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Nightfall

by on October 2, 2019

Nightfall

by Marco M. Pardi

The day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die.” Martin Luther King, Jr.


Anonymous.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply.

As a child my favorite time was nightfall. The adults were settling down with whatever entertained them, leaving me with the freedom to have thoughts without fear of betraying them, looking into the darkness and feeling my imagination flex, free from the mundane imagery which otherwise confined me. Not a scared of the dark kind of kid, I welcomed it. Still do.

But we are entering a new kind of darkness, a darkness of uncertainty which carries a far greater likelihood of monsters than any childhood imagination could conjure. I’m not referring only to the thick drapery of lies, “alternative facts”, and provocations furled around us daily by the dark cabal which has seized power in Washington, though the “shining city on a hill” has become a gore blackened maw gnashing about to consume any and all who dare speak their mind, who slip and betray their thoughts.

I’m also speaking of the coming internal nightfall beginning to obscure what we had long seen so clearly as the future. Now, some would say everything goes in cycles, day follows night, etc. And some, like George Carlin, would remind us that “Behind every silver lining, there’s a dark cloud”. Some would see that glimmer of light on the horizon as the promise of a new dawn. And others would see it as the coming conflagration.

But neither side seems to understand that in social issues there are no certainties, such as the turning of the Earth relative to the Sun. There are no divinely ordained plans or rules governing the crapshoot we call progress. Those history classes we struggled through actually provided guidance, while we dutifully concentrated on names and dates for the tests. Even more evidence of the fate of “the best laid plans…” can be found in Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse. In short, there is no cosmic rule which ensures the eternal success of the Great American Experiment. In fact, as history is our guide we can see that authoritarian dictatorships lasted far longer than “of the people, by the people, and for the people” democracies.

Much has been said recently about the current presidential administration being characterized as chaos. A key former member of the administration, recently released, has just published a book entitled: Code Word: Chaos. But what, specifically does that mean, and why is it so?

Chaos is a state of extreme uncertainty, a state in which we are not able to quantify and qualify what our senses perceive. The most brightly lit arena of chaos is therefore one of profound cognitive darkness. Extreme uncertainty in this cognitive darkness evokes a primary emotion: fear, fear of the dark. Fear evokes secondary reactions: anger, or withdrawal – the so-called “fight or flight” response.

Many will take flight into avoidance and fantasy, watching television entertainment, sports, or other distractions while avoiding all national news and any local or media discussions. So, what part of “we, the people” are these bystanders? Others will lash out in anger, calling for law (imposed rules) and order (cancellation of choice), changing the equation to “of the few people, by the few people, and for the few people”.

An extraordinary example of chaos as a tactic was provided by the 1968 Nixon presidential campaign. Campaign speeches by Nixon and his vice-presidential candidate Agnew were given in small auditoriums and meeting halls. Attendees were ushered in and seated before a stage set with a podium. Exits behind the stage were obscured, leaving only the exits behind the seated attendees through which the attendees had passed as possible exit points. Then, part way through the speech crowds of rowdy, shouting (hired) “protesters” in “Hippie clothes” came in behind the attendees and began chanting and blocking the exits. The sudden and loud disruption coming from behind startled the attendees who, upon turning around, felt themselves trapped. The chaos and the felt inability to escape it produced fear, which the speaker then guided into anger directed at those “radical left wing hippies”. Order was restored, fear was first directed into anger, and then the attendees were subtly influenced to credit the speaker (Nixon or Agnew) with saving them and restoring order.

This played out several times across the country. It was a masterful and highly successful tactic. Whatever the attendees heard from the speaker was amplified tenfold by what the attendees felt for the speaker. As an operations officer I could not have designed a better tactic.

The Trump rallies follow a different scheme, Trump being a former television “reality” character. The cameras placed to capture him frontally are set to include constant views of attendees sitting behind him; they never see anything but his overly ample haunches wagging back and forth before them unless they look for an in-house jumbotron. But that’s the point: the on-camera attendees, howling in orgasmic frenzy at his every word, are as much the messenger as he is. They are the chorus in a Greek tragedy, visually amplifying the angst expounded in the hyperbolic rhetoric. They do their jobs well.

The theme of Chaos rings through and the chorus wails for the Strong Man to save us. Aeschylus must be turning in his grave. This is the road to dictatorship. And this is why Chaos, whether real or believed, is such a necessary tool to the building of that dictatorship.

