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I Will Not Become My Father

4,811 words

When my father died last month, we had not spoken since Christmas. A few terse emails were exchanged, but that was it. You see, over Christmas dinner my father had revealed that he was contributing money to the SPLC. This didn’t exactly sit well with me. What do you say to your closest relative when he announces that he is financially supporting your worst, most loathsome enemies?

I tried saying exactly that. I tried explaining that the SPLC is a racket that has smeared friends of mine, and would gladly attempt to destroy me (if they figured out who I really am). But my attempts were half-hearted, as I knew there was little chance I would change my father’s mind. There was also no chance of my not taking the whole matter personally – since my father was fully aware of my views, and of the company I keep. So mostly I spent the rest of our Christmas dinner (at a Thai restaurant, of all places) staring silently at my massaman curry.

Yes, my father turned into a liberal in his old age – a very unlikely liberal. Born in the South in the 1930s, an Eagle Scout, a graduate of a prestigious military academy, and a retired career military officer, my father didn’t exactly fit the profile of the typical Democratic voter. And, indeed, he voted Republican for much of his life. But in his last few years things started to go radically wrong. He began parroting the talking points of talking heads: “Russia hacked the election!” he told me at Thanksgiving in 2016. He despised Trump (partly, he said, because of his hair). He admired figures like Rachel Maddow and Stephen Colbert. He received junk mail from Chuck Schumer and Doctors Without Borders. And so on. Christ, it was bad. And baffling.

I returned home after what I came to think of as the SPLC Christmas with a great deal of anger, and the vague imperative that I needed to somehow find a way to deal with this if we were going to continue to have a relationship. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I had little desire to see my father again. The donations to Morris Dees felt like the final straw. I knew I would have to somehow overcome that, and I had enough self-awareness to realize that my anger actually had roots that went very deep. I caught myself taking pleasure in an imagined conversation in which I told him that next year I would be spending Christmas elsewhere. And just a few days after confiding all this to a close friend, I got a call in the middle of the night informing me that my father’s neighbors had found him dead in his unlocked house.

Yes, I’m just superstitious and guilty enough to think that this was my punishment. I had allowed politics to come between us, and had dithered about finding some way to repair our relationship. Now I would never get the chance. His neighbors informed me he had been going through a weeks-long period of deterioration, leading up to his death. My father had told me nothing about this; he had not alerted me that anything was wrong. The Bad Thoughts were thus inevitable: in response to my coldness, he had given up hope. Feeling himself now totally alone, he had allowed himself to die. Blah, blah, blah. When I first heard of his death I immediately worried that it had been suicide, partly because that was the death his own father had chosen. I was relieved when I found out that the cause was a heart attack. And my more reasonable side stepped in after a while to remind me of my father’s mean streak, which co-existed (especially in his last years) with a folksy, mellow benevolence that was sometimes real and sometimes merely a mask. I thus considered the possibility that he had kept me in the dark about his deterioration and imminent death as a last act of spite. It was a slim possibility, but you’d think it halfway plausible if you had known him.

The truth is that while the political stuff was bad, our relationship had frayed for other reasons as well. You see, in the last years of his life my father became a hoarder of truly epic proportions. A hoarder worthy of his own reality show. A hoarder of an unusual and perversely fascinating type. And I was inclined to think that the shift in his views to the loony Left was only one part of a general mental decline. It took four weeks of my life to completely sort through all of his possessions, working sun up to sun down. And the more I uncovered, the more it became apparent to me that my father was – to put the matter as delicately as possible – not entirely sound. Functional, but . . .

As I mentioned, my father had had a distinguished military career, during which he was the very model of neatness, organization, and efficiency. Being the son of such a man was no fun. My father was typical of many military dads in that he brought his work home with him. And as his assignments became more important, and his responsibilities greater, he became prone to venting his frustrations at home. There was abuse, some physical but mostly emotional. For the bulk of my childhood and adolescence, I felt no warmth for my father. And I loathed the military. I spent the first seventeen years of my life in that environment, and found it all gray-drab and joyless. It was only years later that I realized it had had any positive effect on me at all.

The military has a funny way of encouraging men in thinking that once they’re done with it they never have to live up to any standards again. The father of one of my best friends likes to say, when bidden to exercise by his doctors, “I swore when I left the Marine Corps I would never exercise again!” “I’ve done my bit,” is the philosophy of a lot of these men, and once they retire they often turn to lives devoted, in some fashion or other, to a benign self-centered self-indulgence. Had my parents stayed married, my father might have been spared this fate, but my mother divorced him several years after he retired, unable any longer to endure his volatility and uncommunicativeness. It was after my mother died, and he no longer had to pay her a fat monthly alimony check, that my father began his steep decline.

In a rare moment of frankness, and self-reflection, my father once told me that the divorce had severely depressed him. He began dealing with this by cultivating various hobbies, some of which were revivals of interests he had had as a boy, and then given up. On one level, this showed some real psychological insight on his part: he was consciously dealing with depression and loneliness by reconnecting with things that had made him happy in the past. For example, he was fascinated by old postcards. So, with great earnestness, he began collecting them, and, for a while, this was his obsession. When my father chose to cultivate some interest, he didn’t do things halfway. In the end, thousands of dollars were spent on postcards, all of which were carefully placed in protective, plastic sleeves in large binders – and all carefully cataloged in endless lists he kept on his computer.

