Edge of Apocalypse: pages 96-100 (Chapter Nineteen)
We’ll revisit with Cal Jordan in a sec.
I want to talk about why I’ve titled this piece “Love Bombing“. For those who don’t know the origin of the phrase, it was used purposely by cults, particularly the Moonies, to manipulate members into staying where they were if they expressed insecurities or uncertainty about remaining with the group.
It’s an intense and manipulative tactic.
The ongoing and repeated statements of “love”, the physical closeness of hugging, the deliberate attempt to reintegrate a waverer into the core group — this is “love bombing”, and represents a perversion of actual, honest love. Love that truly exists between people is not false. It’s not fake. It’s not used as a tactical maneuver or as a guilt tripping device.
The irony is that we’ll see the juxtaposition of false love from love-bombing, and a truer, or at least more honest, form of love in the same chapter.
I’ve rarely ever been actually creeped out by a book, but this one chapter did it for me.
Unless I specify otherwise all italics and/or bold are from the original text of the book.
‘So, you told him…Dad, I mean?’
‘I did. Cal, he’s your father. He has a right to know. You confided in me as your mother, and I’m glad you did. But your dad and I don’t keep secrets from each other.’
‘So, whatever I tell you, you’re gonna turn right around and tell Dad. Is that it?’
‘Honey, God looks at your father and I as one. And you should too. That’s just the way it is.’
If ever people want to know why I tend to take a dim view of religion, it’s because of things like this: people using their religious beliefs as justification to behave badly. Abigail breaks a confidence and justifies it on the basis of her religion. It’s truly egregious in my view. Had Cal confided in her about doing drugs, I would argue that OK, his physical safety would warrant breaking that confidence, particularly if his health were suffering.
But Cal was in no physical danger by confiding in his mother; in point of fact, it was precisely because he experienced a personal crisis of confidence that he felt he needed to call his mom and get her reassurance and support.
Incidentally, the phrase “God looks at your father and I as one” underlines the rest of this chapter, for Abigail makes statements and professions on both Josh’s and her behalf without really distinguishing them.
Cal Jordan was leaving the Demoss Learning Center at Liberty University with his backpack slung over one shoulder and with his Allfone plugged into his ear. In the distance he noticed Karen Hester with her friend Julie, crossing the campus. Karen spotted him and waved.
I’ve got to say that at this point the only good parts have been when Cal and Karen are interacting with each other. They feel far realer to me than Josh, the Senators, or the politicians. I think it’s because for all Cal’s authorially mandated flaws, they’re not flaws that are purposely used to make him look like a venal fuckwit, unlike Senator Straworth and Josh Jordan’s prima-donna-ing in the closed hearing.
Incidentally, if anyone knows if that Demoss place is real and has been there, lemme know, eh? 🙂
We then see Cal revealing his perceived inadequacies and the ongoing aftereffects of what he saw in New York. I really can’t blame the kid, and I’m only surprised he didn’t check himself in with a psychologist or psychiatrist – which reminds me, shouldn’t the psych offices be just jammed to the rafters with people who’re experiencing trauma? I understand the need to focus on Cal as a character here, but the book doesn’t mention this likely detail.
‘Because you’re in pain,’ Abigail Jordan replied firmly on the other end of the line. ‘That’s always a big deal. If it hadn’t been for the missile attack, we still wouldn’t know you’d stayed in New York, would we? Besides, if it was such a minor thing, why’d you tell me?’
‘I couldn’t keep it in anymore. Missiles were flying. People were getting trampled. New York City was on every channel. And my father was the one right in the middle of the whole thing. My father. Not somebody else’s. Mine! He’s the big hero, but I couldn’t even help a woman three feet away. I was frozen, scared to death. That’s what I have to deal with.’
The “because you’re in pain” line is a response to Cal grousing about why it’s now a big deal to Abigail.
As someone once said, “the Daddy issues”. And they’re here in force. Cal’s feelings of helplessness and inadequacy are made worse because his dad, rising up almost as though he were the larger-than-life protector of New York, was the point man for activating a system to send back the missiles that would have at best, hit Cal with a high whole-body dose and made him radiation-sick (and at worst, vaporized him).
What’s interesting here is that in this next snippet, Abigail is almost 180 degrees from the POV she took around Joshua, when she tried to make him get a sense of perspective and due proportion about what was at stake with Cal – and she was very correct. Lying is a pretty minor thing compared to him being alive and having avoided a stampeding crowd. Josh could have lost his son there and all he could do was be butthurt over Cal’s little white lie.
“‘But just put yourself in your dad’s shoes. He thinks you’re safely out of the city during a horrible disaster, and then he finds out that you weren’t, because you’d lied to us about where you were and what you were doing.’
