Edge of Apocalypse: pages 113-118 (Chapter Twenty-Two)
We meet back with the Jordans. Abigail begins by contemplating this letter, which reveals Josh Jordan’s middle name. As is par for the course when it comes to the protagonists-to-cheer-for, Parshall picked an appropriate middle name.
The White House,
Mr. Joshua Hunter Jordan
1 Plaza Court Towers
New York City, New York 10004
Dear Mr. Jordan:
On behalf of the United States of America, I am extending my appreciation for the assistance you rendered during the North Korean missile crisis. Your cooperation during that dangerous time provided an important service to our country.
Virgil S. Corland
Incidentally, one thing I noticed about the formatting of the letter in the book is that for some odd reason both the “from” part (the White House) and the “to” (Joshua Jordan) part were right-justified on the page. Also, note the “S.” in President Corland’s name. It seems to be a tradition in the Democratic party to engender presidents who are popularly well-known by their names and middle initials – Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman*, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson – rather coincidentally, all very leftish by today’s standards as well.
Aside from the right-justification of the “from” and “to” text which must be a weird formatting quirk, lovely letter, yes? Seems a little understated for our hero. And she’s looking that gift horse right in the mouth:
“Abigail was rereading the letter. It had been issued to her husband from the White House just days after the near-destruction of New York. She hadn’t seen the document in a while, and she took the time to look closer at the gold-embossed seal at the top. It bore the familiar symbol of her country, the one with the eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and a host of arrows in the other–just like on the back of the one-dollar bill. Now, in light of the ferocious attack against her husband brewing in Congress, and the White House’s recent lack of support, she was rereading the letter from a new angle.
‘President Corland’s thank you was really no thank you at all,’ she murmured to herself.”
Well, goshamighty why would she think that? We’ll see later on. Meantime let’s find out where the Jordans are.
“She leaned back in the seat next to her husband in their Citation X private jet. The sky was clear and cloudless as they winged their way from New York to Denver. As Abigail gazed out the window into the deep blue, she continued to contemplate everything that had transpired. Trying to fit it together.”
So, penthouse suite practically isolated from the rest of the world. A secluded mountain retreat. A private helicopter.
The ongoing theme is continued with the private jet they’ve got.
The purposeful isolation of Josh and/or his family from the rest of the world (with, apparently, the exception of that wavering possibly heathen Cal) is indicative of two things:
- It enforces a common trope among fundamentalist sects: the idea of purposely setting yourself apart from the bulk of the world who follows Satan-inspired influences. Here, because Joshua isn’t actually an RTC yet, the substitution of physical, as opposed to spiritual, separation is used to good effect.
- Also, the increasing sociocultural trend of the very wealthy to find more and more ways to insulate themselves from the rest of the world is reflected here in the trappings of Josh’s lifestyle. This man has been part of the military, which constitutes a distinct culture all by itself** apart from the civilian world, and continues that habit of keeping himself distinct and aloof by using his wealth to make it possible to not have to deal with ordinary people if he doesn’t have to.
I want to also note that as recently as about 20 years ago people assumed there would never be a mass market for private aircraft and that it would always remain a specialty sector. The explosion of wealth polarization in the 1990s proved this wrong; this habit of excessive wealth driving consumption of things nobody really needs (come on, how often can you use a private jet? It’s not like a car which you can just get into and use with free parking on your own house’s driveway. You need to store it at a hangar, pay fees for that, hire a pilot and crew, and when you want to go somewhere you need to file a flight plan and get your jet slotted in for takeoff. And then there’s the cost of jet fuel, and destination hangar-rental fees, and so on…) is a symptom of a society that’s starting to get out of kilter.
Then again out-of-kilterness is considered good by RTCs who believe in things like the End Times, the Rapture, and so on.
Moving on, we see Abigail and Joshua have a chat about the letter.
“She handed the White House letter to Joshua, who grinned. ‘So, you’ve been rifling through my file, I see.’
‘Just happened to see it among those papers you were working on.’
‘I think Corland’s thank you letter was pretty tepid. Overly cautious, especially considering that you had just saved the entire population of New York City from being incinerated.'”
Let’s compare that letter to the one Gerald Ford sent Oliver Sipple after Sipple prevented a woman from assassinating him:
“I want you to know how much I appreciated your selfless actions last Monday. The events were a shock to us all, but you acted quickly and without fear for your own safety. By doing so you helped to avert danger to me and to others in the crowd. You have my heartfelt appreciation. Sincerely, Jerry Ford.”
