General Lee Speaks: Had it Figured Out

“The consolidation of the states into one vast empire, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of ruin which has overwhelmed all that preceded it.” Robert E. Lee

The man was perceptive. Amalgamation of the states under a central government has led to exactly the effects foreseen by General Lee. 

In, say, 1950, to an appreciable though imperfect extent America resembled a confederacy. Different regions of the America had little contact with each other, and almost no influence over one another. The federal government was small and remote. Interstates did not exist, nor of course the internet, nor even direct long-distance telephone dialing. West Virginia, Alabama, Massachusetts, New York City, Texas, and California had little in common, but little conflict arose since for practical purposes they were almost different countries. They chiefly governed themselves. The  proportion of federal to state law was small. 

It is important to note that regional differences were great. In 1964 in rural Virginia, the boys brought shotguns to school during deer season. Nobody shot anybody because it wasn’t in the culture. The culture was uniform, so no one was upset. It is when cultures are mixed, or one rules another, that antagonism comes.  Such shotgun freedom would not have worked in New York City with its variegated and often mutually hostile ethnicities.

Regions differed importantly in degree of freedom, not just in the freedom of local populations to govern themselves but also in individual freedom. It made a large difference in the tenor of life. If in Texas, rural Virginia, or West Virginia you wanted to build an addition to your house, you did. You didn’t need licenses, permits, inspections, union-certified electricians. Speed limits? Largely ignored. Federal requirements for Coast Guard approved flotation devices on your canoe? What the hell kind of crazy idea was that? 

Democracy works better the smaller the group practicing it. In a town, people can actually understand the questions of the day. They know what matters to them. Do we build a new school, or expand the existing one? Do we want our children to recite the pledge of allegiance, or don’t we? Reenact the Battle of Antietam? Sing Christmas carols in the town square? We can decide these things. Leave us alone.

States similarly knew what their people wanted and, within the limits of human frailty, governed accordingly.

Then came the vast empire, the phenomenal increase in the power and reach of the federal government, which really means the Northeast Corridor. The Supreme Court expanded and expanded and expanded the authority of Washington, New York’s store-front operation. The federals now decided what could be taught in the schools, what religious practices could be permitted, what standards employers could use in hiring, who they had to hire. The media coalesced into a small number of corporations, controlled from New Yorkbut with national reach. More recently we have added surveillance of everything by Washington’s intelligence agencies.

Tyranny at home, said said General Lee . Just so. This could  happen only with the consolidation of the states into one vast empire.

Tyranny comes easily when those seeking it need only corrupt a single Congress, appoint a single Supreme Court, or control the departments of one executive branch. In a confederation of largely self-governing states, those hungry to domineer would have to suborn fifty congresses. It could not be done. State governments are accessible to the governed. They can be ejected. They are much more likely to be sympathetic to the desires of their constituents since they are of the same culture.

Aggressive abroad, said General Lee. Is this not exactly what we see? At this moment Washington has the better part of a thousand military bases around the world, unnecessary except for the maintenance of empire. America exists in a state of constant war, bombing Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Somalia, recently having destroyed Iraq and Libya. Washington threatens Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China. Its military moves deeper into Africa. Washington sanctions Cuba, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, to no effect. It constantly tries to dominate other nations, for example adding to NATO.

None of these wars and little if any of the imperial aggression interests more than a tiny fraction of the country’s people. To whom can the war against Afghanistan matter? Libya? Few people have heard of Montenegro. Does its membership in NATO or lack of it affect Idaho? 

In a confederacy, states would have to approve a war. Few would unless the United States itself were threatened. They might well refuse to pay for wars not in their benefit, or to allow their sons, daughters, and transgenders to be conscripted.

But with a central government, those benefiting from war can concentrate money and influence only on that government. For example, military industry, Israel, big oil, Wall Street. Wars might carry the votes of states with arms factories. Other states would decline.

In principle, the Constitution should have prevented the hijacking of the military that we now suffer. As we all should know, and some do, America cannot under the Constitution go to war without a declaration by Congress, the last one of which occurred in 1941. But a single central government can be corrupted more easily than fifty state governments. A few billionaires, well-funded lobbies, and the remoteness of Washington from the common consciousness make controlling the legislature as easy as buying a pair of shoes.

And thus, just as Marse Bob expected, the federals are out of control and make war without the least reference to the nation. If America attacks North Korea, or Russia, or China, we will read of it the day after. The central government, and only the central government, decides. A few days ago I read that the Pentagon contemplates sending thousands of additional troops  to Afghanistan. This combines tyranny at home and aggression abroad. Who wants to  send them? A few neocons in New York, the  arms industry, a few generals, and several senators. It could not happen in a confederacy.

Will this, as General Lee predicted, prove “the certain precursor of ruin which has overwhelmed all that preceded it.? Wait.

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Memorial Day and the Rising Gorge: More than I Can Take

Apparently I have missed Memorial Day by being on the road in Guanajuato. I gather I should have thanked Our Boys for their service to the exceptional nation. I will pass. My tolerance for nauseating twaddle has diminished with the years.

To begin with, “Our Boys,” so affectionately denominated, are not our boys but suckers of the ruling rich. Think not? Think again. Ending the draft protected the sons of the well-off from military service and the military from anti-war movements. If you draft the moneyed elegants of Princeton, you get resistance. Instead the oligarchs send the expendable children of the lower orders. Who volunteer.

Further, the soldiers are not heroes but mercenary killers morally indistinguishable from hitmen for the Mafia. A kid joins the military, perhaps never having heard of the Pentagon’s next target country–Iraq, Vietnam, Iran, Afghanistan, wherever. It doesn’t matter. They are just countries.

Then one day come orders from Washington to go kill people in the country du jour. The kid does it. He doesn’t know the people he kills, who have done nothing to him and threaten neither him nor the United States. If ordered, he would as readily attack Switzerland–or Americans.

Guido and Vito. You tell me the difference.

“Our Boys” are not patriots. A recruit signs up because he needs a job, or from boredom, or thinks being a soldier might get him laid in Asia, or wants college money, or to prove himself. Patriotism is an aftermarket bolt-on. It can get you free drinks in a lot of bars. Especially if you have a wound. Wounds usually come from bad luck or incompetence, but you can peddle them for drinks.

The public, middle class and up, does not “support the troops.” The majority do not serve, do not know anyone who does, and avoids soldiers as sex-crazed riffraff. Which is not too far off the mark.

I grew up aboard Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground, a naval weapons-development base on the Potomac in Virginia. The daughters of the mathematicians, physicists, and officers were strongly discouraged from dating sailors. They were, though no one quite said it, dirt. Can you imagine Ivanka Trump going out with an enlisted Marine? To Billy Bob’s Rib Pit?

How many of those celebrating Our Boys at Breitbart or National Review  have  been to a Legion hall recently? Ever? Carried a rifle? Know what one is?

Our Boys are not making sacrifices for America. They are being sacrificed, used to promote the interests of Big Oil, Israel, the Neocons to the extent that there is a difference, the arms industry, and the imperialists. They are certainly not defending America, which is in no danger at all from Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Afghanistan, or the rest. Do you wake up shuddering in fear of attack by Yemen?

Our Boys do not fight because they want to but because we force them to. If they choose not to, they  are called “deserters” and “traitors” and face heavy jail time. A few men enjoy war and go back, tour after tour–I know several of these–but most, given the chance to come home without penalty, would be gone yesterday. If you don’t believe me, make them the offer and see what happens.

American soldiers are not good guys, decent people, armed Boy Scouts promoting democracy and policing the world to rid it of evil. They start as normal lower middle class kids, yes, no worse than anyone else, but training soon brings them around. They learn how to place a bayonet in an enemy’s kidneys so that the shock and agony will drop him. At least we did in Parris Island in the summer of ‘66. They learn how to take out a man’s face with a vertical butt stroke. Chiefly they lose the normal aversion to killing. All of this is necessary in soldiers. Our Boys.

The abandonment of all human decency is the soul of military culture, and a needed abandonment. A pilot bombing Baghdad knows that he is splattering people, that they have done nothing to him or his, that he is leaving children screaming at what is left of Mommy with funny things coming out of her middle and gurgling. He knows this because it is impossible not to know what five-hundred-pound bombs do. But he does it anyway. He doesn’t care. If he did, he wouldn’t do it.

In the age of PR, the military will speak of “surgical strikes” and “collateral damage.” Officers, who are liars and politicians, become angry if pressed on what they are really doing. They don’t care, at least don’t care enough, or they wouldn’t do it, but they know that disemboweled kids play badly with the public. That you see no photos of bleeding viscera in the media is a measure of the control of the press by those profiting from war.

Soldiers are evil. They don’t start that way, but the military changes them. If you read military history you will find that, from Joshua to yesterday, armies have butchered whole cities, looted, raped, burned, tortured. It is what armies do. Dresden, Hamburg, Nanjing, Hiroshima. How can you not think this evil?

Having been trained to kill, they do. Seeing their friends die horribly after stepping on the mine, they come to hate the dinks, slopes, sand niggers, Krauts, gooks. Revenge has a powerful appeal. Seeing a lot of mutilated corpses, cartilage glistening white, produces numbness. Another dead gook. So what?

It happens easily. The day I arrived at the Amtrac compound at Danang in 1967, a VC had been killed the night before outside the wire. They brought him in, I don’t know why. He was lying on the ground, apparently having taken a full magazine of 7.62, arm almost cut off with bone sowing and flies crawling on open eyes going cloudy.

Several other Marines were taking turns holding his head up by the hair for trophy photographs. So what, I thought. He was dead. It wasn’t an atrocity. Just guys kidding around.

