Summer Camp

I regret that I have but one country to give for my ego:

Only two weeks after the elections in November of 2008, The United States of America, a nation of former greatness lay in absolute desolate ruin. Within the previous 72 hours a series of eight successive, delayed nuclear devices had been detonated. Indescribably large portions of metro Washington D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, and two thirds of the island of Manhattan have been turned into steaming craters. Millions are dead, President George W. Bush is in intensive care, two-thirds of the Cabinet – including the Vice President missing or dead.

President-elect Barack Obama faces the most enormous challenge of any incoming President in the history of the nation.

But why?

How did it happen?

Turn back the clock to the week of February 5, 2007. With a courageous handful of dissenting votes against the measures, the two houses of Congress – purposefully ignore the pleas of General David Petraeus and both pass non-binding resolutions that condemn the President’s call for victory. One comes from the Democratic controlled House condemning the President, his plan, and by implications the troops and the other from a U.S. Senate that ceases to even feign any faint resemblance to standing for victory.

Teh Crazy via Tbogg and World O’Crap.

I’ve never met anyone so in need of summer camp as Kevin McCullough.

Let me explain.

A couple of years ago I was driving home from work listening to NPR, and they did a whole series of audio diaries about summer camp, and life at camp. One of the things that interested me the most was a story about a guy who was nobody, he said, in his regular life. But at camp, he was The Big Guy, the one who could win the archery contest and paddle the canoe fastest and generally do a whole lot of things in a really awesome fashion that had no application in his non-camp life. Camp was where he was important. Camp was where he felt valued and good.

And let’s be honest, we’ve all got those places. I got into journalism because my entire life, my parents had been begging me to shut up. The joke is that I started talking at nine months and never stopped, but more than that, I was sarcastic and argumentative and always buzzing around pissed off about something, with my teenage authority issues and need to keep up a running commentary about everything. My college newspaper was the first place where people didn’t tell me to shut up. They told me to talk MORE, argue more, question more, write it all down. And when I did, they rewarded me with compliments and bylines. I was in heaven. I’d found the place where everything about me that was ugly and awkward and wrong was gloriously right, and you’d have to pry me away from the memory of that iwith a crowbar.

We’ve all got these places, spheres in which our skills are useful, our personalities fit. We’ve all got these places, into which we step and it’s like we’re doing what we were born to do. We’re uplifted, transformed, complete, singing to our gods in the voices given us. For the guy on the radio, it was summer camp. For you it might be music, or painting, or ditch-digging, or the law. Your local bar, the army, a sorority. We’ve all got these places.

I’m hideously disturbed by the idea that for Kevin McCullough and the rest of the bottom-feeding Town Hall rape-fantasy-and-torture-scenario crowd, the picture he paints above is his place. There’s a certain gleefulness about it, right? Like he can imagine himself fitting perfectly into this flattened dollhouse, all smoke and ruin and validation of his deepest hatreds and fears.

I’ve said for a hell of a fucking long time that lots of people took the attacks on 9/11 as either an excuse to be the asshole they’ve always wanted to be or some kind of personal petting from God, and that both responses diminish the attacks and make conversation useless. I’ve said for a long time that anybody who needs a major terrorist attack to give his or her life meaning is severely slacking at life to begin with, but the fact remains that there’s a hell of a lot of people who felt that hey, the earth’s caving in, all my GI Joe figurines will finally come in handy.

And the hardest part of finding your place is that sometimes you didn’t. Sometimes it’s a lie, sometimes it goes bad, sometimes it collapses. Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and you realize that it wasn’t about the place at all, it was about you, and aren’t you a narcissistic bitch, and the whole myth you’ve built up, the story you’ve been telling yourself, just fucking falls apart in your hands.

Do you go looking further, or do you decide that what’s really important is that you’re proven right, and you scribble down some war-porn NC-17 fanfiction about a crisis scenario in which you’d be the hero everyone would look to and say, if only we’d heeded that wise man’s words? Like some horrible political theater production of Wait Till Your Dad Gets Home? Because in the end it’s not about the dead people, it’s about you being so very sure that here, you can win the archery contest, paddle the very fastest canoe?

Kevin McCullough needs to go to summer camp. He needs to realize that there are ways for him to feel valued that don’t involve irradiating American cities.

He needs to make lanyards for a while.


6 thoughts on “Summer Camp

  1. I was really good at making lanyards, or maybe it was woven hangers for flower vases. Whatever it was, I had mine done while the teacher was showing us how to do it. I can feel the pride all over again!
    Oh, wasn’t that what we were discussing??

  2. You know, the first sentence of McCullough’s piece I can buy, it doesn’t take much imagination to believe that Dubya will have destroyed the US by next election day. As for the rest, what is with the “oooh, there are monsters in my closet!” these people see at every turn? Ugh, a padded room is more likely what he needs.

  3. I sometimes like to read those kind of Doomsday books. As science fiction, not as a threat. “Do as I say or BOOM!” (Because you have been right soooo many times before?)
    It DOES have the benefit of letting you be the hero who makes all the right moves.
    But I think he also needs someone to rescue. In this case the country. And if it DOESN’T happen. Well Polar Bear repellent! See my rants must have worked because there is no war! Nice logic that.

  4. Notice, also, how his in his perfect fantasy world, the terrorists don’t do their evil work until we’ve both pulled out of Iraq, but also voted into office a Democrat. His God would never be so cruel as to make W reap what he has sown. He would wait until W was effectively out of office, and the literal fallout from the “wrong decision” could be squarely placed on the shoulders of a Dem.
    What this guy needs is not summer camp. He needs to find a group of like-minded people and play a twisted, right-wing-bent near-future-apocalypse roleplaying game. Surely someone out there’s still got a copy of Aftermath! lying around, right?

  5. “What this guy needs is not summer camp. He needs to find a group of like-minded people and play a twisted, right-wing-bent near-future-apocalypse roleplaying game. Surely someone out there’s still got a copy of Aftermath! lying around, right?”
    I was thinking of another game…Russian Roulette…

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