Excerpts From A Love Letter To My Enemy

by Phil Rockstroh

October 20, 2003


Personal ad posted in the Zeitgeist:

"Young, mixed race nation seeks enemy -- preferably with dark skin and swarthy features and fundamentalist superstitions similar to my own (but foreign enough to seem menacing) for a long term relationship based on a mutual need for a permanent commitment to war so that we may be distracted from the existential dread inherent in human existence."

A love letter to my enemy:

So much of my existence would seem meaningless, only a bewildering blur of random events, without you, my dearest enemy. You bring "moral clarity" where there once was only the murk of self doubt. This new-found sense of certainty soothes the anxiety created by the falling away of so many of the verities of the past... My finite existence, which before you came into my life seemed so confused and devoid of meaning, is now imbrued with mythic purpose. Because of you, meaningful narrative has been bestowed upon the vast, incomprehensible and impersonal cosmos. The wayward prince has become a warrior king. Purposefulness has replaced equivocation. The dull avenues of mundane existence now throng with torch-lit processions. The once stagnant air crackles with alacrity. The War God has risen and roused us from our torpor. Soon, class distinctions will dissolve. We will all be made equals in our shared enmity towards you, our beloved mutual enemy.

Thank you for this gift, dear enemy. We do so love our hatred of you. You were generous to a fault in providing it for us... and we so hope you like the matching set of it we have sent to you in return.

Daily, I sit stuck in traffic, feeling powerless, racked with uncertainty, my radio tuned to A.M. talk radio, and soon, I'm swooning with vivifying and invigorating scorn; they're playing our song, dear enemy, a soaring aria of blame and hate... Listening to love songs used to make me feel this way, immortal, connected to a larger and timeless order of existence, an order greater than words, greater than mind-numbing jobs and passion-devouring obligations... But love fades, disappoints, betrays, becomes a burden, and itself becomes an obligation... but you, oh, you... you don't change -- you're always there for me, just out of sight, just over the line of the horizon. You stay fixed in our constellation of contempt, unchanged in our cosmos of mutual loathing... Please don't ever change, don't leave me bereft, empty, again benumbed with self-doubt.

As is the case with swooning to beauty, surrendering to an addiction, even passing the hours with a hobby -- my hatred of you helps to alleviate (at least palliatively) the oppression of self. My dear enemy, I am compelled to keep you close to me, holding you as close as my secret wishes, as close as my hidden desires... You give for me purpose and direction... Without you, my unfocused passions become a blinding glare. I cannot see without the contrast provided by your abiding darkness... How could I justify the prancing, self-possessed knight of my preening self regard without you? He cannot exist in a world devoid of the belief in the existence of dangerous dragons -- knight and dragon are nothing without each other. My glinting armor would be simply clanking dead weight without the imminent threat of a fire-breathing, damsel-abducting menace to the safety of the Realm.

Of course, I must shield my gallant knight (as well as the rabble who dwell beyond the castle wall of my casuistry) from the knowledge of his mutual dependence on an evil-doing dragon. Without the existence of monsters, this fight would seem so petty, so squalid, not at all worth its immense cost in squandered resources and spilled blood.

Yes, the costs are as great as my motives are small, even petty. I know that these sacred wars of ours, my dear enemy, when measured against the scale of the cosmos are like the strivings of two scarab beetles who battle over a dried dollop of dung that is played out against the backdrop of a vast desert. Yes, on some level, I realize I am a damn fool: I am a dung beetle who dreams that I am the King of All Shit.

You see, bereft of you, dear enemy, I am diminished. It is as if I desire the dark Eros of our constant conflict because I am desperate to reclaim some lost aspect of myself... and if I could only conquer you -- if I could somehow subdue and subsume you -- thereby rendering you a part of me -- then, at last, I could feel whole -- I could be transformed from this confused fragment of person who I have become....

My need to hate you seems to me to be a prayer for completeness, a numinous desire to reconcile the irreconcilable, a mandate to merge heaven and earth, for the Armageddon of my divided psyche to yield to the surpassing peace of Kingdom Come. Or: At least to provide a way for me to make it though the day and to be able to rest a little easier at night. All those inane fantasies of the Antichrist and the End Time that have gained such currency as of late translate to this: "Oh Lord God above, won't you part the heavens, shake the earth, and save me from the Satanic grip of the petty tyrannies of my own mundane mind."

There have been moments, dear enemy, that you and I have caught each other's eye across History's corpse-strewn battlefields and we have briefly glimpsed -- not only the hidden loneliness of our own fragmented lives -- but we recognized within each other a boundless and ceaseless human longing for contact and communion -- that we always fall short of attaining -- because pride, pain, and fear have twisted the perennial yearnings of our hearts into the murderous intimacies of our endless wars.

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America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Phil Rockstroh on Swans (with bio).

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Published October 20, 2003
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