Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Monday, January 28, 2013

True Believers In Life And On The Page

Every once in awhile you learn something about a complete stranger that you would have preferred not to know. I stop most days at a library close to home in the evenings, and spend some time online. Generally I book the same computer when I do so; we all have our preferences. Back in December, someone started regularly turning up at that computer in the time slot before mine, a guy who's probably past fifty. Looking at the guy, he's unremarkable, nothing to make him stand out in a crowd beyond the fact that he has long hair. And in this case, I know more about him than I would have ever liked to have known.

One day last month, I turned up a minute or two before my booking, caught a glance at what was on the screen, and was puzzled by the title of the site. After he was gone, I looked at the site, and found it to be a profoundly repulsive white supremacist conspiracy site with a particular anti-Semitic slant. It's one thing to look at that in terms of research, or in terms of stumbling across it. It's another if it becomes repetitive.

He's turning up now quite regularly at the same computer, before my booking, when I'm there. I've taken to calling him Der Fuhrer. I've arrived a few days after that first occasion to see a prominent Nazi swastika on the computer screen; upon his departure shortly thereafter, he had a happy expression that was the face of a true believer. Any other time since then that I've arrived early, sure enough, there's something on that screen that looks decidedly white supremacist in nature. This is the sort of person who takes racial hatred to heart. A strange thing, knowing something like that about someone and not knowing their name. Personally, I find racism repulsive and abhorrent. I have mentioned my idiot ex-brother-in-law before; one of the many, many reasons I disliked him was his rampant bigotry and racist views. I feel the same revolted response to this guy.

I wrote a passage in Heaven & Hell that I'm adding in here. It's a passage that was very difficult for me to write, for the simple fact that I was getting into the head of a white supremacist. That's not the kind of mind I want to spend any time in, yet I felt the need to flesh out their backgrounds. These two unnamed characters, both true believers, are very unpleasant people, far more than the terrorists I write as antagonists. The passage doesn't really tie to the key events in the novel, but those events form part of the backdrop of this sequence. I have thought of using white supremacists in some future book, but the prospect of getting into their minds again for anything more than a brief sequence is a deeply unpleasant one. And so without ado, here it is. Let me  know what you think.

