t we all adults here? At least, we thought we were, pre-2016. And adults, real human beings that have made that leap—or, at least stuck our chins over the cusp—compromise. They adapt, and at some point if we are going to win the grand cosmic marathon and transcend our fleshly entombments, we are going to have to start acting without being motivated by instincts masquerading as ideals.
And that, my friends, is why Kerr and Poppovich are the perfect choices for 2020. One boundary that rapidly dissipated in the last year was the one that existed between sports and politics. National Anthem Protests, White House Visits rejected and rescinded; we have seen the icons of disparate realms rub shoulders, and cold ones.
Gone are the days when politicians held their tongues, lest they say something misinterpretable. Donald Trump tweets violent, incendiary and hateful messages out on the daily. There can be no return to the time of Camelot, when the great orator and clean-cut American idealist John F. Kennedy helmed the “greatest country in the world.” The only effective response must be to kneel, deign to the level of the Manacheist American, and approach the problem sans emotion (as much as one can be asked to, obviously as a white male I speak from a place that more simply facilitates a dispassionate, unaffected philosophy).
And the most pragmatic solution, which both embraces the absurd new world and accounts for the realities of the binary thinking that is still so prevalent, is to vote for two white guys who have lived and worked in a community that is predominantly black—and moreover, two men who have used their platform in privilege for the better, by consistently speaking out against the oft-denied but all too thinly-veiled white supremacy of the current administration.
It is not that they simply have “worked with the black community.” More importantly, they have worked with and spoken out for men who have transcended the social shackles that hamper the average black person in America. Men who are in that sense, larger than life, and worthy of tons of respect—but still, far too easily dismissed by a large population of Americans, with platitudinous disparagements like “stick to sports,” and the suggestion that “we pay your salary.” You don’t hear anyone telling Donald Trump that he should stick to shitty reality TV and going bankrupt. Instead, it is far too easy for the white population to ignore the protests of these black men, who seemed only to demonstrate any societal worth by sheer luck, being 6’8” and “freakishly athletic,” to dismiss their accomplishments in a manner that is totally racist, but covertly enough to be denied.
Michelle Obama used to say “when they go low, we go high,” and in a way, I’m still championing that mentality. Just, in a subversive, and probably harder to swallow way. I am suggesting that “we,” whatever faction we may be, go low—get on the same level, digress for the sake of progress. LeBron James, probably the best player in the NBA and one of the greatest of all time, rose up from an impoverished life in Akron, Ohio to become not only a tremendous athlete, but a tremendous man and role-model for young people everywhere. But I am simply not sure that our nation will vote for LeBron James, despite how deserving he might be. Trump, in a large sense, is a backlash reaction to the election of Barack Obama. This dramatic shift has all the violent feeling of a revolution, and some of the blood. I fear that electing another black man as president would only increase the philosophical divide. Moreover, the responsibility of bringing us up, of delivering us from this muck, does not fall on the black community. It falls on the white community, namely the white man, whose desperate desire to stave off obsolescence has been the origin of much of the violence in our country for the last 300 years.
Popovich and Kerr are potentially the perfect intermediaries for a peaceful transition. Popovich is virulent in his criticism of Trump. In October, he said: “This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner– and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers – is as low as it gets.” He went on: “We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day.”
Kerr wrote in Sports Illustrated in September: “Instead, we get Trump’s comments over the weekend about NFL players, calling them ‘sons of bitches’ for kneeling during the anthem. Those just crushed me. Crushed me. Just think about what those players are protesting. They’re protesting excessive police violence and racial inequality. Those are really good things to fight against. And they’re doing it in a nonviolent way. Which is everything that Martin Luther King preached, right? A lot of American military members will tell you that the right to free speech is exactly what they fight for. And it’s just really, really upsetting that the leader of our country is calling for these players to be ‘fired.’”
Kerr is the main seat on the ticket, because of his cool-headedness—his nickname in college was “ice”—and Pop the VP, for his passionate fire. Joseph Campbell once wrote that a good coach sees a player’s personal abilities and encourages his natural tendencies, rather than trying to put him in a box and make him play a certain way. These men are successful coaches because they do just that—they treat their players as people, as partners, not as cogs to be put into boxes. Trump has garnered support by appealing to simpleton logic that categorizes people and things, uncritically—and that appeal, sadly, is something to be taken into consideration. Its popularity in our country today is the reason why we just can’t see eye to eye, why people can’t comprehend why saying something like “it’s OK to be white” is racist. That is the point of what I’m saying here. I don’t know if Kerr or Popovich are actually fit for the office. They probably don’t want the job either—but I would argue that it might very well be a duty owed. Nor am I trying to say that a black man who is deserving of the position should not be considered. I guess, what I’m saying is that it’s not as simple as choosing between turning the other cheek or fighting fire with fire. I admit, it could just be that we are in a really, terribly shitty time and riding it out is the only choice. And, and I mean this sincerely, it might just be that I am being a coward. That I am too afraid of a collision that I fear is imminent, that I am being a real Neville Chamberlain and adapting a policy of appeasement to a bully. I suppose you can never underestimate your own tendency toward self-preservation, especially when you’re a white dude whose personal experience of racially-motivated violence is almost always mediated by a computer screen. After all, I wrote this without much exogenous research, telling myself it was purposeful, to express my authentic feelings minus the pretensions of statistics and citations. But I’m forced to admit to myself that it might just be that I’m inhibited by the knowledge of my own irrelevancy. It could be that I am totally out of bounds here. But I can’t help but feel that if we approach the conflicts of our country today with the same mentality as we always have, without remembering that this is just a game, then we may be in danger of losing—big.
In 2012 when I was almost exclusively a science fiction writer (cough cough, this) and trying to be the next Vonnegut, I wrote a short story called “The Family Giant.” Obviously I did nothing with it, and it has been gathering dust in my docket for 5 years until recently, when I saw a trailer for a new Matt Damon/Kristen Wiig movie called “Downsizing.” Apparently somehow, these hollywood pervs managed to hack my computer and stole my idea.
Now, read my story below and tell me what you think! That’s really all I got, just a repost.
The Family Giant
By John S Mannheimer
George tenderly clenched the square of paper between his nails and slipped it under the microscope. It was the grocery list. Papa wanted more Gouda, his favorite cheese. Emily wanted steak. And Mama wanted wine, specifically a bottle of Brunello d’Orcia 2004. George glanced to his right, at the bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet 2003 sitting next to the microscope. He had drunk most of it. Only a few measures formed a small black-red lagoon at the bottle’s bottom. That ought to last a few more days, anyway, he thought. At the list’s finish was a postscript, scrawled in his mother’s sacchariferous cursive: “We are so grateful for you, George,” punctuated by a heart. He rolled his eyes. Sure they were. George’s mother left a similar note each time he headed to the grocery, or painstakingly built a doghouse like he had last month—father’s injury precluded him from any heavy lifting, so the task fell to the able-fingered son. George had been sad to see Rocko go. The black spotted mutt was the last bit of company George had in the vacuous house. Oh, the sacrifices he made in the name of family.
George left the empty house and slumped into his cheap car. A large man would have been cramped in the small, cage-like chassis. But George was small framed and thin, among the reasons his family had decided that he was the obvious choice for Giant. He didn’t eat too much and he was quite responsible. Besides that, he was never all that involved in the family dynamic. At the dinner table, he was quiet and aloof, stirring the contents of his plate judiciously until dismissed. The car’s modest engine switched on with a rev that sounded like a remote control car. George turned the wheel and zipped onto the road.
The grocery store was nearly empty when he arrived. The aisles, once emptied of food by ravenous patrons during the shortage were vibrantly filled with verdant greens and juicy red meats at purportedly low, low prices. George recalled the gnashing chaos of supermarkets on television as a child. Every time Papa put on his coat to head to the store, George would hold onto his leg to weigh him down, until his mother pried him off and Papa disappeared out the doorway. George feared for his father’s life. It was not uncommon back then for people to get trampled in the fracas.
Now, the same aisles that were once inundated with wild shoppers were empty, save for endless shelves of produce, milk, and meat. George picked up a steak, hefting it in his hand, figuring he could take about half of it for himself. The other half ought to appease Emily and the rest of the family for a good month. Next, he picked up a bottle of wine—the best money could buy, why not? It was a rarity for him to buy wine, whiskey, or any other spirit—only about once per month and a half—so when he did, he chose top shelf. It was in no danger of being depleted quickly. Usually he simply had to count on himself not to drink the majority, which could be difficult sometimes in the lonesome, empty house. If George continued to take it for himself, though, he would have no choice but to switch to a cheaper brand, and that wouldn’t be fair to his mother. She was a connoisseur, and already suffering enough from having to drink the same, albeit high-end wine for months at a time. Who was George to deny the little lady’s simple pleasure?
George reached for the last, red wheel of Gouda cheese. The grocery store was so empty that he hadn’t noticed a figure in the corner of his eye, and neither had the figure, so as it happened, two hands met on the red wheel of Gouda. The figure drew hers back sharply.
“Oh, I’m sorry! I hadn’t noticed you,” she blushed.
“No, it’s all right,” George said, the forgotten ecstasy of human contact tingling on his hand. “It’s my fault, I’m not used to their being anyone in here,” he admitted. The store’s cooling system clanged hollowly, echoing through the store. He seized the Gouda wheel, the last one, and handed it to the girl, a pretty brunette. She smiled shyly and accepted the offering with a “thank you” and placed the cheese in her cart.
George had never seen the girl before. It seemed strange, as the small town had only been made smaller by the Shrink. She might have been the last girl in town that was his age.
“Are you shopping for yourself?” George asked, strolling alongside as she rolled her cart down the chilly aisle. She picked up a gallon of milk with an appraising look, then set it down in favor of a half-gallon.
“No,” she said. She looked up at George with big brown eyes. Why was she dressed so cutely? George at once felt naked in his unwashed white t-shirt and mesh black shorts. “I’m a Giant,” she admitted.
“Really?” George asked excitedly. “Me too.”
“Oh?” She asked, continuing to peruse.
“Yep,” George said, for once proud of his Gigantism. “My mother and father and sister all live with me at home,” George said. “…And dog,” he added grimly, remembering Rocko.
“They do dogs now?” She asked.
“Unfortunately,” he sighed. “I lost my only bit of company because of it. To be fair, it was my sister’s dog. But now the house is all the more lonely.” This was his first social interaction in months, maybe even a year. He felt rusty.
“I have a cat,” said the girl. “I won’t let them have him. He’s all mine,” she smiled and made penetrative eye contact with George, and he was too shocked to demure.
“That’s smart,” George picked back up. “Say, what’s your family like?” He asked. “If you don’t mind my asking.” She half-smiled, but did not look up from the dairy products. George remembered the game. He was never very good.
“There’s Mom, Dad and Tony, my little brother.”
“How old is he?” George asked.
“Emily’s eighteen,” George mentioned offhandedly.
George felt he should grab something off the shelf, selected some peanut butter.
“Would you like to meet them?” she asked suddenly.
“Really?” George said, dropping the peanut butter loudly into his basket. “Sure, I’d love to.” Not wanting to seem eager, he added: “It can get pretty boring at home.”
She nodded understandingly. “How’s tomorrow? I get off work at six. Why don’t you come by?” She wrote down her address on a piece of paper and handed it to George. “My name’s Evie.”
“George,” he said.
“Well George, I’ve got to finish shopping.”
“Oh, of course,” he said. She turned to a different aisle, actually the one he had planned to go next, but he decided to wait for her to finish. “It was nice to meet you,” he called after her.
For the first time in a year, George had a reason to spruce up. He doled out a ration of the groceries to the family, picked up a new note Mama had left: “Need more toothpicks for kindling” and headed off in his diminutive automobile.
She answered the door to the modest house, accepted the flowers that George had brought and on which he had contemplated circularly for hours deciding whether or not they were too much. Evie had dressed up, too, which eased George’s mind. She, too, had apparently been looking forward to human contact, so few and far between for giants. She showed him around her home—it was illusorily large, full of empty space like his own.
The dinner Evie had prepared, however, was quite immodest—roasted duck and cranberry sauce, served with buttery asparagus and milk, a meal that George didn’t take lightly, cleaning his plate in conscientious appreciation of how expensive a Giant-sized portion of duck went for. He told her what there was to tell her about his job, which was basically that he drilled holes in metal sheets all day long. Evie worked as a clerk at the hobby shop.
“Do you like that sort of thing?” George asked with a mouthful of duck. “Crafts and what-not?”
“MmHm.” She nodded vigorously, raising both eyebrows as if incredulous that George hadn’t already known this about her. “It’s sort of my passion.”
“Well, you’ve got to have one of those,” George agreed. “Otherwise, life can get to be pretty burdensome, and you can stop really living. For yourself, that is.”