Making lists was one of my father’s specialties. I had long thought that he had learned this in the military, but it became clear to me over time that it was somehow a part of his makeup, for which the military had simply found a good use. Thus, the desk he kept in his living room was literally covered in stacks of lists. And not just of the postcard collection. For example, there were stacks of steno pads filled with hundreds of usernames and passwords. He never used a password twice. Security’s got to be tight! All of them were randomly generated strings of characters, and all got changed periodically. It was like he thought he was guarding the launch codes to the Doomsday Machine.

Once all the postcards had been duly filed and cataloged, they were placed in carefully labeled banker’s boxes (my father had beautifully legible, draftsman’s handwriting). And then they were deposited in storage units and never seen again. Eventually he acquired six such units, all of which became packed to the gills with his collections. He was paying more a month for those units than he was paying on his mortgage. Mind you, he had only rented the units as a matter of necessity, once his house had become completely filled. And when I say “completely filled,” I mean that all available space was occupied either with furniture or with stacks of various kinds, including stacks of boxes. His spare bedroom was so jam packed it was impossible to walk in the door. The basement was entirely filled. And his bedroom looked entirely filled, until one realized that the bed was surrounded by boxes, as if he had built himself a fort.

Once my father tired of the postcards, he graduated to other hobbies. For example, he collected model planes and ships. So many, in fact, that they filled around one hundred and fifty boxes, occupying two storage units. Other collections were intrinsically less impressive. He went through a period in the ’90s when he was videotaping everything on television that interested him. Four VCRs were set up to record all day long. He quickly accumulated more than he had time to watch. And so the tapes were carefully packed into carefully labeled bankers boxes (all alphabetized by title: “A-B, “B-C,” etc.) and whisked off to the storage units, where they remained unplayed, until I threw them all out.

Some of the items in the units were covered with close to an inch of dust, in some cases packed with newspapers dating back to the 1970s. In fact, there was so much dust that a friend who volunteered to help me sort through them had a severe allergic reaction and had to quit. In all honesty, I was content to go through the units alone, as I had high hopes I might find an epic porn collection. I imagined my father as another Ralph Whittington, the celebrated “King of Porn.” Sadly, I found that he had put a lot less effort into this area. Still, what he had (all DVDs and VHS tapes) was carefully inventoried in long lists: name of film, names of performers, number of scenes, etc. (These lists were the first things to go into the trash once I had access to his place.)

When the storage units were entirely filled, my father at some point apparently faced a crisis: his mess kept growing, but he had nowhere to put it. He must have ruled out the possibility of renting a seventh unit, because he started stacking boxes outdoors, behind the house. He had a neighbor help him cover them with a water-proof tarp. What items of importance did I find in those boxes? Mostly old mail and obsolete electronic equipment. Without any irony, the boxes of old mail were labeled “To Be Sorted and Culled.” It was this discovery, more than anything else, that forced me to confront the issue of my father’s sanity. What kind of process led to this man thinking “I just have no alternative but to stack all that old mail behind the house and get somebody to help me cover it up so it’ll be safe . . .”? Was there any moment at which he considered that it might be better to just throw it away? Apparently not. And what kind of “friend” would help him cover that mess in a tarp, and carefully tie it up with inscrutable nautical knots?

In the end it took four days and just as many crews to completely empty his house and the units. This is not counting the day I transported a truck full of his stuff back to my place. I kept quite a few mementos of his military career, and all family-related items (including photos, some of which dated back to the 1890s). The collections, all except the lonely, unwanted VHS tapes, were sold to dealers. And the rest was simply hauled away as trash. This included the centerpiece of the sad, strange world my father had created: an old, stained recliner of indeterminate color. Never was I so happy to see a piece of furniture sitting on the curb.

Once everything was gone, another layer of the mess was exposed – and, it seemed, another layer of my father’s madness. I had known for several years that he had a mouse problem. I would see the traps when I visited him, and sometimes watch as he baited them with peanut butter. On one occasion I actually saw a mouse: a little gray blur in my peripheral vision, darting around a piece of furniture. My father explained that it was a general problem in the neighborhood, and that he had it under control. This turned out to be far from true. For when all the debris was removed, there were mouse droppings literally everywhere – even behind the pots on the kitchen counter. Crumbs had fallen beneath an old toaster, unmoved for years, and the mice had dined on them and left their poop there. Underneath one cabinet were the remains of several candy bars. The mice had apparently spirited some fallen candy away and eaten it under the cabinet, again leaving their feces behind as a sort of calling card. Several banker’s boxes had been invaded by mice, and some of the old mail had been shredded to form nests.

I had no idea of the extent of the filth until the place was emptied. Despite the egregious clutter, everything seemed “clean” to me whenever I would visit. His house had an antiseptic, hotel-like smell to it. And my father himself was always well groomed and neatly dressed. In my mind, the mouse poop quickly became emblematic of what disturbed me most about the whole situation. Here was a person who, on the surface, was a model of organization, efficiency, planning, and dutifulness. But beneath the surface he was a mess.