Our boys. Me included.

But atrocities happen, regularly. Some can’t be argued, such as Lt. Calley’s mass killing at My Lai. Many soldiers deny what they have done, or kid themselves. A pilot bombing a village because sniper rounds came out of it will see no atrocity.

Militaries today have learned to be sensitive about these things. They invariably are called “isolated incidents.” An isolated incident is business as usual that has been detected by the press. Countries insist that their soldiers don’t do the things every other army has done since the first human picked up a pointed stick. Germans will tell you about the “clean Wehrmacht.” Yeah. 

Memorial day. Let’s hear it for Our Boys.


Last week various readers took issue inexplicably with my preternaturally insightful explanation of the media. In defense I offer to anyone interested an explanation of war correspondents.

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Notes of a Reformed News Weasel: Understanding the Vacuity

Do you wonder why the legacy media are such puzzled otherworldly twits? Why, for example, they had no idea what was happening in the recent election? Why they seem to know so very little about America or much of anything else?

Some thoughts from a guy who spent a career in the racket:  

Ask journalists when they were last in a truck stop on an Interstate, last in Boone, North Carolina or Barstow, California or any of thousands of such towns across the country. Ask whether they were in the military, whether they have ever talked to a cop or an ambulance crewman or a fireman. Ask whether they have a Mexican friend, when they last ate in a restaurant where a majority of the customers were black.  Whether they know an enlisted man, or anyone in the armed services. Whether they have hitchhiked overnight, baited a hook, hunted, or fired a rifle. Whether they have ever worked washing dishes, harvesting crops, driving a delivery truck. Whether they have a blue-collar friend. Know what the Texas Two-Step is, have been in a biker bar.

Now do you see why Trump surprised them?

Next, ask how many went to fancy schools like Oberlin, Swarthmore, Amherst, the Ivies, Bard. Ask how many even know someone who graduated from a land-grant school. Ask whether they know an engineer.

Now look at how much they write about each other for each other. Look at the endless coverage of what Maddow said about what Hannity thought about O’Reilly’s harassment of soft-porn star Megyn  and how much she might make at CNN. Ask how much time they spend comparing ratings. They are fascinated by themselves. 

Ask them how many have ever worried about paying the electric bill, had to choose between a new winter coat or paying the cable, or known anyone who did.

They don’t know America, and they don’t much like it.

Ask them whether they are rich. They will say no, and believe it. Yet when friends drop in, the question will be whether to eat Turkish or Thai on the Hill. For much of America, dinner in a Turkish restaurant on Cap Hill, where the waiter puts a white napkin in your lap and the bill for four with drinks and tip is $180, would be the adventure of a lifetime.

In Washington, a two-bedroom apartment in a very old building across  Connecticut Ave from the zoo, with the original steam radiators, goes for $2500 a month. An 835-square foot two-bedroom condo in Colonial Village, just across Key Bridge in Arlington, Virginia,  starts at $2450. Fifteen years ago, such a closet sold for $300K.. 

Colonial Village, Arlington, Virginia. Worth at least twenty percent of what you would pay for it.

Now ask how many journalists voted for Trump. Close to zero. Virtually the entire press corps is of one mind and slants the news to the point of verticality. In the absence of Trump, they are almost as heavily Democratic. Most don’t know  they are doing it. It’s just that they are so obviously…right. They are not reporters. They are advocates.

It is more than having the same politics. They have no conception of such romantic notions as freedom of expression or the interplay of ideas. You will never see a policeman given five minutes, uncensored, to describe what really happens in the streets or a gun owner, not chosen to be a buffoon, allowed to explain his position. If you told them that the media are tightly controlled, they would think you a right-wing loon.

Journalists are not stupid, running to well above average in intelligence. You could form a large chapter of Mensa by raiding newsrooms in Washington. However, with a fair few exceptions, they are not intellectuals, not contemplative, not studious. They are high-pressure fact-accountants, competitive, comfortable under tight deadlines, aggressive, combative, quick but shallow. This can be a serviceable substituent for stupid.

In a curious process of self-delusion, they imagine a world that doesn’t exist and then try to live in it. For example, they don’t know what cops face in the ghetto because they have never been in the ghetto and don’t know any cops. They dismiss anyone who tells them that things are not as they think. Their confidence is invincible, for do not all their friends say the same things?

Their ideological attachment to political  correctness is–obviously–strong. This is particularly stark with respect to race. Week after week, year after year, we read on the internet of whites beaten, burned, punched, of stores looted by flash mobs and wrecked in brawls. The perpetrators are always “teens” or “troubled youths.” If you ask reporters why they never mention race, they say things like “race is irrelevant. A crime is a crime.” But let a white cop shoot a black attacker, and nothing matters except race–not truth, guilt or innocence.

They see no hypocrisy in this. They believe that they are just expressing Right Values. Since they talk only to each other, nothing contradicts them.

Coverage of most things is either bad or nonexistent because the media have neither the time, resources, nor inclination to cover much of anything. Most outlets are crippled by the nature of their medium, political correctness, narrow focus, and lack of curiosity. 

For example, television is the medium of the illiterate and barely literate. (People who can’t or don’t read all have televisions.) It lacks the staff to have specialized reporters, has to avoid offending anyone so as to keep the advertisers happy, has very little time to spend on a story which it has to keep at a sixth-grade level to avoid losing much of its audience. It has to be politically correct so as to impose appropriate values. It can’t upset big corporations because that’s  who owns it. 

Newspapers can assume perhaps a tenth-grade and better readership, but they too must be PC, worry about the advertisers, and they too lack staff. Big papers will typically pay attention to State, DoD, Congress, the political parties, and themselves. Most of the government simply isn’t covered. When is the last time you saw a story about HUD, Commerce, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Energy, or Education?

That’s why the mainstream media are largely vapid and predictable. It is why the internet, not bound by political correctness or controlled by corporations, able to specialize, to serve intelligent readers, is now primary.

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The China-US Arms Race: If One Arm is Right, the Other Will Be Left, No?

This worthy and public-spirited column seldom dives into the thickets of military hardware, which it regards as excessively technical. However, the arms race between China and Washington is of enough gravity that its more exotic armaments may be of interest. Herewith, the truly dangerous weaponry of the contending sides.

C-919 A Chinese narrow-body intended to compete with the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737. Designed and built in China by Comarc. Not quite up to Boeing’s standards, not as fuel-efficient, uses a lot of Western-manufactured parts. (Think  of it as a 1966 Toyota with wings, nothing to worry about.)  Comarc has 570  orders for the 919, almost entirely in China. That’s 570  orders nobody else will get. The domestic market will provide the oomph to improve. By 2024 China is projected to be the world’s largest market for airliners.  

Not to worry. They can’t innovate.

US Nuclear Weapon Upgrade Program: “CBO estimates that nuclear forces will cost $348 billion between FY 2015 and FY 2024. Three independent estimates put the expected total cost over the next 30 years at as much as $1 trillion.”

Artist’s conception of planned $100 Billion Chinese-Made City in Malaysia. Near Singapore “Scares the Hell Out of Everybody.” Will have 700,000 people, almost entirely Chinese. Pundits assert that in twenty years China will own Malaysia.
The Gerald R. Ford, $12.8 billion + $4.7 billion R&D (estimated). The Navy wants ten.

Sunway TaihuLight, World’s most powerful supercomputer, a Chinese design built with Chinese silicon. China leads the planet in supercomputers, both in power and numbers.

 

The B21. Yes, there is a seat for Robin.

The B21 is a new thermonuclear bomber for  the Air Force. “The head of the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command… envisions some 175–200 bombers in service.[8] Initial operating capability is expected to be reached by 2030. ”at a cost of $550 million each (2010 dollars).

It was rumored that Armour Star would be the lead contractor for the B21, but this was cancelled as being unduly candid.  The B21 will funnel huge amounts of money to Northrop-Grumman and, in the event of a thermonuclear war, will arrive at the bubbling remains of targets several hours after the Navy’s D5 Trident II missiles get there. The aircraft relies on the assumption that, in thirteen years when it enters service, anti-stealth technology will not have reached the point of making it even more obviously useless.

This marvelous revelation from Wikipedia: “In July 2016, the U.S. Air Force stated they would not release the estimated cost for the B-21 contract with Northrop Grumman. The Air Force argued releasing the cost would reveal too much information about the classified project to potential adversaries.”  As, for example, taxpayers

One accepts yuan. The other doesn’t. Can you guess?

Columbia, the Navy’s upcoming new nukey-boomer, formerly ORP, Ohio Replacement Program. “The total lifecycle cost of the entire class is estimated at $347 billion.”: Wikipedia

Chinese freight cars in Europe. More all the time.

A Few News Blips

China is the greatest trading partner of the US, Germany, Japan, India, and Australia, among others. Russia’s biggest trading partner is Germany, followed by China.

“China is already South East Asia’s largest trading partner and is now one of the largest investors in the region.”

Argentina’s top trading partners: Brazil, China. The top trading partner of South America is China.

Trump’s proposed increase in US military spending is almost as big as Russia’s entire defense budget.

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”:  Sun Tzu, Chinese

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Sally Cone Hits the Dating Scene: Kind of Weird, but Maybe….

Oh Lord, where is my Haldol? Recently I saw online a documentary on sex robots. The reporteress, a short-haired woman seething with quiet indignation,  Viewed  With Alarm the very idea. Progress is rapid on these love assistants, she said. They move. Some do, anyway. They talk, but not too much. Before long they will have skin-temperature silicone. Today we have all those deplorable men sitting home, lonely and isolated, choking their chickens and pondering suicide. Soon they will instead be rocking and rolling with Robo-Barbie.  This worried her. She said.