She smiled at that, seemed to understand what George was saying perfectly, though she cocked her head in a way that made it feel to George as though she pitied him. George pushed the thought aside as he swallowed the last spear of asparagus.
“Would you like to see?” she asked.
“See what?” George said.
“Where they live,” she said.
“I’d love to,” he said. “Would you like some help?” He pointed to the dishes.
“Just leave them,” she said, getting up. “It’ll give me something to do later,” she explained. George knew the feeling well. His home was perpetually clean as a whistle, not as a result of a propensity for cleanliness, but boredom.
He followed Evie upstairs to the attic. What he saw made his own family’s home look like a motel. It was a regular Garden of Eden. Immaculately constructed hills and valleys, a phosphorescent sun that doubled as a moon, dangling from the ceiling by invisible fish wire. The walls were painted sky blue. Distant picturesque mountains were painted on the backdrop. At the top of the highest hill was a beautiful green house, like the emerald palace somewhere over a rainbow. There was a quixotic windmill spinning slowly, pushed along by a gentle, oscillating fan mounted to the wall, painted blue to blend with the skyline.
“It’s—it’s wonderful,” George gasped. Evie folded her hands together proudly.
This was her hobby.
George walked carefully along the path that cut through the mock-hilly terrain and Evie followed. The land was elevated to about his waist, and the path divided it in half like a foreboding canyon.
“Hold on,” said Evie. She squeezed past George, who had forgotten what it was like to feel a woman’s soft body squeeze by you—he had taken those movie theatre brush-bys for granted—and unscrewed a plastic bridge which connected the two lands over the chasm. “Bridge out,” she called toward the house, which made no response. “Dinner time,” she noted to George, looking at her watch. “We’ll have to wait.”
While they waited, Evie gave George a tour of the remarkably crafted meadowland. A tiny speaker system simulated family rainy days once or twice a week. (Evie’s mother loved the sound of distant thunderstorms as she went to sleep).
There were trees with waxy aesthetic apples hanging down, a pool table and a pool, a home gym where hilarious hundred-gram weights were hefted. George felt a twinge of shame for the world he had bought in-store for his own family, colorless in comparison to this paradise. Their nights and days relied on George’s switching on and off a reading lamp. Their chairs and tables and doghouses were made of toothpicks and woodchips jointed by gobs of Elmer’s glue.
Evie tapped her watch. “They should be about finished now. Would you like to talk to them?” She asked.
“Talk to them? But how could I do that?”
“Simply,” Evie said nonchalantly. Like a goddess, she reached out into the phony sky and plucked from it a tiny brown and white and yellow broach, shaped like a soaring bald eagle. It had hung just below a cloud. Affixing the eagle to her collar, she tapped it three times. Feedback bounced around the attic walls, buffeting George’s eardrums. Evie peered searchingly over the land she had created and with a dainty pluck, uprooted a plastic bush. Beneath it was a black pole, roughly two centimeters long, standing straight up. George squinted hard and realized the pole was a microphone stand, the eagle broach’s companion.
“Watch,” Evie smiled enchantingly. She bent over, and with a gentle but effective flicking of her finger, rapped on the little green house’s door three times. Evie pulled her collar up to her mouth. “Mother, Father, Tony,” she whispered. “There’s somebody here I’d like you to meet.” Her voice came through the sound system gently like the simulated wind. It must have sounded like a loudspeaker to them, because the tiny wooden door that George could have crushed between his fingers swung open, and three little figurines shuffled out to meet the giants.
Squinting down on the hill, which looked like a shrunken set from The Sound of Music, George could barely discern the three tiny faces. He could, however, tell what they were wearing. Mother wore a fluffy pink dress, crafted from a billowing inch of fabric. Father wore suspenders and a loosened tie, and penny loafers, though he himself might have been crushed by a piece of loose change. Tony wore a white t-shirt and jeans, and his indistinct face was framed by shoulder length hair. The father figure trotted down the hill, taking his place at the microphone stand.
“Guys,” Evie spoke into her broach. “This is George. He’s a family giant, too.”
“Hiya,” the father said. His voice, like Evie’s, filled the room. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Paul.”
George was in awe of this carefully crafted world. It made him feel like a lousy son. “Nice to meet you, sir,” he said. “I’m George.” Paul shrugged and cupped his hand to his ear.
“Oh, you’ve got to use this,” Evie said. In the excitement of things, he had forgotten something he knew quite well, that shrunken people couldn’t hear his voice. He had been unable to communicate to his own family, only receive their microscopic messages, never deliver his own. He could attempt to write smallishly, but rarely did, taking the size barrier as an excuse to not have to communicate.
George took the microphone and repeated himself. Paul nodded, hearing George’s voice through the loudspeaker system.
“So, George,” he continued. “What are your intentions with my daughter?” George was startled. He looked at Evie, then at Paul. Paul made a grand gesture, indicating that it was a joke.
“I’m just kidding you, Georgey. It’s fine to meet you. We don’t get many visitors besides our Evie. It’s tough the way things have worked out for people like us.”
George nodded. It was tough from his side of things, he knew that much. He hadn’t much considered how tough it would be for those who shrunk.
“What’s your family like?”
George scratched his head. “Well, there’s Papa and Mama, and Emily,” he said.
“Oh! You’ve a sister!” Evie’s mother had chassed down the hill to join. “Mary,” she introduced herself. Tony remained at the doorstep looking bored. “How old is she? What’s she like?”
“Eighteen,” said George.”
“Oh my, Paul,” Evie’s mother said, nudging her husband.
Paul’s father said: “Our Tony is eighteen as well.”
“It can get pretty boring up here for an eighteen year old boy with no girls around. Evie’s mother whispered scandalously into the mic, but the sibilant secret spilled across the entire valley. Tony had apparently had enough of this soiree and returned inside. George saw him through the house’s window, slump onto his bed, picking up a book.
George remembered how boring it indeed could get as an eighteen year old boy with no girls around. He also remembered how boring it could get as an eighteen year old with no one around. This miniature paradise that Evie had so lovingly constructed for her family was ideal for the two parents. It made for a perfect retirement home. But it was no proper place for the pent up energy of a young man. When Tony grew up, then what? He would never be able to “grow up” enough—not to take on the world alone. The Shrink was irreversible. If their was a growth process, they could just enlarge the food itself. Instead, they had to shrink the people. George stretched his arms, brushing his knuckles against the attic’s wood ceiling, suddenly thankful for his lean, gangly limbs.
Evie and George returned downstairs to the living room. George nearly mistook the amorphous fuzz that occupied the couch as a cushion to sit on. Before he could, the cat leapt out of the way, into Evie’s lap.
“They’re wonderful people,” George said.
Evie smiled sadly. “Yes, they are. I’ve tried to give them the best for their situation. It’s really not fair how it all turned out.”
“No,” George agreed. “Why did you get chosen? It’s not every day that I meet a fellow family giant my own age,” he said. “Most of them are the fathers. We’re a more unique species. Untraditional providers.”
“We are, aren’t we?” She looked to the attic in reverie. “As you can guess, we were too poor to get by—Tony was so thin—things had just started to get bad by the time I got out of high school. I worked two jobs, Mother did too, and so did Dad, but it was still barely enough. That’s when we opted for the Shrink.” George nodded. He knew the formula—poor, working class family in no way equipped to accommodate the massive food shortage. In his case, Papa’s bum-knee made George the obvious choice for Giant. George obliged, not keen on the idea of being reduced to centimetric stature, not overly sentimental about being separated from his family.
But Evie had done it out of love (for she so loved her family that she gave them up). George was simply a black sheep. He gave up his three relatives willingly, secretly blaming them for his own resultant loneliness.
“It’s amazing, what you’ve created for them,” George said.
Evie shook her head quickly emphatically, her face reddening. She looked as if she urgently needed to defend herself against the compliment. “No, no, it’s the least I can do. Really. There isn’t much for them in the way of niceties.” Yeah, thought George. Besides three extravagant, full meals a day delivered on the doorstep without having to lift a finger. “After all,” she said, “Family is the most important thing, don’t you think?”
George nodded, though the thought had never once crossed his mind. Surviving had always been the most important thing for his family.
“I just feel the worst for him, though,” said Evie.
“Who?” George asked. “Paul?”
“No—Tony. I’ve tried to provide the best I can, but he’s growing up. It really crushes me to think what kind of a life he’s been born into,” Evie went on. “He was just a boy when they did the Shrink. You know, it was a very tough decision on my parents, allowing me to be the Giant,” she reminded George, as if certain he were judging their irresponsibility and blaming them for Tony’s prospectively terrible life.
“No, of course—I understand fully,” George assured her. “We all had to make sacrifices back then,” he said somberly. “It was a hard time, for people like us, Evie.” Evie nodded sadly. Then, she leant forward and gave George a warm kiss on his freshly shaven cheek, just a sheepish peck—but nonetheless it surged warmly through his whole body, causing a happy grin to break out on George’s red face. Evie smiled shyly, just barely grazing his finger with her own, as if by accident. George was suddenly mitten by this auburn haired girl who thought that family was the most important thing.
They said goodbye and agreed to see each other again in two days time. They both knew it was a silly protocol in a town with a population density below 1—but that was the point. The reason you play the game, George thought, is that it’s fun. Besides, George had work to do.
The next day, when he returned from his career as a professional screwdriver, George brought with him an array of tools, purchased at the hobby shop in town. He had sneaked in when Evie wasn’t working, afraid he might frighten her off. Now, he emptied the plastic bag onto his dimly lit kitchen table, and made better use of his capable hands than he had using the simplistic power-drill allowed.
The next morning, he had produced a new table—he had dug into his savings to buy faux-oak, the finest and most expensive form of plywood the shop offered. Along with the table came four handcrafted chairs and a ready-made full desk (his mother had wanted to start writing her autobiography, so he thought it would make a perfect workspace. He left the fragile pieces of furniture in front of the house. Bleary-eyed, he looked at the house that had come with the shrink—it was simple, cheap, plastic. His mother had written a note, he recalled, suggesting perhaps a change was in order—not now, but whenever he could find the time. But that was more than a year ago, and the suggestion hadn’t been raised since, and George had already forgotten about it.
He leaned forward and carefully felt the siding of the small, foundationless country home, which sat in the center of a waist high table. It was located far away from the television room, far from George’s private dwelling. The hobby shop offered all sorts of house models—Victorian, Colonial Georgians, Barbadian chattel houses—but his own family was stuck with the “Sears Catalog Home”—plucked directly from a Levittown somewhere. The plastic screeched as he rubbed his fingers on its false vinyl exterior. It certainly wasn’t like the verdurous mansion that sat high on Evie’s hill. Perhaps he would buy them a new place. He blinked and committed the idea to memory, before going upstairs to rest up for his date.
He greeted Evie at her door with a bouquet of flowers that he could not really afford. She accepted them, but a deathly pallor had come over her face. She held out her hands. “Don’t come in!” She warned.
“What is it?” He asked, taking an instinctive step forward.
“Stop!” She admonished tearfully. “Oh, George. It’s terrible—Tony’s run away!” She collapsed limply onto George’s slight figure, nearly knocking him backwards. But he caught her, and gently brought her eyes up to his.
“Why would he do that?” George asked.
“I don’t know,” She wailed. “Mom says he’s been fighting with her and Dad, and that he was threatening to do something drastic. Oh, George, I don’t know what to do, he could be anywhere.” She grew frantic. “What if he’s fallen through a crack? What if he’s found a way outside? The birds—George, he’s so small he might look like a rice to them. Quick, we’ve got to shut the door.”
“Wait.” George furrowed his brow. “I’ll find him,” he said. Evie looked up.
“But George—” she began.
“I’ve got sharp eyes, Evie,” George said. “And better hands. And I’ve got another advantage—I know the mind of an 18-year-old boy.” Evie dried her face and sniffled once. Then, she nodded her assent. George nodded, taking off his shoes, and entering the house deftly, one paw at a time.
If I were an eighteen-year-old boy, where would I go? He thought. Scratch that. If I were a half-inch tall eighteen-year-old boy, where would I go? Swimming in the toilet? No. Why would that be appealing to anyone of any age? Come on, George—think. Win the game, right here, right now.
Three hours later, Evie inside from the front step. “How’s it going, George?”
“Swell,” he hollered back. But it was not going swell. He had made very little progress since his heroic vow to locate Tony, as the act of scanning the porous carpet with each footstep, then when finally sure that there were no Lilliputian virgin boys hidden inside, suddenly remembering that squishing the brother of the love of your life and the possibly the last marriageable woman in fifty miles is not the way to win the game, and painstakingly checking again had hampered his purported eagle eyes and dexterous fingers from plucking the long-haired little bastard from the clear blue sky.
