Friday, January 25, 2008

Outrageous Passion!

What is the proper tone for a blog?

My guess is that blog writers, if they are also novelists or newspaper reporters, don't write their ideas the same way they do for print publication. The typical blog writer has no boss. The Internet feels like a medium without restrictions. The addictive attraction of blog writing is its freedom. Blogs should be a place to look for new ideas, some of which are not empirically demonstrable.

I've been reading experts on blogs, trying to find the proper tone. They say the best blogs are intensely personal and filled with passionate dialogue. In my novel and on this website I am trying to share what I have learned in a lifetime of attempting to heal myself. I believe the future of our species will be determined by dealing with our mental health. We are frail, easily delusioned, superstitious and violent. Sam Harris' books brilliantly set forth the dangerous future religion is leading us into.

My approach is to look at every irrational act (by what one might assume to be self controlled and reasonable adults) as resulting from unresolved infantile impulses which began before we were born. It is the only way to explain the madness of those among us. It's the only way to explain monsters like Hitler and Stalin. It is the only way to explain the millions who continue to believe these madmen acted correctly.

In a hundred years we may not have a planet if we do not start looking at what happens to us physically and emotionally from the moment we are conceived to six years old.

Jacob Weisberg has just written "The Bush Tragedy," in which he describes a pathologically rigid, tragically incurious President. He observes, as many have, that once Bush’s mind is made up, it is closed to rational discourse. Closed. How can that be in the man who was running the most powerful nation in the free world? How could a free electorate choose such a damaged person?

Picking through evidence, reading books, trying to understand alternative policy paths is beneath our President. The man seems to be hollow, as if his inner substance was long ago been drained away, and all that remains is a kind of buddy boy charm and a frat boy smirk. It is alarming that the powers behind the Republican Party ruthlessly picked what they thought would be someone easy to manipulate. This is not a political blog, but we must look at one of the most tragic results of child abuse and how it has affected those who govern us.

There is no way, of course, we are going to learn about the private early childhoods of our President, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Libby and Rice. As with JFK and Bill Clinton, all we can do is examine irrational, self-destructive behavior mature, undamaged adults would not indulge in. This tells us everything.

Bush, pathologically, does not solicit feedback from those around him, evaluate results, or easily hold people accountable. In spite of his MBA training he does not remotely perform like a competent executive. He cannot bear the subtleties of inconclusive debate. He sees reconsidering decisions or changing course as evidence of weak leadership.

This lethal stubbornness appears to grow from Bush’s parents doubts about him from the first. His mother nagged unbearably and his father was disappointed in the kid. In spite of the best connections and education, in spite of Yale and "Skull and Bones," our President often failed and drank. Yet, as governor of Texas there was little national or world wide harm he could do,

We have carelessly chosen a man with the absolutely wrong personality to be the commander in chief or our mighty military, even though information about this was available long before he was elected. No wonder the world is concerned. Throughout Bush’s history as an executive, criticism has had the opposite of its intended effect.

He must be right and he will not surrender. Old currents of blind rebellion run deep. And we're not dealing with an intellectual giant. His facial expressions tell us we are dealing with an angry child.

Our leaders are two of a kind. Cheney displays his pathology for anyone who wants to see. That his associates in big business have not noticed, tells us everything about why we cannot allow big corporations to have the power they have accumulated. Cheney bears a seductive, loopy smile: masking rage. Occasionally photographs surface showing his true character.

Cheney's face tells us everything -- yet we, the electorate, do not notice. A superficial smiling face goes over well in a boardroom where the main concern is how much money have we made today. We are the same folks who pour money into churches that make us feel good.

It is no surprise that such a man, in the interest of vast sums of money, would lie with no regard to how many lives or how much torment the lie might cost. Unfortunately there are too many doctors and lawyers, sworn just as Cheney was sworn, who do the same thing. We are living in an epidemic of psychological immorality where even religious leaders are morally corrupt. My explanation lies in our upbringing.