There were other things as well – little things, that seemed in retrospect like more pieces of the puzzle. For instance, there were his neurotic driving habits. He had a morbid fixation that people standing on street corners were going to run out in front of his car and be hit. So he would stop and wave at them to cross – often well before they were ready to, much to their consternation. And when stop lights turned yellow he would SLAM on the brakes, for fear he might be caught by a traffic camera and sent a ticket. Several times when I was with him he was almost hit from behind by cars following a little too closely.

This was all evidence of “OCD,” a psychologist of my acquaintance has suggested. And he had more to say. Upon hearing a description of my father’s collecting and listing, and his walls covered in nothing but pictures of machines (planes, helicopters, ships), my friend was ready to locate him somewhere on the “autism spectrum.” That made a lot of sense to me. But what about the hoarding? What about the irrational retention of old mail, VHS tapes, old clothes, electric fans, obsolete electronic equipment, post-it notes, rubber bands, markers, file folders, etc.? An anxiety disorder was the suggestion. When he contemplated throwing something away, he experienced anxiety: “But what if I need this?”

And anxiety could also explain his political views. He had lived all his life with the idealistic smarm about our land of “all races, creeds, and colors” – drummed into him from wartime propaganda, the Boy Scouts, and the military. But I suspected he was well aware that all of that was unraveling, and that “diversity” had shown itself to be a curse and not a blessing. A lot of old people reach a point where they need to believe that everything is going to go on just the same way after they die, and that all will be well. What my father saw with his own eyes in today’s America, and what I relentlessly reported to him, must have been terrifying. In talking to him about my own beliefs, I assumed he was honest and open. Big mistake. And if I had it all to do over again, I would have let him slumber peacefully.

In the end, my father reacted to his repressed horror at what America had become by digging in his heels, and adopting a radical version of American civic nationalism. He was very much like a religious man beset by doubts who reacts by going full fundamentalist. Indeed, it might actually have helped if he’d had a genuine religion to turn to – like his brother, who in his old age became a lay preacher. But my father was sort of a flat-souled skeptic who reflexively blamed “religion” for the world’s problems. The only thing in his will that went beyond standard boilerplate was a request that no religious service should be held at his gravesite. He couldn’t strive upward so he strove outward, filling more and more space with things he couldn’t take with him. Appropriately, there was a Scrooge-like aspect to my father as well. He spent thousands of dollars each month on storage units, toys, and clothes (did I mention the huge wardrobe stored in boxes, much of it still in plastic wrappers?). Yet he drove around town looking for the cheapest gas prices and insisted on doing his own taxes. If only he had been visited by Marley’s ghost and the rest of the crew.

As an explanation for the hoarding, an “anxiety disorder” sounds tame enough, until you concretize it and remember that he was putting a tarp over boxes of old catalogs and VCRs because he “might need them.” This was just deranged. And there’s no way around this. I’d like to find a way, because this was my own father. His loss and its aftermath were difficult on multiple levels. First, there was the intense resentment at having to clean up this irresponsible mess. This was a reaction I knew in advance I would have, and that I’m sure he knew I would have. But somehow that wasn’t enough of a motivator for him to do something, even a little something, about the shambles his living situation had become. However, my resentment alternated with pity. I would go from cursing him as I tripped over stacks of catalogs, to intoning, with a sigh, “my poor father” as I uncovered yet another sad, strange list. How could someone who was once so shipshape and squared away have been reduced to this? There was no getting around what a sad end it was.

And he knew it. In the days and weeks following his death just about every friend and neighbor I spoke with reported that he would never let them into his house. I even found out that he had had a girlfriend for a while, but she broke things off because he would not let her into his place. I found a letter he had written to her on his computer and made the mistake of reading it. The letter began, “Dear Evelyn, I’m very sorry about my behavior at the Cheesecake Factory the other night, but I was never very good at talking about my feelings . . .” Instantly, I could reconstruct the whole scene in my mind, based on his relationship with my own mother. Poor Evelyn had pressed him a bit on some emotional matter and, feeling threatened, he had lost control of himself, blown up at her, and felt miserable about it later. It was just the sort of thing that had ruined his marriage. He was aware of that, and felt tremendous guilt over it – all of which came out when my mother was dying, years after the divorce.

So why couldn’t he have avoided doing it again? Why couldn’t he control himself? Why did he have to fall into the same mechanical pattern, like one of the machines that fascinated him? The truth is that he was probably wondering the same thing. And sifting through the wreckage of my father’s life made me think long and hard about the issue of my own freedom of will. My father doesn’t seem to have been able to help being who he was. Over and over again, as I vacuumed up the mouse poop, I asked myself whether I was headed for the same fate. One evening I had a nightmare that I had finished at my father’s and returned to my own apartment, only to find it intolerably dim. I acquired a sack full of light-bulbs and as I installed them and switched them on, I saw to my horror that my own place was filled with boxes and trash, and crawling with rats.

