Choose Your Leaders

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“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”

Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents

Bitter Necessary Lies

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“I can tell you that it was a very clear action for a night action, Mrs. Mavole,” Raymond said. Mr. Mavole sat on the other side of the bed and stared at the floor, his eyes feverish captives in black circles, his lower lip caught between his teeth, his hands clasped in prayer as he hoped he would not begin to cry again and start her crying. “You see, Captain Marco had sent up some low flares because we had to know where the enemy was. They knew where we were. Eddie, well—”

He paused, only infinitesimally, to try not to weep at the thought of how bitter, bitter, bitter it was to have to lie at a time like this, but she had sold the boy to the recruiters for this moment, so he would have to throw the truth away and pay her off. They never told The Folks Back Home about the filthy deaths—the grotesque, debasing deaths which were almost all the deaths in war.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

The Resistance is Real

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He made contact with the others, there must be a resistance, a government in exile. Someone must be out there, taking care of things. I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light. There must be a resistance, or where do all the criminals come from, on the television?

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Importance of Guilt

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What is the consciousness of guilt but the arena floor rushing up to meet the falling trapeze artist? Without it, a bullet becomes a tourist flying without responsibility through the air. The consciousness of guilt gives a scent to humanity, a threat of putrefaction, the ultimate cosmetic. Without the consciousness of guilt, existence had become so bland in Paradise that Eve welcomed the pungency of Original Sin.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Ignoring, ignorance and the gaps between the stories

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Is that how we lived, then? But we lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now.

We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it. Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it. There were stories in the newspapers, of course, corpses in ditches or the woods, bludgeoned to death or mutilated, interfered with, as they used to say, but they were about other women, and the men who did such things were other men. None of them were the men we knew. The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. They were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Holes in Heaven’s Floor

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“Mr. Mavole,” Raymond said rapidly, “I thought that if it was O.K. with you maybe I could stop over in St. Louis on my way to Washington, you know? I thought, I mean it occurred to me that you and Mrs. Mavole might get some kind of peace out of it, some kind of relief, if we talked a little bit. About Eddie. You know? I mean I thought that was the least I could do.” There was a silence. Then Mr. Mavole began to make a lot of slobbering sounds so Raymond said roughly that he would wire when he knew what flight he would be on and he hung up the phone and felt like an idiot. Like an angry man with a cane who pokes a hole through the floor of heaven and is scalded by the joy that pours down upon him, Raymond had a capacity for using satisfactions against himself.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Parenting Opportunity

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A car returned, it seemed to him almost at once, and Jocie had fetched her father along because it would give him such a good feeling to know that all of those warnings about the snakes in those woods had been just. A man has few enough opportunities like that when he assists in the raising of children, who must be hoisted on the pulley of one’s experience every morning to the top of the pole for a view of life as extensive as that day’s emotional climate would bear, then lowered again at sundown to be folded up and made to rest, and carried into their dreams with reverence.

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Subversive Singing

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Sometimes I sing to myself, in my head; something lugubrious, mournful, Presbyterian:  

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

Could save a wretch like me,

Who once was lost, but now am found,

Was bound, but now am free.  

I don’t know if the words are right. I can’t remember. Such songs are not sung anymore in public, especially the ones that use words like free. They are considered too dangerous. They belong to outlawed sects.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down

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I knelt to examine the floor, and there it was, in tiny writing, quite fresh it seemed, scratched with a pin or maybe just a fingernail, in the corner where the darkest shadow fell: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

I didn’t know what it meant, or even what language it was in. I thought it might be Latin, but I didn’t know any Latin. Still, it was a message, and it was in writing, forbidden by that very fact, and it hadn’t yet been discovered. Except by me, for whom it was intended. It was intended for whoever came next.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood