Archive for the ‘1970’s’ Category

Death by War

May 26, 2019

I wrote a story about an American traveling through Europe in the spring/summer of 1937. In the novel, Smoke, which I published in 2015, young businessman Philip Morrow accepts an unusual errand, which takes him through London, halfway around the far side of France, then to Paris, and ultimately to arrive at a place called Flanders Field in Belgium.

At his specific Memorial battleground destination, Philip sees for the first time the final resting place of his father, a soldier of the American Expeditionary Force, who had died there in 1918 during the last week of World War I.  Philip had been eight years old in 1917 when he hugged his pa for the last time, then  beheld  his mother while she tearfully embraced her  husband, a mountaineer marksman named Clint.

In chapter 27 of Smoke, Philip arrives at the Memorial cemetery accompanied by a newfound friend, Mel, an old Frenchman who expresses his appreciation for Clint’s courageous sacrifice–given in his last full measure of devotion– for freedom, to defeat tyranny.

Clint’s total offering in 1918 was not the first, nor the last, to be put forth by millions of other soldiers since that time. In Washington DC, I snapped this photo of a newer Memorial–that one constructed for us to remember the dead of Vietnam.

VNMem (1)

We Americans do appreciate the families left behind.  Their sorrow and sacrifice is painfully precious; it  runs deep–deep as the blood that pumped through soldiering bodies alive with determination–blood that still streams through the beating hearts and minds of  us Americans and Allies.

Here’s my offering, from chapter 27 of Smoke:

       “How could this place have been a battlefield for a world war?”

‘The old Frenchman cast his eyes on the passing landscape, and seemed to join Philip in this musing. He answered slowly, “War is a terrible thing, an ugly thing. I did not fight in the war; I had already served my military duty, long before the Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo and the whole damn world flew apart, like shrapnel. But I had many friends who fought here, and back there, where we just came from in my France, back there at the Somme, the Marne, Amiens. Our soldiers drove the Germans back across their fortified lines, the Hindenberg line they called it. By summer of 1918 the Germans were in full retreat, although it took them a hell of a long time, and rivers of spilt blood, to admit it. And so it all ended here. Those trenches, over there in France, that had been held and occupied for two hellish years by both armies, those muddy hellholes were finally left behind, vacated, and afterward . . . filled up again with the soil of France and Flanders and Belgium, and green grass was planted where warfare had formerly blasted its way out of the dark human soul and the dark humus of lowland dirt and now we see that grass, trimmed, manicured and growing so tidily around those rows of white crosses out there, most of them with some soldier’s name carved on them, many just unknown, anonymous, and how could this have happened? You might as well ask how could. . . a grain of sand get stuck in an oyster? And how could that oyster, in retaliation against that rough, alien irritant, then generate a pearl—such a beautiful thing, lustrous and white—coming forth in response to a small, alien presence that had taken up unwelcomed residence inside the creature’s own domain? The answer, my friend, is floating in the sea, blowing in the wind, growing green and strong from soil that once ran red with men’s blood.” ‘

“Now they were arriving at the battlefield. Jacques parked the car, leaned against the front fender, lit a cigarette. Mel and Philip walked through a stone arch, along a narrow, paved road lined with flowering linden trees, spring green with their large spadish leaves, sprinkled with small white blossoms. The sun was getting low behind them. Shadows of these trees had overtaken the narrow lane, turning it cooler than the surrounding fields, acres and acres neatly arranged with white crosses and gravestones, and continuous green, perfect grass between all. Having reached the end of the linden lane, the stepped slowly, reverently, along straight pathways, passing hundreds of silent graves on either side. The setting sun was still warm here, after their cool approach from beneath the trees.

“At length, they came to the row that Philip had been looking for, the one he had read about in the army guidebook, where his father’s grave was nested precisely and perpetually in its own place in eternity “. . .

King of Soul

Talking to the Device

March 23, 2019

I usually enjoy talking too people but I don’t like talking to a phone. To tell you the truth, I really do not even like talking to people on the phone. I’d rather do it face-to-face.

I don’t like talking to a car, a computer or a “device” of any kind.

Call me old-fashioned if you like, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Lately my phone has been urging me to talk to it, and even call it by its name.

Siriusly though, I’m not into it.

I really don’t mind doing the alphabet thing with my fingers. That’s the way I was taught to communicate with the world, back in the ’60’s when I was baby boomer high school kid. Maybe it’s because, back in the day, I went to see Stanley Kubrick’s space movie, 2001, and the astronaut guy in the movie got into an argument with the onboard computer because the computer, as I recall, wouldn’t let him do something that he needed to do to avoid dying, or something like that..

The computer’s name was Hal.

In the last ten years or so, I have written and published four novels, using my fingers on a keyboard. Speaking of the keyboard, I do like the newer version, you know, the computer keyboard, which is so easy to punch. These slick new ones are really the bees’ knees, and they beat the heck out those old Underwood’s and Smith-Coronas, etcetera etcetera.

So yeah, maybe I’m old fashioned. Imagine that—a guy who grew up in the ’50’s and ’60’s being old-fashioned. We were the generation raised with a TV in the living room, which had never happened before in the history of the world. And we thought our parents were old-fashioned because they listened to Glenn Miller LPs and drank bourbon, while we preferred Jefferson Airplane and maryjane, and they insisted on running Ho’s insurgents out of south Vietnam, which didn’t turn out the way we planned.

Now our kids and grandkids probably think we’re old-fashioned because we don’t know how to talk properly  to a phone or any other device, and we still don’t know to make the icons wiggle around so you can move them around or delete them or whatever.