The terseness is similar, but Gerald signed it personally with a diminutive of his name rather than his full name. That may be a personality difference, though, rather than anything more crucial. That having been said, the letter from Corland does feel somewhat restrained.
This is likely of a piece with the theme in this book that the politicians are just venal little creeps rather than self-sacrificing good people. It’s very ironic that actually I would characterize George W. Bush as such a venal creep who was in it for his own benefit rather than anyone else’s, especially when openly calling very wealthy donors his “base”, who are the “haves and have-mores”.
It’s like LaHaye and Parshall held up a cracked and distorted mirror to our world and decided they liked the image in the mirror better than the real thing.
People who’ve followed Fred Clark’s blog know that occasionally, “meta-” characters show up. By this it is meant that LaHaye and Jenkins, by pure accident of writing, occasionally wrote their characters doing or saying things that are in opposition to the stated objective of what they’re doing, or which reveal their true, actually human sides instead of whatever false front Jenkins paints on for the purpose of ax-grinding in Left Behind. An example is Fred Clark’s Meta-Buck entry.
Well, I would like to introduce, for the briefest of moments, meta-Abigail and meta-Josh, who unintentionally reveal how much of a showboating prima donna canon-Josh has been. One might argue that meta-Abigail also showed up when she tried to dissuade Josh from being so butthurt over Cal’s relatively minor offence of lying when he later got his skin saved by dear old dad, but she pretty much blew all that away when she started love-bombing Cal in that incredibly creepy way.
“”Yeah, well, not really,” Joshua countered. “The real heroes were my tech team and the guys at the Pentagon and the crew of the USS Tiger Shark…”
“All right, I understand. My husband, humble as ever. […]”
Well, would you look at that!
Josh actually acknowledges all the people who gave him the big assist in kicking those nukes back where they came from. And Ahigail effectively breaks the fourth wall and sarcastically remarks how “humble” he is. 😛 (It doesn’t make sense for her to say “humble as ever” unless she really does mean it ironically, which means she knows what a showboating annoyance Joshua can be, but why then would she mean it ironically to him? This is why I suggest an unintentional fourth-wall-breaking here.)
So, with those fleeting glimpses of meta-Josh and meta-Abby, let’s consign them back to oblivion as we continue reading.
“[Abigail tapped] a manicured nail on the letter that was now sitting on the top of his file. ‘Come on…’I am extending my appreciation for the assistance you rendered…’? And what about the way they ‘honored’ you? A private little reception in the West Wing. Not the Oval Office. No press invited. Just the White House photographer. The president, the chief of staff, and, what, one or two reps from the Pentagon? That was it. They sent a little press release to the media late on a Friday afternoon. That’s what they do in Washington when they want to bury a story. Which is exactly what happened. Josh, honey, you deserved better.'”
She does have a point. But behind this point lies the agenda LaHaye and Parshall are pushing: that RTPs are being hamstrung and vilified by politicians who care more for their own image than in who got-er-done.
Now, note the subject of this writeup: “The Jordan Family…”
Actually I made a slight omission in the interest of brevity. Take a look at this next bit and spot who’s missing.
“‘I agree, Dad. You deserved much better.’
Deborah was seated in the row behind them, listening.
‘Wow, it seems I have a cheering section here,’ Joshua quipped.
His daughter reached over the seat and hugged his neck. ‘Forget the politicians, Dad. All the cadets at Point think you’re great.'”
Yup, Cal’s not there.
This omission by LaHaye and Parshall smashes its point home with the force of a dozen anvils: Cal is not deemed worthy to be around when Josh plots strategy up in Colorado.
Why? Because he’s a lying liar who might possibly be shacking up with a woman Josh disapproves of. Oh, and he’s going in for art.
This sort of exclusionary pettiness in a family gathering is so chock-full of psychological issues I’m not even going to try and dive in. But forget the theoretical underpinnings which I’m sure someone could use to get a dissertation out of this book. In the spirit of the fact that I speak experimentalist, not theorist, language 😀 let’s just look at what, empirically, this observation tells us.
Worthiness is measured not by one’s own humanity. It’s to be conditionally granted through the right hoop-jumping and lapdogging, to be bestowed at the arbitrary will of a senior individual.
Cal Jordan’s worthiness to be part of the family isn’t determined by his genetic bonds, by the natural closing-in of ranks of all members of the family when a problem hits. It’s instead conditioned on being Daddy’s Little Robot.
And this, scarily enough, seems to be what LaHaye believes a Christian’s relationship to God should be – not, as I read in my literature way back, offered freely and without reserve if you admitted you were a sinner and wished to be saved in Christ, repenting of those sins, but instead treated as though God were the gatekeeper to an elite club, with its own particular membership requirements and conditional aspects of obtaining and retaining membership.
This world-view makes sense in the context of how Left Behind works: them that bought the product are told to feel good about it, and to cackle at them that ain’t got it. Left Behind becomes a giant Fuck You to non-Christians because everybody who isn’t saved just got dumped on the Tribulation Express, accelerating headlong into some pretty horrific stuff.
Well, it’s repeating itself here in Edge of Apocalypse: those who aren’t considered worthy enough by LaHaye’s criteria don’t get to come on the cool trips in the special jet. They don’t get to be part of the big decisions or share in the rewards to come.
The above having been said, this next part does show the three family members acting like they’re human beings. It’s amazing how Parshall seems to have a knack for writing realistic young people. He should have written the Left Behind: The Kids series, come to think of it.
‘Great. Hey, why don’t we all go riding? All three of us?’
Joshua immediately gave Abigail ‘the look.’ She knew what it meant. He never liked being torn between family and professional commitments. But Joshua was a driven man, especially when he was at Hawk’s Nest for one of his secret Roundtable meetings. Single-purposed. Focused like a laser beam on the agenda. This particular meeting was critical.
‘We’ll see,’ Joshua replied.
‘Oh, I know that voice,’ Deborah responded, staring up at the ceiling of the jet. ‘It means ‘Request denied. Stand down.”
Abigail reached over and squeezed his arm. ‘Oh, Josh, let’s try. It’d be wonderful. The three of us on the trail together again.’
Joshua always found his two girls hard to resist. And they knew it. A smile beamed all over Abby’s face as she stared at him. Joshua tried to keep it serious, but after a few seconds of absorbing his wife’s radiance, he couldn’t continue. And a smile started to form in the corner of his own mouth.
I had to laugh at the corny way Deborah reacts and makes fun of Josh’s military background. It really makes me wish we could see some sibling interaction between Cal and Deborah. Parshall probably would carry it off pretty realistically.
Anyway, Josh agrees to get the horseback riding in, and the family members discuss security at the retreat (they’ve hired a retired cop and they have a sophisticated alarm system), and amuse themselves poking fun at Josh’s lawyer Harry Smythe being the one to bring up most of these concerns.
After Deborah goes back to listening to music Abigail expresses some concerns now that Josh has made the front page of every newspaper and Josh replies:
“‘Anybody who’s unfortunate enough to make the national headlines these days–for any reason–is eventually going to gain some enemies. That’s life. Abby, listen to me…’ He took her hands in his. ‘If I thought there was a risk, I’d do whatever I needed to do to protect my family. You know that. But I’m just not that concerned about what Harry said, that’s all. Everything’s under control. So, let’s not worry about it, honey. Okay?'”
Actually, Josh doesn’t feel fake-sincere here; his reaction is pretty believable, in my view. We then close out with this:
“Abigail felt the warmth and strength from the covering of his hands. There was security in his grasp. Abigail had always felt safe with Joshua. He was a man of immense courage in the face of danger. But this time it was different. She could feel it. A sense of dread she couldn’t shake. As if, out there somewhere, unseen, clawing its way toward them, was some kind of unnamed threat. And because she couldn’t put her finger on it, she hadn’t shared it with Joshua.
In her own growing relationship with God, she had learned an important lesson whenever she was faced with the challenges of life that were breathtaking or scary. In those situations the options were pretty straightforward: either act with faith or be governed by fear.
Without knowing exactly when or why, she wondered whether she would have to face that choice.”
Aside from the sack-of-anvils level of foreshadowing here, I also note that there’s shades of the “it’s a personal relationship with God, not just a religion” aspect to some Christians arguing about the different nature of their religious worship as compared to the mainstream type branches of Christianity, or for that matter, Judaism or what-have-you.
Next chapter we meet back with Agent Gallagher.
* the “S” in Truman’s name apparently didn’t stand for anything but he liked it.
** I watched Gwynne Dyer’s seven-part video series on war back in the 1980s (which was titled “War”), and one thing it gave a really fascinating look at was the way the military’s inner social and cultural workings were displayed for all to see. In that culture, being threatened with being sent out of the military was enough to make a grown man break down at his court-martial, and being sent out of the military was considered an almost unthinkable act. Keep in mind I watched this before the mass downsizings in the 1990s created similar emotional associations among workers when they got turfed from the companies they’d worked for for 20, 25, 30 years.