I was a soldier and am familiar with firearms. There is absolutely no way Cheney could have shot his lawyer buddy, unless Cheney was completely unconscious. Deep, ancient anger will produce this. For moments he wasn't present. He didn't even see what he was aiming at. He might have been firing shotgun pellets at some old memory he wanted to exercise. I do not believe the reason his daughter is a lesbian can be solely accounted for by genetics. No doubt the man is also a child abuser.

We are familiar with the schoolyard bully. Aggression and rapid fire diatribes mask cowardice, creating the "Bill O'Reilly" syndrome. No doubt O'Reilly and Rumsfeld shared the same brutal childhood, which turned them into little terrors once they got power. Get even with the torturer the little child inside keeps screaming. These are deeply unhappy, severely damaged men. Their wives could tell you, if they would.

Bush's refusal to get rid of Tenet, Rumsfeld, Rove and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, when it was apparent they were incompetent, has cost many thousands of lives and ruined our economy. It was the act of an angry, frustrated two-year-old, who needed what all small children need, and received nothing. In its extreme this anger produces a suicide bomber.

This blog sees these failings as a result of unpublicized early childhood abuse that has produced a ruinous pathology, leading to lies and perjury. I was struck by a CNN report from Iraq where more than one soldier proudly told the reporter that he was there, risking his life in a hostile environment, to run down the perpetrators of 9/11 and save our country from them. To his discredit the reporter said nothing.

These failures stem directly from Bush's old family drama -- creating a personality diametrically in opposition to his father. The collapse of his reason for invading Iraq led our President not toward a re-examination of his decision, but toward greater and greater justification.

These personality flaws were already in place and dangerous before President Bush was three years old. An adult, drinking heavily to mask the pain of failure in his battle to surpass his father, he began making decisions based on whim. Then he encountered the "Word of God." Rather than do the hard intellectual work necessary to understand himself, he resorted to what Melanie Klein calls "magical thinking." He surrounded himself with yes-men (and one pathetic woman) and amazingly, with so much at stake, when it was obvious he was wrong, refused to change course. This is a Shakespearean tragedy.

We can only do something about such deep rooted personality flaws in our leaders if we are conscious that they are lethally dangerous. I spent Christmas recently with friends in France who claimed the French prided themselves on not giving a damn about the personality or private lives of who they elected. Observe the result. This is still the most important country in the world. The character, personality and private life of those who we give power to is paramount. That's why it matters if one candidate, or their mouthpieces, purposefully lies about another.

We must pay more attention. It matters that we elected an otherwise brilliant president who was so driven that he had sex with a Mafia prostitute, and apparently other unfortunately chosen women, in the White House. Apparently both he and his brother, another brilliant executive, spent a great deal of their energy on sex outside of their marriages.

These comments are not about morality. We should seek common sense and psychological health in our leaders. It is to my mind more appropriate to choose leaders who are not damaged beyond conventional oral therapy by their early childhoods. A man running for president believes the Constitution should be changed to fit the moral dictates of his religion, in which he speaks directly to god. When confronted he denies he would impose his beliefs on anyone else. Really?

I wonder how much of an element early damage and beatings are in the rise of Evangelical Christianity, which seems to seek to block thought and feeling and substitute for it -- superstition.

What could be psychologically wrong with Don Rumsfeld that allows him to sleep at night knowing that his arrogant, failed policies have resulted in the death of thousands? He could have reversed course when he learned how ill conceived his plans for the military in Iraq were. But that would have meant admitting his amateur errors to Generals who, thanks to our President, he was position to bully.

Two absolutely ruinous mistakes, leading inexorably to our present disaster, were made early in the occupation by Paul Bremmer. Bush, Cheney and or Rumsfeld could've gotten rid of this incompetent and reversed course -- just as our President could have quickly chosen someone to better handle the aftermath of Katrina.

