Daniel Berrigan tells a story about a conqueror who comes into our city. He is a huge, superhuman figure, and is preceded by rumors of invincibility. He has conquered everywhere and our city is next. We are afraid and there is nothing to be done except make peace with him; he is all prevailing. He comes closer and closer, and we begin to notice that he has no army; he is all alone. Yet we know that his army must be nearby because, after all, he has conquered everywhere. Even if he comes alone, the army will follow. So we surrender the city, give him the keys, bow before him. And he stands there, and we wait and wait until, slowly, the conqueror raises his hand, lifts the visor of his helmet as though he is going to speak. And then we see that there is no head in the helmet, nothing behind the visor, there is nothing there. Absolutely nothing. The conqueror is a huge vacuum. Outside our fear he does not exist. And yet we have given up our city. We are paralyzed and cannot move, cannot unite, cannot be truthful, cannot command ourselves and our community. We have given in to fear. We have learned the way of power politics. And whatever this lawless corrupt white nationalist creature does to us now is much less than what we have already done to ourselves.
Gary Percesepe is the author of eight books, most recently The Winter of J, a poetry collection published by Poetry Box. He is Associate Editor at New World Writing. Previously he was an assistant fiction editor at Antioch Review. His work has appeared in Christian Century, Maine Review, Brevity, Story Quarterly, N + 1, Salon, Mississippi Review, Wigleaf, Westchester Review, PANK, The Millions, Atticus Review, Antioch Review, Solstice, and other places. He resides in White Plains, New York, and teaches philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx.