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This was beautifully written and poignant. I think that those of us on the left would do well to ground our passions in the body, in the context of those we love and fight for, as the starting gate for the bigger, broader visions we have for society.

I think our positions, while of benefit to the vast majority, often slide down the wall like those old sticky toys. I know I’ve been very guilty of this myself: I tend to speak in lofty abstraction, but who gravitates to “lofty abstract” ideas over a loyal dog? For me (and I observe this elsewhere), there’s a lot of academic training that must be unlearned (but keeping the deeper lessons of the humanities.)

I know it wasn’t really your point, but I think if we can connect more to that “dog energy,” our sincerity will be better heard and felt by those still on this side of sanity.

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Aug 17, 2022Liked by Mary Gaitskill

I just saw the film “Vice” and I think it was actually very fair to Dick. That “Loyal guard dog” nature is what had endured him so well to the people of Wyoming for so long, an “Old West Sheriff” or “Hanging Judge” Zero Nonsense kind of attitude. What took them 40 years to realize had gone wrong with him, from the majority Wyomingite perspective, is that he was overall trained in the WRONG way by Donald Rumsfeld. They do want a fiercely loyal guard dog, but one that doesn’t always try to kill ALL remotely POSSIBLE assailants, as in jumping the fence and running down every pedestrian who happens to be walking, minding his own business, nearby. It took awhile, but various landscaping projects revealed the bones of these victims and it’s just too much. He is the correct kind of dog, from the Wyomingite perspective, ABSOLUTELY the wrong trainer, a damned lunatic, as far as they now realized with too long delayed horror.

“Vice” summed up what’s wrong with the Neoconservative movement from the more nuanced traditional conservative perspective with this scene: “Young Dick asks Rumsfeld, with deep philosophical sincerity, “WHAT is it that we believe?”, to which that insufferable poisoner responded “Hahahahah!”, as if such an important question was the silliest joke he’d ever asked.

That’s when the dog trainer threw the guard dog puppy the entrails of a child he had murdered, getting him used to eating innocent blood, because he’s a total, homicidal psycho.

PS

I hope, if a proper dramatization of the Monsanto story is ever made, that Steve Correll can play Donald Rumsfeld again.

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Aug 16, 2022Liked by Mary Gaitskill

Nicely put. I'm thinking of what was it, Systems of Survival with the Guardians and Traders? He seems like a pretty prototypical Guardian to me. Down to the whole bit about defending his gay daughter. I've actually seen that with a lot of people--they overlook their 'principles' (good or bad) to defend their family or friends.

I actually thought of the whole bit where George W. Bush complains about Putin "launching an invasion of Iraq...er, Ukraine." And then at the end he goes, looking sheepish, "Iraq, too." He tried to make it into a joke, but you could see he was remorseful.

Of course, that won't bring back any of the people who died in the invasion.

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Good god what a writer

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Thank you, I've been looking at and liking your posts too! This SStack world is kind of amazing.

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Aug 20, 2022Liked by Mary Gaitskill

Thank you so much for using body language to read, and to tell this story. When we become deaf to what our eyes tell us about character, and numb to what we sense in other ways, we go gallivanting off in some strange directions as a society. Great piece!

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Fortunately, 'The Prince of Darkness' has no REAL power now - only his daughter wields a sword, smiting dissenters, flailing at shadows - soon to be gone. His video is terrifying, though - like he's the leader of some rugged cult of Marlboro-men maniacs in Jackson Hole. Funny stuff. I wouldn't go quail hunting with the guy, I'll tell you that.

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Did you always feel that way about him? I ask because I've gotten the impression (maybe wrong) that you're conservative.

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I am conservative, and yes, I've always felt that way about him. Always. A devious, evil man. For his role in provoking and conducting the "preemptive war" in Iraq, he is in my opinion a War Criminal. Sadly, there were very few voices, conservative or liberal, opposing the Bush/Cheney policies which have destabilized the Mideast to this day. (Frankly, your understanding of what it means to be an American conservative may need some updated tweaking.) :)

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I respect your consistency re: Cheney. Yes I remember almost everyone in the House and Senate supported that horrible war. I was speaking very loosely when I used the term conservative. You are right I am not at all sure what a conservative is any more as many on the right seem to have leapt out of that boat into shark-infested waters. When you say conservative what do you mean? Who in politics now would you call a conservative?