Like most of us on the Right, I’m a great believer in the explanatory power of genetics. And while I wouldn’t call myself a strict genetic determinist, I do believe that a great deal about us that we imagine we choose is actually genetically fixed. But now this theory struck a bit too close to home. I began feeling like the main character in H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” who is horrified to discover that he is actually descended from the “fish people” he abhors, but then gradually feels himself identifying with them, becoming one with them: “Some frightful influence, I felt, was seeking gradually to drag me out of the sane world of wholesome life into unnamable abysses of blackness and alienage; and the process told heavily on me.” Am I headed for hoarding, and listing, and pretending I don’t notice the mouse poop? Is this the abyss of blackness and alienage that awaits me? Or will my fate be still more cromulent?

As I drove a truck full of my father’s things, all in labeled banker’s boxes, back to my place I began to wonder if I wasn’t inviting “the cursed hoard” into my life. Should I have thrown more of the old dragon’s stuff away? No, I thought, I only kept what I had to: items of value, sentimental or otherwise. Of course, I immediately realized that this was exactly the sort of thing my father told himself. I began to develop an irrational aversion to the stuff, feeling I had to keep it but not wanting to touch it; washing my hands every so often, after handling the boxes. It was probably the mouse poop association. And would I even have room for the stuff in my place? (It turned out I did.) A “helpful” friend suggested I simply rent a storage unit. “But that’s how it begins!” I shouted in response, horrified at the suggestion. I made a vow then and there that I would never acquire so much stuff that I needed to “store” it. I re-read D. H. Lawrence’s short story “Things.” And, yes, I heard Tyler Durden in my head: “The things you own, end up owning you.”

This was one of the lessons I have taken away from the whole experience. In many ways, my parents were both very fine individuals, and on the whole I received a much better upbringing than most people. I have to credit them – especially my mother – with much of what I’d like to think of as my “good points.” But, at the same time, they were damnably difficult and flawed people. In addition to all the good examples my parents gave me, they also did me a great service in providing examples of how I did not want to be. Many was the time I would react to something they said or did by thinking, “Gee, this is not how I want to turn out.” And my father’s final legacy to me was the most disturbing and effective cautionary tale I could ever have received.

Yes, I do believe that genetics shapes who we are. In certain ways, genetics determines us outright, and without wiggle room. In other ways, it merely inclines us in certain directions. I do see the seeds of my father’s madness in me: the OCD, the Asperger’s, the irrational anxieties. But the significant difference between me and my father seems to be just that I see these things. Yes, I imagine he had moments of self-awareness too. In fact, I know he did. When I first discovered the extent of my father’s hoard, while he was still alive, I was appalled and blurted out “You’re crazy!” “Probably, yes,” he responded, sheepishly. But such moments of clarity didn’t seem to amount to anything.

Now and then, I see myself trending in the same directions as my father, whenever, for example, I hesitate before throwing old mail away. But now I’ve seen where it could all lead. And while genetics is a powerful influence, so is will. I believe in the power of will, and in the power of consciousness. In other words, I believe that if we can see our habits and our tendencies, we’ve already achieved a certain distance from them. And that distance allows us to resist. I know several people who have no willpower at all – who are often well aware of their problems, but powerless to do anything about them. I’m not that kind of person. I have a strong will, and I do not shrink from self-criticism (quite the contrary, in fact).

However, the lessons here don’t reduce simply to an imperative to avoid hoarding and listing through sheer force of will. Another aspect to my father’s decline is one I have not heretofore remarked on, but which may now be obvious to my readers: the utter triviality of his concerns. His decline was not all an issue of unchecked accumulation. It also had to do with the completely trivial nature of his interests and preoccupations. My psychologist friend told me, “As people age, their worlds shrink.” I’ll say. By the end, my father had been positively miniaturized – like Stephen Boyd in Fantastic Voyage. A life devoted to accumulating postcards and toys, keeping careful lists, and tucking them all out of sight where they couldn’t even be enjoyed.

By contrast, I’ve devoted my life to things that matter – and I don’t see that changing in my old age. My father had a meaningful life at one time, but, as I’ve said, that all went out the window when he left the military and decided to devote himself to acquisitiveness. I suppose there’s something poetically appropriate about that: after years of safeguarding the pursuit of “the American Dream,” perhaps he just decided to start living it. By contrast, what makes my life meaningful is doing what I can to save my race and my culture – and I would go so far as to say that there is nothing more important than the cause I have chosen. What makes my life meaningful are precisely the commitments that, unfortunately, so frightened and scandalized my father. (“I think you’re sick!” he shouted at me once. Oh, the irony . . . )

In the end, this redeems whatever mess I leave behind. My heirs (both of them comrades in the Movement) might be left with a few stacks of old mail, but as they toss it into trash bags they will say, “Yes, but he helped save the white race.” They may not know what to do with my collection of Dark Shadows memorabilia, but as they list it on eBay they will say, “Yes, but he wrote for Counter-Currents.” Indeed, when moving the furniture they might even find some mouse droppings (though I doubt this). But as they vacuum it up they will say, “Yes, but after all, he wrote The Importance of James Bond & Other Essays and Heidegger in Chicago. And he wrote even more important stuff under other pen names . . . .”