‘So this whole thing is just because I didn’t give you guys the straight scoop? That instead of leaving the night before for school like I told you, I went up to New York City to be with Karen instead. Okay, so I didn’t tell you the truth. Look, I know Dad doesn’t like Karen. And I knew he’d blow a gasket about the two of us spending an overnight in New York–even if we weren’t sleeping in the same room. I just can’t believe how this is becoming such a big deal–‘”
And now, Abigail’s also beating her son over the head about a little white lie. As I said before, I get this “united front” business about parenting, but in doing so it unintentionally creates a battlefield mentality about how to conduct parent-child relations. Instead of treating that relationship as a cooperative one, in which parents help children and children learn to positively help the family, it becomes adversarial, where parents assume a child will naturally be disobedient and must be “kept in line” because Parents (especially the Daddy) Know Best about what to do. I’m reminded of the time when I kept trying to explain why I didn’t want to see a movie at time X and my dad kept not listening. Then, when we got there and we saw we were 40 minutes late because he’d misremembered the time and I’d remembered it right, he accused me of wanting a good laugh over it, completely ignoring when I had tried, and kept getting cut off, to explain why I didn’t want to go.
Such are the kinds of consequences of assuming that children don’t naturally mean well and want to disobey.
Note the phrase “Dad doesn’t like Karen” – Cal zeros in on one of the biggest reasons why his relationship with his parents is strained. He’s not stupid or naive. He knows exactly the major point of contention. Also quite believable is his need for some breathing space, psychologically, by ducking off to see Karen and probably spending the night in separate beds in a youth hostel or the like.
Then Abigail conducts what might legally be “badgering the witness”:
“‘Cal, you know I expect you to be truthful. Because you’re my son–‘
‘Sure, yeah, okay–‘
‘But even more important than that. You’re a Christian. You made the same decision to put your faith in Jesus Christ that I have.’
‘And because you’re a Christian, then truth ought to be a priority–‘
‘Isn’t that right?’
And this is another example of what sticks in my craw: people like Abigail using another person’s professed religious faith as a cudgel to beat them over the head with when they do something wrong.
Yes, Cal lied.
Yes, that’s a sin somewhere in the Bible, and even if one is not religious it’s still an indecent thing to do.
But Abigail’s religion also teaches that all people are sinners and interpretations stemming from that include that even those who are saved in Christ are still subject to Earthly temptations away from the God-centered way of life.
Because all people are sinners, all fall short of the mark established by Jesus Christ.
So for Abigail, who is probably committing a sin of her own right in this chapter, to use Cal’s nominal faith against him is a very odious and low-down trick in my book. And she’s extremely pushy about it, too.
“By this time, Karen was just a few feet away. Cal put his finger to his lips to keep her from saying anything. Her response was to put one hand on her hip and flash a pretend display of anger, almost making Cal laugh.”
I must admit, this actually did make me laugh. 😀
This sort of natural reaction elicited from me in chapters centering around Cal and Karen is why I just can’t say enough nice things about that guy. 🙂
Reading on, his mother just won’t quit hammering on that nail that’s so dead flat with the wood any more hammering will start squashing the wood:
“‘And your dad considers telling the truth a big deal,’ his mother continued.
‘No kidding,’ Cal shot back.
‘So, then your lying to your parents was a big deal after all.’
Cal mouthed the words my mom to Karen.
‘Yes or no?’ Abigail repeated a little more forcefully than before. ‘Yes or no, Cal, your lying to us was a big deal after all…’
‘Mom, don’t do the lawyer thing with me. It drives me crazy–‘”
When even the character in the book starts stating the obvious, Abigail, it’s time to switch gears, madam.
And this is the oh-my-god-this-is-seriously-creepy part coming up. The first time I read this my face actually went like this:
You’ll see why I titled this analysis piece “love bombing”, because Abigail, probably sensing Cal would hang up on her if she kept going on badgering him, switches tactics.
“‘Cal, I want you to listen carefully to me. He loves you. Your dad loves you so much.’
Abigail’s voice caught a little. Cal could hear that. He could hear the tenderness. It was the thing he loved most about his mom. And yet he hated it when it happened. When her love and passion got to the breaking point and the tears would start filling her eyes. Now he was starting to get teary-eyed himself. Cal quickly turned away from Karen so she couldn’t see.
‘You are so important to him,’ Abigail said. She was pacing her words, forming them in her mouth with an exquisite kind of care. Her voice was slow and soft. ‘He’d lay down his life for you…’“
(The bold is mine, italics in the original text)
I CANNOT EMPHASIZE ENOUGH HOW ABSOLUTELY FREAKISHLY CREEPY THAT IS.
It’s Abigail going to the bottom-of-the-barrel in terms of stooping to false declarations of love – of bombing with love – to get her way in an argument. I can’t believe she truly loves her son as she proclaims, because if she did, she wouldn’t have dared purposely – deliberately – to do this – “pacing her words”, “forming them […] with an exquisite kind of care”.
Even the authors seem to realize how creepy it is, because Cal “hate[s] it when it happen[s]”.