Over the past three years we have often been warned the system of checks and balances has become increasingly disabled. But now, as the opposing Party is awakening and groping in the dark for the levers of power we can no longer excuse the current administration as innocently ignorant of those Constitutional checks and balances. Except for Trump, the Puppet-in-Place, and his spawn, the Presidential henchmen know exactly what those checks and balances are and how they work. And it is for that reason that they do not deny them but rather seek to discredit them. This tactic, too, has a good likelihood of success. In a twist on Aesop’s Sour Grapes people who do not understand institutions, and therefore feel those institutions are not working for them, seize on any disparagement of those institutions as valid and true. And when pressed to suggest replacements they rush first to the support of the Strong Man. He knows better than the generals. He knows better than the Congress. He alone can fix it.

While it does seem there are glimmers of light in the darkness, increasing examples of knowledgeable people speaking out, I am puzzled as to why the “Republican” cabal does not oust its puppet. Apparently the Russians did sway a very large number of voters to install Trump but it seems the established Republican politicians fear that not enough of those voters have awakened. Yet, as has long been the habit of the Republican party, they have a vice president in the wings who is far more capable of assuming the dictator mantle. Simply impeaching Trump, even bringing him up on the criminal charges he so rightly deserves, will not derail the long and massive train carrying us to dictatorship. The Party is driving the locomotive; the voter “base” is distributed throughout the train, waiting to throw off any fellow passengers who sing out of tune. There have been repeated warnings of “civil war”, most notably the recent “dog whistle” from Trump himself. Having worked in counter-terrorism as long as I have, I do not for a moment doubt bloodshed is imminently possible, perhaps likely.

Supporting this dismal view are the almost daily comments from officials and political scientists that “we’ve never seen anything like this before in American politics.” In other words, Chaos. These comments from officials and political scientists refer to the behavior and pronouncements of the administration. These behaviors and pronouncements are not aimed at Americans in general, they are aimed at “the base”, the poorly educated and resentful mob that sent the Tea Party to Congress and now wonders why governmental processes went off the rails.

While darkness frees the imagination to “create” it can also mask the very real threats. Being a nightfighter is not a skill acquired easily from reading or listening to media broadcasts. It develops in the very young, and is not always the happiest way to live a life. But this is a time when we must overcome our fear of the dark.

I stood on that corner in Winslow, Arizona………..lookin’ for that flatbed Ford……………

Maybe I should have waited for daybreak.

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4 Comments
  1. Mike Stamm permalink

    We will survive Drumpf and his pond-scum minions, as we have survived worse in earlier times…but the damage they have inflicted, and the damage they can and will yet do, will take decades to recover from. And it will leave scars. Because of them, we may never be as a country what we could have been, let alone what we once thought we were. Those who think that we are in fact returning to some fantasmagorical mirage of greatness now are little, shriveled, terrified people, hearts “empty as a paper bag, eyes of clever glass,” the kind that think McDonald’s serves haute cuisine and Rush Limbaugh is an elder statesman. We can and will do better…but we have postponed the dawn yet again, and for a longer night than most we have survived so far.

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  2. Thanks, Mike. I ordinarily do not succumb to hope, but I feel we are literally at the gates when it comes to the damage done to our planet. I do not mourn for the people who have brought it on themselves, but for the innocent who will pay the price, including all other life beside just humans.

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  3. Let me begin by apologizing for taking so long to comment here; there are no excuses, and I will not attempt to make any. The first time I read this, so very long ago now, I was impressed, both by the elegance of your prose, and by the clarity and eloquence with which your message was delivered.

    Life has a way of changing us, sometimes for the better, but mostly it just makes us different. I’d like to think, in my case anyway, it’s been a little of both. Certainly, I have become more aware of the world around me, and how the actions and inactions of each of us has an effect on that world. I’ve always been vocal about those things that mattered to me, but now the scope of what’s important has widened immensely.

    Like you, I’ve never been afraid of the dark, either literal or metaphysical. If I close my eyes, or my mind, nothing changes; the problems don’t go away because we choose not to see them. I think maybe this is the “cognitive darkness” about which you have written.

    The current regime is doing its best to keep us all in the dark, and far too many are willing to squeeze their eyes tightly closed and just wait for it to pass. My greatest fear is that it won’t pass, and that the damage it has already done to our world and the people in it will continue to multiply. What if, by Presidential decree, he declares himself Dictator for Life. I’m afraid our congress isn’t strong enough to tell him “no”. I am comforted by knowing that there are still a few blind fighters in the jungles and trenches ready to do battle for the rest of us. Thank you, Marco, for being one of them. Rose

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    • Thank you, Rose. No apologies needed; we have each been working hard at everyday life in these times. As you know, I agree with your feelings that we cannot completely undo the damage even if we stop its progress today. But I take comfort in knowing we are in this together and will each do our part.

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