In the end, it doesn’t matter if we make a big mess, so long as we do it in the name of something big. So long as we believe in something important, and fight for something that matters – and keep on doing that, until the end. So long as we stay big, and don’t shrink. But I’m going to manage to do this without making a mess that burdens my heirs. My father’s final years cannot have been particularly happy. I hope he rests in peace. But as God is my witness, I will not become him.


  1. Rob Bottom
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    Jef, you really humanized your father. There is definitely a difference between hoarders and collectors, but I think the two types are intimately related. A collection is a burden on heirs, too, but if it’s something other people enjoy collecting then it might be valuable and pay off. Perhaps if he had been wired just a bit differently, you’d have inherited baseball cards or something else worth a small fortune! It must have been really exhausting work going through all of it.

    As for your father keeping you in the dark about his condition and antagonizing you with the stuff about the SPLC, I would remind you that it is not uncommon for people facing a terminal illness to intentionally cause rifts with loved ones. For someone who had such difficulty throwing anything away, perhaps he needed to create some emotional distance between you as a coping mechanism. Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted July 2, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your kind response. What you’ve said makes a lot of sense.

  2. Robert
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    Thank you Jef for another amazing article, I recognized a lot from my own life. My father is still alive, but it doesnt matter much since he has no interest in my life or his grandchildren. My father wasnt in the military but he might as well have been. He is very intelligent and hardworking, but has very strange priorities in life.

    He is a boomer, but after he left my mother he became a radical shitlib. I have seen my father cry two times in his life. First when he turned fifty and realized he had never done anything just for himself (he divorced my mother a couple of years later) and started dating a young chinese woman, it didnt last because of his emotional issues. And the second time was in my early teens, when he realized “my son is a racist”.

    Now he has a house in Gambia where he spends his time with what he calls “his african family”. On facebook he writes posts against racism mixed with music videos from the sixties, its so sad. I also realized that my father has issues with anxiety, that i inherited, but we deal with them in very different ways. My father also took out his frustrations on my family when i was a child, with violent outbursts and intimidation.

    In later years i realized that i inherited more traits of my father than i would like to admit, for better or worse. But just like you I have vowed to never become like him. My father also didnt want to become like his father. One of my goals is to brake this tradition so that my children will see me as an example to emulate.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted July 2, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Thanks for your kind response. Wow, your father’s liberalism is much worse than mine. It must be pretty hard to deal with that. Especially if he takes no interest in your life or your children’s. My father wasn’t that way. He was interested in me and proud of certain things I had done. But it was incredibly hard to find something to talk with him about, so politics kept coming up. And I just found the change in his views inexplicable. I do believe that we have the freedom to resist the tendencies we were handed by our heredity, and that key to this is continually seeing these things in ourselves, reminding ourselves when they rear their ugly head “this is me being like my father again — don’t do it!” I wish you the best.

  3. Sharkisha
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    Best essay on Counter Currents ever.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted July 2, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Far from true, but thanks!!

  4. Leo Yankevich
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    This is great writing, Jef, writing which I hugely enjoyed.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted July 2, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, Leo.

  5. Vagrant Rightist
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    A thoroughly human and moving story. These kinds of reflections are a really important contribution. There’s a lot of things in this piece I can relate to and know only too well and so it really touched a chord in me, …

    The family hoarding. The accumulation of stuff with no end, spilling out into extra storage. The isolation of your father and what sounds like your own eventual distance to him which is saddening. And then the fear that we will become our parents and repeat all they did…

    It sounds like the SPLC donations could have been a device by your father to get your attention.

    But it’s possible your father really did believe in the Russia/Trump stuff and just absorbed it at face value. Unfortunately, older people are extremely vulnerable to this kind of propaganda. It’s like (((virtual reality goggles))) have put on them, and they can be extremely resistant to you trying to take them off.

  6. AngloBilly
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    This article is a tour de force. It’s heartening to read someone who understands so much about life and family and people. And I like how this beautifully written case study, interesting in itself, is used to highlight general concepts that we need to consider. I fear I’m sounding like some typical, establishment writer who donates a blurb for one of his buddies getting published, but Mr. Costello, your essay lives up to the kind of hype that we always read on the back covers of New-York-published books. Thank god that a writer who is as perceptive and skillful as you are is on our side.

    My father is one of the “Greatest Generation.” That phrase provokes the same eye rolls and groans in me that it does in most of you out there, but fortunately for me, my dad kept his humility, and some reasonably good sense based on his observation of the world around him. He is still living and inquisitive and lucid for his age. On the surface he tends towards the civic nationalism that has caused so much harm by deflecting Americans from our real problems, and yet when pressed, I think he still admits what biology, history and our experiences tell us so clearly, about race and culture and politics.

    But then again, I was lucky in my parents, who shared the same outlook on these issues that most other adults did, before the Baby Boomer Deluge solidified into our current world of Cultural Marxist anarcho-tyranny. The “Silent Majority” that Nixon spoke of in the face of the New Left onslaught was a real phenomenon. Today, it’s hard enough dealing with siblings, aunts, uncles, co-workers and others who embrace the SPLC/CNN/MSNBC side of life. I feel for those, mostly younger than me, who are subjected to this kind of finger-wagging and worse from their parents.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted July 2, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      I’m overwhelmed by your kind words. Thank you.
      My father was a mass of contradictions, actually. I once (2-3 years ago) showed him a video about an outlaw family in the Appalachians: “The Wild, Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.” He was horrified by it, and afterwards gave me a long lecture on the importance of eugenics!