New York City

They had come into the city hours earlier, from their homes upstate. It was a trip they didn’t particularly like making- this city was one filled with those they considered the enemy- but it was a necessary one. Some of those enemies were of different races or faiths, the sort they would consider sub-human. Others were people who merely had different political thoughts. Most of them would never share their leanings. All of these reasons made them enemies. And all of them were freely considered to be targets in a war that had to be won.
            They had come down through the towns and villages along the Hudson River, pulled into the orbit of the sprawling city as they got closer. New York was home to a melting pot of culture, a swirl of people of various races and creeds, few of whom would agree with the way the two men thought, the loyalties they held. It was home to banks, to financial institutions, to the cultural elite and intellectuals they and their friends railed against. In short, it was a place that disgusted them both.
            The older of the two men was in his fifties, a farmer in northern Vermont, and a cell leader for their group. He looked undistinguished, had the sort of face that could be easily forgotten. He had inherited his loathing for anyone who wasn’t white from family. His father and grandfathers had been in the Klan; he knew they had committed their share of lynchings in their time. His mother and grandmothers had been fierce white supremacists. He himself would have ended up in the Klan, but that organization, finally broken, was a mere shadow of what it had once been decades ago. He had found like- minded people in the survivalist groups, the rabidly anti-government far right extremists. There he had people he understood, and who understood him in return. Gradually over time, he had worked his way up the ladder. The group he belonged to wasn’t as well known as some of the others, but there were advantages to that. There was less of a likelihood of infiltration by the hated federal agents who would seek to break them.
            The younger man had been in the group for five years now. He was in his late twenties, firmly committed to the cause. A good soldier, the leader thought. He might have never come to the cause had circumstances been different. He had ended up in a factory, mindless assembly line work, frustrated by watching others get ahead, and had found an outlet for his frustration. Immigrants and people of other races had gotten the promotions that should have been his. His frustrations had continued to fester, to build inside him. Finally his wife had left him, had walked away from their marriage. It had been yet another reason to be angry, to spend his nights drinking, listening to the hard right talk radio shows and the apocalyptic talk about how they were responsible for what was wrong in his life. They might be liberal thinkers, the government, ethnic groups... but the talk he heard built up in his mind, and gave direction to his anger.
            And then she had come along. She had been a member of the group, devoted to white supremacy, to the cause. She had listened to him, had given him a friendly ear so that he could vent. And she had given him much more, taking him to her bed. It hadn’t taken long before he had become fully devoted to the cause, willing to give his life in the war that was soon to come, the final war against the New World Order their allies on the radio and in the far-right anti-government groups insisted was coming. Both men had already shed blood, had killed enemies, and had successfully gotten away with those crimes. The younger man had learned well, knew how to cover his tracks, to conceal evidence. Yes, he’s a very good soldier, the older man thought as they made their way to their next target of the evening. They had already made one such stop.
            They had been at their homes, watching the news- FOX was their preferred choice, since one of their heroes occupied prime time space on that network. The explosion and subsequent violence in the Middle East dominated it all. Given their low opinion of people on all sides in that region, both men would have gladly preferred that nuclear weapons be dropped along a line all the way from Morocco to Pakistan, wiping the whole region and its peoples out of existence. Watching the locals rise up and be at each other’s throats instead would have to be enough.
The older man had received a call at his home, instructions from the group leader in Idaho. The timing seemed right to take advantage of the turmoil unfolding half a world away. From there it was a simple choice of who to take along. The two men had made the trip to both of their targets on previous occasions, a rehearsal of sorts for this day. They had driven down with sufficient explosives, well hidden out of sight. In the past, they had driven right into the city with explosives and back out again. Once again, they had succeeded, bringing their customized bombs into the city.
The first target had been a mosque, with minimal security and easily infiltrated. They had worked in the darkness, assisted by compact night vision goggles, a gift from members of the group who also served in the Army Reserves. The explosives had been placed, both men well acquainted with them and with the blueprints to know where the most damage could be done. The explosives had been wired for remote detonation, and the men had left as quietly as they had come.
Now they moved through the shadows to the side door of a synagogue a few blocks away. Like the mosque, it had minimal security arrangements, had never been the target of any threat. The younger man quickly defeated the lock, and the two men donned their night vision goggles, and went inside, toting kit bags. Both men worked in silence, placing and wiring explosives at key places throughout the building, particularly in the sanctuary. The older man made a point of placing a set close to the Torah ark cabinet on the east wall, and the bimah, the reading platform at the heart of the hall.
It didn’t take long, and they were finished. They verified that the explosives were active, both men examining the work of the other, and withdrew from the building, taking their empty kit bags with them, removing their night vision goggles. They walked away, down the street, to a side street, where their car was parked. No one was about at this time of night, even in the city that never slept.
The older man removed the detonator from a pocket, knowing that the distance to both sites were in range. It was a custom made device, much like the explosives they had placed. All it required was the press of a button, and he did so. The explosion rocked the neighbourhood, a loud roar that set off the car alarms close by. Another explosion was heard, somewhat more distant. They could see a glow down the street, beyond the corner from where they had come. The two men got into the car, and the younger man started it up. They pulled away, down the street. The older man saw smoke out of the corner of his eye as they went through the intersection. He smiled to himself, congratulating himself on a good night’s work.



  1. How can one human being feel such overwhelming hatred for another human being who has done nothing wrong?

    Excellent post, William. I wonder how many of those idiot spammers will hit this one?

    1. Norma,
      I don't know. But, I wish that spammers would lay off everyone's blogs.
      April Morone

  2. Excellent passage. That's what I loved about New York, and what I love about's so diverse in race, and religion as well. What a nice change from ultra-conservative Oklahoma!!

    That guy at your library is just so ignorant. What a waste.

  3. Loved the excerpt, William. One of the key things to good storytelling is being able to see and act through the characters. And I've found that the more dissimilar the character is from who I am, the more alive they become. I think that's because I have to really push myself to go there, to let go of my own assumptions and beliefs.

    We need to write about those unpredictable and distasteful characters to expand our craft, and you've clearly done a good job of that here.

  4. Wow E.J. is right on with that comment but I don't think I could go there even to expand my craft. Great stuff but can't we just all get along?

  5. Wow! You did well in writing this type of character, hon. Your writing ability is really good when you can do that of even getting into the heads, well, of the types of people you'd rather not know so to then write about them or use that type of mindset personality memory to write characters of that type of person. But I feel for yo about having gone through that, as I am sure it might not have been pleasant to have done so of getting inside the mind of people such as racists/white supremacists.

    Now, as for the that unknown man at that library computer, well, I wish that he change his severely evil ways.
    April Morone

  6. We are all human, therefore all capable of Love... really how do some get so wrongly wired.

  7. Well done considering that's not who you are.

    It shocks me that such racial hatred still exists. But what shocks me more is that this person was openly doing this in a public domain, like he was proud of it.

