Edge of Apocalypse: pages 78-82 (Chapter Sixteen)
As I hinted before, eventually Cal Jordan’s very human reaction to seeing a woman trampled to death in a panicky crowd, which he told his mother in confidence, is now being told to his father, breaking this implicit confidence.
But first, a few preliminaries.
“Joshua Jordan relaxed in his grey sweatpants and one of his old Air Force Academy T-shirts and stretched out on a comfortable chaise lounge. This was one of his favorite escapes. Private. Secluded. Even though it was in the middle of New York City. Out on his lavishly landscaped penthouse terrace, he could see for miles along the skyline and farther, out toward the harbor. Surrounded by a few small potted trees, manicured greenery, and various plants in bloom, up where the birds soared, with the city stretched out below him, he felt insulated…and simultaneously free. But he knew this moment wouldn’t last much longer.”
Of course he’d have a penthouse condo. Nothing less than the best, naturally. We also learn he has a mountain retreat in Colorado, to where he plans to go with Abby later on.
We see a bit of Joshua-Abigail interaction here as preliminaries to the Cal thing:
“As he took a sip of his morning coffee, he heard Abby’s steps on the tiled terrace. She was wearing a bright peach-colored dress and was fidgeting with a simple gold chain necklace.
‘Honey, would you hook this for me?’
She sat down next to him and pulled her hair aside to reveal the back of her neck.
His thick fingers fumbled for a while until he finally got the clasp closed on the thin wisp of a chain.
‘There, got it. Man, that’s a tough one.’ Then he leaned forward and kissed the back of her neck.
‘Do you remember how I got this?’ she asked with the flash of a big smile.
Joshua thought for a moment, then shook his head.
‘It was the first thing you ever gave me, when we started dating,’ she said.
‘Not very flashy,’ he replied with a grin. ‘I’m surprised you stuck with me!’
‘I don’t need flash,’ she said, patting his cheek. ‘I just need you.'”
A few more back-and-forth lines about their history (Josh remarks on a particular facial tic he recognized as Abby’s serious-legal-mode) and then the segue into Cal’s experience:
“Abigail sort of scrunched up her nose, subtly and quickly. Hardly discernable. But Joshua recognized it. That is when he knew that something was up.
‘You used to do that when you went into court to try a case,’ he said.
[ … ]
Abigail then breathed deeply and became silent.
Now he really knew something was bugging her.
‘All right, out with it. What’s up?’
‘It’s about Cal,’ she offered. The smile was gone. It had been replaced by a gentle, motherly kind of expression.
‘Has something happened to him?’
‘He’s okay. But something did happen recently. I thought you should know about it.’
‘It was the day of the missile crisis.'”
And with that we’re off. The book manages to slant a perfectly innocent adventure by Cal with his girlfriend into a moral failing because he saw a woman get trampled to death and didn’t want his dad to think he was weak. I swear, the damage these rigid gender roles do to father-son relationships…
Ok, let’s just start reading. It’s depressing.
“‘ […] But he was actually caught right in the middle of it. He’d just arrived at the train station. He was right next to a woman who…Josh, the poor woman got trampled to death. Right in front of our son.’
‘Wait…why was he still in New York? I thought he’d left early and gotten safely out of the city.’
‘Well, he hadn’t. He wanted to spend the day at an art lecture with Karen. Then he tried to leave that evening, which is when everything happened–‘
‘So Cal lied to us?’ Joshua was shaking his head with a look as if his son had dared to slap him across the face. He could never tolerate lying from his kids. Never. And he let them know it. Why would Cal disrespect him like that?”
Ok, stop right there.
Joshua Jordan cares more about what amounts to a little white lie about Cal’s train schedule than the fact that his son is alive. And even Abigail is trying to tell him this, even though it would have been better served to let Cal do his own damn talking when he damn well felt ready for it.
“‘Josh, dear, you’re missing the real story here.’
‘No, I’ll tell you the real story. The day before the North Korean attack, he wasn’t here with us. I assumed he’d already taken the train back to Liberty. So where was he? Did he spend the night with that girl?’
‘He just wanted to spend the day in New York before he went back to college. He was trying to make sense of his life.’ Abigail’s voice was strained and pleading. She was holding her hands out to her husband, cupping them, as if she were caressing something fragile, like a delicate piece of china.”
And now Joshy-boy’s more concerned that his son might be boinking Karen than the fact that he nearly got trampled to death in a crowd. Abigail essentially makes this point as well:
‘Let me finish before you judge, Josh,’ she finally stated. ‘The whole point is that he was here in New York when the attack was launched. He was alone, trapped. He saw a women killed by a rioting mob. He was almost trampled to death himself in that train station! And he was scared to death.’
[ … ]
‘Your son,’ Abigail continued, ‘was paralyzed with fear. But he couldn’t admit that to you. Ever. Because you’re the war hero. The guy who flew into war zones without blinking. You’re the man who saved New York City. How could he ever tell you that he was afraid? You haven’t exactly made it easy for Cal to bare his soul.'”
Ok, so that’s pretty damn good damage control on Abigail’s part for all that she spilled the beans in the first place without Cal’s consent in the matter. Cal’s a legal adult, or near as, and she’s effectively treating him like he’s still fourteen or something.
And even after all this, Josh Doesn’t Get It:
“‘So he lies, and I’m the bad guy–is that it?'”
Time and time again, Joshua Jordan shows that he just cannot prioritize. And that he’s basically self-centered.
We’ve already see than LaHaye and Parshall effectively promote this as acceptable by shining a spotlight on Joshua as though he were the only person present when the RTS-RGS was activated and made successful, even though it was the culmination of a research team’s effort in straightening out the nitty-gritty details day in and day out for a long time.
And in his own family, we’ve already been shown that LaHaye and Parshall believe that a man’s wife and children are not truly independent in their own right, but serve as trophies and appendages to indicate his success, because RTC tenets are grounded in sexually dimorphic, male- and father-centered gender/family roles.
Now, to be fair, Abigail replies, ‘I didn’t say that … but I do think you’re part of the problem. And you’re going to have to be part of the solution.’
But this is a rather poor after-the-fact blunting of the general thrust: Joshua Jordan’s behavior as a father is essentially acceptable. He’s not censured in the strongest possible tones for his misplaced priorities and his small-minded focus on an aspect of Cal’s behavior that pales in comparison to a situation that could have cost Cal his life.
The next part, which I’ll take up separately, has some introspection by Joshua. This chapter is unintentionally a very revealing portrait of LaHaye’s own issues with his father, as has been noted by commenters on Slacktivist and elsewhere, and we’ll see this in detail in the next section. But even this part already exposes some of that.
I want to make a personal appeal to all parents who are reading this, because Josh’s behavior is fundamentally counterproductive – please, don’t make it so hard for a child that he or she doesn’t feel they can rely on you. Families take a special role in cultures worldwide because of the deep genetic and personal connections they create, and to weaken this bond should only be done if there is no other reasonable alternative whatsoever.
Trust your children to do the right thing. Trust that they’ll choose their friends – in the main, anyway – wisely and judiciously. And trust them to their own privacy when they feel they need it.
Thank you for your time, and I’ll continue with chapter sixteen tonight or early tomorrow.