George carefully tiptoed into the television room, and after investigating each fiber on the couch cushion, plopped down, dog-tired. Where could this little asshole be? Anywhere, really. Between the goddamn quarks in the atmosphere. No taller than a penny, nearly inaudible—it was like trying to track down in ant in a haystack—something like that, at least.
George reached for the remote control, then thought better. Reruns in perpetuity. TV had lost its appeal since the shrink’s introduction. Cable companies didn’t try to entertain the few giants that were left to roam the Earth. Instead, he looked to the bookcase affixed to the wall. There were great, old tomes—Paul and Mary must have been great readers, pity the books, too couldn’t be shrunk down. There was Tolstoy and his compatriot Dostoevsky, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the gang, a load of Encyclopedia Brittanicas…George squinted at volume S…it seemed to be inching itself out of the bookcase, slowly but surely, until…
The book crashed violently to the ground. George stood up suddenly, vigilantly, certain that the heavy leather-bound volume had squished Tony and George’s chance with the flattened Stanley’s sister along with him. But when he peeked under the book, there were no cute, infinitesimal intestines splattered across the cover, no miniature brains exploded like the tiniest of watermelons on the carpet below.
George stood. The shelf on which the book had rested stood at eye-level. How the hell did that thing fall? He squinted hard at the now yawning chasm between R and T. Sure enough, there was the little bastard. Tony, attempting futilely to scale the spine of volume T, slipping and sliding off with each grab. “Tony,” George said.
Tony wheeled around, petrified. The gust of George’s voice seemed to knock him down, where he remained in a scared stupor. George remembered that Tony could not respond—at least not audibly. With his reputedly dexterous fingers, George plucked the tiny creature by his collar and hefted him from the bookshelf. He dropped Tony carefully onto the palm of his hand, and jaunted up the staircase, bearing good news.
Tony curled nervously into a ball, bouncing up and down with each gigantic step George took, desperately grabbing handfuls of palmy flesh. Just as George reached forward to grasp the attic door, he felt a small sting. And another. He looked down to find Tony biting George’s skin with all his might. George prodded him tenderly with his finger. “Stop that, you little jerk,” George said. Tony wouldn’t let go until George managed to shake him free with a small earthquake.
When the aftershock had gone away, Tony stood on wobbly legs. George bent down to within inches of the scrawny Micro sapiens. “What is it?” George asked. Tony pointed to his ear, then to George. “I’m aware,” George said. “I can’t hear you.” Tony shook his head. He pointed to George then mimed him plucking something from his palm, and placing it in his ear. “If you think I’m going to put you in my ear, forget it,” he said, cupping his other hand to make it so Tony could distinguish his response. “Not after that biting display you put on.”
Tony slumped desperately. George wasn’t sure, but he thought tears were coming from his shrunken eyes. He pointed to his mouth, then to George, indicating that he wanted to talk. Sighing, George thought how the boy must feel. “OK,” he nodded. But how?
George swung open the attic door. He snaked through the canyon and unlatched the bridge that barred him from the house perched on the lush, plasticine hill. Reaching forward, he rapped on the great, faux-oak door three times. A little, matronly face peeked out. George pointed to the microphone at the hill’s base, and as Mary scurried down the hill, holding the bunches of her dress, George plucked from the wall the broach that would allow him to communicate with her.
“George?” she asked excitedly. “Have you found him? Have you found our boy?” George nodded, extending his hand to show Tony, who seemed less than eager to return to the house from which he had escaped only hours before.
“Oh, thank god!” she cried. “Thank you, George,” she smiled with great relief. “Paul!” She turned and shouted back to the house. “George found our boy!” She turned and whispered into the microphone: “He’s napping. He has no trouble sleeping, even when our boy is missing!” Paul poked his head out from his upstairs window like a groundhog, looking around bleary eyes. “George has Tony!” Mary called up to him. Seeming only pleasantly surprised, Paul rubbed his eyes and descended the stairs to come meet Mary.
“Hold on,” George said, looking at Tony, who looked back to him. “I’ve got to have a talk with Tony.”
Mary cocked her head. “Oh? A talk?” Then she smiled. “But of course, by all means—talk away. We’ll be inside the house.”
“Um,” George began, looking momentarily at Tony, who stood on the uncertain earth of George’s trembling hand. “Actually, I think we should talk alone,” George said. “And seeing as the loudspeakers ring throughout the room…” George said. “Would you mind?” he asked. The parents looked at one another confusedly as George offered his hand on the phony green turf. Nervously, the old couple crawled onto George’s palm. They embraced their found son momentarily. Then, as Tony crawled off onto the hill, they found themselves flying on the nimbus of George’s massive hand, out of the attic and onto a hallway table. George held up a finger to indicate that he would just be a moment, then pointed to the table, mouthing the words: “Stay right here.” The parents nodded powerlessly.
Back in the attic, Tony had taken his place at the microphone. George tapped the broach to test it, making Tony cringe.
“Sorry,” George said. “So…why did you leave?” George asked.
Tony shrugged. “There’s nothing for me, here.” George was somewhat shocked at how deep this little creature’s voice was.
“No,” George said. “I suppose not. But where were you headed?” George asked. “What were you doing at the bookshelf?”
“Well,” Tony admitted. “I remembered that Dad had a collection of…magazines hidden in between the encyclopedias…”
“Oh,” George nodded. “But those would be too big for you to enjoy anyway,” George said.
Tony shrugged. “Well, I figured I could stand over the good parts, you know…” he looked at the ground ashamedly. “Put yourself in my shoes,” he went on. George imagined putting himself in those incredibly small shoes. “There’s no girls up here,” Tony said. “Never will be. I’m never going to go hungry, sure—but in another way, I’ll always be starved.” He stuck his hands in his pockets and looked down. “What kind of life is that?”
“No kind,” George agreed.
“I’m going to die—a virgin,” Tony said. George nodded vaguely, suddenly understanding this little hero’s tragic dilemma. That’s what the shrink was—survival. It didn’t allow families to keep living, just keep surviving.
George sighed. Then, and idea.
“Listen buddy,” he said. “There may be something I can do.”
The next day, Tony woke up around one o’ clock. The sun beamed through his window. A single flake of dust about the size of his finger tip drifted by his the light. He stretched his body out and scratched his head. He wondered what the hell this George character thought he could to make his doomed existence any better, let alone worth while. Hurling himself off the canyon was still at top of the list as far as Tony could see. He walked downstairs and ate a few chicken fibers and pancakes. Nothing to do, like always.
Some fresh air, perhaps. Tony’s parents were nowhere to be found. His dad liked to hike around the attic and his mother enjoyed gardening. All the windows were open, making it feel like the house itself was breathing in and out the perpetual spring that his sister had so lovingly created for them. He loved her and thanked her for how she had provided for them, but envied her and wished he had the foresight as a twelve-year-old to demand not to be shrunk. But he had been frightened, and naturally clung to his parents.
He pushed open the door, squinting at the pseudo-sun above him. “No clouds today,” he mocked the world with no one in earshot. He sat shirtless on the stoop of his house. Everything the same, every day and night. Nothing much happens around here, he thought. Same trees, same trees, same windmill spinning the same direction. Suddenly, Tony jolted, not believing his eyes. In the distance stood a new, pink house. A realtor’s sign was posted in the front yard, with the big red word “SOLD.” He squinted hard. In the front yard was a long chair, and on that long chair was a thin, brown-haired girl basking in the sunlight, catching a tan.
The JFK files have been released, thus far yielding no smoking guns, nothing to rouse public opinion from the state of complacent acceptance that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone gunman, into the level of skepticism that was always appropriate for a story of such magnitude.
My friends all know that I’m on board with the notion that the assassination was the result of a conspiracy (I have made that fact abundantly, annoyingly clear). So a few of them have asked me what I thought about the new file dump. I told them I was cynical as to whether it would make any difference. Because, in my opinion, all the evidence needed to determine that Oswald did not act alone–even to determine who probably worked in concert to murder John F. Kennedy–was already out there.
BUT, I haven’t yet seen a good, comprehensive consolidation of that information on the Internet in a form shorter than an entire book. I have attempted to do that for you.
This is, my Definitive, Somewhat Short Guide To Who Killed JFK By An Arguably Non-Crazy Person.
It won’t have everything. As ardent a believer as I am–you might even say a “zealot”–I am not an expert. This guy is, sort of, which doesn’t exactly lend credibility to the rest of we theorizers.
So I’m going to miss some stuff. And much of it will seem conjectural, or circumstantial–but I ask that you consider the alternative throughout–that being the illogical yarn spun by the Warren Commission–which claims that a lone nut in Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. And consider what you know about the official story of how things went down. I assume, not all that much. And yet you are more inclined to believe it – why? Simply because it has been canonized by the powers that be as inviolable truth? I’m asking you to open your mind as you read, and think to yourself: perhaps I just don’t know.
I’ve done my best in consolidating and curating the information I find most important and compelling. It’s not the most authoritative, nor the most organized, I would guess. But I would argue that this is gonna be your best, semi-coherent, semi-short article from a semi-non-crazy person you can find on the Internet. So here we go.
We’re going to begin with the figure who I believe played the most integral role in coalescing the interests of the parties who wanted John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, out of the picture in 1963. Lyndon Baines Johnson. Like a detective, we start with motive.
What is LBJ’s motive for killing JFK?
Well, lets start with the fact that LBJ was about to go down, big time. In 1963, James Wagenvoord was the editorial business manager and assistant to LIFE magazine’s Executive Editor. Wagenvoord says that the magazine was working with Robert Kennedy, John’s brother and then Attorney General, on an explosive investigation into LBJ’s history of corruption. Not only was Lyndon Johnson in danger of taking political injury, but he was actually in danger of facing prison time.
This starts with Johnson’s relationship with fellow crooked politician, the secretary to the Senate majority in 1963, Bobby Baker. Wagenvoord says: “Beginning in late summer 1963 the magazine, based upon information fed from Bobby Kennedy and the Justice Department, had been developing a major newsbreak piece concerning Johnson and Bobby Baker. On publication Johnson would have been finished and off the ’64 ticket (reason the material was fed to us) and would probably have been facing prison time. At the time LIFE magazine was arguably the most important general news source in the U.S. The top management of Time, Inc. was closely allied with the USA’s various intelligence agencies and we were used…by the Kennedy Justice Department as a conduit to the public…The LBJ/Baker piece was in the final editing stages and was scheduled to break in the issue of the magazine due out the week of November 24 (the magazine would have made it to the newsstands on Nov. 26th or 27th). It had been prepared in relative secrecy by a small special editorial team. On Kennedy’s death research files and all numbered copies of the nearly print-ready draft were gathered up by my boss (he had been the top editor on the team) and shredded. The issue that was to expose LBJ instead featured the Zapruder film. Based upon our success in syndicating the Zapruder film I became Chief of Time/LIFE editorial services and remained in that job until 1968.” (From Wagenvoord’s personal blog)
Who was Bobby Baker?
The book ”A Texan Looks at Lyndon” by J. Evetts Haley was published in 1964. The book details the relationships between Lyndon Johnson, Bobby Baker and Billy Sol Estes–three verifiably crooked men from Texas. Another important claim made in the book was that Johnson was culpable in the deaths of Henry Marshall and John Douglas Kinser. Known Johnson crony Malcolm “Mac” Wallace was convicted of killing Kinser in 1951, and for his crime was given a 5-year suspended sentence (which we will return to momentarily). Wallace had been working for Johnson since 1950.
Back to Baker. Bobby Baker was LBJ’s closest associate, and had the nickname “Little Lyndon.” Baker, LBJ’s confidante, was the subject of a senate investigation beginning in 1962. In his 1968 book The Dark Side of Lyndon Baines Johnson, investigative journalist Joachim Joesten wrote: “The Baker scandal then is truly the hidden key to the assassination, or more exact, the timing of the Baker affair crystallized the more or less vague plans to eliminate Kennedy which had already been in existence the threat of complete exposure which faced Johnson in the Baker scandal provided that final impulse he was forced to give the go-ahead signal to the plotters who had long been waiting for the right opportunity.” Pretty straightforward stuff (though a bit of a run-on sentence). Johnson knew the investigation could potentially lead back to him and his many skeletons – including the murders of Kinser and Henry Marshall.
Henry Marshall and Douglas Kinser
In 1960, Henry Marshall held a senior post at the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) in Texas. That year, he had started to investigate Billy Sol Estes, LBJ’s other right hand man. I guess he was his left hand man, if Baker was the right hand one. Nobody has two right hands, after all. Except this guy.
In his investigations, Marshall discovered that Sol Estes had purchased 3,200 acres of cotton allotments from 116 different farmers (source). Marshall wrote to his superiors in D.C.: “The regulations should be strengthened to support our disapproval of every case (of allotment transfers).”
