Namaste: If Not Now, When? Chapter 12 Fear Is The Mind Killer

Author’s Note: Each chapter of this book can be read as a stand-alone and it is not necessary that they be read in numerical order. All of the previous chapters are posted here. I welcome comments and will respond as time allows. Thanks for reading.

Chapter 12

Fear Is The Mind Killer

In his famous science fiction trilogy, Dune, Frank Herbert introduced us to the Bene Gesserit, a formidable Amazon-like cult of warrior witches reminiscent of the Jesuits. The novitiates were taught to repeat the Litany of Fear to overcome panic attacks.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

The Bartol brothers were young, handsome, and brash college boys home for summer vacation. They decided to go to a movie theater to see The Warriors, a violent film about a teenage gang running a gauntlet of hostile neighborhood gangs in New York City to return to its home turf after spending the day frolicking at Coney Island. Someone had assassinated the heroic and popular leader of a rival gang who was trying to unify city gangs and the word on the street was that the Warriors were responsible.

As the crowd filed out of the theater after the movie ended, one of the brothers uttered a lewd remark to the other regarding a shapely young woman with long blonde hair walking a few feet in front of them accompanied by her boyfriend, Jim Smith. Although Jim was shorter and lighter than the Bartol brothers, he was wiry, strong, and afraid of no one. He stopped, turned, faced the brothers, and ordered them to apologize to Kim for the rude remark or he would kick their asses.

Harsh words were exchanged followed by gunfire and the sound of a car pealing out of the parking lot. The Bartol brothers lay dead on the hot summer pavement. Jim and Kim were nowhere to be seen and residents of the city of Bellevue and the greater Seattle area were inflamed and demanding justice. Within a few days based on caller tips and information provided by witnesses to the shooting, police found and arrested Jim and Kim. King County prosecutors charged Jim with two counts of first degree murder and Kim with aiding and abetting his flight from the scene. Kim’s family retained the great Anthony Savage to represent her. Tony was generally regarded as the best criminal defense lawyer in Seattle. Jim was indigent and not so fortunate. The King County Office of Public Defense appointed a young former public defender, who had recently opened his own law practice, to represent Jim. That young lawyer was a fellow by the name of Frederick Leatherman.

This was not my first homicide case, but I never had represented a client in a high-profile case and Jim’s case was extremely high profile. Fights had broken out in parking lots all over the country following showings of The Warriors and I was deluged with calls from journalists and producers from television shows like Geraldo, for example, who wanted to know if I was going to put on the movie-made-me-do-it defense. I had no idea what they were talking about, so I decided to go see the film. I can safely say that I did not experience any urges to assault or shoot anyone after the film. Of course, I was not accompanied by a comely lass like Kim or packing a heater either and no one made any lewd remarks about me. I kept glancing furtively around the parking lot kind of sort of hoping for a fight to break out between some seedy gangsters and their molls, but it was not to be.

Oh, well, I thought. So much for the movie-made-me-do-it defense. I ambled down to the Amble Inn where I tossed down a couple of Bombay Sapphire martinis and searched for the meaning of life. Needless to say, I did not find it.

After the first media packed court hearing, during which I let Tony do the talking while I did my best to look like I knew how to shuffle papers and appear to be bored – what I like to call the studied nonchalance look – I patted Jim on the back, told him not to worry, stuffed my papers into my briefcase, and walked out the door. I had waited for a few minutes after Tony left in the vain hope that the reporters would flock to him allowing me to escape down the backstairs. Instead, Tony had declined to comment and suggested they interview me instead, since his client was not even charged with murder.

Heh, thanks a lot Tony.

I opened the door and was suddenly engulfed by a vast sea of klieg lights, television cameras, and reporters shouting questions as they stuffed microphones into my face.

Now, I was familiar with the word, “choke” in the context of athletic competitions, when someone fails to perform as expected, but I had no idea that a person can experience a panic attack and literally choke, as their throat tightens and they cannot breathe, swallow, or utter a peep. That is exactly what happened to me as I stared back at the lights blinking my eyes furiously. My brain even shut down as I could not form a coherent thought. Then I started to sweat, copiously.

I recall a scene from Saturday Night Live, I think. One of the members of the show had a small rubber hose concealed under his clothing and attached to the back of his head, or something like that, and the hose was turned on so that sweat appeared to be cascading down his face like a waterfall. Well, that was me in that hallway long ago, except I did not need a hose.

Then a thought suddenly occurred to me. It was a rather simple thought, actually, that I can best express as, “run asshole run!”

I lowered my head and pulled a Moses, bullying my way through the crowd of reporters like Moses parting the Red Sea. Running to daylight, as Vince Lombardi once had recommended in another context, I threw open a fire exit door at the end of the hallway and fled into ignominy with alarms blaring behind me.

Fortunately, the reporters took pity on me and did not show my fleeing backside on the evening news, but they did get a few good stories to share with their comrades at my expense.

I did not feel any better the next day and I even went to see a judge friend, who was an old B-29 bomber pilot during WWII who had somehow survived his plane being shot to hell multiple times on bombing missions over Europe. I asked him if there was not some way to get out of the case. Hell, I think I begged him, but he just laughed at me until tears ran down his cheeks.

“Here, you need some of this,” he said, as he opened a desk drawer and produced a bottle of Bourbon. “Toss it down, or I’ll have to smack you up side the head with a 2 X 4.”

Well, a man’s gotta do what he’s gotta do, I figured, so I did.

A couple of shots later, he asked me to retell my experience, only make it funny, he said.
So, I did and after I did, he shared one of his scared shitless stories from the war. We swapped stories like that until I was not afraid anymore.

The next time I faced the gauntlet of reporters with lights and microphones, I started with a joke.

Cross-Posted at Firedoglake and the Smirking Chimp.

Author’s Note: Namaste: If Not Now, When? is my intellectual property. I retain full rights to my own work. You may copy it and share it with others, but only if you credit me as the author. You may not sell or offer to sell it for any form of consideration. I retain full rights to publication.

My real name is Frederick Leatherman. I was a criminal-defense lawyer for 30 years specializing in death-penalty defense and forensics. I also was a law professor for three years.

Now I am a writer and I also haul scrap for a living in this insane land.




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One Comment on “Namaste: If Not Now, When? Chapter 12 Fear Is The Mind Killer”

  1. laluna Says:

    thanks for the hearty laugh…and please keep telling your stories.

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