Rumsfeld should have been fired after Abu Ghraib. But as he did in his childhood, President Bush created layers of insulation from the painful truth that he was not anywhere near as capable as his father. His mother's early role in this is inescapable. In a man destined for a minor role, as Bush seemed to be, such personal aberrations would not be serious.

It matters that our president was an alcoholic for many years and may still drink. It may not incapacitate him, but it indicates he must dull some intolerable ache in his unconscious. Pay attention voters. Our President’s daughters have had substance abuse problems, no doubt for good reasons.

By contrast, overcoming failings in their marriage, there is no way that Clinton's daughter could have such a glorious, healthy expression, unless she had been brought up by loving parents. Whatever your political bent, being a loving parent, with healthy children, is a fine credential for leadership.

I was pleased with my first three blogs and thought they had achieved the right passionate, irreverent and original tone. One should not read in my blogs material that could be commonly found elsewhere. These blogs have launched me toward my next two books and invigorated me. Then I received an e-mail from my best and one of my oldest friends, also the finest writer I know.

“The website is more extensive than I thought it would be. My first reaction was, “too much, why all the past performance?” But thinking it over, I realize that it’s a kind of curriculum vitae and background filler that is appropriate for this book. It was good to see your commercials again. They do lend you stature and credibility, but they date mainly from the 60’s and 70’s, and that may seem dangerously “ancient” in today’s world. But…who knows?”

I am the son of a man so pathologically narcissistic that when I was in my 20s he took all of my film directing credits and placed them under his name in the Directors Guild of America directory. My father never was a film director, but the Radio Directors Guild, of which he was a member, had long ago been folded into the DGA. At that time I had not bothered joining because I worked essentially alone. No less a director than Robert Downey Sr., who gave his unfortunate son marijuana to smoke in his early teens, gleefully informed me of the theft.

In this period I was successfully pursuing one of my 35mm commercial sample reels someone had lifted and was showing around New York as his work. I stuttered since birth and at that time had difficulty communicating and defending myself. I was in hiding -- allowing only what I made with my own hands to speak for me. All I had were my potential future DGA credits resulting from it. The freedom to post my work in a forum such as the Internet is the result of a lifelong quest for healing.

When I confronted my father in his fancy office he defended himself by saying that since I was his son, it was okay for him to say he directed my films. By some magic, for he was not there, he believed he actually did. It was he behind the camera. He coaxed the actors. Even though he had been a huge success in another medium -- he was the filmmaker in mine. There was no me. Get it kids? I was, as usual, speechless.

Then for the first time in my life I became openly angry at the man who had sucked up the air in every room, allowing no one else to breathe or speak. (When Orson Welles was in our home with Rita Hayworth I observed my father was silent and listened.) The subsequent issue of the DGA directory contained a virtually invisible list of my father's credits, minus mine.

“As for your blog, the first entry seems too strident. Too many opinions and too few facts lead people to question your objectivity—if not your sanity. Perhaps such a peroration might attract some other victims of abuse, but I think you also want to engage people who haven’t had the experience. Overstating your case with inflammatory rhetoric is likely to turn off those who aren’t intimately familiar with the problems.”

Here we have it! Abuse is a persistent menace – therefore in speaking out stridently, I am insane. Doesn’t this well meaning, intelligent man realize half the population of this country has been abused? Therefore half our adult parents are abusers. It's probably worse than that.

It’s the subject our film (for the time being called "The Backlight Chronicles") is going to address. We elected an abused president who has surrounded himself with other abused, pathological personalities. Are we are not intimately familiar with the problems?! They are destroying us. Who would not be strident?

The only people who don't have first-hand “experience” with abuse are those in denial. It's everywhere, pernicious and dangerous. I am already receiving letters from abuse victims and lining up the hundred or so people I will need to testify in our feature-length documentary. Their stories are absolutely amazing. One would not believe civilized adults could treat their children this way. It's going to be heartbreaking. But only by telling the truth and confronting it can we bring change.