Delete them all, I say! Delete them all!

Ha! Just kidding of course. Where would be nowadays without our “ mobile device?”

Maybe stuck in Hotel California with some woman of ill repute with mirrors on the ceiling and pink champagne on ice and she says we are just prisoners here, of our own device.

Don’t wanna go there.

Life has actually turned out better than that, thank God.

Yesterday, I was watching an online video with two very smart guys talking about the state of the world, how it has changed so much and is still changing very fast.

    https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/thomas-l-friedman-and-james-manyika-the-worlds-gone-from-flat-to-fast-to-deep?

FacetoFace

In their conversation, Thomas was telling James that he travels around the world and notices that there are a lot of folks who are falling behind the crowd in their use of technology in this here 21st-century. He sees people who suffer under the pressure of these technological accelerations, and who feel that the world is leaving them behind.

Great idea! Leave it behind. Or let it leave you behind, whichever comes first. Tell your phone to go to hell if you want to. Tell netflix to go jump in the lake, and command your digital flatscreen to take a hike!

I mean, Thomas has some good points in this exchange. He says that we old geezers, and generally everybody else too, would do well to be self-motivated instead of, I suppose, expecting that the world owes me a a living, and he says we should keep learning all through our lifetime instead of just, you know, developing one skill—cranking out widgets or whatever—and then spend old age, maybe even middle age, crying in yer beer over all these changes that conspire to overtake us and render our mid-20th-century skills obsolete.

  Ha! “Conspire.” I didn’t mean to use that word. One thing I have learned is that it does not profit a man to build his world view around some conspiracy theory of history or politics or whatever the forces that be, are.

Because in the end, what really matters is not what the world did or did not do to you, but what you manage to do in spite of the possibility that the deck may or may not be stacked against you.

Every man a king. That’s what Huey said back in my grandfather’s day. Be the king of your own life, or queen, as the case may be.

And you have to understand that, as Ringo said, “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

It’s best to, as Thomas pointed out, “amplify anything that is good and decent.”

I’ll second that motion.

Trust, ownership, lifelong education, true leadership, good community—these are the best attributes of “the good life”, which is not necessarily the same good life that Sinatra sang about.

Now, to close by reiterating my opening parry. . . the good life does not necessarily consist of knowing how to talk to your phone, or any of your other damned devices for that matter. But it does help to learn how to talk to people, and to get along with them in your community. And to build good community wherever you find yourself stationed at this stage of life, before the jig is up.

And one more thing. Do not ever neglect to, as Jordan B.P. says, Clean your room! Even if its in a nursing home. Don’t wait for the attendants do everything. Pull your own weight for as long as you possibly can, and pull somebody else’s weight, too, if you’re able to do it, for as long as you can.

As for the phones, etc—they can go to hell for all I care.

I won’t be there, because the Lord wrote me a good fire insurance policy back in 1979.

Glass half-Full

Give a hoot, y’all!

February 20, 2019

Here’s what I heard Joe Blow say the other day while I was trying to stay awake during the Super Bowl.

All this trouble in the world–it aint just gonna go away by itself. You know, it goes back a long ways.

For one thing, Catholic Church dominated European life and culture for over a thousand years. And for the most part they meant well (I know; I used to be one of ‘em)

But after a thousand years they (we) needed some corrections.

Long about the 1700’s, some new Reason-cultivating fellers came along—the so-called Enlightenment—and they ushered in a new way of thinking about everything . . . and they brought to the forefront a lot of profound questions, like . . .

PastFuture

Who should be in charge of things, what’s wrong or right about the way things are working out for everybody, what needs to be changed, why hasn’t God straightened everything out, who or what is God anyway? Maybe we’d be better off just to do without Him for awhile and figure this stuff out on our own.

By ’n by and moving right along . . .modern life in the so-called “West” began to be constructed on the ruins of Catholic Europe, as thinking people attempted to reconstruct society according to a reconstructed humanistic ole Greek/Roman way of analysis and ponderation.

And then came along science, duh, let’s not forget the rise to prominence of modern science . . .

analytical thinking with hypothetical testing to determine what is true or not true, what works or does not work.

And humanizing ethics . . . who gets fed and who doesn’t, who’s fat ’n happy and who ain’t . . .

Who’s in charge of this mess, anyway?

Well, must not be God. If there was any validity to that theory, those religious potentates and their blue-blooded partners in mime have pretty well got everything messed up, and how the hell can we fix everything. . . how can we get things turned around so that everybody gets an appropriate piece of the pie, piece of the action, their fifteen minutes of fame blah blah blah

Long about 1830, a couple of German guys, Marx and Engels figured out that what needed to happen was the folks who were actually cranking up all the factories, turning the nuts and bolts, churning out all them goods . . . those proletarians needed to take unto themselves control of the means of production and rearrange everything so that everybody would get pretty much the same, or at least something more like the same amount of life’s essential necessities  and let’s all get together and toss the rich folks on their asses and get this thing turned around.

Then, lo and behold, a  certain cadre of them revolutionaries managed to get a hold of a country—and a pretty damn big one at that—Russia, and start the work of getting the world turned around to their way of thinkin’ …

China statue copy

and now we know how all that turned out . . . between the Bolsheviks running the Czar out of town in 1917 and the Wall going down in 1989, there were a hell of a lot of water under the bridge, blood under the ground, and underground gulags and criminations that got imposed on millions of world citizens and it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t right and its a good damn thing them Soviets finally came to their senses, and even the Maoists even got eclipsed when Deng started to get the middle kingdom turned around and all that mess is still being worked out, even up to the present-day shaking off of Chavez and now the world is finally learning its lesson about all that totalitarian nonsense—

StalinDown

and that goes for you alt-right fascists and nazis too! Don’t you get any ideas about takin’ over, cuz we learned that lesson the damned hard way when that demonic fool with the weird little moustache dragged us into hell on earth for four years.