When your own character is beating the walls of the box you’ve crammed him into to tell the world that he doesn’t like being played with this manipulative bullshit, there’s something to be said for stepping back and asking why you’re portraying his mother as a kind and gentle person.
After this, Cal and his mother fall silent for a bit, then resume:
“‘It’s just that…’ Cal was trying to sound sure of himself. After a few more seconds he continued. ‘It’s just that he’s always on my back–about everything, all day, every day, twenty-four-seven–‘
‘Cal, you’re going to have to love him the way he is,’ Abigail added. ‘I do. He’s a wonderful man. He wants nothing less than the absolute best for you. That makes him demanding, I know. But cut him some grace, Cal. That’s something you ought to know about…'”
And even after she practically went nuclear to score her point, she’s right back at it with more jabs about his religion.
The family dynamics, I swear… some psych student could probably get a thesis out of studying this stuff. Or a lit student. ‘Cause the dysfunctional crap is all there for anyone to see.
Now, I want to discuss this next paragraph. I mentioned before how there’s the love bombing – the deliberate profession of love as a means to an end; we’ve seen that in spades above.
We’ll now see a much more honest expression of love. I’m going to juxtapose two parts of the chapter together for the purpose:
“Cal quickly turned away from Karen so she couldn’t see.
Karen had moved around Cal so she was facing him again. But this time no comic routine, no attempts to make him laugh. She could see what was in his eyes.”
In those two sentences is a far more honest expression of the love between two people than anything else in this chapter. Karen’s silent support is infinitely more caring and supportive than anything Cal’s mom has told him so far. Karen cares, and she doesn’t need to use word-patter* to show it. There’s no forceful pressure, even. I certainly feel no creepiness here.
Finally, Abigail rings off, and we’re focussed on Cal and Karen chatting. One thing I’d like to note is that she doesn’t linger on Cal’s emotional state earlier. It seems reasonable to me that if she knows Cal well, he’ll open up about it on his own terms and in his own time and pushing about it won’t help.
‘Same song. Different melody.’
‘Oooh,’ she said breaking into a bright smile. ‘Nice metaphor. I thought I was supposed to be the music major and you were the art major.'”
What is it about these guys that they can write an overbearing father and a mother that breaks confidences and love-bombs her child, and at the same time write the most believably corny stuff in a relationship between two young people?
I mean, I actually chuckled at that one-liner from Karen. 😀
I’m gonna quote a fair bit of stuff here because there’s some more tantalizing back story and because the dynamics feel like a nice antidote to that creeptastic stuff above:
“He smiled and shrugged, then asked her if she wanted to catch a cup of coffee before the next class. Karen agreed and tugged at his arm as they walked together.
‘So, anything you want to share?’
‘Not really. Constant issues with my father.’
‘About New York?’
‘You in trouble?’
‘Nothing I can’t handle.’
‘Now you do sound like your father.’
‘How do you know? You only met him once–‘
‘Twice. Remember the football game? Up in the stands? We all sat together.’
‘The point is–,’ Cal started to say.
‘The point is,’ she said finishing the thought, ‘that maybe you are more like your father than you’d like to admit.'”
So Josh met Karen twice, once at a football game and once… somewhere else. Wonder if it was a Thanksgiving dinner like one commenter suggested. It definitely sounds like the football game put a big piece of the puzzle together for Karen, because she especially mentions it.
The fan-fiction is begging to be written, I swear. 😀
Coming up now is some more nice dialog:
“‘So what, now you’ve switched from being a music major to a psych major?’ he joked. Then he added, ‘Hey, I hope they’ve still got some of those sugar donuts left. I’d love to have a couple of those with my coffee.’
‘Nice move, Mr. Jordan. Trying to blow me off. Changing the subject.’
As they walked together to the student cafe, Karen could see Cal was thinking hard.”
I liked that nice counterpoint of Cal’s to Karen’s earlier change-of-majors joke. The jokes are especially oddly appropriate given that Cal just switched from Engineering to Art.
Cal’s thoughts lead to a rather odd ending for this chapter:
“Finally he let it out. ‘So, I’ve got a question for you. A serious one.’
‘Okay,’ she said. ‘What?’
He paused for a moment and stopped. She stopped with him and tilted her head a little, studying him closely. Then Cal asked her.
‘Exactly who would you be willing to die for?'”
I’ve gotta say, I’m scratching my head at that one. Unless LaHaye and Parshall intend Cal to now segue into a discussion of religious faith, which seems to be the context lurking behind that last question, since it’s often used to set up the “Jesus-died-for-us” punch line of Christian proselytizing.
The only other thing I can think of is, having read the book, it’s a rather strange bit of foreshadowing.
Whew. With that, a big sigh of relief – it really is a fairly emotional chapter to get through because of the issues involved here surrounding manipulative behavior.
Chapter Twenty will be a bit of a hop and a skip around the world.
* word-patter: I read this in a book somewhere and I cannot find it by Googling. As near as I recall, it was used to describe superficial language intended to create a lowering of psychological resistance in the person being targetted.