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What I do NOT mean by conservative is, simply, Republican - there are far too many of both parties who see themselves as professional politicians, Rulers, exclusively representing the policies benefiting the beltway elite and K Street. I would say Governors DeSantis and Abbott are conservative, and Trump, too, is conservative in a very powerfully populist way. There is nothing the Washington Establishment fears and loathes more than a popular politician beyond its control.

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Well at least we both like Lillian Fishman! Which actually does make me happy.

Yeah, I know not all Republicans are the same, not all people who identify as conservative are the same. That's why I asked. Your position on Cheney interested me and I thought you might be an Independent or Libertarian.

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"I only peppered him."

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Bwahahahahaha ...

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Thinking of who seemed demonic 20 years ago and now is a haven of rationality, loyalty & patriotism- I looked at the film Manhattan recently- where Woody Allen's character is having a sexual affair with a 17 year old. This did not register on our chagrin-o-meter back in 1979.

How goofy are we now- how relative is our moral compass? What are we missing while we believe we enjoy great clarity ?

The delusional mayhem throbbing in the MAGA thug militias- ready for a civil war because Mar-a-Lago was searched- seems beyond our wildest imagination. What could be next....?

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"What are we missing while we believe we enjoy great clarity?" Great question always to be kept in mind.

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Is Amber Herd in the Ann Heche trajectory?

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Not sure what you mean. If you mean, is Amber Heard fated to have a fatal car crash I sincerely hope not. I don't know why she would be. She's been through hell and I wish her the best.

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No- but both had dreadful childhood torments, both were waif-like, both dated Depp, both partnered with a woman, both then had a baby, both got horrible press and both seem to struggle with substance abuse.

I meant the analogy more as a sad sense of a doomed trajectory. In H'wood, a wobbly foundation can be a curse.

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I didn't know any of that about Heche. I think you're right that Hollywood is a terrible place for vulnerable people. Not that I've experienced it, but how could it not be? If nothing else because you automatically become such an object of envy and idealization that has nothing to do with you, and if you feel broken inside and no one can see it--horrible. Always a struggle to find reality, or at least that's what I imagine. Let's hope Heard finds her way through it. Its possible.

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Aug 9, 2022Liked by Mary Gaitskill

This is what I’m afraid of. I think that now they’ve been stirred and are prepped and at the ready. It’s sad that the maga crowd claiming rule of law, yet they don’t seem to know (or claim their own explanation) on how a search warrant works, or that trump’s lawyers were notified before hand. Let’s hope that the various investigations into trump, his families and cronies bring charges against them. If the republicans take control in November, I shudder to think what direction our country will descend into.

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I will forever think Dick Cheney as a dog under the porch, gnawing a bone, waiting to die. I stopped and looked closely at your pronoun for Trump: It, with a capital "I". In research I was doing a year ago for a novel, I learned that African Americans, formerly held as slaves called the south "It" as in "It surrendered." Trump and the Jim Crow south: nameless evils. Maybe we shouldn't even give them the capital "i".

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I would never want a Cheney nipping at my heels.

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One of the stranger twists these days how one side has felt compelled to lionize the daughter of the former poster child for everything they despise about the other side. Yet if they get too close, they’ll spot the father peering out of those determined daughter eyes. It all feels so delicate and fragile, so not Cheney.

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I think Rep. Cheney needed the big dog to show what family dynasty (yet another) she’s from, a staunch Republican conservative family. Your analogy regarding former former VP Cheney to the big dog (in translation) was so well worth the read.

I do appreciate her work with the January 6th Committee.

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yeah, so insightful, thanks

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“My interest in truth is more literary than political” is a great and honest summation. The observation of our current political time feels out of body, looking down on a tragedy from above. More bemused than horrified.