If this be true, the why, one wonders, do men want sexbots? Aren’t there already women all over the place at skin temperature?  Sez me, it’s because women have lived too long in a monopoly economy and so let down quality. It used to be that men had jobs and money, and women had that, so they married to let each get some of what the other  had. The woman had to be agreeable as a selling point. Now women have jobs and don’t need men, or to be pleasant. Some are nice anyway, but it’s no longer a design feature. Of course they often end up old and alone with a cat somewhere on upper Connecticut Avenue, but they don’t figure this out until too late. Anyway, they stopped being agreeable. They learned from feminists that everything wrong in their lives was the fault of men.

It is a real problem: American women are inoculated from birth with angry misandry insisting that men are dolts, loutish, irresponsible, and only want sex. (To which a response might be, “Uh…What else have you got?”)

Of course, in some cases women, real ones, offer a lot. Even in America, women exist with intelligence, a sense of humor, maturity, and a recognition that marriage  isn’t a guarantee of uninterrupted bliss. Such women are a delight, both of them. The problem is knowing when you have one. They all talk a good show as long as things go well. When they don’t she gets a lawyer, the kids, child support, and moves to Okinawa with a colonel she met in a meat bar.  You never see your kids again.

No, this didn’t happen to me, but I see a lot of it.

Dating an American woman entails both high overhead and high risk. The costs are great in time, money, and emotional discomfort. She will grow on you, or try to. Sooner or later the dread question will arise, “Is this relationship going anywhere, or what?”

The wise answer is “Or what.” This will arouse that sleeping horror, relationship talk. Spare me, oh God, spare me, I’ll do anything. Then, unless the monastic life appeals to you–at this point it may–you will go out and do it again. It costs work, time, money and anguish. This suggests the wisdom of getting a vasectomy and a sexbot.

OK, back to sexbots. The short-aired reporteress  wondered why men could be interested in such confections instead of real women, the tone being one of elevated moralism and horror. Beneath the usual factitious objectivity one could hear, “How could...what is wrong with….?” and so on.

In the documentary, the short-haired reporteress talked to an ugly anti-sexbot crusader woman who said testily that using sexbots “objectified women.” (To me it sounded more like womanizing objects, but never mind.) These two dragons continued to  the effect that sex was about intimacy and closeness and bonding. I wondered how they knew. But understand: They weren’t worried about competition. Oh no. They wanted to preserve intimacy and bonding. They were worried about those poor miserable men.

Uh…yeah.

In modern America I see no sign that women are concerned about masculine misery, and indeed that most of them rather like the idea. Be that as it may, the reporteress went to various factories of custom women which had body parts lying about ready for assembly according to checklists from clients. Business, the makers report, is brisk. To judge by the number of rubbery honeys–they really are lovely–in mid-birth, they would seem to be truthful.

 

You could do worse.

Consider the charm of a sexbot. She will be not only beautiful, indeed perfect, but perfectly beautiful just as you want her to be. She will have an “Off” button. She will have user-selectable personalities instead of changing wildly and unpredictably as happens with human women. You can choose  sweet, furiously lustful, kinky to taste, shameless hussy, Honkytonk Angel, whatever floats your boat. She won’t do relationship talk. She will do quickies and nooners without complaint, never have a splitting headache, and never have three-day huffs that no man can figure out. Fast, easy, back into her closet, and you can get to work again.

Variety appeals. It will be unlimited. There will be streaming services. Realdoll.com offers “Extra Faces.” Feminists sneer at this as mere masturbatory fantasy. To which a guy might respond, “What you mean “mere,” Sugar Britches?” Anyway, America was built on self-reliance.

Of course what the shocked and appalled women are really concerned about is competition. They are dismayed at their coming automation. While women are more sexual that men–the better ones are, anyway, usually Democrats–men are more urgent about it. This gives women great power as they are the only sexual outlet men have, except in Scotland. Now they watch the coming sexbots with the unease of a McDonald’s worker watching the installation of an automated burger-flipper.

And the competition is more than skin-temperature silicone.  With goggles offering three-D virtual reality, a young man can do the deed with silken-skinned smokey-eyed temptresses in the opium dens of Shanghai or engage in furtive passion with the mistress of Pablo Escobar in secret palaces of Medellin. History nuts might give Messalina a toss.

The social consequences will be profound. Marriage will decline sharply. (“What? That again? We always have leftovers.”) Women will have to find something to offer that Sally Cone doesn’t. What?

True, in many foreign countries women are feminine, agreeable, realistic, often delightful, and not waiting to get in touch with their inner cobras. They appreciate a decent man who doesn’t hit them, cares about the kids, and provides a good life. They consequently behave in  way that makes him willing to come home at night. Further, Asian women don’t talk through their noses and sound like kazoos. But not every man can move to Mongolia. 

Finally, it might be worth keeping in mind that a rich vein of hypocrisy underlies the prissy female  horror at men coupling with electrically-heated plastic. As many studies have shown, women watch porn too, and  buy vibrators, objectifying men, or at least part of one. (And men are sexist? I mean, Sally Cone is at least all there, and if her personality comes in a memory module, at least she has one. Or several.)

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The Marine Corps, 1966: Not Too Many Snowflakes

This is criminally long. It will probably leave no  space on the internet for anything else. It was published in the magazine of Army Times in 1979. It describes a Parris Island that no longer exists. In fact it describes a world that no longer exists. The thought of some  effeminate Sanowflake telling a Marine DI that he needed a Safe Space so he wouldn’t feel uncomfortable, poor darling–well, it just charms me. He would develop a whole new understanding of “uncomfortable.”

Anyway, the piece will resonate with a few Marine old-timers now long in the tooth. Semper fi.

 

Boot camp. Yawning gateway to military life, an adventure outrageously funny and frightening, source of a lifetime of lies, all growing worse with each bull session. No one forgets boot. Get two GIs together over a bottle of gin, talking about old times, and sooner or later the talk will turn to tales of boot, a few of them true.

Not many, though. It is all right for most stories to be based on fact, but the better recollections of boot have only a nodding acquaintance with truth. Facts inhibit flexibility. They stultify.

But boot is more than tall tales. It is part of American life. We talk of being a peaceful nation, but usually we have a couple of million men and women under arms and often a war going. A high percentage of Americans spend time in the military. They shape it, and it shapes them.

A particular aspect of the national character appears in the organized anarchy of military life. Literature finds the military a feast — Catch 22, M*A*S*H, A Farewell To Arms, Dispatches, and all the rest.

Boot is a gateway. Here’s to basic, as I remember it, as everyone remembers it, as I saw it in going back this year. A boy’s first great taste of life.
Next to finding a Portuguese man-of-war in the bathtub, the worst thing that could happen to a kid of 20 in 1968 was getting to Parris Island at a grainy-eyed two in the morning, flat exhausted, and meeting a drill instructor. Everyone’s heard the tales. DIs will pull your fingernails off one by one, make you run until your knees corrode, bury you to the neck in sand and leave you for the mosquitoes.

When the bus pulls into the swampy lowlands of South Carolina and Parris Island signs appear, it all becomes plausible. And there’s no…way…out.

I arrived on a chartered Greyhound crowded with Richmond boys who suddenly suspected that they weren’t a Few Good Men. It was a raw deal all around–cottony taste in the mouth, somebody else sure to get the girl back home, bus reeking of stale sweat and beginning fear, no thought yet about dying in Asia, just a sort of uh-oh feeling.

The driver had picked up a sergeant at the gate to give him a ride. “You wanna get off before the stampede?” the driver asked. Stampede? It was ominous.

On that loneliest morning I’ll ever see, my introduction to the Marines–the Green Team, the Crotch, Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children–was a little man 32 feet wide and about as high as my chin. He had killed Smokey the Bear and stolen his hat. He had a voice like Krakatoa in full eruption, and his name was Staff Sergeant Bull Walrus. At least I think it was.

He exploded into the headlights like one of hell’s more vicious demons, trembling with fury.

GiddawfadatgawdambusNOW!” he bellowed, blowing several windows out of the bus–I swear it, three windows fell out–by which we understood his desire that we disembark. We did so in sheer terror, trampling one another and no longer worried about our girls. To hell with our girls. Bull Walrus was clearly about to tear out throats out with his bare teeth, that was the important thing.

There we were, The Few, The Proud, standing in deep shock with our feet in these silly golden footsteps painted on the pavement. Move one inch, Walrus screams, and he will do unspeakable things, after which our girls will no longer want us. I figured they kept Walrus in a dungeon by day and just let him out to torture recruits by night.

We were groggy with fatigue, minds buzzing with adrenaline, and Walrus is inspecting our suitcases to take away glass objects. So we won’t commit suicide with them, see.

I imagine myself tearing out my carotids with an Arid bottle. Suddenly he is in front of me. I lied. He’s not 32 feet wide. He is 40 feet wide. He’s got arms like anacondas and his head is held on by a bolt.

He also is confiscating porn books, to protect our morals and read later. He reaches for a book in my suitcase and glares at me with eyes of tin and death. I realize, with calm that still surprises me, that he is going to murder me. The book is Medieval Architecture.

A recruit, a drill instructor told me much later, after I had been reincarnated as a journalist, “is the funniest goddam animal alive. He’s gotta be. You get these kids, some of them are street kids from the city, some of them farm kids, and these suburban kids who just don’t know nothing–every kind of kid.

