By lex, on Thu – October 21, 2004
I got ’em. You got ’em?
I had a boss, not long ago. He took a while getting to his point. His technique on any issue, so far as I could tell, was to come at it in concentric circles of serially smaller diameter.
Many concentric circles.
I found this maddening. Being a man of at least average intelligence, I was prepared to answer the question he was preparing to ask long before he got to it. But military decorum required that I let him wander his circuitous way to his target.
Waiting for him to get there always made me suffer.
I’m a direct attack kind of guy. I’ve got a question for you, or guidance, you’ll get that first. When I know you’ve received the message, then I’ll ask how the family is doing. Then maybe we can socialize. I’m not saying that’s better or worse, I’m just saying that’s the way I am.
It’s not that I’m anti-social – if there’s nothing much going on I’ll run my lines, talk to the folks and shoot the breeze. It’s just that I consider that sort of thing as separate and apart from the mission, whenever it is that I have one. I don’t like to leave people guessing, because I don’t like to have to guess. When the boss comes into the room with a bag of knots, the worker bees want to know what’s what, get him out of there and get to work on the problem.
I had an office that was at the end of a T-shaped passageway (that’s a hallway to you sand crabs). At the intersection, my office was on the right, one of my subordinates was on the left, and ahead was a fax machine – a dead end, in other words. This same guy had a habit, twice? Maybe three times a day, of coming down the passageway and parking himself at the T, staring at that fax machine.
And there, he would wait.
He would wait until someone, either me or my subordinate, would acknowledge his presence and ask him how he could be helped. And then he’d walk slowly into that person’s office, sit himself comfortably in his chair, and start his meandering way towards whatever it was he had eventually come to talk about.
I eventually came to realize that this was a control technique – a kind of passive/aggressive behavior. Knowing this did not save me, however, from playing along. I could, for the space of a few moments, choose to stare rigidly at my computer monitor, pretending that I was unaware of his darkening presence at my door. I could hope to at last my subordinate, hoping that he might volunteer to ask the boss first how things could be better.
In this hope I was always disappointed. My subordinate, safe in a more junior officer’s position of immense moral superiority when dealing with such tactics, could safely ignore the boss. And I, that infinitesimal bit closer to the throne, could not. Our service does not include as one of its attributes ignoring our superiors.
No matter how strongly we feel that they deserve it.
Tonight I’m at the gym. It’s been a while – I’ve been running every morning before work, but I haven’t paid my dues on the weights or machines lately. There just hasn’t been the time. And I’m looking forward to a relaxing session of hurting myself, just that little bit.
There’s this guy, not much more than a kid actually. In the full flower and pride of youth, blooming, ridiculously healthy. And he’s wearing a t-shirt that says “Vote” on the back. And on the front it says:
And all his policies
And all his ilk.”
And it was so in my face, in that same sort of passive aggressive way, for the better part of an hour.
At one point, we’re at the water fountain together, and as he turns around I can’t help but sneer just that little bit. And he says to me, “What?”
Which is too bad for him, because if he’d caught me earlier, before I’d had the long, rambling dialogue with myself in my own head, I would have been stuck with, “Excuse me?” But no, I’ve had time to think about why his t-shirt kind of pisses me off. So I tell him:
“Dude – that shirt is everything that’s wrong in our society today – the first line is rejection, not affirmation. You’re not advertising anything positive, not proposing an alternative – you don’t know what you want, but you know what you don’t want and the only way to describe that is juvenile.”
He turned pretty red in the face in that, and started to bluster, but I wasn’t quite done. “You asked,” I said, “And now I’m telling – all of his policies? What on earth is that supposed to mean? Is it code language of some sort?”
But I didn’t give him a chance to answer, because frankly, I was on a roll, and he had become the avatar of all passive/aggressive people that have always driven me off the tracks, and I finished with, “And ilk? That’s the worst part – that’s like coconspirators. It’s dehumanizing. One of the biggest problems in society today is that my side of the political sphere thinks that your side is naive, or at worse misguided. Your side thinks that mine is stupid or evil.”
And he called me a “f*$%# fascist!” and we parted company. Neither of us, I suspect, the more enlightened.
Which pretty much ruined the workout for me.
But I was set thinking – the one piece I couldn’t work a good answer up for was “all of his policies.” I mean, how do you answer that? What does it mean?
I turn things over in my head, I gnaw and worry at them. So it was also revelatory, after (unfortunately long after) our “discussion” at the water fountain had concluded: What can a President really do, all on his own? Without the other branches of government giving assent, or getting in the way and asserting their own rights? He can’t declare war – that privilege belongs to the Congress. And Congress, you’ll recall, had (if not declared war) at least authorized the use of force in Iraq.
But recognizing that would spread the blame too far and wide – many democrats had also voted in support of the use of force resolution. It’s hard to demonize the entire Congress. How to explain that away?
Ah – Bush lied. That’s the ticket, and why it was so important for Michael Moore and all to say that Bush was lying when he spoke and acted as he did on the WMD issue. Because, if he was just reacting to the information which his intelligence services provided, subsequent to a horrible attack that had in one morning killed nearly 3000 American non-combatant citizens, then there really wouldn’t be any good reason to attack his “policies,” except in the light of 20/20 hindsight.
So I think that’s what I learned today. Why the “Bush lied” meme is so important to some on the left.
It makes everything else possible.