  7. NewWayForward
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this piece. It is probably one of the best writings I have connected with in a long time.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted July 2, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      You’re welcome. Thank you for your kind words.

  8. berserk97
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Funny, my sister gets junk mail sent from SPLC, Chuck Schumer, among others. And like your father, I hardly speak with her because we have opinions that are completely at odds with one another. Interestingly enough I had a bad case of OCD myself from my late teenage years through my early twenties, complete with hoarding, throwing away everything, and obsessive hand washing. If I had not the will power to fight it, it would have prevented me from doing anything. It can take hold of you though, for sure. Thankfully I have both of my parents and they are pretty red-pilled I must say. I laughed at the Dark Shadows comment.

  9. Dave
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I went through this a few years ago when my childless, never-married hoarder aunt passed away and we had to clean out her house. My mom was also a hoarder, so we’ll have an even bigger pile to dispose of when my dad dies.

    This problem dates back to the Social Security Act of 1935, which collectivized and monetized the age-old moral duty to look after the elderly. Before then, it was much less common for old people to live alone, and much easier for young people to start families. They didn’t have to buy a house first, and they had old people around to help with child care and housekeeping.

    God did not give us old age so that we might lie on a beach in Florida waiting to die.

  10. Voryn Illidari
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    If Jef did not write something that was profoundly interesting while at the same time a tad depressing, he would cease to exist, haha. Jeff, I’ve been reading your stuff since you wrote “I’m Not Alright.” For better or worse, I find that much of your writing really resonates with me. This article continues to reinforce that view. I’m sorry for the loss of your father.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted July 3, 2018 at 7:58 am | Permalink

      Depressing? Surely you don’t mean that 🙂
      Seriously, I’m glad you like my work. Thanks for your kind words.
      Perhaps the next essay won’t be so downbeat…….

  11. Veteran Officer
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I find this article of tremendous interest. One thing I don’t understand is why a veteran of the US military would really believe the colorblind stuff. My experience as an officer contained a great deal of non-white pathology management. I know my experiences were not unique, however again and again I find career officers talking about “all blood being red” and the “flag is for all,” etc.

    I don’t understand it. Perhaps Mr. Costello is correct, they do see…but choose to deny and dig in their heels.

    • Ambrose Kane
      Posted July 2, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      Sadly, there are all sorts of White military veterans who never quite ‘get it’ when it comes to the importance of race and preserving one’s culture. They are oblivious to the deeper questions of life, and they never challenge the status-quo nor the assumptions they’ve been raised with.

      The problem is compounded for Whites who retire from the military and remove themselves from interacting with ‘diversity’ on a daily basis. Among their own White kin and in their White neighborhoods, they don’t feel threatened by the presence of other racial groups. They tend to forget any negative experiences they had with Blacks or Hispanics in the military. They also gradually take on the worldview of liberals in terms of race. It’s always convenient and disarming to racially virtue signal before other Whites, and so they feel comfortable maintaining the prevailing opinions of the ‘system.’

      It’s very easy to do too, unless one is forced because of poverty to live among Blacks and Hispanics. This explains in part why so many Whites will never have their multicultural bubbles popped. They just don’t experience the reality and ugliness of ‘diversity’ on an protracted basis. So, unless their snouts are daily rubbed in the excrement of a multi-racial community or become victimized by it, they will likely continue in their Utopian fairy tales.

  12. cecil
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    This experience is very common. I go through it with my family.

    It is painful, and feels like gross betrayal.

    My father will often purposefully laugh at the dispossession of his family and society even while he mourns the early death of one of his children that is directly related to this ‘diversity’.

    Its hard. But its important.

  13. G.M.
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this strangely inspiring, authentic article. It touches on so many things I am feeling right now. My relationship with my father will end just about the same as yours did.

    Deaths in the family, our elders’ fascinatingly self-destructive politics & subversion by the dominant media culture, their farcically unsuccessful attempts to self-actualise along with the broken families this has entailed… & the hoarding. The greedy, nibelungish, pointless hoarding.

    Oh well. I guess we can avail ourselves of a false sense of useless accomplishment quickly & more cheaply through video games, or whatever virtual fantasies girls are into these days, not that the false prophets of our generation are any truer or less sirenic.

    On balance, in bio-realist or vitalist terms, our parents, for all they gave us, were the worst parents in the long, unbroken chains of our ancestors… except for us. A rejection of their follies is a good start. The next & harder step will be a rejection of our own, as we find we are more like them, & of them, than we previously knew.

    Ah well, thanks again. Back to it – lookin’ forward to interacting with my straggling, no-longer-yoloing greyhair drain-circlers & that shitpile of a useless estate in the days & weeks to come, as our season of death continues.


  14. Norman
    Posted July 2, 2018 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    The world may well breathe a sigh of relief that I myself never became a clinical psychologist, but this piece has piqued me so that I must chime in, theoretically and anecdotally.