“And dumb? Jeez they’re dumb. And they’ve got about three months to adjust to a complicated life they’ve got no experience with. They’ve got to learn how to think Marine Corps. Military thinking isn’t like civilian thinking.

“Half of ’em don’t even know how rifle sights work. Like this friend of mine is teaching a class about the M-60 machine gun, and he’s telling them its rate of fire, it’s gas-operated, and this skinny recruit says, ‘But where’s the gas tank?’”

“Jeez, they’re dumb.”

Sergeant Sly is a man with a sense of humor. He’s black, strac, and cocky — the DI cockiness that says there’s nothing on God’s green earth better than the Green Team, and I’m the coolest thing in the Marines, and, Prive, you gotta sweat to be as good as me. All DIs are like that, all the good ones anyway. Sly is a good one.

Sly runs recruits along the hot, dusty weapons ranges of Camp Lejeune — hot and dusty in summer, anyway. He tries to keep his recruits from getting hurt.

“All right,” he tells a platoon, standing in sweat-soaked utilities. Nothing looks quite as dispirited as recruits in a hot sun. “While you’re in the field, you gotta take certain precautions against the wildlife. I don’t have to tell you about some of it. Don’t feed the snakes, or try to pick’em up ’cause they’re pretty.

“I’m talking about the other wildlife. Most of it’s harmless, but one kind is bad news–what people down here call the Wampus cat. It’s related to the bobcat and it’s not too big, ’bout like a cocker spaniel, but you don’t want to make one think he’s cornered.”

Another afternoon at Lejeune. The recruits listen, barely.

A few scenes are so close to boot camp that they deserve inclusion here, embodying as they do terrors near to those of boot. A massive grinder at Camp Pendleton, California. A private, fresh out of training and spending a week on maintenance duty before his school begins, has been sent to pick up toilet paper for the barracks. Battalion issue has no box in which to carry it. He ponders, has an idea, sticks a dozen rolls on a mop handle, puts it over his shoulder like a rifle.

A bird colonel rounds the corner. The Marine is new enough to the real military that officers terrify him. Panic strikes. He hesitates and, driven by reflex or some buried death wish, gives a snappy rifle salute. The colonel’s jaw drops. His hat slowly rises on a column of steam.

You learn. It just takes a while.

Boot camp is a very quick education in the ways of the world–of many worlds. For a weird collection of people, the average training platoon beats midnight in a New York City bus station.

In my platoon we had a Mexican kid named Rodriguez who couldn’t speak English, a black kid who said he was Bill Cosby’s nephew, three college students–one of them a physical chemistry major, one a tiny blond guy who couldn’t have been more than 11 years old–and a bunch of judicial draftees. (“I’m gonna give you a choice, son,” says the judge. “Four in the slammer or two in the Marines.” It’s supposed to be illegal. So are a lot of things.)

Many of these judicial draftees were burglars from Tennessee. Free enterprise seems to be broadly interpreted in those parts and usually begins after midnight.

One of them was named Mulvaney. He had been caught in a second floor bedroom collecting someone else’s silverware. He preferred the Marines to the slammer, not necessarily a wise choice in those days. I later heard he got killed outside of Danang.

Anyway, Mulvaney was built like one of those Martian robots on the late show, arms like logs and the legs of an offensive lineman, and he had gray eyes and a long, slow smile that meant he was about to break your legs in 20 places. He didn’t get mad easily, but it was spectacular when he did.

For a college kid accustomed to settling disputes by reason, Mulvaney was a revelation. He didn’t care about right and wrong. Either he liked you, or he tried to kill you.

One night Mulvaney was standing fire watch in the latrine–the Marine Corps thinks they are flammable–and he somehow got into a fight with Rodriguez. A Mexican kid from Brownsville is not the best choice to throw hands with. We could hear it all down the squad bay — terrific thumps with a splattering sound like a sack full of hog kidneys hitting a tile wall, and not a word. Neither wanted to waste energy talking. It was one of those extended fights engaged in by men who simply like fighting.

Next morning it was hair, teeth and eyeballs all over the deck, and enough gore that you’d have thought they’d been slaughtering hogs. Both combatants looked like they had lost a discussion with a cement truck. Mulvaney’s left eye looked like an egg fried in blood and Rodriguez’s nose wasn’t quite where I remembered it.

“What you pukes been doing?” snarled the drill instructor. Pukes was the nicest thing they ever called us. He really wasn’t mad. Fighting was a sin, but not as bad as falling out on a run.

“Walked into the door, sir,” says Mulvaney, deadly serious.

“Wha’ sir?” says Rodriguez, looking puzzled. His English deteriorated when he was asked inconvenient questions.

For hours, Mulvaney and Rodriguez pounded round the grinder in full packs, holding hands and yelling, “I love Mulvaney more than poking my girlfriend.” When they finished, I bet they did. It was justice of a sort.

McCoy was the saddest thing I ever saw. McCoy was very tall with a long, sad face. He was disturbingly thin — your impulse on meeting him was to feed him — and beet-brown from heaven-knows-how-many-weeks in strength-building platoons.

McCoy didn’t have any muscles to enlarge. If he had any coordination, you didn’t notice it. His voice was soft and feminine and he was funny looking, a bad thing at boot. He reminded me of a clerk from a Dickens novel.

On the grinder he stuck up above everyone else like a weed and was always out of step. He tripped over his feet and fell into other people. McCoy struggled to do pushups until tears ran down his cheeks, but couldn’t do them. His back folded until his belly touched the ground, and when he got into the “down” position he couldn’t push himself back up.

The DIs wanted to get rid of McCoy. He didn’t belong in the Corps, they said. They offered him medical discharges and general discharges, and set him back time and time again, but McCoy wouldn’t quit.

Later we learned that McCoy’s older brother had gone through Parris Island and had been All-time Superprivate or something, a really hot trooper. McCoy wanted to finish to make his brother proud. He had never amounted to much and wanted to show that he could do it too. Trouble was, he had the guts for five Marines but the body for about a third of one.

The DIs bullied him to drive him out. They were practical men, and they knew he would die in Asia, probably getting several other men killed at the same time. They badgered him mercilessly and made him stand on tables and roar for the platoon. He’d stand there on a bayonet instructor’s table, surrounded by the platoon, and the DIs would torment him.

“Roar, McCoy.”

McCoy couldn’t roar. A muted groan came from his scrawny chest.

“Louder, McCoy! Let’s hear a Marine Corps roar!”

“Uhhhhh…oooo…uhhh…”

“Louder!”

“Make a muscle, McCoy.”

McCoy, looking sadder than ever, would tense his muscle for all to see and nothing would happen. But he wouldn’t quit because he was going to be a Marine and make his brother proud.

I forget how they finally got rid of him. If there is any possible way to do something wrong, a recruit will find it.

There was the ambidextrous kid at the grenade range at Lejeune. The idea was to stand between two walls of sandbags and throw the grenade over a high parapet. He pulled the pin and rared back to throw. Then he stopped. You could see the puzzlement in his face. No, that hand didn’t feel right. He casually tossed the thing in the air, caught it in the other hand, and threw it. By the time it exploded, the instructor was in the next county and accelerating.

I remember lying in lovely cold muck behind a log at Lejeune, firing at enemy oil barrels a few hundred yards away. It was one of those weird situations that occur regularly in the military.

Cold rain drizzling down my helmet and running neatly down my spine, my helmet slipping down over my eyes, and I’m in a firefight with a bunch of extremely dangerous barrels. The rifle is a worn out M-1 probably left over from the Napoleonic Wars, in use only because the government has several hundred billion rounds of ammunition for it.

The trigger mechanism is broken. Every time I fire it, the damned thing falls out and hangs down like a wounded clock. I slap it back. Bang, slap, bang, slap. Every fourth round, the clip pops out of the top of the rifle–spoing–and lands on my helmet.

Bang, slap, spoing, clunk, adjust the helmet. Bang, slap. I begin to see that it could be a long war.

A recruit was standing on a roof at Parris Island in the burning sun at parade rest. His DI had put him there to work on the roof and somehow had forgotten him. A passing sergeant noticed, stared curiously for a second, and bellowed, “Git down from there, prive.”

The private didn’t move.

“Goddamit, git down here,” bawled the instructor, unused to being ignored.

Nothing. The private looked deeply unhappy, but didn’t so much as twitch.

Another DI came along and yelled, but nothing moved the recruit. He gazed desperately ahead, either deaf or crazed by the sun. A group formed on the sidewalk, including a warrant officer, a lieutenant, and, finally, a passing light colonel.

The colonel snapped his crispest order. The private stared ahead. The crowd conferred, decided they had a mental case on their hands and prepared to send for a struggle buggy and some big corpsmen. Then the private’s DI returned.

“Jaworski, Ten-hut! Git your butt down from there.”

Down came Jaworski. From parade rest, you see, the only acceptable order is “attention”. The manual of arms says so.

“You see,” a drill instructor explained to me, “a recruit’s in a place he doesn’t understand at all, and nothing ever works for him. Back home, he knows the rules. Maybe he’s a big dude on the block, got it made. Not here. Everybody’s yelling at him and he can’t ever do anything right.

“So he figures he’ll do exactly what he’s told. It’s his way of protecting himself. If something goes wrong, he thinks at least it’s not his fault. This is what a drill instructor’s got to learn — nothing’s too crazy for a recruit to do if he thinks it’s what you told him. And you really got to think about it. Otherwise you can get him hurt.

“One time in winter a friend of mine, Sergeant Grunderling, had evening duty at some building and he wanted to go take a leak. So he tells this recruit who’s with him, ‘I’m going out for a minute. Don’t let anyone in who doesn’t know the password. You got that?’

“The recruit says, ‘Yes, sir,’ so Grunderling relieves himself and realizes he can’t remember the password. So he hollers, ‘Minter, open the door.”

“What’s the password?”

“I forget. Open the door.”

“I can’t do that, sir. You told me not to let anybody in who doesn’t give the password, sir.”

“Goddamit Minter, now I’m telling you to open the door.”

“‘No sir, I can’t do that.”

“Minter, it’s cold out here.”

“No, sir, I can’t do that.”

“By now Grunderling’s mostly frozen and so mad he can’t see straight, but he sees threats ain’t going to help him.

“Please, Minter, let me in. I ain’t gonna yell at you. I won’t do anything to you.”

“Aww, you’re trying to trick me.”

“No, Minter, honest, I ain’t trying to trick you. Open the door.’

“You’re gonna yell at me, aren’t you sir?”

“No, Minter, I promise.”

“Finally, old Minter opens the door and Grunderling nearly kills him. But he should have expected it. A recruit does exactly what you tell him.”

“You probably won’t see a Wampus cat,” Sergeant Sly continues, “but if you do, remember he’s fast. A cat isn’t built for endurance like a dog is, but he’s lightning in a dash. Don’t think you’re gonna tease a Wampus and run away when it starts spittin’ and howlin’.

“They’re not that fast — I mean, a Wampus cat can’t keep up with a cheetah or anything, but they’ve been clocked at 50. It takes a damn good shot to hit anything at that speed.”

A September day in a clearing at Camp Lejeune. Our company of trainees sits in weathered bleachers, scratching and, after three months of training, feeling as salty as three bosun’s mates.

A massive sergeant with a velvet Georgia accent is teaching us the care and feeding of a white phosphorus grenade, otherwise known as Willy Peter (and several other things unfit for a family magazine).

Willy Peter is an unpleasant weapon that throws white phosphorous around, a nasty substance that sticks to you and burns.

He holds the lethal cylinder in his hand, tells us what horrible things it can do to Luke the Gook–who was then the hated enemy–and announces that he will trot into the field and demonstrate.

That is fine with us, as long as we can sit in the sun and relax. We watch with interest as he lopes into the grass.

For days we’d been watching weapons specialists trot into Lejeune’s clearings, and something spectacular always happened. Something blew up or went bang or made colored smoke.

So the sergeant gets out there next to this little steel hut he’s supposed to hide in while Willy Peter does his stuff. He chucks this incredibly vicious grenade downfield and ducks into the steel hut.

Two seconds later he streaks out at roughly Mach Four, like Tony Green on a punt return. He has the unmistakable gait of a man who is flat terrified. About that time Willy Peter goes whoomp! and the air around the sergeant is filled with long smoky trails of flaming phosphorous. He streaks on as if he took showers in the stuff, ignoring it, a mountain on the move in blind fright.

Somehow all that smoking agony misses him and he reaches us panting hugely.

“Goddam wasps.”

Training has changed. Ten years ago, reveille at Parris Island meant a GI-can lid sailing down the squad bay at oh-dark-30. The lights would come on suddenly and 10 seconds later a hundred recruits would be standing at attention in their underwear, half-conscious and miserable.

Now the GI-can lid is gone. So is much of the stress of training.

“What happened, some kid’s mother heard about it and wrote her congressman. He came down and said, Oh dear, ain’t this awful, what if they hit somebody with that lid. So they made us stop that.

“And one time a recruit died of heat stroke carrying his first issue to the barracks, so everybody’s mother started writing her congressman. Now we gotta carry recruits around in cattle cars.

“Hell, you can’t put thousands of people through military training without somebody getting hurt. It just ain’t possible. If they don’t train hard, they get killed in combat. They ought to shoot the doctor that let that kid in here in the first place. Congress doesn’t give a damn about training.

“And you know what? The recruits want training to be rough. That’s why they joined-to do something hard.”

Parris Island can make a Marine out of almost anything with a detectable heartbeat. What a kid wants most at Parris Island is out, and the quickest way out is to behave. Most kids have a well-developed sense of self-preservation and see the wisdom of obedience. A few are hopeless.

I remember a tall kid named Gurdy from the slums who was terrified of the water. He had a tiny cue ball of a head and held it to one side, like a rattlesnake. There was a mean, cautious defiance to him, the look of a trapped animal. Gurdy had lived so much on the outside of society that he didn’t realize you ever had do anything.

We were lined up at the pool for the swim test, if you could call it that. I think you had to swim about as far as most of us could broad jump. Gurdy stood there wild-eyed and strange, leaning his head one way and rolling his eyes the other. He didn’t say anything.

The rest of us were going through boot camp, but Gurdy didn’t know what he was going through. I guess he thought we were going to make him walk the plank. He was out of some remote tenement world of Chicago, and beyond even the military’s ability to handle.

We could see him getting crazier and crazier as the line got shorter. Tension was building up in him like a head of steam. Finally he broke and ran like a jack rabbit — just shot out the door and kept going.

God knows where he thought he could run to on Parris Island, where it’s hard for a fugitive in a bathing suit to hide. I don’t think he much knew himself, probably figured it was like ducking a cop in the city. It was the last we saw of him.

I had thought it was borrowed from some book like Battle Cry, but it happens: Private Mulligan walking down the squad bay at Parris Island, chanting, “This is my rifle, this is my gun…,” firmly holding onto both.

The worst hazard for a recruit is not shrapnel or even dismemberment by Sergeant Bull Walrus. It is tattoo parlors. These garish dens abound near big bases and prey on recent recruits longing for any evidence of manhood. New soldiers spend 15 minutes getting that impressive eagle, and then they spend 20 years pricing plastic surgeons to get their boyhood back.

Some recruits go stark nuts over tattoos — Wasloski, for example, a red-headed Polish kid from Chicago I met in the drab barracks of Pendleton.

Wasloski was crazy. He had an angular, pugnacious face with half the world’s strategic reserve of freckles, and claimed he had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, which for obscure reasons he called UPI, and had less judgment than a volunteer for kamikaze school.

God help him, Wasloski discovered tattoo parlors. It had to happen. He showed up at the barracks one night with a half-naked Vietnamese girl tattooed on his forearm. It was conspicuous to say the least. I mean, it had colors like a Day-Glo detergent box and probably had batteries.

Before it had healed the poor maniac had another on the other arm, and then on an upper arm. I don’t know where it ended, if it did. He’s probably got naked bar girls running up his spine.

Nothing is quite so military as a tattoo, and he wanted to be military. He just didn’t know that guys with tattoos spend the rest of their lives trying to get rid of them. If Wasloski ever has a girlfriend, which is barely possible, he’ll have to have his arms amputated. And maybe his back.

Junior enlisted men have a limitless capacity for avoiding work. Among the better recruits, this talent verges on religious inspiration. Trainees learn it quickly.

My first experience with this useful ability was watching a platoon that was walking in line across a sandy field to police up cigarette butts. Instead of picking up the offending butts, each man carefully pushed sand over them with this boots. They hadn’t planned it or seen anyone else do it. The idea simply came to them as the obvious response to the situation.

They left a spotless field. Thirty minutes later, wind blew the sand away and the place looked like a public dump. I suppose those butts had been accumulating for 30 years, buried repeatedly by generations of recruits.

Then there was McClinton, assigned to water the grass at a chow hall on a blazing California day. There wasn’t a puff of wind. The heat would have baked a camel’s brains, and asphalt was turning to a sticky ooze. McClinton was supposed to walk back and forth across the lawn, spraying each patch until it was thoroughly wet. A Russian would have done it, but the American trooper thinks for himself.

McClinton found the opening for a storm sewer in the ground in the shade beneath a tree. For three hours he stood in the shade and watered that grate. The grass never got wet, so he always seemed to be watering a dry patch. A hundred yards below, the gutter flooded.

“Now the Wampus cat isn’t any damn killer bogeyman, no matter what the locals say. All that stuff on TV about how it killed seven Boy Scouts in a swamp is so much crap. At least in my opinion. But it can get real savage, like any cat, and we do lose three or four recruits every year to it. It’s mostly their own damn fault because they don’t take the right precautions.

“When you put your tent up, just make sure you’re at least four feet from the tree line. Four feet, got it? And the Wampus cat tends to hunt on a north-south line, so I want those tents facing east and west. That’s all it takes, and the colonel won’t be chewing my ass because the Wampus cat killed one of my recruits.”

The beach at Lejeune, a chill gray day with fog wafting over greasy Atlantic rollers. A platoon of infantry trainees stands shivering beside the looming bulk of an amtrac–the old LVT P-5, the beach-assault vehicleof the Marines in those days.

It’s shaped like a steel loaf of bread with tracks. It runs up on the beach and drops its ramp, whereupon the grunts run out and get machine-gunned.

At least, that’s what the crewmen tell the grunts. The grunts are trainees. They’ll believe anything.

LVT P5. What I drove. Also known as a Wide Area Notifying Mine Detector. The gasoline tank was in the bottom. If you went over a mine, a four-hundred-foot plume of black smoke notified everyone within fifty miles.

The corporal in command yells and the trainees scramble aboard-37 of them. A trac is like a steel coffin, dark and cold inside, with only two small windows on the side.

Sometimes they become coffins for real. Once, a hatch was left open and a big roller came aboard, dragging the trac down in 150 feet of cold water. Nobody has heard from the occupants and, as this was some years ago, they are presumed dead.

The crew tell the grunts about it as the ramp closes.