When he found out that Marshall was meddling with this plot (no pun intended) to illegally buy up land en masse, Sol Estes sent his lawyer to meet with Marshall, who told him that he was aware that Sol Estes was involved in a “scheme or device to buy allotments, and will not be approved, and prosecution will follow if this operation is ever used.”
A. B. Foster, manager of Billie Sol Enterprises, then wrote to Lyndon Johnson aide Clifton Carter that they would “would sincerely appreciate your investigating this and seeing if anything can be done.”
On June 3, 1961, Marshall was found dead lying beside his truck. He had been shot 5 times. A doctor performing an autopsy found a 15 percent carbon monoxide concentration in Marshall’s body and determined that it may have been as high as 30 percent when Marshall died. It was deemed by the Roberson County Sheriff a SUICIDE.
Nolan Griffin, a gas station attendant in Robertson County says he was asked by an out-of-towner for directions to Henry Marshall’s farm. Griffin was later able to identify the stranger as this man:
Malcolm “Mac” Wallace.
Malcolm Wallace was an accomplished henchman on LBJ’s payroll, as well as Edward Clark’s, who we will return to later (I’m getting my yarn all tangled). Wallace, along with being likely responsible for the murder of Henry Marshall, was previously convicted of killing a man by the name of Douglas Kinser.
Barr McClellan, author of Blood, Money & Power and a former member of LBJ’s legal team, alleges in his book that both Wallace and a man by the name of Douglas Kinser were having affairs with Lyndon Johnson’s sister Josefa Johnson in 1951. McCellan states that Kinser, the proprietor of a mini-golf course, asked Josefa to approach her brother for financial help. When Johnson refused, McLellan alleges that Kinser sought to blackmail him.
On October 22, 1951, Mac Wallace went to Kinser’s golf course and shot him to death. A customer wrote down the license plate number of the car Wallace fled in, and he was later arrested. Wallace was convicted by a jury of his peers for the crime of “murder with malice afore-thought.” Eleven of twelve jurors recommended the death penalty, and the twelfth recommended a life sentence. Instead, Judge Charles O. Betts decided that justice was a five year prison sentence, which he promptly suspended. Wallace walked out scot free.
What the fuck?
How is that allowed? Well, that was apparently the state of the state of Texas at the time. A boys club, and if you were a member, you were utterly unassailable. You could literally be convicted of murder and let walk. And if you’ll keep reading, you’ll see that this was–and perhaps is still–the state of the country at-large.
Hopefully this has given some insight into what might have been the personal motivation for LBJ to want the president dead – so that he could assume his role and do away with these pesky senate investigations and magazine exposés. Whereas we are clamoring for anything and everything to come to light regarding our political leaders today, the ethos of the day for journalism was: you do NOT publish information detrimental to the president’s image. Recall that FDR asked reporters not to photograph him in a wheelchair as it could dampen national morale. Actually as I fact checked this I learned that it’s not really true lol; from TIME magazine’s Matthew Pressman: “As for incriminating images, it took far more than a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ for the FDR administration to discourage photos and newsreel film of the president in his wheelchair. Rather, the Secret Service used force…they would seize the camera and tear out the film.” But I’m leaving it to show that something analogous may have been the case, because the evidence is there that the exposé was in the works before the assassination. Yet afterward? Poof. Gone.
Along with a desire to avoid his own ruin, Johnson simply hated John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby. So did his friends, the men who had made Johnson’s political career in Texas–and that’s the key part. Johnson was in the pocket of the Texas oligarchy, the oil men, and unlike JFK, he was morally flexible. Johnson was concerned first and foremost with his own political status, and therefore able to be bought. The perfect guy for the office of “most powerful man in the country” (according to those with the power to put him there).
Edward Clark and Clint Murchison were two oil tycoons whose names recur in the works of JFK theorists as being the ones who funded and helped orchestrate the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
What was their motive in wanting Kennedy dead? JFK wanted to abolish or reduce the ultra-high tax allowance–called the oil depletion allowance–of 27.5%, which would have lost the oil industry millions–even hundreds of millions. From the New York Times December 15, 1963: “Nowhere is oil a bigger political force than Texas, producer of 35 per cent of the nation’s oil and possessor of half of its obtainable oil reserves. As a Texan in Congress, Lyndon B. Johnson was a strong advocate of oil industry causes – low import quotas and the 27.5 % per cent tax allowance for depletion of oil reserves.” While campaigning, John F. Kennedy had previously stated his intentions to preserve the oil depletion allowance, writing to Gerald C. Mann, the director of the Democratic campaign for Kennedy in Texas: “I have consistently, throughout this campaign, made clear my recognition of the value and importance of the oil-depletion allowance. I realize its purpose and value…” Philip F. Nelson, author of LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination, wrote that this allowance paved the way for the oil industry to save up to $280-$300 million a year.
Jim Marrs reiterates the importance of the depletion allowance to the oil industry in Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy: “Under this allowance, an oilman with a good deal of venture capital could become rich with virtually no risk. For example, a speculator could drill ten wells. If nine were dry holes and only the tenth struck oil, he would still make money because of tax breaks and the depletion allowance.”
While he had campaigned with the promise of keeping the oil depletion allowance, Kennedy changed his mind three years later. In January of 1963, Kennedy presented his proposal for tax reform, writing that the oil depletion allowance would be removed.
The oligarchs of Texas did not want that. Kennedy had also poked the bear in 1962, with The Kennedy Act of 1962 which had also enraged these millionaires. Joe Siracusa, author of The Kennedy Years and Encyclopedia of the Kennedys: The People and Events That Shaped America believes that these men contracted the assassination.”The motive?” Siracusa writes, “JFK had infuriated big oil with the Kennedy Act of 1962, slapping taxes on US oil firms that would have cost them hundreds of millions of dollars a year.”
In Age of Inquiry, by Robert Clayton Buick just what the Kennedy Act did: “In October, 1962, Kennedy was able to persuade Congress to pass an act that removed the distinction between repatriated profits and profits reinvested abroad. While this law applied to industry as a whole, it especially affected the oil companies. It was estimated that as a result of this legislation, wealthy oilmen saw a fall in their earnings on foreign investment from 30 per cent to 15 per cent.”
These guys also had been grooming J. Edgar Hoover, the famous director of the FBI, to be their man on the inside. From Anthony Summers’ The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover: “Recognizing Edgar’s influence as a national figure, the oilmen had started cultivating him in the late forties-inviting him to Texas as a houseguest, taking him on hunting expeditions. Edgar’s relations with them were to go far beyond what was proper for a Director of the FBI.”
People would stay at Clint Murchison’s Del Charro Hotel in La Jolla, California frequently. BIG people. J. Edgar Hoover was one. From Anthony Summers book Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover: “Allan Witwer, the manager of the hotel at the time said: ‘It came to the end of the summer and Hoover had made no attempt to pay his bill. So I went to Murchison and asked him what he wanted me to do.’ Murchison told him to put it on his bill. Witwer estimates that over the next 18 summers Murchison’s hospitality was worth nearly $300,000.” Other guests at the hotel over the years included Texas Governor John Connally and Lyndon Johnson; mafiosos Johnny Rosselli, Sam Giancana and Carlos Marcello were others.
On the night of November 21, 1963 – one day before the assassination in Dallas – there was a meeting alleged to have taken place at Clint Murchison’s house in Dallas. This allegation comes from Madeleine Brown, who also claims to have been LBJ’s mistress. Watch this video to hear the story.
From a separate interview: “Tension filled the room upon his arrival. The group immediately went behind closed doors. A short time later Lyndon, anxious and red-faced, reappeared. I knew how secretly Lyndon operated. Therefore I said nothing… not even that I was happy to see him. Squeezing my hand so hard, it felt crushed from the pressure, he spoke with a grating whisper, a quiet growl, into my ear, not a love message, but one I’ll always remember: ‘After tomorrow those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again – that’s no threat – that’s a promise.'”
Madeleine Brown’s story has been disputed by Gary Mack, co-producer of the Emmy award winning JFK: The Dallas Tapes. Mack writes in 1997:
“Madeleine has claimed over the years that she attended a party at Clint Murchison’s house the night before the assassination and LBJ, Hoover and Nixon were there. The party story, without LBJ, first came from Penn Jones in Forgive My Grief. In that version, the un-credited source was a black chauffeur whom Jones didn’t identify, and the explanation Jones gave was that it was the last chance to decide whether or not to kill JFK. Of course, Hoover used only top FBI agents for transportation and in the FBI of 1963, none were black.”
However, this is contrary to an anecdote from C. David Heymann’s RFK: A Candid Biography of Robert F. Kennedy, in which Robert Kennedy is purported to have sent out a memo to the FBI saying that the Bureau needed to hire more black employees.
“The only person who didn’t respond to the memo was J. Edgar Hoover,” said John Seigenthaler, Robert Kennedy’s administrative assistant. “I sent a second memo, after which he wrote me saying it was a violation of federal regulations to inquire into the race of government employees.” When Hoover claimed that besides that, there were already two black employees directly under him, Seigenthaler says: “We went back I showed the memo to Sal Andretta, chief administrator of the department, who’d been there for years, and he said, ‘Hell, they’re Hoover’s drivers.’”
But Mack continues: “Actually, there is no confirmation for a party at Murchison’s. I asked Peter O’Donnell because Madeleine claimed he was there, too. Peter said there was no party…
“Could LBJ have been at a Murchison party? No. LBJ was seen and photographed in the Houston Coliseum with JFK at a dinner and speech. They flew out around 10pm and arrived at Carswell (Air Force Base in northwest Fort Worth) at 11:07 Thursday night. Their motorcade to the Hotel Texas arrived about 11:50 and LBJ was again photographed. He stayed in the Will Rogers suite on the 13th floor and Manchester (William Manchester – author of The Death of a President) says he was up late.”
Madeleine Brown’s son, Steven Mark Brown, filed suit against Lady Bird Johnson and the Johnson estate in 1989, claiming that Johnson was his father, but the suit was dismissed.
Make of Madeleine Brown’s account what you will. This fact remains: John F. Kennedy was threatening to cost the oil industry nearly $300 million, and when Lyndon Johnson became president, the oil depletion tax allowance did stay at 27.5%. Big oil men from Texas did not like the yankee New Englander in the oval office. He had double-crossed them, and now was threatening their livelihood–or at least the magnitude of their opulent lifestyles. Certainly, they would prefer a homegrown boy of their own in that office – one they knew they could trust.
Johnny Rosselli, Sam Giancana and Carlos Marcello were previously mentioned as having stayed at Murchison’s luxury hotel in La Jolla. All three men have been tied to the Kennedy assassination by various sources.
Marcello and the other elites of organized crime did not have a problem with John Kennedy as much as his brother, Robert (or Bobby). In 1961, the younger Kennedy as the Attorney General launched a war on organized crime, calling America’s attention to a “private government of organized crime with an annual income of billions, resting on a base of human suffering and moral corrosion.” From The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy by University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato: “The Mafia detested the administration of John F. Kennedy as Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy raised the number of mob convictions from 35 in 1960 to 288 in 1963.”
This was also seen as a double-cross, after the Kennedy patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy had used his mafia connections to encourage voters to elect his son for the presidency.
Sam Giancana was the leader of the Chicago crime family from 1957–1966. From a National Geographic article by Patrick Kiger from October 23, 2013 entitled WAS KENNEDY TIED TO THE MOB?: “Giancana had longtime ties to the Kennedy clan, going back to JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy, who was involved with Giancana in the bootlegging business during Prohibition. Additionally, Gianciana was an associate of singer Frank Sinatra, a close Kennedy friend, and allegedly was a donor to JFK’s 1960 Presidential campaign, at a time when politicians weren’t required to disclose their deep-pockets contributors.” Many have alleged that Giancana helped Kennedy win the crucial 1960 West Virginia primary. In 2009, Frank Sinatra’s daughter Tina Sinatra told 60 minutes that her father was a friend of both Giancana and the Kennedy’s, and that he served as an intermediary for Giancana and Joe Kennedy in soliciting Giancana’s connections to help Kennedy secure the primary over Sen. Hubert Humphrey. In The Dark Side of Camelot, Seymour Hersh also alleges that Joe Kennedy met with Giananca regarding the same. According to Professor Larry Sabato, Joe offered “the president’s ear” in return for their aide.
But in 1961, Joe Kennedy suffered a stroke that rendered him immobile and, according to the JFK library, “barely able to communicate.”
From J. Randy Taraborrelli’s book Sinatra: Behind the Legend, Taraborrelli claims that Sinatra remarked once, after President Kennedy cancelled plans to sleep at Sinatra’s house, “You know, if Joe Kennedy hadn’t had that stroke, none of this would be happening. Bobby would never do this if Joe was around to stop him.” Attorney General Robert Kennedy wrote in a Justice Department report: “Sinatra has had a long and wide association with hoodlums and racketeers, which seems to be continuing.” Names of associates included Sam Giancana.