It took us many millions killed and a whole damn world war to get all that straightened out. And then another half-century of frigidity before all them spies from both sides came in from the Cold etcetera etcetera.

But nothin’s ever simple. It all just keeps going on and on and who knows how will end?

Maybe apocalypse; I don’t know. Could happen though.

Now in the 21st-century horizon arises this new ideology surrounding the notion that we humans should all get together and nullify our 200-year-old carbon-spewing habits real quick like in the blinkin of an eye so to speak according to the pronouncements of technocratic experts who take unto themselves the means of production, so to speak, (well shut my mouth! as we used to say down south) so’s we don’t carbonize ourself and our homo sapiens selves into obliteration!

Don’t get me wrong. Give a hoot, I say I say: Don’t pollute!

Let’s all pitch in and get this planet cleaned up, y’all. Truly. I’m not making this up.

But we don’t need to be jerking everybody’s human rights (life, liberty and the pursuit of mobility) to do it. I think we can undertake this climate change conundrum with a little common sense and maybe even some democratized republicized consensus on what needs to be done.

Like I said before: Give a hoot; Don’t pollute, y’all!

And hey, good luck with that! More power (but not too much) to ya. Just shut my mouth! if I’ve stayed stepped on anybody’s toes.

Not really. Freedom of Speech and all that . . .

Glass Chimera

From Valley Forge to Vietnam and Very Near

November 11, 2018

In 1969, I graduated from high school and went to University. In college, there was no threat to life and limb for me. It was a safe place to be.

Many of my high school buddies didn’t take that route; they joined, or were drafted into, the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard to defend our nation. At that time, defense of our nation—defense of our security and our ideals—was considered by most of our leaders to be directly related to the defeat of the Viet Minh and Viet Cong in  Vietnam.

While I went to college, many men and some women of my same age shipped out to the other side of the world to run the Viet Minh insurgents back into North Vietnam, and to the shut the Viet Cong  down.

The difficult mission that our national leaders had laid upon our soldiers over there was no easy task: dangerous, deadly and damn near impossible. About 54, 000 of our guys and gals who served and fought in Vietnam never came back, or they if they did return it was in a casket.

My college experience here, Stateside, was a walk in the park compared to what our armed forces were called to do in Vietnam and other theaters of war. What they did, however, was nothing new. Although in Vietnam we were strapped with a whole new set of warfare rules that few understood, and that was a major part of our problem.

But I am here today to say that: Our soldiers have been defending the USA—our freedoms and values—for over two centuries.

IwoJima

From Valley Forge to Vietnam and Very Near, millions of our men and women have lived and died to defend us. We owe them—whether they served willingly, or were drafted—we owe them respect and gratitude for their willingness to be threatened and humiliated by the pains and dangers of war and the perilous requirements of maintaining government of the people, by the people and for the people.

From Valley Forge to  Vietnam to now. . . their brave service continues to this day: defending our shores, our borders, and helping other liberty-holding nations to maintain freedom from oppression.

While thousands of guys and gals of my generation were on duty in Vietnam, many of us back here at home were protesting and working to bring our people home, because . . . the longer that war dragged on, the more and more controversial it became. Finally, by 1975, we had shut the whole project down.

So our Vietnam veterans came home and got back into the routine of living in the good ole USA. For many, many of them, this was no walk in the park, no easy transition. PTSD was, and still is, rampant among them. And while we who did not go will never understand what they endured, we can still show our appreciation.

A few years ago, I reached a time of life in which I felt a need to somehow reconcile the controversy of Vietnam that our generation had endured. My literary working-out of this angst took the form of a novel, King of Soul, which I published in 2017.

On this Veterans’ Day, I share a brief excerpt that describes one little experience in the Vietnam War. I post it here today, so that those who were there and endured such tribulation—they will know that their bravery and sacrifice does not go unnoticed by us who did not serve.

For the sharpening of our collective memory of what the hell happened over there, I post the excerpt, which begins with a quote from a popular song that many of us singing here at home. from Chapter 19 of King of Soul:

. . .where have all the young men gone, gone to flowers everyone, when will they ever learn when will they ever learn? But on the other side of the world something very different was going down . . .

~~~

. . . the gunner for their platoon, and that day he was packing an M-60 machine gun. And now there was no doubt about the threat of those nearby

NVA. Sure as hell, there was no doubt any more about anything except: they were in a firefight. Time to fight, or die. Rob got the order to haul that M-60 down the hill to a certain position and open up on ‘em. He said all he could remember about that was that he put one foot in front of the other while scuffling down that hill dragging all that weight with him, and the infernal noise that was blasting out all around him. The adrenaline was pumping and he was stumbling through it, trying to keep himself and the gun upright until he could get to where he was going, or where he was supposed to be going, which he wasn’t yet sure of. It wasn’t just the machine gun he was packing, but also three ammo belts. I mean, it was a good damn thing that he had ‘em, because he was gonna need every last one of them rounds before it was all over with. Finally he got to where he was s’posed to be, rid himself of the ammo belts and heated up the M-60, aiming up at the ridge where the AK-47 flashes were poppin’ like deadly firecrackers, but a helluva lot louder. He said he felt like he was going crazy, but somehow the craziness itself was what drove him on to do what he needed to do. I mean, what else could a man do? He was just shootin’ the hell out of them NVA, or at least he hoped he was, because it was gonna be either us or them if he had anything to say about it.

For you guys who went over there and endured such as this, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Ypres, San Juan Hill, Gettysburg, Valley Forge, or  wherever you performed your duty for us . . .

Although we’ll never understand what the hell you did over there, still . . .Thank you.

King of Soul

If Sythesis is not a fairytale. . .

August 18, 2018

In 1971, Don McLean released a great tribute song about the tragic plane-crash death of early rock-n-roller, Buddy Holly.

In the musical tapestry-tale that McLean weaves for us, he laments the loss of Buddy Holly’s influence, which had been to musicate an appreciation for the boy-girl melodrama as it was being lived-out and expressed during that early 1950’s phase of rock-n-roll.

Bye, bye Miss American Pie is a long ballad, with many verses.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NygEEH4jkho

An early verse in the song registers a commentary, allegorically, on some later rock influences that seem regrettable, or even destructive and decadent.

Consider the verse:

“And while Lenin read a book on Marx,

a quartet practiced in the park;

and we sang dirges in the dark

the day the music died.”

The “quartet” that practices in the park is, I believe, an indirect reference to the Beatles, and their huge impact on pop music during that time—the late ‘60s. The singing of “dirges” seems to mourn the loss of an earlier, more innocent, emphasis in rock music. A classic budding (Buddy) love-song celebration  between boy and girl was being cast aside by the foursome from Liverpool.  Along with many other rock groups of that time, they were collectively driving pop music toward a psychedelic netherland of chaotic social consciousness.

And so, while my present downloaded Miss American Pie copy of the lyrics contains the line “And while Lenin  read a book on Marx, a quartet practiced in the park,” my aging baby boomer mind notices what seems to be McLean’s play on words here. . . and I hear the line in my mind as:

“And while Lennon read a book on Marx. . .”

meaning that John Lennon’s apparent turn away from teenish romanticism  toward a kind of pop-culture anarchy—this change of direction— seemed to be based at least partly on his reading of Karl Marx’s revolutionary economics.

Now of course I have no proof that the great poet and songwriter John Lennon did read Karl Marx’s stuff; but I do think it likely that he did, because that period of time—the latter 1960’s— was indeed a revolutionary time, sociologically at least, if not in a fully political US manifestation.

Nevertheless, I will point out that nowadays, 50 years later, all those wild-eyed Lennonist malcontents who were turning university campuses upside down (while singing All we are saying is Give Peace a Chance) are now, for the most part, running those same (mostly State) universities.

While all the Buddy Holly types and their Peggy Sue wives settled comfortably in the suburbs and enjoyed giving birth to Gen-Xers and Millennials.

I mention all this perhaps only because there seems to be now a regurgitation of Marxist theory—a re-reading, as it were. Here’s what I want to say about that. Karl Marx was a very intelligent man. His analysis of nascent industrial society during the early-mid 19th century was uncannily perceptive and accurate.

Where he went wrong was: thinking he could write a prescription—the necessary and inevitable “dictatorship of the proletariat” that could be worked out among the foibles and disasters of human society and somehow make it all culminate as some ideal  Pax Humana.

What he didn’t understand was: any theoretical, proposed Pax Humana, always works out to be Pox Humana.

In human history, notably even in  the late so-called Christian Europe, we have managed to repeatedly screw society up by generating a few Pox Hamanae of our own—with a pathetic string of infamous wars, pogroms and inquisitions.

    Guernica

Such a despicable history.  In spite of (or maybe because of) the fact that we Christians identify human nature as being depraved and therefore imperfectible, we cannot collectively overcome that curse, choosing instead to cry out for our individual salvation. Does such personalized deliverance relieve us from our collective responsibility for assuaging the human condition?

Yes. However, we profess that. . . Christians are no better than anybody else.  But we are forgiven, because we acknowledge, before God, our need for judgement, repentance and atonement. And He takes that acknowledgement seriously.

Be that as it may, I know  you didn’t land here to hear a sermon.

So, moving right along, I’ll explain how I happened to land on this track in the midst of a particular Saturday morning. The whole cerebral ball of wax started when I read this passage from page 283 of Teilhard de Chardin’s  (published 1947) The Phenomen of Man:

“To outward appearance, the modern world was born of an anti-religious movement: man becoming self-sufficient, and reason supplanting belief. Our (his mid-20th century) generation and the two that preceded it have heard little but talk of the conflict between science and faith; indeed it seemed . . .  a foregone conclusion that the former (science) was destined to take the place of the latter (faith).

“But, inasmuch as the tension is prolonged, the conflict visibly seems to need to be resolved in terms of an entirely different form of equilibrium—not in elimination, nor duality, but in synthesis.”

Now this means, in a present world of 2018, which still presents a notable presence of us Christian believers, we should consider our Christ-blessed role as peacemakers. Maybe this way. . .

~~Those of us who believe that a loving God watches over the earth—we need to listen to the activists who probably have some valid points about the destructive effects of all this stuff we’re throwing into our atmosphere.

~~While those who have figured out that all the bad effects of human behavior and institutions are destroying our earth—you people need to realize that we cannot (it’s probably too late to) fix this mess we’ve gotten ourselves and our planet into. And we need to allow some room for faith to, as a mustard seed, grown and provide some faith shelter from the destructive effects of perpetually erroneous Homo Sapiens .gov

What we need now is a little agreement and cooperation between those who naively believe too much and those who cerebrally think too much, and who think they can correct  Pox Humana by regulating all of our freedoms into bureaucratic socialist mediocrity.

What we need now is what Teilhard called synthesis, a little meeting of the minds, and some peacemaking agreement among the peoples of the earth.

Good luck with that.

Now getting back to American Pie and Lennon and Marx and all that . . .

The third phase of the Hegelian Dialectic is Synthesis.  In early 19th-century, Georg Hegel, Marx’s theoretical predecessor, identified an historical pattern which he named the Dialectic. What this pattern revealed was, in the typical path of human thought/action, a chronic pattern of conflict between one ideological side (Thesis) and the other (Antithesis). But Hegel also identified a recurrent merging of these opposites that could tend to resolve some disputes. He called this resolution Synthesis.  Hence, the (simplified) Dialectic:   Thesis provokes Antithesis; but ultimately they merge, in human acting out, and become a new worldview, called Synthesis.

As in, for instance, in our mid-20th century Baby Boomer scenario. . . Capitalism v. Communism, or Democracy v. Socialism, morphs into . . . (whatever it is we have now) . . . democratic statism?

Anyway, Marx and Engels used this Dialectic framework as a theoretical  part of their Communist Manifesto, published in 1848.

And then much later, 1971 . . .”while Lennon read a book on Marx, a quartet practiced in the park”, and . . . all this other stuff happened while we boomers grew up and became the people in charge instead of the people being charged, but we still find ourselves “all here in one place” (a small globe), a generation, a human race lost in space, and so let’s consider the . . .

Bottom line: let’s synthesize a few opposite ideological points and somehow come together to . . . maintain our earth clean, green and peaceful, instead of assaulting each other with vindictive politics,  fake news and a new cold war of polarizing tribalism.

  King of Soul

Vietnam, at ground level 1970

July 10, 2018

Herein I recommend a novelized real story from that infamous “War in Vietnam.”

  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/13437

John Podlaski’s novel about a brand-new American soldier in Vietnam strikes at the heart of the matter— just what the hell were our soldiers over there supposed to be doing?

Them brave boys were  putting their asses on the line, stalking communist enemies in strange jungles on the other side of the world, when all the while their survival instinct was demanding them to just hunker down, lay low, and get through their year-long sentence of jungle warfare in one living, still-breathing piece.

And All for what?

Because we sent them to do a job—kill communists, and run the ones we couldn’t kill back to the North.

Now we all know it didn’t work out that way, but we learned some lessons—and the world did too—in the process.

The problem our guys had over there was: how could we know, in a SE Asian village scenario, which villagers were helping the NVA, and which ones were on our side? As if these rice-cultivating peasants knew the difference between Karl Marx and George Washington!

After reading this book, Cherries, it seems to me that, in the midst of the terrible gun battles, every soldier’s internal war must have been a constant conflict between these two missions: to kill enemies and thus keep the brass-mandated “body count” on an upward curve, or to stay alive!

Which would you choose?!

In most cases, it seems it came down to protecting yourself and your squad buddies, while treading fearfully through the booby-trapped minefield of two opposing international ideologies whose political strategies had turned absolutely, militarily lethal.

That project required real men—brave soldiers who could bite the bullet— who could launch out and give it a shot while death and danger stalked them at every turn along the path.

This was a terrible, terrible ordeal that our nation put these guys through! We need to talk about it.We need to acknowledge their incredible bravery.  We need to ask: Just what the hell happened back then and there in Vietnam?—in that war that so many of us managed to evade.  Whether you were for the war of against it— reading John Podlaski’s “Cherries” is a provocative way to begin the assessment— an evaluation that needs to take place, for the sake of our nation’s future security.

Read the book, because this quasi-autobiographical story gives a close-up, day-to-day, boots-on-the-ground account of what our guys were doing over there in Vietnam, while we were trying to figure it all out here, stateside— here, safe in the home of the free, while the brave were answering the terrible call that our government had imposed on them.  They endured that jungular hell-pit so that we, as a nation, could, in spite of defeat,  pass successfully through the 20th-century burden of Cold War paranoia.

John’s fictionalized personal story fleshes out the constant conflict between two soldierly inclinations: fulfilling military responsibility by driving up enemy “body counts,” vs. following  the human instinct to just stay alive, and somehow make it through your one-year tour of duty without getting your ass killed.

Our American purpose there was unclear. No definite battlefield could be found;  the war was waged wherever our boys happened to run into the Viet Cong or the North Vietnam Army, in a perpetual theater-game of deadly hide-and-seek. Our teens and twenties recruits and draftees were dropped into unfamiliar Asian jungles, then immersed immediately in extreme fear—fear like you would feel seeing two of your platoon-mates’ heads staked on bamboo poles.

Not in Kansas any more, Toto!

Khe Sahn. A Shau, Ah shit! What have we gotten ourselves into?!