The engine revs up to a deafening roar, hollow and sepulchral, for the dash into the breakers. The beast crashes into the surf and sinks to within a foot of its top, which is what it is supposed to do. Green water comes over the windows and shoots in streams through the minor leaks a trac always has.

The recruits don’t know this. They are very, very uneasy in this death trap, imagining the terrified scramble should it sink. There would be no hope of avoiding a watery grave.

A hundred yards from shore, the crewman stands under the machine-gun periscope and looks out like a U-boat commander.

He eyes the rollers, which break over the top, and says laconically, “It’s too rough up there, Charlie. Let’s take her down to 50 feet and hope the bulkheads hold.”

Three recruits faint. Trainees will believe anything.

I had this guy Handley, couldn’t do anything right,” one DI told me. “I mean, he was the kind of guy who tries hard, but everything he touches turns to crap. Big doofus guy outa Miami. You can’t persecute that kind of guy, because he genuinely is trying his best.

“One day Handley is sitting in this 10-holer latrine we had, along with about six other guys, all with their trousers around their ankles. Well, the colonel comes in to take a whizz, and Handley stands to attention and yells, ‘Ten-hut!’”

Oh-dark-30, a frigid morning at Lejeune. Our last day of training. We line up single file to go into the dark administration shack and collect our boot pay. We are harder and heavier than we were three months ago, a little cocky, confident, aware of new muscles. Inside the shack we have to stand to attention and do some silly boot rigmarole: “Sir! Private Smith reportingforpaycall-serial number twothirtyonetwentysixfiftyone Sir!” all in one breath.

We also have to stop just outside the door and count the crisp new bills. One of the squad leaders — Bergland, a beefy kid from Alabama — has been ordered to be sure we do.

He is feeling full of himself on the dark sidewalk and well he might. For the first time in his life, he is in charge of others.

A figure comes from the shack, like 20 before him, but counts nothing.

“Marine, count them bills!”

The figure doesn’t stop, so Bergland grabs him around the waist and pulls him back, unaware that he has grabbed the meanest gunny sergeant in Camp Geiger.

“Gityourbuttback…here…oh…my…gawd….”

Sir, what’s a Wampus cat look like?” a recruit asks Sergeant Sly.

“I wish I could tell you. You see, a Wampus is unusual in one way: It only runs backwards. It’s one of the mysteries of science. A lot of people have seen the back end of a Wampus, but nobody’s seen the front. That’s why you gotta run your tents from east to west, so the Wampus cat doesn’t back into it. And let me tell you, if you ever see the butt end of a Wampus cat coming in, you better kiss your ass goodbye, ’cause it’s all over.”

Noon in the Lejeune woods, chilly with autumn and the slowing drizzle, gooky red mud making sucking noises under our boots. Rain-laden pine branches brush across faces like cold hands. “S” Company is coming off the flame-thrower range for chow. Why the scene sticks in my memory I don’t know, but it is my most vivid impression of training: a company of sodden recruits, shivering.

There were inexplicable moments when it all came together and we were proud to be in the service, the real world, not pumping gas or pulling frogs apart in some tedious laboratory. A fair number of us would be dead in ten weeks, but we didn’t believe it yet.

Steam rose from the field kitchen, the only warm thing in the entire world, and we held out mess kits for the cooks to fill with savory glop. At 19 you’re too dumb to know when you’re uncomfortable. We were used to 3 1/2 hours sleep, at ease with rifles and seven-eighty-two gear, beginning to feel like Marines.

One blond kid with huge, round, blue eyes has lost his mess kit. He takes chow in his canteen cup–stew, spinach, bread, canned peaches dumped on top, string beans. It all goes to the same place, he says. When you’ve been up and running since 4:30, you don’t care what it looks like.

Sergeants bark at us, but act like we’re human, which may or may not show good judgment on their part. I line up with the rest of these olive-drab warriors at chest-high log tables. We eat standing up in the soupy clay, gray clouds rolling and twisting overhead. Someone passes a rumor that we have declared war on Red China. Some believe it. Some always do.

There is no such thing as a recruit with enough to eat. Chow wasn’t bad-not like at the chow hall where, when the cook scooped up the powdered eggs with an ice cream scoop, green water filled the hole.

Along the log tables are jars of peanut butter and jelly for making Geiger-burgers-two-pound sandwiches that keep you going through the training ranges of Lejeune’s Camp Geiger. Huge wasps and yellow jackets crawl around in the jelly jars.

The man next to me eyes a hornet the size of a heavy bomber in his jar. The beast is obviously dangerous. On the other hand, the Marine wants a sandwich.

It doesn’t pay to stand between a recruit and food. With a quick twist of his knife, he forces the hornet deep below the surface of the jelly and makes his sandwich with the top layers.

Others before him had done the same thing. I count seven buried wasps, some still twitching. You do what you gotta do.

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The Place of Christianity in History: A View from Without

In today’s irreligious and indeed antireligious climate the fashion is to dismiss Christianity as crude superstition, and to babble wisely about the separation of church and state. This is unfortunate, and stupid, since Christianity was the heart and soul of as yet the greatest civilization the world has seen. Those who know nothing of it cannot understand the last two thousand years and how our world came to be.

Renegade Jews founded Christianity (most Jews soon wished they had not), as a sort of heresy that got out of control, lost all resemblance to Judaism,  and eventually stretched across Europe, Russia, North and South America, Australia, and the Byzantine Empire. In all of these it shaped the culture, art, philosophy, literature, the very framework of mind. Much of this was superb and remains unsurpassed.

And what a magnificent thing it was! The traveler of today may have seen the gorgeous churches of Cuzco in the Peruvian Andes, Norman churches in Sicily, and Notre Dame, Salisbury, the wonderful cathedral of Barcelona, the Hagia Sophia, the ceremony of the Russian Orthodox. The artistry, the engineering needed to build many of them in times without structural steel are astonishing. Today in Mexico, in town after town one finds the churches on the central plaza, all different, many splendid, places of quiet and meditation. In any of these them, before Protestantism cast its drab cloak of half of the faith, a traveler could enter and understand everything he saw.

Barcelona Cathedral, built mostly in 1300s. Things of this caliber are no longer built. 

Architecture was just the first syllable of a long paragraph. From Christendom came classical music, much of it explicitly Christian: The Saint Matthew Passion, Handel’s Messiah, and the whole panoply of secular music in Christian forms. Jews came to the table late  in recent centuries and for a while–it seems to be ending–were wildly disproportionate in their production in the arts and sciences but within the framework established by Christendom long before. Now the Koreans and Chinese begin to do the same. Muslims characteristically have done almost nothing.

 The aesthetic element was pronounced, not just in music and architecture but in painting and literature and  illuminated manuscripts, One may argue whether Defoe or Cervantes invented the novel, or France or America the airplane, but both came from Christendom. The genius of the faith appeared not only in sacred art but also in tolerance for, indeed encouragement of, works in other themes. For example, Cellini’s Perseus is hardly Christian but was greatly appreciated in the Italy of the 15oo’s. It would not have been in Damascus. 

Perseus. If any other faith has produced the range and quality of Christendom’s art, I am unaware of it. The Italians no longer believed in the gods and myths of classical antiquity, but neither were they any longer threatened by them. 

The list could go on for volumes. After the Greeks and the dry spell that was Rome, mathematics was a Christian enterprise as were physics, chemistry, pretty much everything. Others would work within these fields. They didn’t originate them.

The other major religion of the Mideast, Islam, appeared in the Seventh Century and conquered vast territories, but quickly fell into intellectual sloth and has since produced almost nothing other than splendid carpets and some lovely mosques. This darkness was not of genetic origin. Many of the peoples conquered by Islam were advanced and impressive, as for example the Persians. Rather it is resulted from a deliberate revulsion against thought and inquiry. (The Closing of the Moslem Mind is good on this.) The alleged centuries of convivencia of the three religions in Spain, koom bah yah, and scintillating Islamic intellect are largely academic agitprop. (The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise deals well with this.)

Catholicism in particular has combined spiritual concerns with a strong intellectual bent. The Christian interest in questions of origin and destiny and man’s purpose produced profound thought from the Church Fathers to C. S. Lewis. Today consideration of such matters as death and meaning are held to be in bad taste. Insensible of the wonder and strangeness of existence, we watch Seinfeld reruns and  congratulate ourselves on not paying attention to that, you know, like, religious stuff. We live under a sort or Disneyland Marxism and descend ever deeper into complacent ignorance.

Russian Orthodoxy. Whatever else it is, drab it isn’t.

And so I see attempts to dismiss Christianity as a mere add-on or style having nothing to do with the achievements of Christendom. This is historical illiteracy. Read any of the thinkers and authors from late Roman times on until recently and you find that they took their faith seriously, that it created their mental worlds. Augustine, Newton, Samuel Johnson, Sydney Smith more recently, and in the United States the Puritans, Quakers, and so on. Many of these were men of high intellect. Their casual dismissal by professors of sociology is in the nature of monkeys throwing books from a window.

The Renaissance in its entirely was an expression of Christendom. Whether you are a Christian–I am not–isn’t the point. And no, Christians were no more moral than anyone else. Popes catted around like any man does who has the chance. Yet the civilization produced wonders.

The evidence is strong that Protestantism, far less ornate than Catholicism, led to capitalism, which led to the modern West (whatever one thinks of this). See, for example,  The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

In our material and not very thoughtful age the  fashion is to point to the crimes committed by the church, to its venality, hypocrisy, and immorality. They existed. Christians behaved, and behave, as horribly as everybody else. But this is usual in human endeavor.  As a moral preceptor Christianity was fraudulent. As a culture and civilization, it was of immense importance. One might note that the atheist dictators–Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot–hold the record for murderousness.

