Sunday, August 1, 2010

Round 3: All Along the Watchtower by Alexander Kraft

Some people think I'm a monster. That I enjoy killing. That I'm an enthusiastic participant of an organization that kills for pleasure or power. Like some primordial swimming creature with innumerable arms and no brain, animated by hostility, its cognition distributed holographically across all of its primitive cells so that each arm, each piece, contains the entirety of its hateful motivation. I am one of these arms, so this mindset contends; when I shoot those who try to scale the wall it is because I relish it, and by extension the state relishes it: each of the millions of people employed by the state champing at the bit to kill, oppress, and hurt.

There are others who pity me, albeit in an equally shallow sort of way. They see me as a dupe or as a victim myself. They construct my relationship with the state as a form of the old you-or-them dilemma - I wake up and a bandit has tied up my family, or five innocent strangers, or something equally unlikely. He tells me to kill them or he will kill me. In this view, when I kill “refugees” who are trying to “escape” to the capitalist west, it is only because I am too stupid or weak to resist this coercion: to figure out a third way, or to martyr myself refusing to participate. How flattering.

It was last Wednesday, a man with grey eyes, his jaw set firm, determination carving out his face. An explosion half a block south. I look north, of course. The grey eyes following the trace of an improvised hook over the top of the wall. Huge hands, roughened by labor, gripping a line stolen from a factory, hoisting himself up with the strength and speed of a lifetime of work. Halfway up, our eyes meet. He's been in my sights since he threw the line. There's a puff of red and he falls, the crimson arc that follows him down like the arc of rope that followed the hook up.

Last night my investigations bore fruit, and I learned his name. This morning at the beginning of my shift I carefully inscribed it at the base of my tower. Nicholas Kravitz. It is the forty-seventh name, all of them neatly blocked in a long line to the left of the door.

Of course both views are simplistic and ultimately inaccurate. Of course there are bloodthirsty murderers out there. Sometimes they even achieve positions of power. But millions? Everyone with a government job, to a man? It's ridiculous. I take no joy in taking a life. The names on the watchtower aren't trophies, mementos, heads on stakes to warn people of my ruthlessness. Every day that I walk past those names, they chill me as deeply, sober me at thoroughly, as they do any of the peasants who gape horrified at them.

But they aren't epitaphs, either. I do not mourn these men and women. I never woke up with a gun to my head; I wasn't ordered to take this job. To think of me a victim, bamboozled into this position, ignores a lifetime of context surrounding my situation. I didn't blink into existence at the top of a watchtower with a rifle. I signed up, I trained, I moved through the ranks, I climb the stairs every day. I could be peeling potatoes instead if I wanted to, but this work is too important. Those people need to die. I need to kill them. And I do not record their names out of grief or pity.

The hardest it ever was to pull the trigger was last June, a family. Who would take their seven year old daughter on a suicide mission? Her parents had the fierce, defiant look of former aristocracy fueled by righteous indignation and astonishment at the audacity of we peasants to keep up this ruse of a nation. But the little girl broke my heart. Her face was full of pleading and terror. Tears rolled down my face as I painted her name alongside those of her parents. It tore my heart that she was my enemy.

Each of those names is a life story. When I walk into work, I read each of them, and I know them. I've spent countless days getting to know each of them. Where they worked. Where they lived. Their families. The songs they sung, the books they loved. Their smiles, their tears. When did they betray their fellows? When did the siren song of Coca-Cola and rock and roll and mansions and yachts become irresistible? Every worker who leaves us weakens us. Every new worker who joins the capitalists strengthens them. And it is not a proportional relationship. We provide our workers with food, shelter, clothing, medicine, education, entertainment. But the capitalists needn't spend so much. They reduce people to figures: how much would it cost to provide for a person's needs? Give them a wage that's a little less than that. Need to cut expenses? Pay a little less yet. If the workers can't make ends meet, tell them it is their own fault for not working hard enough. It costs less there to hire a worker than to keep a slave. Quite a bargain.

In this way, on the balance, giving the capitalists one more worker is the equivalent of killing a hundred of ours. And in all likelihood, that is precisely what it will lead to, anyway. We all know that the west will not rest until we have been fully destroyed, ground into the dust. Every one of those names I've written is the name of one who aspired to be a mass-murderer. Even without understanding, simply by living there and working. One who would sell his kinsmen and countrymen for the glitter of a false promise.

As I walk to my post with a heavy heart, I read those names along the watchtower. I remember killing every one of them. I think of who they were, men and women like me. My friends. Drinking and laughing and loving. I read those names and I know how easy it is for any one to become the bitterest enemy of humanity, without even knowing it. I mourn for the death of my friends - not when I shot them, for then they were my enemies. My friends died little by little as they were dazzled by the lights to the west. I must be ever vigilant: it could happen to anyone. I read those names every morning and I am steeled for what I must do.


Wonderful! Another aggressively varied addition to this Title Fights legacy! Alexander Kraft was born into the aristocracy of very cheesy pasta, but bowed out to lead labor unions and invent electric cars. I think. Little is known. Much is suspected.


  1. All citizens failing to urge Kraft to write more will be whisked away from their families to be re-educated. You have all been warned.

  2. Can I have his address? I need to know where to mail my panties.

  3. The fanatic and the assassin walk ever into a cool, clear breeze. Chilling depiction of such a man. Very cool borscht, my man. Keep 'em coming.