Read John’s book to find out what perils our boys  were trudging through while we stateside were trying to figure out the whys and the wherefores.

BTW, by the 1990’s it was plain to see that  the free world, led by the USA, had prevailed in our struggle against both fascism and communism. In the big picture, our effort in Vietnam played an instructive role in that victory. The governance of nations has more to do with learning from your mistakes than fighting a lost cause to some idealized bitter end.

VNGame

Thanks to you all you guys—Cherries, LongTimers and Lifers—who answered the call to service at that time. Oh yeah, and here’s another belated message: Welcome Home!

King of Soul  

Stickin’ to it.

February 18, 2018

In the late ’70’s many of us wandered up to a cool mountain town; we were trying to figure out what the hell had happened. Some had survived the excesses of countercultural lifestyle; others were just there to do the college thing.

  By that time, the ’60’s flower-power revolution that had failed to actuate had been appropriated into the Establishment. Now you could buy faux hippie threads from the JCPenney catalog; that reality was really a bummer, but people were buying the stuff anyway.. The free love thing had been commandeered by Hollywood. It seemed like everybody was “doing it.”

Our little group of wanderers and students found ourselves congregated in the mother-earth lap of an Appalachian river valley. We had gravitated here to, as John Denver had phrased it, “find Jesus on our own.”

“On our own” turned out to mean: apart from the institutional Church, because it was out of touch with what was happening in the real world and everybody knew it was full of foolishness and hypocrites. Haha.

As the gathering developed, however, our little charismatic experiment turned out to be a little more infected with the ways of the world than we had anticipated. Even though we were a bunch of young bucks and does banded together, raising our kids as a sheltered new testament tribe, showing all the local old-school religious folks what the kingdom of God was all about, eventually after about 20 years it flew apart and we all went our separate ways.

But the failure of men to do God’s will is not the conclusive evidence about the credibility of Him whose crucifixion was inflicted by that same failure, our human failure. Ultimately his resurrection overcomes the crucifixion. The message of Jesus is not about what men do or fail to do; It’s about what he did for us.

By the late ’90’s when our little congregation fell apart, our three offspring had gone off to University, where they got a different view of things, different from the churchified bubble they had been raised in. Long story short: it was good for them to be educated, and all three retained their faith.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, some of us maturing saints—shell-shocked survivors of the great postmodern charismatic reactionary push—began gathering in our homes to “on our own” collectively continue our covenantal search to discern the Lord’s will for us. So we were then, and still now, gathering in our living rooms to read the Bible, pray, and seek God.

As for me and my wife, we have walked a middle road between that house-church body of Christ and another church, which is  a more conventional arrangement for presenting and living out the gospel in society.

This has worked well for us.

By ’n by, all three of our offspring became world travelers for one reason or another. Over the years we have done a lot of globetrotting, following them to various fascinating destinations around the world.

Like for instance, Europe. When we went to that Old World, I began to understand that America is the new kid on the block. Over there, they’ve been doing this Christianity thing for a very long time, about 2000 years.

While it is plain to see that there is a huge institutional legacy of the “Church” in the Americas, the cathedrals of Europe can be seen as indicators of a very different religious experience in days gone by.  Every major city presents evidence of some stupendous religious megalith that dominated European society in a big way for a very long time, until the purveyors of human rationalism came along to challenge their authority.

This Church as a human institution, whatever it shoulda woulda coulda been spiritually, was for a very long time the big kid on the block, the elephant in the room, the megalith institution that dominated  Old World society and cultural In a BIG way.

Those 1st-millennium continental Catholics erected a bunch of huge, monumental edifices. You can find them in every major city and small town.  Europe displays an infrastructure of past religious hegemony on a massive scale. The Reformers later did more of the same.

Case in point. Last year, when we were in Prague, Czech Republic, I snapped this pic inside a cathedral:

PChrch

So I’m thinking. It’s plain to see, this Christianity thing is much, much larger than what is represented by, say, the quaint quasi-classical structure down on our Main Street USA. Beholding this magnificent structure presents a challenge in many ways: it’s a theological, cultural, architectural wonder!

Who built this thing? Was it erected through the blood and toil and sweat of impoverished medieval slave-serfs? Was it founded upon the heretical  manipulations of indulgence-selling ecclesiastical con-men? What kind of empire were they building here? A corrupted hierarchy of covetous clergy? Does it give glory to God, or to the works of Man?

Now I could speculate vainly about the motivations and corrupt practices of those who went before me as  constructors of what is purported to be the Kingdom of God. I could judge them as users and abusers who took advantage of clueless poor people who probably could barely afford to pay the light bill and keep gas in the cart and the kids in shoes while they were fretting about their deceased relatives in purgatory or limbo. I could conclude presumptuously that this humongous structure is nothing more than a work of vanity and hubris and systemic abuse that was erected by men who were surely just as guilty, just as culpable, just as sinful and suspect as myself. I could condemn them as robber-baron ecclesiastic manipulators who were no doubt serving  Babylon or Rome or the  Pride of Man.

But, sinner that I know myself to be, I shall not so judge them. Rather, I shall admire the building for being, in an imperfect world, what  it should have been, and is generally in retrospect considered to be: overpowering evidence of the human impulse that strives to glorify God.

Furthermore, I understand that my assessment is considered to be an obsolete way of thinking. I realize, from both my common observations and study of history, that the religious  hegemony of this huge institutionalized Church has been supplanted, governmentally and socially, by the humanistic, democratic and socialistic movements of  the 19th and 20th centuries.

