I've been accused of writing and saying a lot of things that will come back to haunt me. One expat said that I'll wake up in twenty years, realize what I've written and flush my head down the toilet out of shame, while the ever-sanitary Stanford Professor Michael McFaul once wrote me that I'd wake up in fifteen years, realize what I've written and want to shoot myself out of shame. But I never felt that twinge of self-doubt bordering until this past Sunday, when Taibbi busted me sitting Indian-style on the floor of my apartment painting a peace sign on a placard.
He burst out laughing and barked, "Mark Ames painting a peace sign? Jesus Christ, what's the world coming to!"
He was right. Of all the pop symbols of my childhood, nothing is more trauma-laden and nausea-inducing than the peace symbol. It would take me thousands of Proustian pages to explain why, but you'll have to take my word for it. Swatikas are kids' stuff compared to peace symbols.
When the peace movement reached its peak in the early 1970s, I was living in a beautiful, huge house that my parents had built in a hilly suburb near Santa Cruz. We lived 50 miles away from the madmen with the peace symbols that they showed on TV, those so-called "hippies" and "yippies" who seemed to be shouting at me and my parents in those broadcasts. We were under siege. Sometime around 1972, the hippies poured out from the city up north and spread to the suburbs. Within two years, my parents divorced, I moved into a shoebox-sized condo with my mother, and things just went from bad to worse.
The experience turned me into a snivelling little reactionary, something I'm still trying to shake. I voted for Reagan in 1984, just about the only asshole in Berkeley to do so (along with a coalition of ex-swastika-scrawling nerds and rich frat boys). On January 15th, 1991, I called the San Francisco branch of the US Marines Recruitment Center and asked them if I could lead a platoon into Iraq, what with my education and all. I was drunk and spinning on various pain medications at the time, but I meant it. The recruiter laughed at me. It suddenly hit me then, for the first time, that my country really didn't need me. If it could speak to me, it would tell me that the best way I could serve America would be to take a job in a cubicle, buy health insurance, enter a monogamous relationship with a lumpy career professional my age, and choose beer over speed.
It was only when I came to Russia that I discovered a culture where things were still possible. Suddenly, all that reactionary idiocy melted away. It didn't have a context in this wonderfully anarchic culture.
Even so, if you spent years pledging allegiance to slogans like "Hate & War" and "Kill Your Idols", painting a peace sign ain't easy. My friends from back home are already starting to give it to me.
A few days ago I got an email from Terrel, my former punk guru who now works at a nuclear weapons lab: "I read your 101 reasons on the Exile page. It sucked, dude. Only about 2 or 3 were funny, the rest were whiney and pathetic and logically incorrect. And the only one that looked at all honest was the complaint that Russkie twat wasn't putting out anymore."
Looking at it again, I realize it's impossible to argue with him. If you saw the cubicle he works in, and spent five minutes on the campus he's posted to, you'd be scratching swastikas on toilet stalls too.
I want the war to end; I don't want my country bombing the Serbs; and I definitely don't want any Americans dying in a centuries-old tribal war just because a bunch of laptop-hawk journalists who would abandon their wives and children in a carjack to save their own skins have managed to pump out enough anti-Serb propaganda from the safety of their hotel rooms to make opposing the war all but impossible.
This war will have only one of two outcomes: either Serbian culture, which truly is unique, will be flattened forever by the West, or else, even worse, America will start to lose heart, creating a whole new generation of filthy, pretentious peaceniks who will come to power and turn America into a nation of James Taylor groupies. Fear of a James Taylor Planet. That's reason enough to hate this war.