I have acquired a friend here in the rehab, a rareish example of the type of person you’d be lucky to encounter anywhere, much less in this sort of fucktard-intensive environment. Not to slag my fellow attendees — they’re a capital bunch, in the main, if a little rough around the edges, top, bottom, middle, and core — but they, in fact, we, are mostly misfits in the truest and most literal sense of the word. Our jagged edges, missing pieces, and spiky defensive perimeters make fitting in a delicate and difficult proposition, hence our refuge in intoxicants, leading (ideally) to rehab and redemption, otherwise to a life of isolation and otherness.
Not so Jeff — his easy manner, quick wit, intelligence and warmth make him an ornament to any gathering or conversation, possessing as he does the casual magnetism that acquires friends readily and makes people feel privileged to have met him. But — of course there’s a but, and of course he has a serious failing — this is not Reader’s Digest, and I am no trader in encomiums, this is the erstwhile Stony Lonesome, where we tickle life’s seamy underbelly until it pukes.
If you’ll excuse a brief detour, the previous sentence illustrates the problem of trafficking in cliches, besides the fact that it’s lazy and denotes a lack of imagination and flair. One might toss out a phrase like “seamy underbelly” without the vaguest notion of why it is used to describe something dark and unsavory. “Underbelly,” I get. The unseen part not exposed to light; one imagines the pale ventral area of an alligator scraping the ground. But “seamy”? I would guess, as Dan’l Dub confirmed, that it meant “characterized or indicated by the presence of seams,” and hence rough, disreputable, unsavory, because visible seams in a garment make it look rough. Turn your shirt inside out for a practical illustration of the definition and there you have it, another chunk of linguistic obscurity roped, wrangled and corralled.
Anyway, Jeff. He breakfasts exclusively on a large heapin’ helpin’ of Fox News, and shovels in another big steaming bowl of ignorance, lies, demagoguery, pettifogging, and baseless rhetoric before bed just to be sure his subconscious doesn’t sneak in and try to overlay the nonsense with a little common sense and compassion. It’ll do that, because regardless what kind of poisonous garbage our conscious mind attempts to digest and render reasonable, there’s always a hidden pocket of sanity and reason waiting to undo the damage when our reactionary defenses are down, i.e. sleepytime. That’s why we so often wake up and say to ourselves what the hell was I thinking? While you sleep, the sensibility elves are hard at work undoing the damage we’ve wrought with the likes of Tucker Carlson and Captain Morgan.
Sadly, the sheer mass and density of the idiocy emanating from Fox News, dosed liberally enough, settles in and seeps into every cranial cranny, every nook in the noggin until your brain is nothing but a bucket of fetid, toxic sludge.
Engage this gentleman in conversation and you will be rewarded with insight, wit, and interesting observations, that is, until the conversation turns to politics and then it’s Katy bar the door as he parrots the muffinheaded vitriol of Donald and Roger’s lavishly hairsprayed puppets. He references Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez so often he shorthands it to “A.O.C.,” spat with the contempt fundamentalists employ recalling Satan, accusing her of everything from ritual child abuse to being Hillary Clinton’s side piece. Every claim and accusation is wilder than the last, every reasonable response to them answered with the “fake news” mantra. Everything that is demonstrably true, rational, or in any way in opposition to the Fox team of bullshit merchants and their bottomless cornucopia of codswallop is fake news. The US Constitution? Fake news. Global temperature rising? Fake news. The spherical nature of the Earth is fake news, and I am not making that up. How or why a flat earth ties in with the Trumpublican agenda I don’t know, or why a round one would suggest more Democratic mischief, but that is what is at the heart of their philosophy: Not only does it not have to make sense, it shouldn’t.
The official record is rife with sad tales of MAGA widows and Fox News orphans, people who watch in baffled amazement as their loved ones are forcibly recast into the neocon mold by the irresistible allure of the bush-league propagandists over at Fox, formerly kind, compassionate, liberal people transformed into angry, hateful stooges, mindlessly reiterating Sean Hannity’s daily diatribe in place of the pleasant dinner-table conversation in which they once engaged.
But this is not possible. No one with a spark of intelligence or a modicum of principle could be swayed by their infantile rantings; you could prop my eyelids open with toothpicks, give me crank to keep me up and pentothal to soften my brain, subject me to the full slate of Fox nincompoopery 24/7 for as long as you want and I will not deviate one whit from my principles. I may kill myself, but I’ll still be championing Bernie, compassion, socialism, and good sense until the bitter end (“Bitter end” — not “bitter” as in sharp or pungent, the bitter end is the part of an anchor rope that affixes to the deck.)
All these pseudonazi nitwits are doing is peeling back the thin veneer of sense their new adherents adopted to fit in or please someone else. They were always, at bottom, hateful racists who only needed official confirmation that they weren’t alone, which Trump and Fox News gladly provided.
Bill Gibson, former board chairman of the Hospitality House, Navy chaplain, philanthropist, and community-minded do-gooder, discovered Glenn Beck late in life and became, according to his wife, “unrecognizable.” “I feel like I don’t have a husband anymore,” she told me.
He spent his free time in front of the television, muttering and grumbling about Mexicans and Obama’s birth certificate while his wife, a genuinely kind and loving person whose public service was meaningful, considerable, and genuinely motivated, looked on in shame and horror. I think a clue to this man’s true inner asshole could be divined by his naming the Hospitality House rear annex for himself after he paid for it. Shouting “look what I did” is not on keeping with the true spirit of philanthropy.
Jeff was born into and raised by liberalism and liberals, rural Northern Californian post-hippie vegetarian tree-huggers, which goes a long way toward explaining his duality. More telling is his ten years spent in the Army, more specifically the Rangers, not an outfit associated with kindness and compassion. The army teaches two things: killing, and avoiding being killed. That training may take many forms but it all boils down to the same thing. What they don’t teach is love and concern for one’s fellow man; they work, in fact, quite strenuously to beat that sort of softness out of their trainees so that they can effectively and reflexively kill without compunction or afterthought.
That this doesn’t always go as planned is evidenced by the suicides and other post-traumatic difficulties rampant among combat veterans. But whatever else it does, ten years spent in an outfit known for serious, efficient, cold-blooded ass-kicking will make a man hard and perhaps receptive to a hard and cold-blooded view of the world.
Still, I continue to believe in his inner liberal and persist in chipping away at his noxious, nacreous carapace with liberal doses of NPR and socialist good sense. I doubt he’ll ever warm to A.O.C. or Nancy Pelosi, but maybe, when Trump is nothing but a bad memory and the Green New Deal ushers in a new age of peace and harmony (I know, I know. It’s not going to happen, and whoever’s in charge will be just as corrupt and ineffective, and the whole bloomin’ race is and will continue to be on a collision course with disaster, but a man can dream), he’ll see the light as we all join hands on a green hillside and lift our voices as one in a beautiful song of love and brotherhood. NOT!