Son of a Gun

An arms manufacturer’s son visits home after moving to a Zen monastery.

Shozan Jack Haubner

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The phone rang, I answered it, and it was my dad. This made it exactly once that he’d rung me since I’d moved to a Zen Buddhist monastery several years earlier. Oh no, I thought, who died?

It was New Year’s Eve 2007, the Year of the Pig. I was in the electronics cabin, camped in front of the PC, perusing year-end website summaries of the Iraqi Horror Picture Show. Though intimately acquainted with personal failure (I’m something of a Renaissance Willy Loman), I had never known dysfunction on a national level like the Iraq War. There was a palpable sense in the air that something terrible was happening, and we were responsible for it. There was blood on our hands. Oops, America was crying, like Lenny from Of Mice and Men, large, dumb, and dangerous, looking up at George from the crushed child in his arms: We’ve really fucked up this time.

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