And that’s okay. Shit happens and nobody’s perfect, not even the humanists, who havre proven through their own systemic abuses that human government and politics falls far short of true justice.

We Christians do need reminders that there are other people in this world who have different fixes than we do for rectifying human injustice and misery. We don’t have to agree with everybody, but we do have to, as Christ and his apostles commanded, live peacefully with everybody insofar as it its possible.

What I am seeing now, in the present predicament of our world is this:

That big guilty-as-charged Churchified juggernaut that sought to order human activity and governance in the last sixteen hundred years—it is being challenged and threatened by a newer Religious juggernaut from the east.

And if I must choose between the two, I’ll go with the one that I know to be true, even though it has not always been righteous. In the end, I think it is better to build upon the testimony of the one who died on a cross and was, three days later, resurrected. It is better to stand with Him than with another religious empire whose plan would be to get us kaffirs all on our knees five times a day.

In his final revelation to those he loves, Jesus counseled his friend John to “strengthen the things that remain.”

So therefore and henceforth, I say unto thee: I’m with Jesus.

The failure of men to do God’s will is not the conclusive evidence about the credibility of Him whose crucifixion was inflicted by that same failure, our human failure. Ultimately his resurrection overcomes the crucifixion. The message of Jesus is not about what men do or fail to do; It’s about what he did for us.

That’s my faith and I’m sticking to it.

King of Soul

Boomers’ Choice (reprise)

February 17, 2018

Is this world screwed up or what?

Tell me about it.

Nevertheless, there may be reason enough to find happiness,

contentment fulfillment and all that stuff

in the silver lining that highlights those dark clouds.

We baby boomers do have a choice, you know,

about whether to cry in our beer

or find cause enough to rejoice while

we’re here on planet earth.

Have a listen:

Boomers’ Choice:

Well, the boys came marching home from Germany and France

and the bomb had made a blast in in Hiroshima.

We were driving brand new cars; we were waving

stars and bars

and everywhere was another factory.

Back in 1953,

cruising with Dwight E.,

Elvis sang the whiteboy blues,

McCarthy looking under every bush.

In the home of the brave and the free

rolling on prosperity

and all the kids were going off to school.

57ChevF

Ten years down the road

another dream had come and gone

and the power of one gun had made itself known.

Back in 1964

big Lyndon opened the door

for civil rights and a bloody Asian war—

LBJ&McNa

young men on porkchop hill

young women on the pill.

At home they said don’t kill;

get a psychedelic thrill.

But the dreams of a woodstock nation

were just an imagination

when the boys came trudging home in ’73.

So it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home

and its hie hie hey, seeking light in the night of day:

the dreams of a woodstock nation

were just an imagination

when the boys came trudging home in ’73.

Well, it just don’t pay to sob;

guess I’ll get myself a job

selling leisure suits, maybe real estate.

I’m not moving very fast,

just waiting in line for gas

and Johnny Carson gives me all my news.

Back in 1976,

overcoming dirty tricks,

some were moving back to the sticks;

some were looking for a fix.

Ayatollahs on the rise

sulfur dioxide in the skies

and the system makes the man that’s got his own.

They say an elephant won’t forget;

let’s play another set.

There’s always another ghost on pac-man’s tail.

Don’t let this boom go stale.

Let’s find an airline for sale

or pop another tape in the VCR.

Back in 1989,

we’re living on borrowed time

getting lost in subtle sin

eating oat bran at the gym.

But there’s an empty place inside

and I was wondering why

these vanities don’t suit.

I’m going back to the gospel truth.

And it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home

and it’s hie hie hey, seeking light in the night of day;

There’s an empty place inside and I was wondering why.

These vanities don’t suit;

I’m going back to the gospel truth.

Put on your Sarejevo, Mogadishu, Kalishnikov and Columbine shoes,

for the way is treacherous with ruts and rocks.

Yeah, we figured out digits out

before that Y2K could spoil our rout,

but that 9/11 call was in the cards.

Did you consider the question of heaven

before the wreck of ’07?

EdselOld

Will you hear the trumpet call

from the Ancient of Days.

Our way is littered with freaks and fads

from Baghdad through our mouse pads

as the reaper swings his steely scythe

across our wicked ways.

And it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home?

And it’s hie hie hey, seeking light of day.

It’s a dangerous place outside

and I was wondering why.

This world don’t give a hoot;

I’m going back to the gospel truth.

  King of Soul

DeepState DeepThroat DeepSh*t

February 3, 2018

I suppose the concept of Deep State started with George Orwell. In his fictional explorations of early 20th-century dystopia, 1984 and Animal House, Uncle George presented the scenario of a so-called Big Brother government that wanted to control just about everything, including not only what people do, but also what they think.

Orwell’s real world of the 1930’s certainly presented a dramatic scenario of escalating DeepState dysfunction. Two gargantuan opposing dictatorships were challenging each other over the question of which one would control the world.

The Nazis, who had wrested control of the German gov. machine, had effectively set up a dictatorship of one man, Hitler. He turned out to be a personification of DeepMad. In other words, he was so mad at the world that he desperately wanted to find someone to blame for all the DeepSh*t. He blamed it all on the Jews and the Communists.

The truth is, however, this. We have found the enemy, and he is us.

All of us. But as I was sayin’. . .

Meanwhile, back at the northern climes, the Soviets were setting up a dictatorship of the proletariat, even though their founding dictator was dead; Karl Marx had dictated the idea that working folks could manhandle the world away from all the rich fuddyduddy lords and ladies who had been running it for so long, and everybody knew that certainly the proletariat could do a better job of running the show.

Now that’s an idea whose time has come, the arc of history and all that. Or so they thought . . .