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Aug 17, 2022·edited Aug 17, 2022Author

I appreciate where you're coming from and I'm not just being polite. I sense your concern for moral reality or just reality, period and that must be appreciated. But I can assure you my position on the subject of Cheney past and present was/is in no way disembodied or lofty. If anything it was below the ground. I was in the past responding to him very physically/emotionally and interpreting him that way. If there's a problem its in the extreme subjectivity of the response; if I were a survivor of the Iraq war or Abu Ghraib and I were to see Cheney on TV I don't doubt my physical response would be very different. I hesitated about the post for that reason. But I decided yes because I think there is a deep human story in the way someone can "turn" because of a bad decision or a wound or just a mistake, and then build on that turn--I feel it happens a lot, and if that person is a politician it comes out in strange ways that people see and feel and misread sometimes too; it affects how they vote. An acquaintance wrote me about it: "...his despaired view of a world that can’t trust its own communal/institutional creations, his view that maybe they don’t exist. Nothing’s as dangerous as a person who destroys things that exist because he think they don’t exist - which is where the dogged brutality comes from". This person is a fiction writer too and we make stories out of very little. But it seems valuable to remember those stories are there, even if they are mostly secret. I don't find this one bemusing or purely horrifying. I'm not sure what the word is, but it's not either of those. If I were able to feel it fully I think it would make me cry.

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Well, I consider myself an Independent, although registered Republican so I can vote in the primaries. There's are many Republicans and Democrats who will never get my vote. I love Lillian Fishman's book, love her style. I even told her agent at ICM Partners, he's sitting on a volcano - I would be very surprised if movie options don't follow. Cheney is the devil. lol

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Ms. Gaitskill,

I much enjoyed your literary explanation of not only the Cheneys’ , but world events. The dogs of war are once again barking.

It’s sad because of the amount of skeletons both Dick Cheney and former president Trump have in their closets.

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Thank you for your appreciation, I appreciate it!

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Defending the home , we all do, it’s normal. Inventing a threat to initiate a murder is criminal.

I was expecting that view to be your conclusion as it would be consistent with the thrust of your excellent piece.

I’m unsure of your opinion. CH

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Aug 10, 2022·edited Aug 10, 2022Author

I agree with what you say, defending the home is not the same as inventing a threat to initiate a criminal war. But I think that is so obvious that it doesn't need to be stated! At least it doesn't need to be stated to many people who will be reading this blog; for those who actually think that Cheney and others who have prosecuted immoral wars are defending their territory, their country, their home--well, I don't think my saying that the two things are completely different will change their minds.

Where it gets complicated and interesting to me: that something so basic and right as an instinctive desire to protect the home (exactly what Ukraine is doing right now) can be mixed in with something so base and evil as political aggression against a much weaker country that has not attacked us (and which just happens to have valuable resources). Sometimes it is mixed in a calculated way (which may've been in case with Cheney) but sometimes people who attack for no legit reason honestly believe there is a reason--almost everyone in the House and Senate voted for that war. On a much more personal level, my father who I loved passionately and believe was a very good man could get himself worked into a rage of aggression over Vietnam, protestors, Cuba--rage which I believe in retrospect was inextricably connected to the instinct to defend his place--a place which, as a survivor of Anzio, he saw as basically always under potential threat. (It wasn't just Anzio; many things happened in his life to make him feel that way, too much to get into.). I don't doubt that my empathy with my father (who drove me nuts when I was young) is part of my response to Cheney. My father was not the same kind of person, had no interest in political power for himself, was modest. He was not a hunter at all, would not have enjoyed shooting animals and, drunk or sober, would never have pointed a gun at a friend let alone fired it. But there is something in the eyes and body language that I recognize in both men, something that I consider tragic, particularly in someone in Cheney's position. I cannot help but feel it deeply. It may not be a useful feeling in a purely political sense. But I believe it is an important feeling to acknowledge on a human level.

My interest is in truth more literary than political, which makes sense given my profession; I'm more interested in the invisible internal workings of what we used to call the soul. But those workings affect political workings too. And I think it's important to remember them.

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