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"Of all the animals in Creation, only human beings have civilization,
because only human beings have buttocks on which they can be beaten
to instill it into them." - Bennett Williams, The Seat of All
The quotation above is the epigraph -- that pithy little saying
authors like to put at the beginning of a book to sum it up -- to my
latest novel, The American Zone.
The American Zone is a sequel (one of several, but the latest, and,
I think, the best) to my first novel, The Probability Broach, about
a cop who gets blown "sideways" in time to an alternate history where
western Pennsylvanians won the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion, and the
president who sent 15,000 conscripts to Pittsburgh to suppress a 400-
farmer tax protest gets put against a wall and shot for his counter-
The epigraph I chose (an astonishing 25 years ago) for The
Probability Broach -- a real quote, from the real guy -- reads: "My
movement to the Chair of Government will be accompanied by feelings
not unlike those of a criminal who is going to the place of his
execution." - George Washington, February 4, 1789
The epigraph to The American Zone is not a real quote from a real
guy, but not for lack of trying. Philosopher-thug William Bennett,
familiar to libertarians, is adored by fools like Rush Limbaugh, and
regarded by many whose primary interest is individual liberty, as one
of the most evil creatures in politics today.
I've heard it said Bennett dabbled in libertarianism in college, the
same way middle-aged pinkos in the 1950s confessed they'd dabbled in
Communism. According to a column I just read, he also dabbled in Janis
Joplin. (The mental images this generates are thoroughly scary.) In
the end, having served a stint as Minister of Federal Child
Indoctrination, he took the next logical step, becoming Commissar of
Unconstitutional Drug Enforcement for the United States of Sovietized
Bennett fathered the Clinton-Dole semiautomatic weapons ban and most
of the recent Republican aversion to self-defense. It says here he
applauded the FBI at Ruby Ridge and Waco. Since then, having arrogated
himself to a moral authority his résumé plainly demonstrates he
doesn't possess, he's penned a couple of pompous eructations I won't
advertise here, one of which I lampooned in The American Zone, in
which a character (resembling Bennett by the most amazing of literary
coincidences) is portrayed as a having paranoid distrust of, and evil
intentions toward, everyone around him.
Although I began writing The American Zone seven years ago, by the
time it was eventually published (by Tor in 2001), Bennett was putting
together an organization for the specific purpose of stifling dissent
on the part of anyone who thinks -- and, more importantly, says or
writes -- that this War on Everything of his and Bush's isn't the
greatest thing since omelettes made from broken eggs.
He calls it "Americans for Victory Over Terrorism". (Why he
capitalizes one preposition and not the other remains a mystery; the
acronym isn't that great either way.) According to Burton Blumert, Lew
Rockwell's publisher, Bennett's first priority is to put Lew out of
business, then campus anti-war activists, then, presumably the rest of
us. I'm a little insulted that I wasn't mentioned, but all that will
change once Bennett gets wind of The American Zone. In the meantime,
like the horse in Animal Farm, I'll just have to work harder.
But what shall we, the intended targets, call his group? By now, most
of the good shirt-colors -- red, black, brown, silver -- have been
taken. Red's been used twice, by Garibaldi and Gene Roddenberry. Some
might feel "White Shirts" is appropriate, but the unhappy fact is,
there are plenty of black idiots on Bennett's side (Alan Keyes, for
one) and white shows other people's blood far too readily for the
sissified tastes of today's Leninesque rationers of liberty.
I was discussing this dilemma with my friend Rex May. Rex is a
cartoonist whose work you know, having seen it in every conceivable
publication from The Wall Street Journal to Hustler. If you want
to see more, pick up his book, Gesundheit Dummy!
"I like my fascists to dress like fascists," Rex informed me a bit
peevishly. "None of this wimpy, understated Armani business. If a
politico is going to strut around like Mussolini, and bluster like
Hitler, then by god, he should dress like Mussolini or Hitler!"
"Preferably both," I suggested.
Rex added that the robin's-egg blue uniform Hermann Goering affected
would look splendid on Bennett. Unlike Hermann, however, he wouldn't
be able to bedeck his tunic with medals. Democrats are always eager to
spend other people's money; Republicans feel the same way about other
people's blood. Like so many "heroes" in the bellicose Republican
ranks today, Bennett was "out of town" during any war in recent
memory. (So was I, I hasten to add before someone else does, but I've
never kidded anyone, especially myself, about it, nor have I called
down the wrath of B-52s on much of anyone I can remember. I'm still
dabbling in Libertarianism, you see.)
Whatever color shirt we choose (I vote for puce, with fuschia lapels)
it must have epaulettes and pockets pleated down the middle, accented
with a wide leather Sam Browne belt (ever wonder who the hell Sam
Browne was?) with a dashing diagonally-buckled shoulder strap and
optional matching flapped military holster kept fashionably empty so
as not to drag down the lines of the shirt.
Jackboots, of course, are de rigeur, just as dead dissenters are de
rigeur mortis under a properly jackbooted regime. Such footwear is
appropriate today, if only to keep one's toes clear of all the bovine
excrement being spread around by the current administration --
uniquely suitable to Bennett, who ought to be offered the Lon Horiuchi
Chair for Creative Final Solutions, and an honorary Jb.T. degree.
And how about those fancy riding pants -- I believe they're called
jhodpurs -- with the flapdoodles on the outsides of the thighs? I
never quite figured out what those were for -- perhaps wiping blood
off your saber after a long day of spitting uppity peasants, but they
make a fashion statement that says, for all to hear, "Sieg Heil!"
Orson Welles thought so well of such an outfit, he chose it for an odd
but popular stage production of Julius Caesar. Richard Nixon agreed,
and tried to dress his White House guards that way, but visitors kept
looking for a key in the back to wind them up with.
Last but not least, there's that little hat Mussolini wore, what you
might call an "anti-liberty cap", with thingies that waggled as he
stamped back and forth along the balcony, his mighty brows beetling
Cro-Magnfully, lower jaw thrust out like the bad-tempered two-year-old
he did such an excellent impression of until they strung him up.
Here's cartoonist Scott Bieser's take on the subject [also
reproduced at the top of this page]:
By George (or Adolf or Benito), wouldn't Bill (or Tom or Donald) cut a
hell of a figure in nifty duds like that? Throw in lot of brass
buttons and other make-the-trains-run-on-time doodads; why should the
40's outdo the Oughties for sheer swastika swank? Someone needs to
advise our beloved Czar-of-Czars that these days you not only need to
have the courage of your convictions, but of your clothier, as well.
L. Neil Smith's The American Zone recently tied for third place for
Freedom Book of the Year at Free-Market.net, behind Lever Action, by
L. Neil Smith, which tied for second place, and Hope (by Aaron
Zelman and L. Neil Smith) which won first place. Denounced as unseemly
and politically incorrect by Book List and Publisher's Weekly, it
can be read about and purchased (along with The Probability Broach
and many of his other books) at
http://www.lneilsmith.org. Rex May's Gesundheit Dummy! is
available at http://www.kiva.net/~jonabook.