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Saturday, February 25, 2012

So Easily Intimidated

John Mitchell
This afternoon on Amazon Prime I watched the movie All the President’s Men.  The movie brought back memories of John Mitchell, H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and of course Richard Nixon.  All of these men struck me at the time as being intimidating; in fact I wrote a poem about them called the “Chromium Men.”  I’m sure I would have found them daunting, most definitely in the President’s Oval Office and, more tellingly, even if I had encountered them as locals holding forth in conversation around some potbellied stove in a remote country store.  It is with chagrin that I admit being easily intimidated by people with an air of authority—people who in their own bones are deeply convinced of their own preeminence.  This trait alone often carries them far when enabled by people like me.  Some people when I am in their presence seem to convey that there is a pecking order and that I am hopeless further down in that order than they; and I, rather than challenging it, acquiesce and become complicit in their conviction.  Perhaps it comes from perceiving that the task of donning equality in their presence would be futile and even somehow dangerous (the President’s men did, after all, resort to “dirty tricks” and worse).  That such acquiescence is bad for everybody and possible outcomes is undeniable.  In days of analogue clocks we used to say that even a stopped clock is right twice a day; in other words anyone can be right now and then and anyone can be wrong despite the certitude of their ego.  Perhaps in his early days, if John Mitchell had encountered people with the guts to demur from his ingrained conviction of natural superiority, he may have become more humble and in due time not wiped out and dishonored himself and his associates.  The recent death of Whitney Houston (she was definitely not chromium, but certainly golden) and the circumstances surrounding it serve to remind us that everyone is equally human despite our own complicity in manufacturing the fiction of unassailability.  The responsibility is almost a moral one to telegraph to the self-enchanted that an air of authority, like everything else in excess, can lead to self-destruction.

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