In fact, it is widely alleged that Sinatra was held responsible for the Kennedys’ betrayal, but they couldn’t off him, because, you know – he was Frank Sinatra. From Sabato’s Half-Century: “When the Kennedys turned on Giancana once they were in the White House, Sinatra had to work hard to deflect the mobster’s wrath at Sinatra on account of the Kennedys’ unfaithfulness. In atonement, the singer played at Giancana’s club, the Villa Venice, with his ‘Rat Pack’ of fellow entertainers, for eight nights in a row.” He goes on to say: “Sinatra worked his way back into Giancana’s good graces, but the Kennedys never did.”
Though the mafia particularly despised Robert Kennedy, I think it’s important to note that JFK was on board with his brother’s directives. Here’s a reminder of why this assassination and cover-up is still important – because John Kennedy was murdered for being an idealist, rather than an opportunist. Being a president who wanted to make the country better, help people, clean up corruption – and he was murdered for it. Now look at the white house. This is what they’ve allowed.
When asked by historian and author of Robert Kennedy And His Times Arthur Schlesinger who he thought was principally responsible for the death of his brother, Bobby Kennedy allegedly responded: “that guy in New Orleans.”
That meant Carlos Marcello. Marcello was the Sicilian-American boss of the New Orleans crime family for 30 years.
In 1962, Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Ed Reid published an anecdote about Marcello in a study of organized crime called The Grim Reapers, in which a friend says Marcello made a rather surprising remark about the President and his younger brother. Friend of Marcello Edward Becker told the House Committee on Assassinations that he said something to the effect of “Bobby Kennedy is really giving you a rough time,” and Marcello reportedly responded by suggesting that he and the President were to be taken care of shortly: “You know what they say in Sicily: if you want to kill a dog, you don’t cut off the tail, you cut off the head.” Robert Kennedy had authorized the extralegal deportation of Marcello to Guatemala using a fake birth certificate that stated he was born there. From the House Committee on Assassinations document: “Marcello ‘clearly indicated’ that his own lieutenants must not be identified as the assassins, and that there would thus necessity to have them use or manipulate someone else to carry out the actual crime.”
Someone like James Files, who confessed to shooting John F. Kennedy under instruction from Johnny Roselli and Charles Nicoletti, who were both lieutenants in the Chicago crime family, under Sam Giancana–alleged to be working in conjunction with Marcello’s New Orleans men.
Roselli is alleged by mobster-turned-author Bill Bonnanno (who was a fellow inmate in prison at the time and a member of the La Cosa Nostra crime family) to have said that he fired at Kennedy from a storm drain on Elm Street. This is reiterated in M. Wesley Swearingen’s 2008 book To Kill A President: “Roselli bragged to the source, who was a made man in La Cosa Nostra, that Roselli had shot at and may have killed John Kennedy…Roselli and his men then finished the job from the sewer drain and the grassy knoll while the police and witnesses were running around like chickens with their heads cut off.’”
Before the House Committee on Assassinations was fully formed in 1976, though, Rosselli died. He didn’t exactly pass gently in his sleep. His body was recovered in 55-gallon steel fuel drum floating in Dumfoundling Bay near Miami, reportedly strangled, stabbed and dismembered. Sam Giancana was shot in the back of the head in 1975 as he was grilling sausage and peppers. Charles Nicoletti was shot three times in the back of the head while sitting in his car in March 1977. All were due to testify at the Committee at the times of their deaths. Here’s a video about it.
More from Reid’s book, regarding a separate conversation between Marcello and three other men at his 3,000 acre plantation in New Orleans:
It was then that Carlos’ voice lost its softness, and his words were bitten off and spit out when mention was made of U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who was still on the trail of Marcello. “Livarsi na petra di la scarpa!” Carlos shrilled the cry of revenge: “Take the stone out of my shoe!” “Don’t worry about that little Bobby, son of a bitch,” he shouted. “He’s going to be taken care of!” Ever since Robert Kennedy had arranged for his deportation to Guatemala, Carlos had wanted revenge. But as the subsequent conversation, which was reported to two top Government investigators by one of the participants and later to this author, showed, he knew that to rid himself of Robert Kennedy he would first have to remove the President. Any killer of the Attorney General would be hunted down by his brother; the death of the President would seed the fate of his Attorney General.
No one at the meeting had any doubt about Marcello’s intentions when he abruptly arose from the table. Marcello did not joke about such things. In any case, the matter had gone beyond mere “business”; it had become an affair of honor, a Sicilian vendetta. Moreover, the conversation at Churchill Farms also made clear that Marcello had begun to move. He had, for example, already thought of using a “nut” to do the job. Roughly 1 year later President Kennedy was shot Dallas–2 months after Attorney General Robert Kennedy had announced to the McClellan committee that he was going to expand his war on organized crime. And it is perhaps significant that privately Robert Kennedy had singled out James Hoffa, Sam Giancana, and Carlos Marcello as being among his chief targets. (168)
The House Committee on Assassinations determined in regard to Marcello: “The committee found that Marcello had the motive, means and opportunity to have President John F. Kennedy assassinated, though it was unable to establish direct evidence of Marcello’s complicity.” The House Committee on Assassinations also concluded that Marcello had connections to one Jack Ruby (the assassin of Lee Harvey Oswald, widely-accepted to be the lone shooter). Edward Becker, friend of Marcello’s stated to the House Committee on Assassinations that “it was generally thought in mob circles that Ruby was a tool of some mob group.”
Marcello has also been recorded by the FBI confessing to the killing of John F. Kennedy from a prison cell in Texarkana, Texas, stating that he hired two men to carry out the assassination. From Lamar Waldron’s The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination—“Yeah, I had the little son of a bitch killed. I’m sorry I couldn’t have done it myself.”
Other players include Santo Trafficante, a Tampa-based crime boss. Anti-Castro exile Jose Aleman told the HSCA that Trafficante told him in 1962 that JFK would not be re-elected, because “he is going to be hit.” Aleman stated that he believes that Jimmy Hoffa was also involved. Frank Ragano writes in his book Mob Lawyer that he carried a message from Hoffa to Trafficante and Carlos Marcello that instructed them to go-ahead with the assassination of Kennedy. Ragano states that Trafficante later told him, when he was on his death bed, “I think Carlos f**ked up in getting rid of Giovanni (John) — maybe it should have been Bobby.” Trafficante told the HSCA that he had previously worked with the CIA in plots in 1960 and ’61 to assassinate Fidel Castro.
The House Committee on Assassinations also concluded in 1979 that the FBI had failed to appropriately investigate the mafia and Marcello’s involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy, and had actively sought to discredit Edward Becker, who reported the threat made by Marcello to FBI agents BEFORE the assassination in 1962.
As I said before, J. Edgar Hoover was known to pal around with the Texas oil tycoons, and was present at the party Madeleine Brown alleges took place on November 21, 1963 at Clint Murchison’s house. It is alleged by Evelyn Lincoln, JFK’s secretary in Anthony Summers book Official and Confidential: The Secret Life Of J. Edgar Hoover that Hoover essentially blackmailed John Kennedy into putting Lyndon Johnson on his ticket.
“During the 1960 campaign, according to Mrs. Lincoln, Kennedy discovered how vulnerable his womanizing had made him. Sexual blackmail, she said, had long been part of Lyndon Johnson’s modus operandi abetted by Edgar. ‘J. Edgar Hoover gave Johnson the information about various congressmen and senators so that Johnson could go to X senator and say, “How about this little deal you have with this woman?” and so forth. That’s how he kept them in line. He used his IOUs with them as what he hoped was his road to the presidency. He had this trivia to use because he had Hoover in his corner. And he thought that the members of Congress would go out there and put him over at the Convention. But then Kennedy beat him at the Convention. And well, after that Hoover and Johnson and their group were able to push Johnson on Kennedy. LBJ,’ said Lincoln, ‘had been using all the information that Hoover could find on Kennedy during the campaign and even before the Convention. And Hoover was in on the pressure on Kennedy at the Convention.’”
And, like the mob, Hoover HATED Robert Kennedy. Hoover outright denied the existence of a nationwide crime syndicate, and preferred to focus on beatniks and commies than the problem of organized crime in America.
Sam Giancana, the nephew of the aforementioned chicago mob boss of the same name, wrote in his 2007 book Mafia: The Government’s Secret File on Organized Crime: “Under FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s watch, the criminal organizations that would become known as La Cosa Nostra, the Mafia, and the Outfit were allowed to operate unimpeded for decades,” Sam Giancana, nephew of the famed Chicago mob boss, wrote. “Bureau resources focused instead on high-profile cases like the Lindbergh kidnapping and the apprehension of notorious bank robber John Dillinger—cases that were intended to elevate Hoover’s stature, undeservedly, to that of America’s quintessential crime buster.”
But RFK changed all that. He diverted from the old way of doing business, and as AG took the reins of the FBI from the long-tenured Hoover. He resented him, resented that he refused to follow dress codes. In Curt Gentry’s book Hoover: The Man and His Secrets, Gentry says that Hoover had instructed FBI tour guides to mention that Hoover was named director of the FBI in 1924, the year before the current Attorney general was born. In Burton Hersh’s book Bobby and Edgar, Hersh makes the claim that Bobby had a direct line to the FBI director’s office, and even had a buzzer that would summon Hoover when rung.
It is alleged that Hoover believed he was slated to be relieved of his position, soon, to make way for someone more suited for the new direction the Kennedy’s were paving for American government.
In a memo that was part of the newly released JFK File dump, Hoover dictates in the weeks after the assassination: “The thing I am concerned about, and so is Mr. [Deputy Attorney General Nicholas] Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.” In another memo from November 25, he states or writes: “the public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial.”
All this is circumstantial, but it paints a broader picture of the widespread discomfort and agitation that the Kennedy’s were causing the “old guard” of American government.
John F. Kennedy famously (famously in small circles of conspiracy theorists, perhaps) was quoted in the New York Times as saying that he intended to “to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” The massive failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion was a terrible embarrassment and source of frustration for Kennedy, and the perceived lack of support that the CIA got from the Executive branch was seen as a betrayal by the President.
In these days (maybe still, I don’t have a clue) it has been said that the CIA was more or less of a community with impunity, rather than an organization balanced by power-checks and protocols. James W. Douglass writes in JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters that Harry Truman’s approval of National Security Council allowed for the Agency to engage in: “propaganda, economic warfare, preventive direct action including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas, and refugee liberation groups.” The act made it so CIA operations could now be “so planned and executed that any US government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons, and that if uncovered, the US government can plausibly deny any responsibility for them” (Ibid). In Peter Janney’s book Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace, Janney quotes Eisenhower speaking to then-CIA director Allen Dulles, telling him: “The structure of our intelligence organization is faulty,” he said to Dulles. “I have suffered an eight-year defeat on this. Nothing has changed since Pearl Harbor. I leave a ‘legacy of ashes’ to my successor.”
Eisenhower famously warned America of the military industrial complex, part and parcel of the “secret societies” that John F. Kennedy spoke of in his speech. Eisenhower had approved the plan for the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1959, so that JFK inherited it upon his arrival in the oval office. It was a wholesale failure, and was quashed by the Cubans in two days. The failure ruined the relationship between Kennedy and the CIA. Kennedy saw them as dangerous, volatile warmongerers, and they basically saw JFK as a pussy-foot, indecisive, and probably cowardly. Historian Arthur Schlesinger says that Kennedy planned to cut the CIA by 20% by 1966. He fired CIA director Allen Dulles. Dulles would later be the second in command to Earl Warren in the Lyndon Johnson-formed Warren Commission, which determined that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
The CIA had previously worked with many of the Mob people I mentioned before; Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante as well as Johnny Rosselli were all involved in the 1960-61 plots to assassinate Castro. Working alongside them were major CIA agents E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis. These two agents would later be pinned as Watergate conspirators. But they have also been alleged to have been directly involved in the assassination of Kennedy. Both testified to the HSCA that they were not involved in the assassination (though James Files, the seemingly discreditable pony-tailed inmate in the above video–actually very lucid and believable if you listen–says he saw Sturgis in the crowd at Dealey Plaza). More interestingly, E. Howard Hunt confessed on his deathbed to being involved in a CIA plot to kill Kennedy, and implicates Lyndon Johnson as being the head of the chain-of-command that allowed the plot to come to fruition.
Jack Ruby was a known affiliate of the mafia. Ruby assassinated lone assassin Lee Harvey Oswald 48 hours after he was arrested in a movie theatre.
When he was incarcerated, Ruby stated the following to the press:
“Everything pertaining to what’s happening has never come to the surface. The world will never know the true facts, of what occurred, my motives. The people had, that had so much to gain and had such an ulterior motive for putting me in the position I’m in, will never let the true facts come above board to the world”
When asked if these people are in high places, Ruby replied, “Yes.” Here is the footage of that.
