A blowhard and braggart I knew for less than ten days bored us for every one of those days with lies about his non-existent military service. He was just stupid enough, just self-absorbed enough, and just self-deluded enough to think we believed him. I don't think he was really conscious of lying to us; I suspect he was not aware he deluded himself first, then apparently just assumed we swallowed his fictions. After all, he did. Why shouldn't we?
If he really thought we believed him, then he was another proof of that old observation that the stupid often think they're smarter than their brainer betters. He was not only lacking in smarts, but also the slightest clue that none of us believed his huffing and puffing. With all the posturing and bravado, he reminded me of a yappy little dog telling me that if it wasn't for that fence between us, he'd rip the gizzard right out of me.
Finally, fed up with listening to such transparent fantasies, one disgusted fellow pointed to the wall clock and asked our conjurer what it read in military time. His answer? A feeble, "We didn't use military time when I was in." I was disappointed. Was that the best he could do? It was like watching a third-rate magician have the cards fly out of his hands. Not only were his brains on the fritz, his imagination had also parted company with him.
This fantasist, to be completely accurate about it, was a loser whose job was what I will politely refer to as a "career security guard." These days, $8.50 an hour, tops. Lacking in both brains and character, he could do nothing else.
Deep inside, below all that self-deception, he must have known he was a loser, one who shored up the shaky edifice of his self with grandiose Green Beret-wannabe confabulations. Of course, like all such people, he could never admit what he was to himself, not unless he wanted to pop like a hot-air-filled balloon. I would not have been surprised if the military refused him for a psychiatric disorder. I doubt it was his IQ, which would have at least placed him in the "cannon fodder, first wave" section.
All that braggadocio was a thin veneer over a ocean of stupidity, self-deception, paranoia, envy, irresponsibility, immaturity and insecurity. He couldn't lie to us about having a Ph.D in Physics, because even he knew no one would believe it. But he could lie about being in the military, which is about as hard to get into as it is to graduate high school. It gave him, at least (in fact only) to himself, an outward image of manliness that he was utterly lacking on the inside. His fantasy gave meaning to the meaningless life of a loser.
His self-image was so inflated he had no clue at all that everyone was laughing at him behind his back. In front of it, too. In some ways he was like a stuffed bird under glass, off in a little enclosed world of his own. He never even caught on to the smiles to his face. And how in the world could he be so paranoid as to believe anyone was angling for his job? But he was.
I wondered if he would be envious, or admire (which is the benign form of envy) someone who had been a corporal and a clerk-typist? I doubt it. I suspect in his mind he saw himself as a combination of Navy Seal and ninja, even if in reality he was dressed in a security guard's robin's-egg-blue blazer. What would he think of someone who had been in the Marines, even if that someone had been pudgy, bespectacled Drew Carey, who really was a jarhead? Slobber on them? Suck up to them, hoping some of what he imagined they were would rub off on him? Or could he only admire a lean, mean fighting machine who looked like Ollie North? I didn't know. I still don't.
It's not necessary for me to look up this fantabulist to ask his opinion about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I already know them, just as I know the opinions of every armchair-warrior chickenhawk: grr! grr! woof! woof! I'm all for the wars as long you fight and I don't!
I don't know what happened to this buffoon, but I do know that one day he disappeared, either transferred or fired. In all those neurons and synapses sputtering and misfiring in the disorganized clutter he used as a brain there must have swum up the vague thought that the jig was up, since one of the guards told me (with a little smile), that our story-teller had called him at home and yelled at him, blaming him for mistakes our fabricating fantasy-warrior had made. When one is a life-long FUBAR, I'm sure it's almost impossible to admit it. It sure is easy to blame your problems on someone else, though. Natural, in fact.
I had forgotten about this clown for years, until I read Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Mother Night. Vonnegut claims the moral of his book is "we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." Yet, what stayed in my mind beyond all else is the second encounter between the protagonist, Howard W. Campbell, Jr., and a former American soldier, Bernard B. O'Hare.
Their first encounter occured at the end of World War II, when Campbell, who is an American spy masquerading as a Nazi radio announcer, is captured by O'Hare. Since Campbell cannot prove his innocence, O'Hare sees him as only another Nazi. Still, Campbell is released on a technicality, and moves to America, where he lives quietly for many years.
Then, one day, 15 years after their first encounter, O'Hare is waiting for him at his apartment. His speech to Campbell is telling. He informs Campbell that instead of being a "doctor...a lawyer, a writer, an architect, an engineer, a newspaper reporter," he is instead "a dispatcher for frozen-custard trucks."
"I guess we've all had our disappointments," Campbell answers, in an ironic understatement from a man who had lost everything. O'Hare, who still didn't know that Campbell was an American spy and not a Nazi, doesn't even hear him. "His concern was only for himself," Vonnegut writes of him.
O'Hare, who has become a loser, decides the purpose of his life is to savagely beat Campbell, who, he tells him, is "pure evil." I won't spoil the plot, except to say that his attack on Campbell is aborted. As he leaves, Campbell has some parting words for him. They are the most important words in the book.
"I'm not your destiny, or the Devil, either!" Campbell says. "Look at you! Came to kill evil with your bare hands, and now you go away with no more glory than a man sideswiped by a Greyhound bus! And that's all the glory you deserve! That's all that any man at war with pure evil deserves."
Vonnegut, through Campbell, is being ironic; he obviously doesn't believe in pure evil. The reason? "There are plenty of good reasons for fighting," Campbell says, "but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where's evil? It's that large part in every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It's that part of every man that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive...It's the part that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly."
There is an entire book in that second encounter between the two men. O'Hare, like the lying security guard I knew, had become a loser. To give meaning to his life, to cover up his own self-hatred, he decided the purpose of his life was to destroy the Pure Evil that he mistakenly thought was Howard W. Campbell, Jr.
Self-hatred underneath, covered up with grandiosity, for both O'Hare and the story-telling security guard. Both blamed their failings on other people. The term for this is "scapegoating." It's when people take their problems and project them onto others. Once they get rid of those people, then their problems will be solved.
The psychiatrist M. Scott Peck accurately called scapegoating "the genesis of human evil." It's what the Communists and Nazis did, to the tune of 177 million people in the 20th century.
Scapegoating is why O'Hare thought that beating Campbell would solve his problems, and why the security guard tried to blame his own substantial failings on everyone else. Each had become grandiose as a defense against his own feelings of inadequacy. The greater the grandiosity shown, the greater the inadequacy it covers. You need look no further than the pillhead Rush Limbaugh.
This grandiosity on top, covering up self-hatred, makes me wonder about the typical sofa-samurai chickenhawk. Are they adults, or unfinished men with little or no meaing in life? I opt for the latter. Why? Because these losers have decided, like Bernard B. O'Hare, that their purpose in life is to eradicate Pure Evil. Their hatred gives meaning to their empty lives.
Thinking they can eradicate evil is pretty grandiose, to say the least. It's also impossible, even if one dismisses millenia of religion and instead relies on George Bush's MBA. Such delusion, such magical thinking, is for children.
These chickenhawks have decided they have good reason to hate without reservation...to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with them, too. They've decided that large part in them that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on their side...is a good thing. Even though it's that part of them that finds all kinds of ugliness so attractive... the part that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly...they still see it as a good thing. Self-righteousness does that to people.
Unfortunately, our opponents on the other side of the world think exactly about us as we think about them. It why the conflict we are in will not be decided on the nebulous basis of who's right and and who's wrong, but on the basis of our might is going to make only us right. Each is convinced their side is Good and the other side is Evil. The right to hate, and to murder, is therefore loosed on the world.
I don't believe in pure good or pure evil. They're fairy tales. Vonnegut obviously thinks so, too. When one decides he is pure good, like the sad Bernard B. O'Hare, such people always think they have the right to define others as pure evil, and then rub them out. Even Jesus denied he was good when a woman referred to him as "good rabbi." I no longer wonder why he answered as he did.
The most rabid, pro-war chickenhawks I've ever met have not only never been in combat, they've never been (like our security guard) in the military. I suppose underneath all their yapping they have doubts they are real men. Would they feel manly if an artillery shell went by their heads? Chances are they'd be too busy crying and wishing they were home to feel much of anything else. I sure wouldn't want them in a foxhole with me.
There's an old saying--and I have no idea where it's from--that the best warriors are the least war-like. I'll nod and agree with this saying, which I find to be true based on what I've learned from the grandiose, and hate-filled, squawkings of chickenhawks. They'd make lousy soldiers, but good cowards.