Then came in the Nineteenth Century the third great religion of Middle Eastern origin, or religion manque, Communism. Like Christianity directly, and Islam indirectly, it was a Jewish product. Never has so small a people had so great an influence on history.

Many wonder how a religion, Judaism, could bring about an avowedly atheist…what word do I want? Philosophy? The answer I think is that Judaism isn’t a religion but a matter of identity and ritual. At least, I don’t think I have ever met a Jew who believed in the six days of Genesis or that Lot’s wife became salt or that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and reappeared, undigested. Christians and Muslims actually believe things, though many of the former resort to mental athletics to reconcile faith and science.

Anyway, communism killed its tens of millions and died, leaving a foul stench and little else.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, by the Catalan Anatoni Gaukí, died 1926.  Whether you regard it as lovely or merely eccentric, it is among the last architectural gasps of a once-flourishing faith.

The future? Christianity seems to be dying out. A resurgence is hard to imagine. It simply isn’t suited to the modern world. The Old Testament in particular is ugly and immoral and its magical events I suspect are too much for the modern mind.

Islam, being fanatical and primitive, will presumably survive for a while in its own lands. The mental night that is Islam can be seen in virtually everything, from schooling to commerce and is attributable to a religious hostility to modernity. From The Closing, mentioned above: “In comparison the number of patents registered in the twenty-year period from 1980 to 2000, the report shows Korea with 16328 and nine countries in the Middle East, including Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, with 370, with even many of these patents registered by foreigners.”

 Judaism? Materialist in the philosophical sense and not requiring its adherents to believe things apparently impossible, it would seem better adapted to modernity. It imposes no restrictions on its adherents in science, culture, or commerce.

But Christendom was a hell of a show while it lasted.

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First Transgender President: Trump Becomes Hillary

Oh Lord, it’s happening–the remanufacture of Trump by the Establishment. During the campaign, Trump and the Basilisk had nothing in common but their hair dye. Now, almost daily, he looks more like her. 

He gets embarrassing. Regarding the alleged gassing in Syria, quoth Donald:

“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies — babies, little babies — with a chemical gas … that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. … And I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me … my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

God almighty. Who wrote this–a middle school girl with C’s in English, or the President of the United States? Did he retire to his bedroom for a good cry?

Apparently he ordered his missile strike without bothering to find out what happened. The usual suspects are driving him like a sports car.

The election was a choice between fetor and a lunatic. We chose the lunatic. Whether this was better than the alternative, we will never know, but Trump is going from bad to worse, or as the Mexicans say, de Guatemala a Guatepeor. 

Does he believe this stuff? Is he naive enough to think that there was something unusually horrible about the attack? Horrible, yes, but not in the least unusual. Do you know what everyday, boring artillery does to children? Five-hundred-pound bombs? Hellfire rockets? Daily Mr. Trump’s military and his allies daily drop shrapnel-producing explosives on people, cities, towns, adults, children, weddings and goatherds in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Good draft-dodger that he was, he probably has never seen any of this. Good psychopath that he may be, he may not care.

This whole gas-attack business smells to high heaven. It looks nicely calculated to force him to attack Assad. Gas was important: Killing babies, little babies with explosives is so routine that no one cares, but we have been programmed to shudder at the thought of Gas!

Actually artillery has killed several orders of magnitude more people, but never mind.

Targeting children was a nice touch. Definitely a PR bonus. So Donald goes into his Poor-widdle-fings weep, while Americans weekly kill more children in three to seven countries, depending on the date.

Is the man consciously a liar? Hasn’t got sense enough to think before operating his mouth? Actually believes what  he says when he says it?

Glance at a small part of the record and focus on his changing his tune, not on whether you agree with a particular policy. Erratic, erratic, erratic. He was going to run out the illegals within two years, absurd but he said it. Going to put high tariffs on Mexican goods. Didn’t. On Chinese goods. Isn’t. Tear up the Iran treaty. Didn’t.  Declare China a currency-manipulator. Isn’t. Ban Muslims. Hasn’t. Promote good relations with Russia. Isn’t. Get the US out of Syria. Ha. Make NATO pay for itself. Isn’t. The man has the steely determination one associates with bean curd. You cannot trust  anything the man says.

Having been reprogrammed as a good neocon, bombing places he promised to get out of, looking for a fight with Russia, he is now butting heads with Fat Thing in North Korea. He his said things closely resembling, “We have run out of strategic patience with the North. If nobody else will take care of it, we will.” Grrrr. Bowwow. Woof.

The problem with growly ultimata made for television is that somebody has to back down–that is, lose face and credibility. If Trump had quietly told Fat Thing, “If you crazy bastards scrap your nuke program, we will drop the sanctions,” it might have worked.  But no. Negotiations would imply weakness. Thus an ultimatum.

So now either (a) Fat Thing knuckles under, humiliating himself and possibly endangering his grasp on power or (b) Trump blinks in a humiliating display of the Empire’s impotence, possibly endangering his grasp on power.

Kim Jong Il, or Il Sung Jong, or whatever the the hell the latest one of them is called, shows not the slightest sign of backing down. So does the Donald start an utterly unpredictable war, as usual in somebody else’s country, or does he weasel off, muttering, and hope nobody notices?

Fred’s Third Law of International Relations: Never butt heads with a country that has a missile named the No Dong.

Many of us favored Trump, slightly daft though he was, because he wasn’t yet Hillary, wasn’t yet a neocon robot, and didn’t want war with every country he had heard of, apparently meaning a good half dozen. At least he said he didn’t, not yet having been told that he did. In particular, he didn’t want war with Russia. But when the neocons control the media and Congress, they can convince a naive public of anything and, apparently, the President.

Why is the Hillarification of Trump important? The necessary prior question: What is the greatest threat to the neocons’ American Empire? Answer: The ongoing integration of Eurasia under Chinese hegemony. The key countries in this are China, Iran, and Russia. (Isn’t it curious that, apart from the momentary distraction of North Korea, these countries have been the focus of New York’s hostility?) In particular if Russia and, through it, China develop large and very profitable trade with Europe, there goes NATO and with it the Empire.

Oops.

Thus the eeeeeeeeeeek! furor about Russia as existential threat and so on. Thus sending a few troops to Baltic countries to “deter” Russia. This was theater. The idea that a thousand garrison troops can stop the Russian army, which hasn’t gone silly as ours has, on its doorstep is loony.

Hillary was on board with the Russia hysteria and the globalization and the immigration and so on.  Trump could have screwed the whole pooch by getting along with Russia, so he had to be reconfigured. And was. A work in progress, but going well.

Too  much is being asked of him. One man cannot overcome the combined hostility of the media, the political establishment, the neocons, the myriad other special interests that he has threatened. Mass immigration is a done deal. China develops and America, already developed, cannot keep up. The country disintegrates socially. Washington, always depending on war and its threat, faces a new world in which trade is the weapon, and doesn’t know what to do. The culture courses. The world changes.

Yet if only Trump showed some sign of knowing what he is doing, and could remember from day to day, if only he realized that wars are more easily started than predicted, if only he were not becoming an unbalanced Hillary.

Yet, apparently, he is.

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Notes for a White Kid in University:An Introduction to the Blindingly Obvious

If you are a white student in college, you doubtless hear daily that white people are evil, the principal cause of everything wrong with the world. Whiteness is bad, white people are bad. We are to blame for everything.

If you believe this, you are being gamed. What you are being told is nonsense. If you have the intelligence and self-respect to think for yourself, ask:

“What have other races and ethnic groups accomplished in the world compared to what we white people have?”

This question will be shocking to you because you have been carefully programmed not to think such things. But ask. I think you will find that the groups who complain the most have accomplished the least. Check for yourself.

Kill Whitery-Cathedral

A white man’s stick hut. We began building these things in 1137.

Look around you. Can you find anything with a moving part that was not invented by whites?  Anything electronic? Cars, telephones, computers, aircraft, antibiotics, on and on–all sprang from the minds of white people. You are not supposed to say such things, and could be run out of a university for it–but ask yourself, if you have the courage: Is it true? Do not think that because things are commonplace or easy to use that they are not products of fields of extraordinary difficulty.

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The Hubble Space Telescope. Twenty-five hundred years of phenomenally complex math, physics, electronics, optics, and chemistry went into the Hubble. It is entirely a white man’s show. Nobody else has come close. Your professors will not want you to think this. They will not want you to think. But you have a mind. Use it.

Look around your university. Who do you see taking the hard subjects–math, chemistry, physics, engineering, philosophy, computer science? Whites and Asians…right? Are they the kind of people who complain constantly about White Privilege? You may notice a pattern here: Those who can, do. The rest bitch and moan.

How about your own classes? You are not blind. If you think for yourself, you can see who the smart ones are, and who are those getting a free ride. Usually, a free ride at your expense. Your professors will not want you to notice this either. The question is whether you have been so profoundly brainwashed that you cannot see the obvious.

Being very young, you will probably have little idea of the vast body of knowledge, won over millenia, behind all the things you take for granted. At your age, I didn’t either. It takes  years to get a handle on things. It will be harder for you because your universities will discourage you from looking around you. But glance at the very partial list below (I paste from an ancient column of mine)  to get an idea of what the white race has done over the centuries. You will never have heard of many of these things. And that is curious. While your nose is being rubbed into the virtues, often real, sometimes imagined, of other groups, your own race is seldom motioned except to revile it.

