Anyone who knows the McCloskeys knows that we are a defiant lot. We are stubborn, and we tend to have a real problem with authority. I myself did not truly learn that I had a problem with authority until I joined the military. This would seem to be one of the worst places to have authority issues because it is. However, after some personal adjustments and some valuable life lessons, which we will get into later, I was able to harness my issues with authority into great personal and professional success. You see, the crux of my issue with authority is when people tell me I cannot do something. All that does is set out to prove them. wrong, or to at least question the prohibition, sometimes to my own peril. This was expressed at a very early age when my mother had told me never to touch a hot iron. She made it clear I absolutely must not ever touch the iron. My defiant 4-year-old mind was determined to figure out why this prohibition existed. What if... just maybe... touching the iron was the most amazing thing ever? I could be missing out on something truly wondrous! It turns out, that's not why we don't touch hot irons. When I finally had my chance and had built up the gull to try it, I walked over to the iron and pressed my right thumb right on the hot surface of the iron. The reality of my mother's previous warnings had been made immediately clear. As I screamed in excruciating pain, my mother ran over and scooped me up. Of course, she asked why I would do such a thing, and of course, I said: "I don't know."
I remember that after my mother cleaned the burn and cooled it, a huge blister formed. I remember I was scared that my thumb would be that way forever. Fortunately, I recovered just fine. I remained defiant, just as I am to this very day. So where does this inherent, defiant skepticism of authority come from? For me, it comes from my mother. I suspect it goes back many more generations.
I have so many memories of my mother telling authority figures what she thought they should do with their authority, it would be impossible to recount them all. But there are a few that stand out.
One summer I remember I was playing outside and a police car had come driving down our long, dirt driveway. This was odd, I had never seen a police car on our property before. I may not have ever seen a police car in person before... Naturally, I stood-up to run inside to tell my mom. But by the time I got to the screen door on our porch, she was already on her way out. I walked along side her as she approached the police car as it was coming to a stop. I don't recall what the police were asking for precisely. They were investigating something to do with the people who lived next door, and they wanted to know if they could look around a bit. I remember my mother saying the words "not without a warrant", but then the police tried to press the issue. That's when my mom told them they had better leave. Then she turned around and went inside. I was just standing there in the middle of the yard as these two police officers began milling about. The very next thing I know, I heard the screen door swing open and my mother descended the steps with a bat in her hands like a cave man about to hunt a tiger with a club. She began shouting "I already warned you sons of bitches! If you don't get the hell off my land I'll bury your asses in it!"
This might seem like a situation that was about to end badly for my mother. But remarkably, it did not. Both cops began apologizing profusely, and they retreated to their car with a quickness. The speed at which they left our driveway kicked up a massive cloud of dust in the hot summer air. In that moment, I was in complete awe of my mother. This tiny five foot nothing woman who had just chased two armed cops off "her land" and won. My mom was invincible.
A year or more later my mother had gotten a phone call, presumably from a government representative of some kind, likely a social worker. It's clear the person was calling to let my mother know that she was eligible for an array of government benefits, like food stamps. Few things were as unacceptable and offensive to my mother as any form of government assistance. I can remember my mother saying to the woman on the phone "I don't need no god damned money from the government! I'd sooner put a bullet in each one of my kids heads and my own before I took any of your god damned money! Now leave me alone!" Then she slammed the phone down. This was on a Friday morning.
On Monday afternoon, another police car came rolling down the driveway, this time with another car driving close behind. The policeman stayed in his car. A woman got out of the other car and came walking across our lawn toward our front door. I remember that she stopped and greeted me with a big smile, and I waved at her. Again, my mother busted out of the screen door with a baseball bat by her side. "Who are you?" my mother demanded. The lady explained that she had called on Friday, and she had come out to visit the home because she was concerned about the children after what my mother had said. My mother looked at this woman like she had lost her mind. My mom said "I told you on a Friday that I'm gonna shoot my kids and you show up on Monday saying you care? What are you here to do? Count the bodies!?" Again, she demanded the woman and the cop both get off her land. The woman insisted that she would like to see the inside of the house to which my mother said "Over my dead body!" I am not sure what happened next, because my mother sent me inside to play, but all I know is I watched that car and police car leave our driveway, and again my mother came back in and put away her bat. Once again, my mother had driven the government from our land. I didn't know what made my mother so gutsy, but I knew I wanted to be just like her, at least in that regard. No one messed with my mom. But somehow, despite her constant defiance of authority, she always managed to keep going, unfettered by those who would try to obstruct her. She succeeded through sheer force of will.