    No, Jef, it isn’t a genetic trait or even a predisposition. Your father was dealt a bad hand by history (as we all were, to some extent), and his weaknesses were not pathology, but human nature. And exposure to television.

    The values, the value-structures he grew up with were undermined, and — not being a Spartan or a Prussian — he went the way of nearly all people who habitually watch television, year after year. By so doing, the prospect of deriving meaningfulness in one’s life is excised. I’ve seen it, in my father (born 1921) as well in men of your father’s generation. I can only shudder to think what will come of a few decades of skunk-cannabis psychosis and screen addiction for the younger generations, but perhaps we can at least expect “compressed morbidity,” as the social scientists say.

    I became acquainted with a film professor in New York in the 1990s. We had both attended lectures at the library and struck up some interesting conversations. I’d say he was probably born about 1930-35. He had known and worked among some of the big name directors and producers in the 1950s. A very interesting, well-read and sharp-minded guy. Old school for sure.

    One day we were chatting about breakfast, and he started to list everything he usually ate. As he elaborated upon ingredients and preparation, it struck me this was not a conversation about cooking. It was obsessive. There was a kind of desperation in his need to provide detail, to precisely nail down each particular. I saw in his thoroughness of presentation an attempt at self-reassurance, which was ultimately inadequate. It was as if he were staving off utter doom.

    I can’t say what became of him, but he came back to me when I read this article.

    I infer from the article that your father grew up with certitudes, verities, maybe even faith, and in his military training and career he may have known and profited deeply from a very real esprit de corps.

    All gone. No rhyme or reason. This is America.

    As White Nationalists, I think we have a clear mandate to reinstate meaning and meaningfulness, to reinvigorate our lives and our purpose for living, for each other and for our descendants. By the same token, we also merit and honor the sacrifices endured by our ancestors, close and distant.

    And we will not abide this (((notion of pathology))) as if it were a given.

    • jef costello
      Posted July 3, 2018 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. You raise a number of interesting points. I am skeptical, however, of the emphasis you put on television. My father grew up entirely without television. It was only an influence in his later life, and certainly doesn’t explain most of the pathologies I discussed: the hoarding, the OCD, etc.

      • Norman
        Posted July 3, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        As noted, I am not a clinical psychologist, and like you I am skeptical of conventional and reductive designations. Hoarding and OCD and a great many other named and abbreviated maladies are designated on the basis of observed symptoms. A clinical industry asserts causality and commodifies treatment. Yet: post hoc ergo propter hoc! As these syndromes are merely compiled symptoms, the principle of multiple causation remains unknown to and unaddressed by medica manageria, as it does not fit the prevailing ideology.

        While I do not intend to diagnose, neither do I assert that television is “to blame” for OCD, etc. But let’s say TV is a representative example of a panoply of mind-numbing influences, pernicious conditioning, and so forth, the salient effect being the promotion of cluelessness, neuroses, and the destruction of the soul.

        My father’s generation of course did not grow up watching television. But they watched it increasingly (and religiously) later, since it had become part of every family’s living room in the 1950s and ’60s. I saw something happen to him, and to a great many friends’ parents as we all got older, especially those oldtimers who possessed scant intellectual curiosity and who simply trusted, accepted and followed whatever came out of the pipe. I have to call it enfeeblement. Then as now, there are many people with little else in their lives besides programmed work/play/thought. Television is a huge part of that programming.

        But an active mind has a natural resistance to programmed enfeeblement, as does a solid foundational culture, a civilized society. With stable institutions. And strong borders.

  15. R_Moreland
    Posted July 3, 2018 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    There is something “off” about the current state of the union, the sort of thing that Lovecraft, Stoddard or, for that matter, Robert E. Howard (of “Conan the Barbarian” fame) would have forecast a century ago regarding the degeneration of a people.

    It’s not so much the racial degeneration but spiritual. It’s like large numbers of people have become possessed by a shadow out of time or color out of space. Ideology prevents them from seeing the reality of race, even when it rises up from the abysses of the third world and extends a pseudopod or three in their direction.

    But remember the wisdom of Howard: “For man’s only weapon is courage that flinches not from the gates of Hell itself, and against such not even the legions of Hell can stand.”

  16. nineofclubs
    Posted July 3, 2018 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    A really very special article Jef. Well done. The article – and in fact the quality of the comments so far – are prime examples of why CC makes a difference in the pantheon of nationalist sites.

    You talk about the effect of genetics on who we become – and you reflect on the differences between yourself and your father.

    I wonder whether you see more of yourself in your grandparents? I do. In fact, based on personal experience, I’ve come to fully embrace the idea that some qualities skip a generation or two.

    Because while I’m different in outlook, temperament and ability to my parents, I find that my grandparents were – each in their own way – closer to who I am. In the last five years I’ve also got into genealogy which has been an eye opener. Going back into the family tree, I see some forebears whose characteristics and experience are so close to mine it’s uncanny. And sometimes uncomfortable. But always revealing.

    The Japanese have a religious tradition of ancestor veneration wrapped up in folk Shinto (Riki Rei, chime in here if I’m getting this wrong) that I think deserves more consideration. Many people today seek relevance in a higher (or wider, in the case of your Dad) meaning of life. In my opinion, this can be achieved by looking – Janus like – both backwards and forwards. Backwards to the deep genealogy which shaped us and forward to the destiny we seek as individuals and nations.

    Thanks again for a great article.


    • Jef Costello
      Posted July 3, 2018 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your very kind comments. As to my grandparents, my mother’s parents died when I was a very small child — I don’t even remember them. My father’s father died when I was eight. That leaves my father’s mother. She was quite smart, and lived to be more than 100. But she was a sharp-tongued, crusty old bird who had a lot of difficulty controlling her “difficult” side — just like my father. And like me, unfortunately.

  17. Petronius
    Posted July 3, 2018 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    A very intense and deeply moving piece, and well written too. The mice almost appear like a literary metaphor…

    • Jef Costello
      Posted July 4, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      Though the mice were quite real. Not literary license on my part. All of life is an emblem book.

  18. Petronius
    Posted July 3, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    A haunting film on the legacy of troubled fathers is Paul Schrader’s “The Affliction”.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted July 4, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      I have just ordered it.

  19. Hunter D
    Posted July 5, 2018 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    This is the second time I read something on this website and then binge read everything else written by that person. Also thank you for this post, as I’m sure many of us can relate to the difficulty of accepting or observing the almost cognitive dissonance of feelings towards a liberal or materialistic dad

  20. Posted July 5, 2018 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful piece.

  21. Gnme Chompsky
    Posted July 6, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    That article was good, it makes me think of my mother and favourite uncle when faced with my grandmother’s place after she didn’t die, but had a disastrous stroke.

    She was a hoarder, but with reason. Textiles, jewellery, some beautiful furniture, books, her own writings and research into family history (going back generations), some addressed to me as her eldest grandchild.

    Don’t forget that any generations of ordinary people prior to the manufacturing explosion in WWII , and its flow on to the consumer society, had many shortages of many things for centuries. This will return.

    So, I have long posited (although not stated before)
    that that aspect of what is termed hoarding and OCD behaviour has a clear evolutionary psychology and social perspective as a reasonable trait until not too many years ago ‘you want a nice fabric or curtains with nice prints, I’ll give the fabric to you.’

    The same for me and others who wanted tools for sewing. My uncle and mother sold everything of value but the jewellery very cheaply (including her beautifiul house and garden to sand nog invaders). (typical working.class Boomer approach), burnt everything else in the backyard incerator first.

    My mother’s main point of fury was her mother’s plain statement of my paternity, which I will never see.
    Not (((them))), for sure, fron my nana’s words.

    I am going on too long, tale of your father, Jef, cautionary and fascinating.

    Taking after my maternal nana, I am a little of a hoarder, but ton much pressure of work to do much about it. I want to dump or sell much.

    Still posit my theory that OCD had some evolutionary advantage in social (as opposeed to individual) situations until very recently.

    Your father, R.I.P.., clearly ending at a very strange point.

  22. Thulean Friend
    Posted July 6, 2018 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    If someone had told me the content of this article beforehand I would never have read it, yet I casually opened it and it just kept going. I think it boils down authenticity. But more than that, Jef is simply a good writer. Such a person can write about seemingly the most mundane matters yet make it profound. Such is the important of being gifted, in whatever field one talks about.

    A great essay, and though I can’t say it connected to me personally (my own father passed away when I was just a toddler, though his political instincts were quite close to your dad’s if my mother is correct), it was nevertheless very eye-opening.

    To me, the OCD and the hoarding were the less relevant parts. The most important aspect of the essay was the apparent emotional stunting of your father, and how he found it impossible to be open and honest about his inner emotional life. In this sense, his son does appear to be radically different, and all the better, I say.

  23. Peter Quint
    Posted July 7, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    What stands out to me is the waste of money that could have been more productively spent. “Possessions weigh you down.”

  24. Roland
    Posted July 16, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Very nice piece. This superficial functionality that hides complete internal chaos is the most distinctive trait and mystery of the baby boom generation. They are nihilists, all of them (how could you not be as an atheist or heretic), yet few of them act like nihilists. Whereas millenials, in my experience, tend to act like nihilists (lazy, impulsive, unstable monkeys) even when they ardently want to follow a code of conduct. A paradox I can’t explain very well.

    As to the hoarding, in my experience, it’s definitely linked to low mood (dysthymia). It’s a form of irrational risk aversion typical of depression. There’s probably an old behavior pattern encoded in our genes, linked to the arrival of winter or to exterior threats, for staying home, hoarding stuff in case of need, diminishing energy expenses, and waiting for better times. The trap is that this behavior, in modern times, ensures that better times will never come because the problem is you, not the winter or wolves.

    Jeff, based on your previous articles I have the feeling there’s a streak of depression in you and your family. I agree that most drugs suck deeply. A thing that worked on me recently, contrary to my expectations, and with no negative side effects, is transcranial magnetic stimulation. You should look into it.

  25. HungarianFashionista
    Posted May 23, 2020 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Marie Kondo’s first book is actually profound.

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