Euclidean geometry. Parabolic geometry. Hyperbolic geometry. Projective geometry. Differential geometry. Calculus: Limits, continuity, differentiation, integration. Physical chemistry. Organic chemistry. Biochemistry. Classical mechanics. The indeterminacy principle. The wave equation. The Parthenon. The Anabasis. Air conditioning. Number theory. Romanesque architecture. Gothic architecture. Information theory. Entropy. Enthalpy. Every symphony ever written. Pierre Auguste Renoir. The twelve-tone scale. The mathematics behind it, twelfth root of two and all that. S-p hybrid bonding orbitals. The Bohr-Sommerfeld atom. The purine-pyrimidine structure of the DNA ladder. Single-sideband radio. All other radio. Dentistry. The internal-combustion engine. Turbojets. Turbofans. Doppler beam-sharpening. Penicillin. Airplanes. Surgery. The mammogram. The Pill. The condom. Polio vaccine. The integrated circuit. The computer. Football. Computational fluid dynamics. Tensors. The Constitution. Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Aeschylus, Homer, Hesiod. Glass. Rubber. Nylon. Skyscrapers. The piano. The harpsichord. Elvis. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. (OK, that’s nerve gas, and maybe we didn’t really need it.) Silicone. The automobile. Really weird stuff, like clathrates, Buckyballs, and rotaxanes. The Bible. Bug spray. Diffie-Hellman, public-key cryptography, and RSA. Et cetera at great length.

If you talk about these things on campus, you will be called a “white supremacist.” This is silly. But calling you a racist is an effective way of making you shut up. Do you want to be supreme over anyone? I do not. Yet other races are proud of their achievements. Why should you not be?  Ask where they would be without electricity, sterile water, telephones and–well, just about everything.

You hear from your professors that white people were guilty of colonization, slavery, and oppression. This is true. What your professors will not point out is that such behavior was, and is, universal.  Human beings are a sorry species, given to murder, torture, genocide, thievery, looting, conquest, and slavery. This has been, and is, true of Africans, American Indians, Latin Americans, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Japanese, Chinese, and Europeans.

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The Larrge Hadron Collider, a gigantic particle accelerator at CERN, in Switzerland, a massive instrument for research in subatomic physics. It is one of the greatest and most challenging projects of humanity. The Japanese could do this if they wanted to badly enough and soon, perhaps, the Chinese. They didn’t. The technology is a white man’s show, starting from Athens 2500 years ago. Are you sure you should be ashamed of this?

You mgmt reasonably be proud of these things. Any other race would be. Your people invented virtually the entire modern world. But that is not too important. The important thing is understanding that intellectual advance comes from some groups and not others. This may not seem fair, and you are not supposed to notice it, much less talk about it. Yet it is obvious. You might prefer that it not be true, but it is true.

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Think of the above as a white man’s cave paintings.

The current hostility on campus to white people is stupid. The human race faces many serious problems. Trying to cripple the group most likely to solve them is good neither for you, the United States, nor the world. We need a cure for cancer. For reasons involving science that you have probably not heard of, we are getting close. If I were cancer these days, I believe I would go into hiding.

When some team pulls the cancer rabbit out of the hat, it will very likely be a team of white people. The second best guess, and an increasingly good bet, is the Chinese. Third? Japanese or Koreans, but his is not likely. After them, nobody is in the running.

Recognizing the phenomenal achievements of your own race is no reason for arrogance. Arrogance usually betrays inner doubt. The successful do not need it. No, success does not justify you in looking down on others. It does suggest that you need not allow yourself to be scorned. You, as a member of way-and-gone the most successful and creative race and culture the planet has seen, should not put up with it. Don’t brag about our achievements. But know of  them..

As a man of appalling age, I have lived in Thailand, Taiwan, Mexico, Vietnam, and Cambodia, traveled in a great many other countries, and both like and respect their peoples.  They are not stupid.  May they flourish. And yet for whatever reason–the reasons are not clear–they have not approached the accomplishments of the whiter race. There you have it.

It is chiefly in the United States that those who can’t, haven’t, and aren’t likely to, constantly attack those who can and have. Note that while they rail and fume and grouse, they  depend utterly on a world created by the people about whom they rail and grouse. To them you might reasonably say, “Come back and talk to me when you have done something worth talking about.” A great silence would follow.

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The Authoritarian Impulse: Getting What We Really Don’t Want

As a society crumbles, as bitter divisions grow and disorder spreads and nothing seems to work, anger comes and people begin to want a man who will say “Enough!” and slap down the malefactors–by any means necessary. A man who will make the trains run on time. A man who will make it safe to walk in the parks.

This is the authoritarian impulse. As corruption grows,  as a coagulated government fails to function, the temptation comes. It is coming.

Recently I read that in Brazil some thirty men gang-raped a young woman, left her emotionally devastated, bleeding, with a ruptured bladder, and laughed as they did it before posting the video online. My first thought  was, that they should be rounded up, shot without ceremony, and dropped into a public sewer. I meant this without a trace of hyperbole.

Two questions:

First, what proportion of the general public would agree with me in private? Second, what proportion would say so publicly? That is, say to hell with legal procedure, clotted bureaucracy, years of appeals, plea bargains, the insanity defense, and how they were troubled youth.

The ratio of the first to the second I will call Fred’s Fraction in a  lunge for sociological immortality. It is an indicator of a country’s explosive potential, of how much anger exists and how tightly the lid is held on. When a great many are very sick of misbehavior, and government prevents both  discussion and remedy, people begin to want someone in power who will forcibly end the detested behavior.

As we read day after day after day of beheadings of priests in Europe, of trucks driven into crowds, restaurants blown up, staffs of newspapers killed, always to the cry of “Allahu Akbar,” how many people begin to think–Send the army to round them up, put them on a ship, and beach it on the African coast? How many dare say it publicly?

Authoritarian solutions are ugly, but  appeal when there are  no others, when governments allow no others. They work, quickly. Hence their eternal appeal in times of chaos. Often they lead to a society that no one would want to live in. In the short run, they are effective and satisfying. We live in the short run.

It used to be, and may still be, that the immigration card on landing in Singapore said in red letters–this from memory–”There is a death penalty in Singapore for possession in drugs. This penalty is enforced.” How much of a problem do you suppose Singapore has with drugs? As society falls apart, people will begin to think–have begun to think–that the approach would work for rapists, muggers, racial attackers, and armed robbers.

It doesn’t matter whether you, or I, think this a good idea. People behave according to what they think, not to what I might think they ought to think.

The authoritarian impulse arises when legitimate government can’t or won’t maintain order. Which is beginning to look like now. In America we have attacks by Muslim terrorists while, until recently, the government did everything it can to import more Muslims. Blacks engage in open insurgency of low but increasing intensity. Under Obama, a black  federal government supported them. Much of the country is sick of open borders, but the government has supported it. As government imposes more and more restrictions on what people can think or do, on how they must live, government becomes just another enemy.

Explosiveness is low in a civil society with little crime, in which people can leave doors unlocked and do not daily see stories of outrage and violation of civilized norms. They have nothing to explode about.  They will believe in due process when a crime is committed and not favor extreme measures.

Such was white America in 1955. Whatever the defects of that time, the suburbs and small towns were calm and safe. I  know. I was there. People were not afraid or chronically angry.

Today in America everyone is angry, and perhaps the most angry are those who believe in what in all times and places has been regarded as civilization. The old  phrase “Silent Majority” applies, or approximates. This majority watches as mobs routinely storm podia and prevent politicians from speaking. They watch as rioters burn cities and loot malls, as college children out of control hold universities hostage.

Yet they cannot say so. They cannot say that looters and arsonist should be shot, that they weary of tolerating useless affirmative-action hires, or that misbehaving brats in college should be told to sit and and shut up or be expelled. Fred’s Fraction would indicate repressed anger.

An exercise for the reader: Calculate Fred’s Fraction for this recommendation: Those on Wall Street responsible for the subprime disaster should be summarily arrested and have their delicate asses immediately put, without recourse, into the general population of Leavenworth for ten years.

That sounds radical and seditious, doesn’t it? It is both. But how many are thinking it?

The anger is dangerous because it is not visible. The rigorous censorship we call “political correctness” prevents expression of ideas disliked by the ruling classes. It leads to surprises. It is why the Talking Heads were consistently, universally, and utterly wrong about Donald Trump’s chances of being elected. They continue to suffer from this cerebrocolonic congruence.

The Authoritarian Impulse flourishes in times of Weimarian social chaos, in which America has dipped a great deal more than a tentative toe.  Groups hate each other. Whites, blacks, browns, the traditionally moral, libertines, New Yorkers, Jews, Southerners. Much as Yugoslavia needed a Tito to keep the peace by force, so may the US. In 1955 the country was almost entirely white, Christian, Anglophone, and European, which provided enough commonality to permit unity-and communications and transportation were poor enough to  prevent friction between regions that would have detested each other: Massachusetts and West Virginia, New York and Alabama. The intercourse physical and philosophical made inevitable by the internet and easy transportation makes impossible the old live-and-let-live.

A happy ending is hard to imagine. Racial antagonism seems unlikely to subside, and worsens. Unemployment grows and will grow as automation advances. This is not fantasy, nor is it far in the future. The culture coarsens, imitating the ghetto.  Gun sales are way up, and there is a reason.

It could blow. Such a thing would not be pretty and the consequences would  be unpleasant. When people feel threatened, scared, or pushed beyond forbearance, their behavior becomes visceral, violent, and unthinking. If conditions grow uglier, as it appears they must, it will be chaos or a man on a horse. The Authoritarian Impulse.

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