Then, as he walks down the hall, he says something to the effect of: “I want to correct what I stated before about the vice president. When I mentioned about Adlai Stevenson, if he was vice president there never would have been an assassination of our beloved president Kennedy…the answer is the man in office now.” Here is that footage.
Ruby said he would testify if he was moved from Dallas to Washington D.C. He told this to Earl Warren, the leader of the Warren Commission, formed by Lyndon Johnson to investigate the Kennedy assassination. But he was never moved, and died in Dallas in 1967, just four years later.
Malcolm Wallace Fingerprint
In 1998, Walt Brown, a longtime investigator of the assassination and author of The People V. Lee Harvey Oswald (1992), Treachery in Dallas(1995), Referenced Index Guide to the Warren Commission (1995), JFK Assassination Quizbook (1995) and The Warren Omission(1996) stated that a previously unidentified fingerprint in the sniper’s nest of the school book depository from which Lee Harvey is alleged to have fired the two shots that killed President Kennedy, had finally been identified, and attributed to one Malcolm “Mac” Wallace. However, the FBI has denied that the fingerprints match. Watch this video.
Glen Sample, author of The Men On The Sixth Floor–a book with Malcolm Wallace’s picture on the cover–does not believe the fingerprint holds up to scrutiny. He claims to have had two police fingerprint identifiers examine the print, and say that they did not match the print of Malcolm Wallace.. “Both of our experts are working police I.D. officers,” Sample wrote. “They go to court on a regular basis, testifying as expert witnesses. They said that the print was clearly not a match. But what about the 14 points? They said that it is not uncommon to have a set of prints that have many matching points, but when they find points that do not match, these negate the matching points.” Walt Brown, author of Treachery in Dallas and the first investigator to introduce the fingerprint to the public eye as evidence, responded by saying that the two fingerprint examiners used by Sample “were local I.D. bureau guys from San Bernadino, and not in the category of either Nathan Darby or the people that it was hoped would examine the originals within the law enforcement communities charged with the proper investigation.”
Billy Sol Estes
The Texas fraudster Billy Sol Estes, who was so close to Lyndon Johnson in the early 1950’s and ’60s before going to jail in 1965, agreed to testify before a grand jury in 1984. From Sol Estes obituary in The Guardian: “In 1984, Estes testified under immunity before a Texas grand jury. He claimed that Johnson had ordered Marshall’s killing, which was done by an aide named Mac Wallace.”
From Billy Sol Estes Lawyer Douglas Caddy in 1984:
My client, Mr. Estes, has authorized me to make this reply to your letter of May 29, 1984. Mr. Estes was a member of a four-member group, headed by Lyndon Johnson, which committed criminal acts in Texas in the 1960’s. The other two, besides Mr. Estes and LBJ, were Cliff Carter and Mac Wallace. Mr. Estes is willing to disclose his knowledge concerning the following criminal offenses:
1. The killing of Henry Marshall
2. The killing of George Krutilek
3. The killing of Ike Rogers and his secretary
4. The killing of Harold Orr
5. The killing of Coleman Wade
6. The killing of Josefa Johnson
7. The killing of John Kinser
8. The killing of President J. F. Kennedy.
Mr. Estes is willing to testify that LBJ ordered these killings, and that he transmitted his orders through Cliff Carter to Mac Wallace, who executed the murders. In the cases of murders nos. 1-7, Mr. Estes’ knowledge of the precise details concerning the way the murders were executed stems from conversations he had shortly after each event with Cliff Carter and Mac Wallace.
That includes Josefa Johnson, Lyndon Johnson’s own sister. She died in 1961 of a cerebral hemorrhage, and anecdotally she is alleged to have been “wild,” and a potential liability to her brother’s political career. She would have been able to tie her brother to the murder of Douglas Kinser, too.
It also, notably, includes “President J.F. Kennedy” among Johnson’s murder victims.
Later, the letter states: “Mr. Estes, states that Mac Wallace, whom he describes as a “stone killer” with a communist background, recruited Jack Ruby, who in turn recruited Lee Harvey Oswald. Mr. Estes says that Cliff Carter told him that Mac Wallace fired a shot from the grassy knoll in Dallas, which hit JFK from the front during the assassination.”
No charges were possible, since the three men in question–Cliff Carter, Mac Wallace and Lyndon Baines Johnson were already dead. The only result from this Grand Jury testimony–which was only for Texas and not federal–was that Marshall’s death certificate was changed to read: “Cause of death – murder by gunshot.”
Lee Harvey Oswald
So where does Lee Harvey Oswald fit into this? Lee Harvey Oswald died in ignominy, from a bullet fired by Jack Ruby. The “nut” that J. Edgar Hoover had championed as the lone assassin shouted “I’m a patsy!” as he was being taken from FBI questioning to jail (patsy means “fall guy,” or scapegoat).
Obviously, if a criminal’s declaration of innocence meant anything, then there would be very few in jail. Still, it seems less likely that a lone, left-wing zealot was the one who killed Kennedy as he drove through the very heart of right-wing, anti-Kennedy sentiments, sentiments that had been particularly roiled in the last year following the affronts to the oil industry. Hours before he was killed, “Wanted” posters of Jack Kennedy were being distributed in Dallas that looked like this.
In the above video, Oswald says that the reason he is being taken in is because he had previously lived in the Soviet Union. After being discharged from the marines, he moved to the Soviet Union and attempted to become a citizen, but was rejected. In 1963, he was living in New Orleans. He then moved to Dallas in October, and found a job at the Texas School Book Depository. Lee Harvey Oswald was seen at the School Book Depository–the location of the sniper’s nest–just before the shooting at 11:55, and just after, at 12:35, leaving. He arrived at his home at 1, according to his landlady, Earlene Roberts, who told the Warren commission that a police car drove by the home, stopped, and honked twice, before leaving. Roberts said: “Right direct in front of that door-there was a police car stopped and honked. I had worked for some policemen and sometimes they come by and tell me something that maybe their wives would want me to know, and I thought it was them, and I just glanced out and saw the number, and I said, ‘Oh, that’s not their car,’ for I knew their car.” At this point, Oswald left his home. Shortly after, he was involved in a confrontation with Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippett, and Oswald reportedly shot and killed the officer.
Fellow employee Charles D. Givens testified to the Warren Commission that he saw Oswald sitting on the sixth floor at 11:55. Another employee, Howard L. Brennan, testified that he saw a man fire a rifle from the sixth floor, but he did not name Oswald. He had difficulties with identifying the man, and said he did resemble Oswald, but could not be sure. Brennan told the commission: “After Oswald was killed, I was relieved quite a bit that as far as pressure on myself of somebody not wanting me to identify anybody, there was no longer that immediate danger.”
Dallas Police Officer Marion L. Baker and the Superintendent of the Book Depository, Roy Truly, told the Warren Commission that they encountered Lee Harvey Oswald immediately after the shooting sitting in the building’s lunchroom, drinking a coke. From the Warren Commission report reiterated in Mark North’s book Act of Treason: The Role of J. Edgar Hoover in the Assassination of President Kennedy:
REP. BOGGS : Were you suspicious of this man?
BAKER : No, sir, I wasn’t.
REP. BOGGS : Was he out of breath? Did he appear to be running or what?
BAKER : It didn’t appear that to me. He appeared normal, you know.
REP. BOGGS : Was he calm and collected?
BAKER : Yes, sir. He never did say a word or nothing. In fact, he didn’t change his expression one bit.
TRULY : The officer turned this way and said, ‘This man work here?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ . . . [Oswald] didn’t seem to be excited or overly afraid or anything. He might have been startled, like I might have been if somebody confronted me. But I cannot recall any change in expression of any kind on his face. . . . Then we left . . . Oswald immediately and continued to run up the stairways .
Oswald was not arrested. He turned and headed home, figuring that there would be no work done that day, amidst the confusion and chaos.
From Pamela Ray’s book, To Kill A Country, this is Lee Harvey Oswald’s recorded testimony made to FBI agents after he was arrested, also printed in “The Last Words of Lee Harvey Oswald, compiled by Mae Brussell.”
2:25 – 4:04 P.M. Interrogation of Oswald, Office of Capt Will Fritz
“My name is Lee Harvey Oswald. . . . I work at the Texas School Book Depository Building. . . . I lived in Minsk and in Moscow. . . . I worked in a factory. . . . I liked everything over there except the weather. . . . I have a wife and some children. . . . My residence is 1026 North Beckley, Dallas, Tex.” Oswald recognized FBI agent James Hosty and said, “You have been at my home two or three times talking to my wife. I don’t appreciate your coming out there when I was not there. . . . I was never in Mexico City. I have been in Tijuana. . . . Please take the handcuffs from behind me, behind my back. . . . I observed a rifle in the Texas School Book Depository where I work, on Nov. 20, 1963. . . . Mr. Roy Truly, the supervisor, displayed the rifle to individuals in his office on the first floor. . . . I never owned a rifle myself. . . . I resided in the Soviet Union for three years, where I have many friends and relatives of my wife. . . . I was secretary of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans a few months ago. . . . While in the Marines, I received an award for marksmanship as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. . . . While living on Beckley Street, I used the name 0. H. Lee. . . . I was present in the Texas School Book Depository Building, I have been employed there since Oct. 15, 1963. . . . As a laborer, I have access to the entire building. . . . My usual place of work is on the first floor. However, I frequently use the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh floors to get books. I was on all floors this morning. . . . Because of all the confusion, I figured there would be no work performed that afternoon so I decided to go home. . . . I changed my clothing and went to a movie. . . . I carried a pistol with me to the movie because I felt like it, for no other reason. . . . I fought the Dallas Police who arrested me in the movie theater where I received a cut and a bump. . . . I didn’t shoot Pres. John F. Kennedy or Officer J. D. Tippit. . . . An officer struck me, causing the marks on my left eye, after I had struck him. . . . I just had them in there,” when asked why he had bullets in his pocket.
When Oswald states “I have never been in Mexico City,” that information can be corroborated by J. Edgar Hoover himself. There was an imposter of Oswald in Mexico city in the weeks before the assassination. From Larry Sabato’s book The Kennedy Half Century, in a taped conversation between J. Edgar Hoover and LBJ the day after the assassination, Hoover says the following:
“We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet Embassy using Oswald’s name. That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man’s voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet embassy down there. We do have a copy of a letter which was written by Oswald to the Soviet embassy here in Washington, inquiring as well as complaining about the harassment of his wife and the questioning of his wife by the FBI. Now of course, that letter information—we process all mail that goes to the Soviet embassy. It’s a very secret operation. No mail is delivered to the embassy without being examined and opened by us, so that we know what they receive. . . . The case, as it stands now, isn’t strong enough to be able to get a conviction. . . . Now, if we can identify this man who was at the . . . Soviet embassy in Mexico City. . . . This man Oswald has still denied everything.”
The FBI had known about Lee Harvey Oswald, US marine turned Communist and wannabe defector, since the 1950s. From Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship by John Newman : “‘A file concerning Oswald was opened,” Hoover wrote to the Warren Commission, “at the time, newspapers reported his defection to Russia in 1959, for the purpose of correlating information inasmuch as he was considered a possible security risk in the event he returned to this country.” Now, someone had pretended to be him, and applied for a visa to Cuba from Mexico City, a thread that was not pursued by Hoover or Johnson, but was simply noted on a recorded phone call. Newman also writes that Hoover had previously written to the State Department in 1960 regarding the possibility that someone else was using Oswald’s identity.
But it’s all buried by a single act of what is alleged to be “patriot fever,” by Jack Ruby. Just 48 hours after John F. Kennedy was shot and killed, his alleged assassin was dead. There was no trial. The American public never got to hear Oswald defend himself. His testimony would have been watched by millions of Americans. That was a liability that somebody could not countenance.
Eduardo Galeano writes in Memory of Fire, Vol. III: Century of the Wind :
“Oswald strenuously denies it. But no one knows, no one will ever know what he has to say. Two days later he collapses before the television cameras, the whole world witness to the spectacle, his mouth shut by Jack Ruby, a two-bit gangster and minor trafficker in women and drugs. Ruby says he has avenged Kennedy out of patriotism and pity for the poor widow.”
What do you think? Was Oswald the marksman that Warren Commission claims? Or was he in the lunchroom, sipping a coke, without a bead of sweat or a trace of guilt on his patsy face? Was Jack Ruby overcome by passion? Or was his life bought by powers in “high places,” as Ruby himself alleges?
