Behold Kendall Myers, child of privilege. Born into a prominent Washington family — his great-grandfather was Alexander Graham Bell — he attended prep school, grew up to become a State Department guru on European affairs, and retired to a life of leisure in his exclusive Northwest Washington condo and 37-foot sailing yatch. One would expect Myers to look back on his life with a certain contentment, and much gratitude.
Myers disliked the world as he found it. He was angry. Specifically, he raged against the country that had condemned him to such a privileged existence. He became one of those deranged individuals who curse and scream at the TV screen.
“I have become so bitter these past few months,” he wrote in 1978. “Watching the evening news is a radicalizing experience.” Why so? Because of greedy U.S. oil companies, inadequate health care, and America’s “utter complacency about the oppressed.”
Standard fare in European conversation (“Problem 35: No universal health care. Problem 36: No metric system! What is this! The time of Charlemagne?”) For Myers, a radicalizing experience. He became a spy on behalf of Cuba’s ramshackle totalitarian regime. His entire State Department career was a scripted play, reportedly masterminded by his Cuban handlers. Given an opportunity to serve his country, he betrayed it to its enemies.
Why the extreme reaction? Remember the anger. The bitterness. Myers was filled with loathing, and while he raged at the U.S. most of it was aimed at himself. He looked for the most anti-Myers cause going, and joined it as an act of self-flagellation. Cuba’s Yankee-hating maximum leader put him in his proper place. Both shared a contempt and revulsion for the kind of person that was Kendall Myers.
He and his wife were arrested on espionage charges last week. The mortal husk of Fidel Castro, still able to communicate from the twilight zone between life and death, praised the couple for their “disinterested and courageous conduct.” This is utter nonsense, as even in semi-death that old fox Castro knows. Disinterested means acting against one’s desires, on behalf of a higher cause. Myers, consumed by self-loathing, desired the abasement and moral inversion the dictator offered him. He called Cuba “home,” though nobody can remember whether he spoke Spanish. He planned, in the vague future, to sail to the revolution in his teak-decked ship.
Myers, it appears, had solid grounds for despising himself. He ran over and killed a teenage girl in 1975. His first marriage fell apart two years later. Imagine his bitterness, not only having to live in the land of complacency but partaking in the feast, enlarging the number of the oppressed by one dead girl.
On the vice of self-loathing, I have little to add to what I have already posted. It begins with the urge to smash the face in the mirror and ends with a universalizing revulsion and a craving to smash the faces of one’s neighbors. Because it hates and demeans the dignity of others, it is, if acted on, destructive of freedom. Consider Noam Chomsky, global self-loather-in-chief, who forgave the Khmer Rouge their holocausts, but has yet to tolerate a single triumph by the United States or Israel.
Clearly Kendall Myers was molded of the same clay. Cuba is a dismal place. The writings of Cuban bloggers like Yoani (in Spanish) fill the heart with sadness. Every few years her friends vanish, and before escaping the island they utter the same words: “I can’t take this any more.” Myers will buy none of it. “Have the Cubans given up their personal freedom?” he asked. “Nothing I have seen suggests that. . . I see nothing of value that has been lost by the revolution. . .” Fidel Castro, he added, “has helped the Cubans save their own souls.”
If Myers knew about Yoani, no doubt he — like the ex-ruler of his peaceable kingdom — considered her a weapon in the bloody hand of “imperialism.”
That would be us. America, red in tooth and claw, stood for the original sin of being Kendall Myers — and about his country, his government, or his people he had nothing good to say. Despite his secret treason, he allowed his anger to burst out loud. In a public setting, he derided Tony Blair for his close alliance to the U.S. There’s no indication Myers was reprimanded for this tirade, or that anyone found it unusual in any way. He railed openly against American policies and actions, “but to his liberal neighbors in Northwest DC it was nothing out of the ordinary. ‘We were all appalled by the Bush years,’ one said.”
Whether self-loathing is particularly acute in Washington I leave an open question. But even to liberals in Northwest DC, the difference between political opposition and treason is large, not subtle. Kendall Myers wasn’t radicalized by the policies of the Great Satan Bush, but those of the born-again Jimmy Carter. The demons driving him cared little for political change. Their goal, and his, was moral self-immolation.
In this, at least, he appears to have succeeded.