A main thrust of the film: there needs to be a federal law removing the statute of limits on child abuse. It should be like murder, for it is the murder of a little soul. Victims must be able to sue a federally, because their civil rights have been violated. Many states are so backward that most of their legislature is made up of abusers. New York is an example that also excludes recovered memory. One cannot count on those fellows to change the law.

I believed that my friend, the writer of this note, and one of the most brilliant writers I know of, had read every book that matters. When I mentioned Alice Miller, Peter Levine, and other writers on child abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder he had read none of them. He had read no books on the modern history of psychoanalysis. No Melanie Klein, Jean Sanville, Heinz Kohut. And certainly no Wilhelm Reich. What an odd and selective failure to read.

“I believe that you must be careful not to attribute quite so much of the world’s evil to this one cause: when you have no way of proving the statements, you harm your credibility. Assuming that Britney, Mel and George are abuse victims, and doing it with such fervor and without any doubt, seems to me to smack of fanaticism.”

It seems that in certain areas only fanatics can bring on change. Perhaps only those obsessed will take the steps to confront injustice or inequality. Somehow in all our years of being intimate buddies, traveling and working together we had never discussed anything of a psychological nature. That speaks of my prior self. But also speaks to my unconscious denial and unwillingness to hear the kind of responses I would have gotten.

There is no question that the out-of-control celebrities we all know about are abuse victims. What else could explain their virulent lack of self regard and personal destructiveness? There have been numerous articles in the popular press about their bizarre backgrounds -- a dense smoke plume -- fire must lie beneath.

“Getting rid of some of the bloody red screeds would help, but first you ought to tone down the angry language. You know that a word can have very biased connotations and I think readers will trust and believe you more if you protest less. And I think you don’t want to preach just to the choir—you want the nonbelievers and the on-the-fencers, too. “

I agree. But it is hard to tone down the angry language when it is so obvious we're on a pernicious and dangerous path. I recently wrote an impassioned letter to a sophisticated female friend whose troubled teenage son had been talked into seeing the same therapist she saw. I was informed that the therapist assured the young man that nothing he said would be repeated to his mother. Please, Madame therapist, display some therapeutic wisdom, even though our idiotic laws render you invulnerable to lawsuit. A young man needs his own, private therapist.

Misinformation and lies, disseminated from the very top, have done enormous damage. An old friend, who should know better, has been convinced by the senior Bush's public statements that there is no global warming and that even if all the ice caps melt; the water level will not rise. And the earth is flat. What happened to high school physics?

“Saying that the letter was about Seung-Hui Cho, who killed people at Virginia Tech, would inform or remind people of what you’re referring to. I was confused. And I don’t recall that there was evidence of abuse in his background, either.”

It really doesn't matter what that insane fellow's name was. People know I am referring to someone so angry he pumped stranger’s bodies full of bullets, and made a video justifying his rage. Of course there is no public evidence of his early abuse. He was living in Korea where it is common to beat children. Alice Miller wrote a whole book about it. Beat children, torture them, sexually assault them, and you create a potential monster. The twisted face of Cho, grimacing for all to see, tells us everything.

“Your second entry represents to me more of the tone and style you should aim at: rational, more balanced, therefore more convincing.”

To me the style and tone of these pieces is the same. We must do something about our violent ways with children or we are doomed. If a superficially civilized country like the United States can’t take care of its kids, why are we so surprised that savagely violent Middle Eastern countries so easily produce suicide bombers. There is no political solution to this. It comes from a mother who is unable or unwilling to nurture her children in a safe environment.

“I’d like you and your book to be a success and want to see you portrayed as the rational man you usually are, and not some meshuga. And the fact is, this tone is not fair to your book, which is much more persuasive.”

A book is not a blog. I took care to make “Backlight” evenhanded and believable, even though it presents a surrealistic and idealistic take on the Los Angeles legal system. No one who knows me believes I am "meshug,” as my Shtetl raised grandmother would say. I need some feedback. Take a look at “Backlight” and tell me what you think.

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