The connotation of the word “conspiracy” has ruined any suggestion that there is something more than what the government has told us, regarding not just this assassination, but anything mediated by an authority figure. To categorize the untold story of what happened to our 35th President alongside the Loch Ness monster, Alien-pyramid building and others is to rely on the notion that an institution such as the United States government is incapable of an act of evil. But that’s just the sort of source from which evil in pure form generally comes–a conglomeration, a coalescence of more than one man to form a force, encouraged by mutual desire and the indistinct ownership of guilt, dispersed across an area too wide. Just like any evil created from a corporation. The stars and stripes may blind with an inculcated association of benevolent patriotisim–but its just another logo.
It was a coup d’etat. Is that so farfetched? I mean, there’s already a term for it. That means that it has happened before–again, and again. They have sprinkled the history books all across the world–but is that “things like that don’t happen in America.” The country of slavery? The country that raped the Native Americans? The country that committed genocide for the corporate interests of a fruit company? What about this is so hard to believe–and what’s the other option? That a “lone nut” in Lee Harvey Oswald, who shouts “I’m a patsy!”–who shows no desire to own up to his act, despite the consensus of his motive being a desire for fame, possibly as a hero to Communists?
Do you believe what you are told because the government says so, in a 900 page document that you have never laid your eyes on? Is it not possible that you. just. don’t. know?
Most of this stuff, I suppose you would call circumstantial. But I argue that everything mediated by an authority figure, the literal distance between you and the TV screen on which you watch the news, is circumstantial, and must always be treated with an appropriate level of skepticism and scrutiny.
A conspiracy is simply the covert planning of something done by parties whose interests have coalesced. For me, the writing is on the wall.
Obviously this is something I’m passionate about. And–it does bug me a little that people can’t see the relevance of investigating the JFK assassination–a cover-up that perfectly emblematizes the impunity of rich men and men in positions of authority–to our country today. Clearly it has carried over. Clearly it has set a precedent which we are seeing be manifested to an inane, near-farcical degree in our government today. It just so happens that the knuckleheads at the top aren’t quite intelligent enough to be as discrete. To deny the past as inconsequential will forever keep us from understanding the root cause which belies the ugliness. There IS a deeper reason for everything. Don’t be so dismissive. Dismissing it as a “conspiracy theory” is to suggest that things are simple, that there are not grander, intangible forces underneath the ugliness–and that is to suggest that fixing the problems is simple too, and yet, lo and behold, it’s not. Let’s all put on pink hats and make clever signs and go march around! Oh look, apparently that does fuck all! I’m not saying I’m better than that, but I am saying that closing your mind to the possibility of deep rooted evil present in the American government is short-sighted. Why the hell would it be farfetched to think that there was a conspiracy to kill a president? There literally already was a conspiracy to kill another president, Abraham Lincoln. Another idealist. An actual human being, trying to do actual things for the country, instead of using the powers of his office to perpetuate his own power, and the powers of his country club buddies.
John F. Kennedy was riding in a convertible on November 22, 1963 through Dealey Plaza when he was shot to death. The motorcade had been en route to the Trade Mart in Dallas Texas. He was carrying with him a speech at the time of his murder, a speech that he never got to read. This is what he would have said:
” I want to discuss with you today the status of our strength and our security cause this question clearly calls for the most responsible qualities of leadership and the most enlightened products of scholarship. For this Nation’s strength and security are not easily or cheaply obtained, nor are they quickly and simply explained. There are many kinds of strength and no one kind will suffice. Overwhelming nuclear strength cannot stop a guerrilla war. Formal pacts of alliance cannot stop internal subversion. Displays of material wealth cannot stop the disillusionment of diplomats subjected to discrimination.
Above all, words alone are not enough. The United States is a peaceful nation. And where our strength and determination are clear, our words need merely to convey conviction, not belligerence. If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.
My friends and fellow citizens: I cite these facts and figures to make it clear that America today is stronger than ever before. Our adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom.
That strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions–it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations–it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.
We in this country, in this generation, are–by destiny rather than choice–the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of “peace on earth, good will toward men.” That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
On November 26, 1963, just one day after former President John F. Kennedy’s funeral, four days after the assassination, National Security Action Memorandum 273 (NSAM-273) was approved by new United States President Lyndon Johnson . It expanded US forces in Vietnam, negating Kennedy’s agenda.
Francis Bator, who had been President Johnson’s Deputy National Security Adviser wrote in the New York Review Of Books:
Professor Galbraith is correct [Letters, NYR, December 6, 2007] that “there was a plan to withdraw US forces from Vietnam, beginning with the first thousand by December 1963, and almost all of the rest by the end of 1965…. President Kennedy had approved that plan. It was the actual policy of the United States on the day Kennedy died.
Professor James K. Gailbraith writes in an article for “The Nation” in 2013:
Had Kennedy lived, the withdrawal plan would have remained policy, and the numbers of US troops in Vietnam would have declined, unless and until policy changed. Might Kennedy still have “reversed the decision” at some point? Of course he might have. But there is no evidence that he intended to do so.
Now, imagine what could have been. Then tell me it’s not important.
Wanted to do a little follow up to clarify some things about the previous post. Had a little Q & A with a friend of mine regarding the content of the last blog post.
John: my post won’t show up on my feed anymore for some reason so i can’t see your comment but let me respond to it in like an hour on here
JH: Yea no worries
John: I only read it once but essentially my response would probably be like–the embrace of subjectivity is the only panacea for an at-large population
that there can be nothing axiomatic and nothing universal no matter how responsible or flexible an ethical system is if it is attempting to be perennial
at least thats what i think you were asking?
that it all has to flow through your own particular hills and valleys, address your subjective deficits and misconceptions and flaws and shit like that
that absolute meaning–which is something that I didnt address–is real if it flows through your idiosyncratic sieve honestly, unimpeded by calcified ideologies and ego-driven lenses
JH:I was more attempting to get at the nature of your big question. So the purpose of writing a book addressing cultural hegemony is sort of lost on me in that it looked like you sought a solution to such a concept through spirituality while also sort of acknowledging that that may be a futile effort
John: yes but only acknowledging that there is no panacea
at least not one that can be definite as an external mythology or system
JH: So your book has a bit of a nihilistic lens then? Or is the goal to push a particular panacea
John: and a proper diagnosis of the problems in white male identity I think is essential
the purpose of the book is to indicate that a state of ambivalence that resonates with the indefinite nature of the current stage of human evolution is the only solution, and the methodology for the application of this feeling of “happy uncertainty” or something is completely subjective, but that all polarities, all narratives are impediments to a life that it is honest and vitally alive
JH: Ok. It’s just the trouble I was having is reconciling how you simultaneously acknowledge the market space for a solution to these issues of identity and responsibility of power, while also claiming, in my opinion wisely, that some of these issues may be inexorable with cyclical power structures
John: even that narrative^ “soft spiritual nihilism” is a narrative that will calcify and impede
JH: Ok i think i get it a bit more, it just sounds like youre searching for an answer you already kind of have
John: they are inexorable in that it will take a long long time is my main point
JH: So you think humanity can be empowered by spiritual nihilism and we lose none of the colorful passions that come along with competing, even dangerous ideologies? And what specific facets of white male or i guess broader culture are you seeking to rectify?
John: i think ascribing a name to “it” like spiritual nihilism is antithetical to what I’m suggesting. There is no way to rid us of the “competitiveness,” and while perhaps ideologies spur a certain creativity, I think they are much more likely to impede it. Ingenuity can only increase when the strictures of an external belief system are removed in favor of complete admission of ignorance, an embrace of personal subjectivity. The problems Im addressing are the ones that come with the polarization of ones self in order to distinguish the borders of ones identity–Im saying that seeking security through exogenous beliefs is dangerous and counterproductive for the ultimate goal–which is not something I pretend to know–but Im speculating that its somewhere up there at an elevated state of consciousness. white male protagonism, white male defensiveness is the most clear and present manifestation of what you could call identity defensiveness, which leads to things like the alt right and white nationalism and all that. call it beneficent solipsism, spiritual nihilism, whatever–those ascriptions do not help because its not a panacea, not a cover-all in that its not a one-size-fits all, discreetly applicable “solution,” its a suggestion of a state to angled toward, and its my opinion that the methodology will always be different. This operates under the assumption that there is a basin of absolute truth that underlies all creation–a greater consciousness–which is canalized by the organic body, more or less. Ideologies narrow the valves, or obstruct the canals, so to speak. The other important thing is that the reason it cannot be physicalized as an “ism” is that it will fail, again and again, and if it is treated again and again as an ideology or methodology to be applied, a certain practical philosophy, then it will be quickly be calcified and disposed of. It might seem vague, glib or unhelpful, but its the explanation of why ambivalence, why an admission of ignorance–especially in relation to the white male identity which is so predicated on the marginalization of everything–other races, the environment itself, God–is the way to contribute to a better world for yourself and others
and, also importantly Im saying that this is only meant to serve as a motivator toward incremental change–that its going to be a very slow, and frustrating progression, and that–as you were saying–perhaps the battle of ideologies will inevitably push that incremental growth and I simply can’t see it, that does less for your own personal growth, something that is always the impetus for more pervasive change–not to mention your own quality of life in a world that is in my assessment pretty uncertain and confusing in its advice for how to become the person you’re meant to be. This is essentially a long-winded way of saying “open your ears/open your heart, you dont have to be right, right now.”
im not saying dont join the DSA, I’m saying dont make anything your gospel
ideologies can be vitalizing but only from a certain distance, a presence of mind that can easily be lost when you drink too deeply of yon kool-aid
I’m back in Montana, trying to get my lazy ass to finish this book I’ve been working on for 2 years now. Trying to tie it all together. Mostly, I’ve been looking for the correct answers to redeem the questions I ask. I don’t want to merely diagnose a problem and leave it hanging in the air without at least trying to offer some kind of solution.
Mainly, the question is this: what does one do without a true mythology to structure her or his life? Mostly, his; the subject of this question is the American white male, who is so often the perpetrator of violent acts in this day and age, and in a more general sense, I believe still harbors a violent dissonance that is the source of much conflict in America. And a big reason for this violence is this state of mythlessness, and the resulting purposelessness.
I believe we’re at a crux in our existence, in which real religious mythologies are too unbelievable and negatively stigmatized, and ideologies have taken their place, often in their most extreme manifestations. We’re hampered by a double-consciousness (to reinterpret W.E.B. Du Bois) that both craves a mythological structure and is too smart–or we believe we’re too smart–to buy into one simply, unaware that the content is of secondary importance to the commitment, or the pretense, of investing oneself in vitalizing belief. Or, it doesn’t matter if we are aware of this fact, as our relatively impressive human intellects still prohibit us from becoming card-carrying members of any one justice league. Personally, the prospect of pretending life is meaningful has always unimpressed me as being weak-minded and sheep-like.
But when some buy into an ideology, after much discernment and skepticism, they might discover the pleasure in zealotry, and buy in fully. Even if the membership is only half-bought (6 month plan, perhaps), the risk is of a conversion that I think is too complete. Because, in my assessment, joining the resistance to be a hero is not going to be the solution, but only a source for more violence. Everything calcifies eventually–hardens, rigidifies, becomes unintegrated objective pseudo-truth rather than subjective absolute truth. Invariably one develops what is essentially an idolatrous ownership over the skeletalizing mythology that they have chosen. And at that point, if stubbornness or surety eclipse the willingness to admit ignorance, or the potential to be wrong, then in the macroscopic view of things, from the eye of Kang and Kodos, it doesn’t matter what belief-system one has chosen. All calcified belief exists in the same atmospheric layer that is a lengthy distance from the Earth; a cold patch where all is coagulated and unmoving. And brittle.
Because all it does is reinforce the us and them narrative on either side, thereby making the groups mirror images of one another and embroiling the country at-large in constant frivolous tension.
Through the journey of writing the book, I’ve been trying to think of what the correct mythology would be to guide the young white American male away from violence and into a more open-eared, receptive character. There are seemingly fewer men of this kind in positions of public veneration than there are on the opposite end of the spectrum–or perhaps they are simply more easily dismissed by younger men, even those striving to be better, because of the ease of their ascription as “sissies” driven by white-guilt and excessive and self-serving apologism (see: “cuck”)
This is an oversimplification, and one biased by lots of internal things in the etched-up inner-topography of the young white man seeking a mythos. But it’s an understandable heuristic. Because from afar, it is a near-impenetrable character, one of which genuine comprehension would require the all-at-once surmounting of all kinds of deeply driven-in white-masculine dogmas on which the basis of one’s entire identity is predicated.
So it will be hard to rely on the guru to guide you on your hero’s journey to a state of awakening that is not the demonstrative, virtue-signalling pretension of “wokeness.” Nor will the deliberate attainment to a deep-left ideology bring about the necessary internal change.
