DEMISE: A novel of race, culture wars, and falling darkness
By: John M. Del Vecchio
To be released by Warriors Publishing Group — 8 September 2020
The following segments are from scenes in which Johnny Panuzio or Mitch Williams deal with the publication of Aaron William’s (Mitch’s son) thesis on race. Aaron’s full thesis will be available online in September at www.warriorspublishing.com or at www.peakingat70.com.
“Hold one, Mitch.” Both men were in their offices in the ContGenChem tower. It was late afternoon. They had spoken earlier in the day, and Mitch had sent Johnny a portion of Aaron’s preliminary statement on affirmative action. Johnny still had it on his desk, had read the first four pages, had blocked out several paragraphs and had underlined a few sentences. The concepts had sent his mind racing.
…behavior is consistent with self-image. Self-image is the product of individual and cultural story…
…I support affirmative action. However, I am opposed to race-based or gender-based — versus economic-based — affirmative action…
…I oppose race-based policies because they imply the genetic inferiority of the economically lagging race; as, too, do gender-based policies imply the genetic inferiority of the economically less advantaged gender. The implications tend to instill a self-image of inferiority which, if it becomes internalized, produces specific self-defeating behaviors.
These implications of inferiority are hokum!
Race-based affirmative action is racist. It eventually hurts the very people it is intended to help.
Johnny glanced at his secretary then back at the pages. He’d felt as if Aaron had been talking directly to him. Within two pages, Johnny had decided to ask Mitch and Aaron if he could use Aaron’s paper as the basis for an article he intended to write. Johnny had seen how he could adopt the concepts of cultural story and self-image, but change the focus from race policy to advertising. He shuffled files on his desk, scanned another marked block.
Race-based solutions to economic problems are doomed to create worse economic problems for the protected race. It is time to scrap these programs, and to establish economic-status based programs. This will allow race to fall away as a conflict point. If the majority of those assisted are from one race, or one ethnicity, or if they are veterans, it is of no concern. The concern is only if they are poor…
Discriminatory actions, based on race, ethnicity, religion or gender, even if they are specifically tailored to make up for past discriminatory actions, perpetuate that discrimination…
“Hi, Mitch. I just heard from Julia. The game’s been canceled. Hold again, okay?” Johnny lowered the receiver, glanced at his secretary, said, “Lisa, can you give me a moment?”
“Certainly, Mr. Panuzio,” the young secretary answered. She slipped from the office and closed the door behind her.
“Son of a bitch,” Johnny said quietly into the phone to Mitch. “Tripps has been in and out of here all day. I’m only partway through Aaron’s — ”
“Mr. Impeccable or the old man?” There was no emotion in Mitch’s voice.
“Mr. Impeccable. You okay?”
“Yeah. Ah…I’ve got a big problem.”
“No. Aaron. We’re going to report Aaron missing.”
“He’s not at school. His girlfriend hasn’t seen him since they had a fight or something in school yesterday.”
“Jason said he was at the hospital last — ”
“No. He said a lot of kids were there. He was trying to cover for him.”
“The police are going to recheck the accident site, and there’s an investigator going to talk to Ryan Willis. Damn it, Johnny. I’m worried. Nobody’s seen a trace of him since yesterday!”
Mitch did not let Johnny finish his sentence. “You know why?”
“A number of reas…”
“Bullshit!” Mitch bullied Johnny into silence. “There’s one fucken reason and only one fucken reason. Those cocksuckers at the top of the government…those gutless bastards who gutted…who emasculated the War on Drugs. There’s a department known as the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Despite the fucking rhetoric, the fucking tears and wails about the tragedy, they chopped that budget by more than seventy-five percent. That’s just for starters. Shame on those bastards. What kind of example do they set?”
“Bullshit!!” Mitch exploded. He was driving erratically. The car lurched left with each statement, swung right with each pause. “The example they set is tolerance. Tolerance for abuse! Reduced stigma for addiction! They glorify rehabilitation. It’s like it’s born-again Christianity! Bullshit! It’s not!”
“Whoa!” Johnny reared back as Mitch nearly rammed a car alongside them. The other driver swerved to a safe distance, flashed the finger.
Mitch was oblivious. “What the fuck do they think they’re goina get?!” His words were fast, hard, angry. “Reduced usage? Assholes. They’re all assholes. I fucken hate all them fucken enabling jerks. Try it. It’s okay. Experimenting is okay. Then if you get hooked, like it’s a mental disorder. ‘We’ll pay for your therapy.’ Fuck you!”
“Um.” Johnny swallowed. His head hurt. His mouth tasted like dirt and dirty socks. What could he say? He had not seen Mitch so angry since Thanksgiving 1965.
“Pricks,” Mitch raged. “They killed my son as much as if they pulled the trigger! Fuck ʼem! Fuck loyalty to those scumbags! If I thought I could get away with it, I’d blow away half the motherfuckers…”
“Mitch!” Johnny grabbed the wheel, pulled the car back into their lane. “Geez!” Mitch pushed his hand away. Johnny sat back. In a conciliatory tone he said, “If…if you decide to do it…I’ll go with you. But don’t go and do…”
“Fuck you!” Mitch balled his right fist, cocked his arm as if ready to strike. “You skipped out before. You’re not going to…”
“I didn’t skip out!” The words shot out defensively. “I never got called up.”
