If one thing connects the modern age to antiquity, it is the ongoing usefulness of the phrase “pyrrhic victory.” Sometimes you win at such cost that winning defeats you. If we are willing to stray from the original context a little, sometimes what you conquer is rendered valueless by the conquest. This modern world offers us plenty of things worth having, from iPhones to Iraq, but they aren’t always worth getting. Unfortunately, the motto of 21st-century America might as well be “by any means necessary.” Today is Friday, and one more victory might ruin us. Won’t you survey the field with me?
Mike Cernovich blames the failure of his first marriage on “feminist indoctrination.” Ben al-Fowlkes sent me this profile piece from the New Yorker, in which Cernovich says his former wife, whom he met in law school at Pepperdine, wanted him to take charge but resented him when he did. “So I would be more assertive, and she’d be happier for a few days,” he said. “Then she’d go, ‘No, I need to be in charge,’ and we’d butt heads.” Cernovich does not add that he failed to pass the bar for nine years after he finished law school, during which time his wife made millions. The “seven-figure” settlement he received in their divorce appears to have been his primary source of income for the past several years. Cernovich, however, insists his money comes from sales of his self-published 2015 book “Gorilla Mindset,” a manual on how to become an alpha male.
A powerful misanthropy came over me last week, and I wanted to do justice. It came over me in the street. I was walking up Higgins Avenue toward the Pie Hole, where I might nervously eat pizza before the comedy show. A drunk man leaned in the doorway of an empty storefront. I passed him at the same time a woman in business casual negotiated the space between us.
“Hey,” he said to her, “can I ask you a question?”
“Nope,” she said and kept walking.
“Well I already did, so ha ha, bitch!” he shouted after her.
I turned and told him not to fuck with women on the street. I did so loudly, in the voice I use to command strange dogs. I walked toward him in a game fashion. As soon as he started to speak, I repeated myself.
“Don’t fuck with women on the street,” I said. We were close now. He stepped back and said all right, all right. I turned and walked away, feeling tall and jumpy.
“Jesus,” he said, “call the cops or something.”
I turned and walked back to him, swiftly. He put his palms up and shrank into the doorway.
“Don’t hit me,” he said.
Reader, I realized what a heel I am. I had been feeling pretty good to that point, expressing my values through bystander intervention and all. I had never thought to hit him. I only thought, I realized, to correct him publicly, before my god and that woman. I wanted to be good: the kind of good that bosses up on a drunk. Today is Friday, and it’s a fine line between bullying and justice done. Won’t you stand athwart it with me?
In last night’s debate with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump refused to say whether he would accept the results of the election. “I will look at it at the time,” he said. “I will keep you in suspense.” Let us take a moment to consider the ego that assumes the whole country would wait, in suspense, for him to ratify the president we voted for. Now that we’re done with that, let’s move on to disgust. It is disgusting for a major-party candidate to tell America, with no evidence, that its election is rigged. Trump is yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, but on a larger and potentially more destructive scale. Republicans who have not done so already should withdraw their endorsements of him.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R–MT) is in a position to do that at very little cost. A recent Lee Newspapers poll finds him 13 points ahead of his opponent, Denise Juneau. It seems unlikely that many of his supporters find him objectionable but are voting for him because he endorsed Trump. Rescinding his endorsement would be an act of conscience in keeping with his stated commitment to defending American democracy and values. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!