SWITCHING SIGNALS

"Kerry, I think a revolutionary ought to be
able to make it with no help at all. Don't you?"


"You know, it is not going to be easy for someone who wants to overthrow the system to get a job. He's going to have to learn to live with no help at all. Do you think you could cope with a situation like that?"

"Yes," I lied. Since I had already been down and out more than once, to me it wasn't an academic proposition, and I knew damned well I couldn't make it with no job without at least writing my parents for money or borrowing "bread" from a friend.

"And can you keep your sense of humor under persecution?"

"Yes -- at least I didn't lose my sense of humor during fraternity hell week."

Both of them seemed inordinately excited at this response.

"A day will come, Kerry, when you will find yourself in a struggle against very powerful bureaucrats. But the agents they send to harass you will not be loyal to their bosses. They will say and do things to give themselves away, as if by accident. And when you counter-attack -- those above you will give way."

That seemed extremely improbable in all respects.

"I've got another suggestion for you. You know, a lot of fascists admire General MacArthur. Heh, heh -- you might take up smoking a corn cob pipe."

Once, he spoke to me of something called "a process." It did not, however, sound much like the Process Church. As best I could gather, it was the plan of a fascist think-tank to create a society of docile conformists by means of "processing" each and every citizen.

"That's horrible," I responded.

"True, though. They are already discussing it."

Once, in chatting about cant and syntactical ambiguity, he said, "Someday you are going to encounter people something like Jesuits who speak a secret language where the most literal possible meaning of every idiomatic sentence is the true one. That way, they will be able to talk to you without being understood by outsiders. Kerry, do you think it's possible to learn a language just by being exposed to it long enough, with no formal lessons?"

"Of course, that's how we learned to speak English as children."

I had read somewhere that assuming control of important symbolic buildings was the key to overthrowing a government, since the people are conditioned to look in that direction for leadership.

Note 32

Ideas like that seemed more practical than devious secret languages and I mentioned my observation to Brother-in-law.

"Yes," he said as if he had already thought about it, "that's true."

Occasionally, apropos of nothing in particular, Gary would begin discussing how scientists went about creating nervous breakdowns in laboratory mice.

"They keep switching signals on them. First food behind one door and an electric shock behind the other. Then the opposite. Then back again to the first way. You know what happens? The mouse becomes rigid in his behavior. Sooner or later, he just begins hitting at one door repeatedly -- no matter how many shocks he receives."

This discovery seemed a source of morbid fascination to him. In fact, he seemed happy about it.

"Kerry, you know California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas -all that land once belonged to Mexico." This man's attention span didn't seem very impressive.

"Yes, I'm aware of that. I grew up in California -- that's part of our history. We stole that land from the Mexicans, and they haven't forgotten it, either."

"And I think we should give it back to them. What do you think?"

"Hell, yes! That's a great idea. I think Mexico is a sleeping giant anyhow -- just like they used to say about China. Someday, it's going to be an important modern nation."

Then I laughed and said, "One of my short-story ideas is that Mexico is first to send an rocket to the moon, and they cover its surface with an Aztec calendar! Can you imagine something like that?"

Brother-in-law nodded and laughed.

From time to time he would remind me he still planned to kill the President. Once he said: "I'm going to talk to everyone in the country who wants Kennedy dead about the idea of assassinating him. Then I'm going to do it. Then I'm going to pay a visit to each and every one of them. I'm not going to say anything. I'm just going to look at them and smile, so they'll get the idea. After that, I'll feel free to call on them for favors."

NEXT

CONFESSION TO CONSPIRACY TO ASSASSINATE JFK

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