  8. I can see why thinking in 'their' way is disconcerting.
    The guy at the library is quite Ontario...blech.
    Jane x

  9. I don't think I could ever write a character like that ... I just don't think I'd be able to get into their heads enough. It's especially maddening to me because I know so many conservatives who don't have a racist bone in their bodies (and more than a few hard left liberals who do) and yet it just takes one idiot like that to make everyone look bad. Your library "friend" makes me think of the lady we sometimes see while shopping, who has a Nazi symbol and "SS" symbol tattooed to her neck. Naturally, we call her "Nazi Lady".

  10. (my original comment didn't show up)
    Yes, I liked this, William. I think you did a good job on it.

    I can't believe someone can have access to such things in a library, but I suppose since it isn't porn...

    But my thought also was a short story where character sees what you've seen in the library and somehow realizes there is a plot along same lines and your hero saves the day. (^;

  11. Sad to think how many hate filled folks walk among us.

  12. Well done. I think you can write any character well, so long as you accept they do exist and you are not afraid to expose their grossness and evil.

    It's bad to be like that, but it's not bad to write about it. It's not even fiction that these characters exist. That is the truth we speak about in fiction. It's what makes fiction compelling even though it's made up.

  13. Good piece, Sir Wills. I know bigotry exists in my family. But I no longer am recognized as being existent to them. I married a Jew.

    And worst of all, they call themselves Christians.

    Hugs and chocolate,

    Tomorrow I'll share this for you.

  14. Such a thought-provoking post. It gave me chills. I don't understand how people can harbor so much hate. We truly live in a sad world. Great post, William, as always.

  15. The scary thing is that so many people just like this do exist. Well done William, that must have been hard to do but you pulled it off perfectly. Wonder if the guy at the library suspects that you've cottoned on to him?

  16. Great post. Your story was so creepy. It felt so real. People like that still exist. It gives me the chills. Your writing is amazing. Don't think I could've done that.

  17. @Norma: thank you! And not a trace of them yet...

    @Krisztina: it is possible to live inside a prison made of walls of hatred. That guy's in a prison he made.

    @EJ: thank you!

    @Eve: it would be nice if we could...

    @April: Some people just can't change.

    @Cindy: whatever happened to this fellow, the wiring went all wrong.

    @Carla: I suspect he was very proud.

    @Jane and Chris: It happens everywhere, unfortunately.

  18. @Mark: it's the idiots who seem to make the most noise. Someone who tattoos those repugnant things makes her own visual noise.

    @Lorelei: thank you! I think because the computers aren't filtered, anything goes through.

    @Lynn: It is sad.

    @Diane: I've written sadistic people before, but these guys are an entire different level.

    @Shelly: I've got it in my own family. Both of my sisters picked up bigotry from being married to the wrong guys.

    @Gina: thank you.

    @Grace: I can't be sure, but don't think I want to know...

    @Auden: It wasn't easy.

  19. A powerful piece of writing, William. What a world we live in, so full of hate. As for the guy in the library, words fail me. Shame on him.

  20. I'll echo everyone and say you did a great job with this, WIlliam. And yes, please go away spammers!

  21. I can't imagine walking around in life filled with such hatred. Extremism is abhorrent. Great post and enjoyed your excerpt - can't have been easy to do. Wonder if library guy will notice you in time?

  22. William, it's eerie how you've managed to write down so real how those characters minds work.

  23. It's sad that someone would go to a library filled with books and knowledge and waste their time on hate and evil! I don't understand how people can feel that way.

  24. William, it's a shame there isn't anyone to report the guy at the library to. "Hey, you may want to keep an eye on this nut!" Or, "This guy's either unhinged or coming apart. Any place you can get him some psychiatric help?" It might avert another murder.

    For the writing, I think there's too much backstory. Putting in some dialogue might make it easier to read. Maybe even start with the phone call, then go on to the rest.

    But--that's the way I'd revise it if it were mine; which it isn't.

  25. @Glynis: sometimes it feels like an awful world.

    @Kelly: thank you!

    @LondonLulu: We'll see in time if he gets the hint that his hobby has been noticed...

    @Lucy: not a mind I like getting into, but once you're there...

    @Deb: neither do I....

    @Cheryl: I have thought of making adjustments...

  26. Wow. That must be creepy following after someone like that. I just can't understand at all that mentality, so kudos to you for being able to write about it. Not something I would ever want to wrap my mind around.

    I keep thinking I should try my hand at fiction someday, but I'm very intimidated by it. And after all i'vebeen through lately, I'm pretty sure I'd need to write a happy little fantasy with a rewarding ending.

    Looking forward to reading your book.


Comments and opinions always welcome. If you're a spammer, your messages aren't going to last long here, even if they do make it past the spam filters. Keep it up with the spam, and I'll send Dick Cheney after you.