“Ssshhe-it!” Mitch hissed in disgust.
For some time they rode on in silence. Johnny wanted to defend himself, almost blurted out, “At least you’ve still got your job, your salary. At least your wife didn’t…” But he did not, could not. He knew there was no comparison; knew, too, that the spillover of Mitch’s anger, not cutbacks or downsizing, was threatening to subvert Mitch’s position with Tripps. He did not know how to help appease his friend’s anger. He had his own problems. His head throbbed.
Now Johnny imagined himself being arrested, being escorted from the Tower, maybe in shackles. Then he thought to say, “Ya know, Jason and the team can’t do it without Aaron any more than you could do it without me, or I could do it without you,” but he knew that that wasn’t any good, either. He wanted to empathize with Mitch; he wanted Mitch to get it out, felt he needed to get it out, felt Mitch had held it in too deep, had allowed it to fester too long; but this morning Johnny’s head hurt, he didn’t want to go in at all, and he wished that Mitch could empathize with him, too. It would have been so much nicer to have been able to talk about last night’s dinner, to share with him a tidbit about how sexy Julia had been.
They crossed the dam, swung north, came to a near standstill in rush-hour congestion. Mitch’s deep, slow burn streamed from him like an unstoppable flow of lava. “You may not understand this,” he said harshly, “but what we’re going through — gone through — is a cultural revolution. Nobody calls it that, but America has changed as much in the past thirty or forty years as anything Mao or Pol Pot ever tried. We’ve changed more without programs of violence than Mao did with all his revolutionary policies. This is not your father’s America.”
“Yeah,” Johnny shot at Mitch. “And it’s not my grandfather’s or your grandfather’s America, either. And I hope some of it’s been for the good.”
“You think I’m goina say yes because I’m black.”
“Fuck it. That change came a hundred, two hundred years ago. There’s a big lag time from attitude change to full implementation. That’s still not here. But these other changes — this cultural revolution of the last fifty years — it’s undermining everything. The ramifications are going to explode on our kids. Those that survive. Aaron…”
“Atlas Can No Longer Shrug,” Johnny said.
Mitch snorted, bit his lip, muttered, “That’s his paper…” Mitch paused. A deep breath came out of him. “Is it any good?”
“It’s terrific,” Johnny answered. “I wanta get it published.”
Energy seemed to ooze out of Mitch, seemed to flow from his every pore. Sitting behind the steering wheel in the car in the stalled traffic, he deflated. The skin below his eyes puffed, sagged. His jowls hung. Lifelessly he said, “You’ve really been going through those files, huh?”
“Yep,” Johnny said. It was better to talk about Aaron this way.
“He worked on it all summer,” Mitch said softly. “I didn’t pay much attention.” Mitch squeezed the wheel hard, held on. He was on the verge of tears but he held them in. “McMillian.” Mitch whispered. Again he swallowed. “Aaron had McMillian…had a lot of McMillian’s notes. You know McMillian?”
“They got pretty close — and with Aaron doing that legislative internship, McMillian kind of guided him. Kind of was his mentor. Did you know he’d done some pretty extensive writing? Academic stuff. On Vietnam. Aaron used McMillian’s stuff as his paradigm.”
The Lakeport Ledger
Section D-1 The Lakeport Ledger — A Callipano Corporation Sunday, October 30, 199-
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Area Youth Lectures from Beyond the Grave
When Atlas Can No Longer Shrug — Freedom Is an Illusion
The first in a series of essays by Aaron Williams with John Panuzio
RACE, CULTURE & PUBLIC POLICY: We stand at a critical time in the Lake Region, in this state, and in this nation, with regard to racial isolation and imbalances, and with regard to the equality of education for all, and to the legitimate role of government in our lives. It is now time for us to analyze not simply where we are, how we arrived here, and where we are going, but also to understand what vehicle and what propulsion system has brought us to this point, and what vehicle and system is most suited for taking us into the future.
Callipano began by calling Aaron’s work “thoughtful yet controversial…an example of suburban thinking,” finished with, “No high school student writes this well. Much in these articles is certainly the work of John Panuzio,” at this Johnny grinned, his eyes twinkled, “director of marketing for Continental General Chemical. The articles smack of the conservative ideology which is certainly a trait of that corporation. This commentator believes that Panuzio is attempting to pass off these ideas — in order to preempt criticism — as the work of an 18-year-old murder victim. The Ledger requests comments and rebuttals.”
Johnny’s mouth fell open. He reread the lines. Twice he’d met with Liz Callipano. She’d seemed so open, so sincere, so supportive of his position. How could she…? he thought. “…smacks of conservative ideology…“?! Johnny was baffled, stunned. Mitch is conservative, he thought. He’s the soldier. Not me. Request rebuttals?! He became angry, gritted his teeth, inhaled, huffed. As he began reading he grumbled, “Bitch!”
About the Author: John M. Del Vecchio is the author of four books, including two bestsellers with approximately 1.4 million copies sold, as well as hundreds of articles. He graduated from Lafayette College in 1969, was drafted and sent to Vietnam in 1970, where he served as a combat correspondent in the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). In 1971, he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for heroism in ground combat.