Through my own personal self-investigations and attempts to admit subservience to something–the essential struggle of the young white man in today’s world, a struggle which, far from being solely politically or practically beneficial for the country, is necessary for (or indistinguishable from) a spiritual awakening in the context of being a human being, not just a white male human being–I began to think of the seemingly more benign or neutral sources that lend mythological structure to my life.
I thought–who are my heroes? Who are the men I look up to? OK, I’m going to tell you who was number 1. And you will all ridicule me but I don’t care!
Jon Motherfucking SNOW!
Legitimately, the admittedly fictional hero from Game Of Thrones is pretty much the only person that I, like, revere. And I was asking myself what that means? What this fanboy-ness can teach me about me?
Jon Snow is the “great white hope” to a t, and that’s not a promising persona for the young white American male’s ideal new hero. He is also a simple reiteration of the Christ-like revenant, having been literally killed and resurrected, being the “prince that was promised,” the holy son etc. Unabashedly the writers of GoT have swathed Jon in impenetrable plot armor, clearly visible in his many near-death experiences (the arrows raining from the sky in the Battle of the Bastards miraculously leave him unscathed, his reemergence from the hole in the ice in the damn near suicide-mission up north, and of course, what’s nearer to death than actually dying as he did in Season 5). Interestingly it’s a role that he laments; as the “chosen one,” much in the same way white male self-simulated protagonism can be tempered by a sense of pretended humility that is a less integrated, more ancillary belief in comparison to the egocentric messianism that it modifies. However, if Jon Snow and his unwilling or confused heroism are interpreted slightly differently–not as an emblem of white privilege, but as an emblem of the human plight, the human fight for meaning, then the TV show yields a much more interesting and universal message. For that, you have to look at the conflict in the show that transcends the context of Westeros.
So a couple months ago, I started thinking about Game Of Thrones as a show, and what to me has become a kind of perplexing if not philosophically redolent final plot line in the TV show. Game Of Thrones has always, for me–perhaps with some mixture of intention by the writers and, according to some (ahem, Travis) a modicum of interpretive indulgence on my part–been a show of deeply metaphysical meaning; a show about narrativity, and the intrinsic fictionality of belief systems in real life in the same vain of Shakespearean stories. Dramas like the Tempest, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing all contain soliloquies about how, no matter what the stakes of any particular human conflict might seem, all terrestrial conflicts are equally illusory; the most grave tragedy and the most lighthearted comedy are equally inconsequential. Or, perhaps that’s the wrong word. Logically it is difficult to relate the importance or unimportance of a worldly happenings using a dictionary that is inextricable from that same world. Perhaps an idiom would be best: the point is, no story, no matter how seemingly meaningful, is the end of the world.
However, in the final eschatological act of GoT, they are facing the end of the world–the imminent clash between mankind and the Army of The Dead will determine who will inherit the Earth. Is it so simple as a battle between light and dark in the binary style that Americans seem to gravitate toward? Is it Manachaeism in pure form?
In order to properly literarily analyze this shit as I was trained to do so well by my glorious alma mater, we will need to draw some quotes as evidence.
While they’re headed up to the arrow head mountain with the loose and poorly-written plan of capturing a wight and bringing it back with them, Jon Snow gets to talking with Beric Dondarrian. Dondarrian is the most equipped to understand Jon’s dubious status as immortal superhero, having been killed and resurrected himself something like 6 times.
“I don’t think it’s our purpose to understand. Except one thing — we’re soldiers,” Beric tells Jon Snow as they venture North. “We have to know what we’re fighting for. I’m not fighting so some man or woman I barely know can sit on a throne made of swords…[I’m fighting for] life. Death is the enemy. The first enemy and the last…The enemy always wins. And we still need to fight him. That’s all I know. You and I won’t find much joy while we’re here, but we can keep others alive. We can defend those who can’t defend themselves. Maybe we don’t need to understand any more than that. Maybe that’s enough.”
So this is pretty overt on the part of the writers in my humble opinion. Monologues like these, along with the oft-repeated “it doesn’t matter whose skeleton will be sitting on the iron throne if the army of the dead…you’ll be ruling over a graveyard/ashes, blah blah blah, ” etc. pretty much hit you over the head with the notion that our personal destinies are actually quite impersonal; that the purpose with which we have been imbued, while unique to us and necessary–look at the variety of characters and the interweaving of storylines, the diversity of roles that had to be played, from Samwell Tarley with his books to Bran’s journey to become three-eyed raven to Arya becoming one of the faceless men–are nonspecific in their culminations. Or, more aptly, they are all the same: to strive for life. To fight for life. The roles of Berric and Jon, as he sees them, are as “soldiers,” and nothing more. Purposeful, but nonspecific.
When you fight for life, there is no victory, because there is no binary opposition. Death is embodied here in a literal army, yes–but that’s where Game of Thrones self-aware references to its own fictionality a la Shakespeare becomes important. Now the message is not that we are literally meant to fight death by seeking to stave it off with medical technology or something. Death always wins. We are simply meant to strive in the direction of goodness, charity, to fight for life and the living, no matter how hard–“You and I won’t find much joy while we’re here, but we can keep others alive. We can defend those who can’t defend themselves…” That means even the unawakened, inveterate, unregenerate–they, at some level, are innocent and defenseless, nonconvertible, at least in this generation. I recall the storytelling trope of a good girl or guy being almost converted to an “eye-for-an-eye” mentality by an edgier half-hero half-villain, only to change her or his mind at the last second. This trope elucidates the struggle for the awakened to avoid becoming embittered and calcified, too driven by worldly impulses like the desire for revenge, or jealous of those who have committed to something, to recognize the truth and therefore beauty of the undefined position that she or he is in. To try to maintain that sense of uncertainty happily, is the best advice possible for an uncertain time. Perhaps, life will even canalize your passage into a narrower avenue of purpose, something discreet; a confrontation with your own personal night king.
Along the way–and even after this definite sense of purpose seems discovered–ignorance must be continually pleaded, again and again. In my assessment, there is no way to keep the mirror so polished that you and your sense of purpose don’t periodically crumble. And that cycle of failure must be endured. Even embraced. That’s the structure that you claimed you wanted in a mythological regimen. It’s the only thing absolutely true that the world can offer right now, and it’s the only way to find real love in being alive. When he is resurrected after being killed by his own men, Jon Snow says to Ser Davos: “I did what I thought was right. And I got murdered for it. And now I’m back. Why?” Davos responds in his fleabottom accent: “I don’t know. Maybe we’ll never know. What does it matter? You go on. You fight for as long as you can. You clean up as much of the shit as you can.” Jon Snow says: “I don’t know how to do that. I thought I did, but… I failed.” And Ser Davos replies: “Good. Now go fail again.”
The frustrating fact of the matter is that if everyone had this nondescript desire to do good, the world would be immediately buoyed. Not only would our contextual conflicts dissipate but the things that are killing our world at large, like Global Warming–a nice concrete analog to the White Walkers, a threat that exists outside of and unaffected by our petty squabbles–and other dire environmental problems would be greatly reduced, too. But instead, as our awkward condition as half-intellectual, half-physical beings (to paraphrase Terry Pratchett, at a place between rising ape and falling angel) dictates, we succumb to the polar, binary conflicts between our arbitrary groupings, choosing to fight horizontally instead of vertically.
Our duty then is to try. Like JS, to fail, again and again. To clean up as much shit as we can. And to try to remain willing to consider that we are still complete idiots. It might not be what we always wanted, but it’s better. I look back at my days of ingesting comic books as a kid, and I recall tales of Manacheistic justice, a black and white world in vivid, Ben-Day dot coloring, as told by the myth-makers at DC (sometimes marvel). Tales of heroes and villains, bad guys and good. But I also recall the occasional story of Superman saving the world from misfortunes reaped by mankind’s own sewing–like a dam on the verge of collapse–or a natural disaster man did not precipitate. The conflicts with evildoers were necessary to furnish issue after issue, no doubt–just as the conflicts in Game of Thrones between bookends of the White Walker threat were necessary to tell a story worth watching. But the true message of modern myths, I thought for awhile–and archaic ones, for that matter–is that such tales are selected untruths to be integrated cosmetically. But now I’m thinking, perhaps this is the wrong way–perhaps our deficit of definite meaning, this American mythlessness that is the source of a current state of violence–actually yields an opportunity. To live a life of self-sanctity and self-love that is unprecedented in other myth-driven societies throughout history.
Because I think that rather than relying on self-somatized mythological structures in your life–which is dangerously close to believing in villains of disparate essences to yourself–you should believe in the one thing that you know to be true in this world, and that is yourself. A beneficent solipsism, if you will–a state that describes its own dangers in the name. If there is anything divinely incarnated, it is you. And if you believe in that, humbly, not with a commitment to meticulously humble yourself, but instead with the knowledge that hubris will inevitably, recurrently get the best of you, then I believe you will discover pockets of purpose meant especially for you. This way, you have a lesser chance of being waywarded by an ideology or niche path held in too high of regard, and a much better chance of becoming the you that was “intended.”
As a white male who wants to try to do the right thing, all of this, I think, is very important. It can be tempting to side with an ideology, and if you’re not too vigilant or are already bitter, an ideology that is explicitly defensive of the white male identity is probably very appealing. Secretly, the white male American might covet the plights of marginalized groups whose struggles for justice are enviably and unassailably righteous. But that is because he doesn’t see that the struggle as it is externalized–in the form of a righteous, personally-invested crusader, fighting for a just cause–is attached to an horrific history of oppression whose relation to these “crusaders” lives is probably lamented. Not to say they are ashamed–although they have often been made to be, I would guess–only that the effects of things like slavery still cause them pain today. For however much a white male moans and groans that he feels the wanton criticism of “snowflakes” for the sole crime of being white, a black person likely feels a similar burden of criticism, only manifold–not to mention the racism that exists today–for the crime of having melanin in their skin.
The only way to change yourself–or better yet, to know yourself better, to become the vital and better version of yourself and further your personal evolution–is to know that there are no villains. In the real world, I’m not exactly certain what I’m advocating here, because I think that punching Nazis is generally good, but that’s just a practical measure. I am talking about internally, not as a matter of practice in the physical world). Essentially, I think that the message of one of the most popular TV shows and its protagonist is that life is not a TV show, and you are not the protagonist. We all have so, so much to learn, about ourselves first, then each other. About the world, about life. We have a beautiful, brilliant future that we very well might be in danger of throwing away. My solution, for now, vague and deficient of advice for application, is this: strive forward bravely and without the arrogance of the men that came before us. Walk around with an open heart, and though someone might put a knife through it, you will not be killed. You cannot be. Don’t try to be like someone you see as a better man or woman. Jon Snow doesn’t want your adulation (he never asked for it). Be your own hero, instead. Don’t mythologize your life too much. Or do, and fail. But then go fail again. Clean up the shit. Honestly, I don’t know. But that’s OK. Because, while over-belief is dangerous, we can still learn from each other. And I’m OK with taking home one characteristic from the King in the North.
I posted this to Facebook yesterday, in the midst of the many #metoo posts going up.
“ok…here’s my little chip-in. It oughtnt to be much because this aint my pain. but it is my fight. this is all from my understanding, not purported to be fact:
we’ve had some serious gender strictures inculcated on our culture for a looooong time. Like, since forever. That means even the figures who young men in America once idolized as being absolutely good–like Superman!– were relative reflections of a society that deems women a secondary character, e.g. Lois Lane.
So i believe young men struggle to find a mythos to subscribe, and my momentary solution is this: sanctify yourself, sanctify being a listener, sanctify being open and honest and admitting your mistakes. try to help create a new type of hero which exists alongside a liberated heroine. And let’s just call them both heroes, eh? no need for those disparaging suffixes/word-alterations.
we need to work together”
I did this with the hope that I wasn’t being performative–that I wasn’t trying to demonstrate “wokeness” to gain points for attractiveness to the opposite sex. I did this because I am ashamed, for the years I spent not really understanding that all women were asking for was to be treated the same as any other human being.
And I feel that consciousness of performativity may always be there, inside of me. Because I was raised to think of myself as the primary sex (as well as race) and the protagonist of the universe, that as a white male I’m almost literally Jesus Christ, a gift to the world.
The hard part for men is acknowledging that skew of the lens. But it’s also very freeing, if you’ll allow me to selfishly incentivize with notions of personal redemption.
This is not going to happen overnight, is my main point, I guess. And I’m not considering myself part of the “resistance” or the “enemy.” Because the whole culminative point of this is that we are the same. And yes, there are biological differences between woman and man, just as there are biological differences from man to man. We are the same.
So, those posts by men in response to #MeToo might never escape at least an intimation of #mentoo-ness, i.e. a feeling of threat from the rebellious cry of a marginalized people, the interpretation of a call for help as an insult to an identity so calcified and sanctified that you think it must be right. But it’s not.
So sadly this is not the time when we are perfect.
But gladly, this is the time when we fight–ourselves!!!