In the ’30’s the whole damned world was torn apart when the Dictatorship of Hitler tangled with the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Oh, and there was a third one—the Dictatorship of an Emperor—Hirohito in Japan, not to mention Mussolini and his goons. Between these four, they pretty much dragged the whole damned world down into a fricking apocalypse preview. Unlike wars of old, such as was conducted by the ancient Greeks v Persians, or David v Goliath, or old dusty militarized monarchs of Europe sending their clueless vassals out to perish, the 20th-century version of warfare was exponentially more destructive than the carnage inflicted by men of old, wielding their legendary sabres and muskets and cannons and those old-school versions of techno-destruction.

Well, by ‘n by, we Allies managed, through much blood and toil and sweat, to put an end to all that dictatorial bullsh*t.

IwoJima

It was no easy job, but we collectively mopped it up in the late ‘40s, ’50s and thereafter.

StalnDown2

But that was just one small historical step, as it turned out, in all the blood, sweat and tears that was yet to come.

CastrNixn

Now understand this: there’s always a lot more deep stuff going on than we, in our pea-brains, can fathom. That said . . .

By ’n by, a new generation comes along and now all these kids still wet behind the ears are growing up with a TV in the living room, and they’re watching the world through the lens of Edward R. Murrow and Eisenhower and Kennedy and Cronkite et al, and by the time the baby boomers get out and about where they don’t have the restraints of mom and dad tellin’ them what to do all the time—in other words, college—by that time, they had figured out that they knew enough about the world to change it—the world, that is—(haha!). And so they got out in the streets and made a big mess of things until finally Nixon got the message and brought the boys home.

Well, by the time the boys came marchin’ home again hoorah hoorah—this was early ’70’s—the DeepState had gotten the idea that Nixon was a brick or two shy of a load, and so they set out to show him a thing or two by pressing the delete button on his power trip.

And this is how it happened:

That whole protest wave that so confounded Johnson and Nixon—it wasn’t just about the war. No, it was about much more than that. It was supposedly about free love and maybe some free pot and maybe even free food, as the diggers had been trying to do out in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there was a lot going on in America behind the scenes.

That free love thing, you see,  wasn’t really so simple as just shackin’ up; it was also about getting kinky. So when  the reporters who broke the DeepState Watergate dam—Woodward and Bernstein— devised a pseudonym for their DeepState informant, they came up with the nomen DeepThroat.

This development, which attempted to document the infernal workings of unbridled unjustified politics in the white house, was thereby associated in the public mind with the kinky side of the sexual revolution, as represented by the porno movie of the same name which was inspired by a nymph who had turned kinky because she used her mouth for sexual purposes and they called it DeepThroat.

Hence, DeepState, DeepThroat. There’s always a lot more deep stuff going on than we, in our pea-brains, can fathom.

What the Americans did not understand was that the whole DeepState, DeepThroat thing was slowly devolving us into a pit of moral, political and economic depth beyond our ability to rectify all the deep troubles associated with same.

Now since that time, our preoccupation with all this dysfunctional politics and sex has sunk us deeper into political and sexual irresponsibility. This dystrophy has, along the way, blinded us to authentic responsibility, and ultimately imprisoned us in a yet another very deep quagmire. Yeah, I say unto thee, ’tis yet another pothole of even deeper dysfunctional distress:

DeepDebt, trillions and trillions of it.

Nevertheless, in spite of all that, ya gotta find a ray of hope somewhere. I don’t know about you, but my prescription for our dystopian dillemma is quite simple, maybe even simpleminded:

God bless America.

And if you believe that, I’ve got some deep canyon real estate in Arizona I’ll tell you.

What’s better is: In God we Trust. But with all the deep sh*t that’s going on, such blessing and trusting could require a higher power for the fulfillment part of it, and maybe even some DeepFaith.

  King of Soul

Solar Tech–what needs to happen

January 24, 2018

When I was a young man, idealistic and foolhardy, I attempted to start a newspaper.

I was in Asheville, a progressive southern town that was collectively trying to morph itself into a sort of Santa Fe of the South.

The year was 1977, and the gas-rationing effect of the so-called Arab oil embargo was still fresh in American minds. We, the generation who had convinced the gov. of the US to get the hell out of Vietnam, were convinced that we could also make a constructive impact on the way business and industry was conducted here in the USA.

Solar tech was a rising star in everybody’s minds, or so we thought at the time. With leadership from Mother Earth News and other early sustainability advocates, many of us free-thinking boomers thought we could shift American Big Business interests from dependency on costly oil to a widespread earth-changing acceptance of Solar, Geothermal and Wind technology.

Solari

So the fledgeling “newspaper” that we were promoting did a center-spread on Solar Energy and Solar Collectors. One of our fellows was a fellow named Jim Samsel; he was from Oregon, or had lived there, and seemed to know more about the subject than most us. He included some diagrams that, as I remember, helped us and the readers to get a visual on what solar collectors looked like and how they were supposed to work. We felt good about our tentative thrust into progressive energy conservation.

That was 41 years ago. Since that time, my life has shifted toward more down-to-earth activities such as loving my wife, raising the children, educating them and living as a Christian family. So my interests drifted away from quasi-experimental pastimes such as dreaming of solar tech, which was known to be expensive to install and maintain.

Since that time, my wife and I have purchased and lived in three houses. On none of them have we installed solar collectors. The expenses of of life and a growing family overtook my nascent interest in alternative, home-based, power installations such as solar.

Now we live in Boone, which is home to Appalachian State University.  Here at ASU, the alt-tech professors and students have put together a noteworthy Sustainability curriculum, with appropriate technology workshops and experimental projects that I occasionally hear about. I haven’t been keeping up with it, but I do know there’s a lot going on out there pertaining of improvements of solar collectors and storage cells.

And that is good. I say more power to them. I hope they can make a big  earth-friendly dent in the massive oil-based infrastructure that has for so long held us all in hydrocarbon bondage.

Solar1

Over the years,  I have occasionally pondered the plight of solar pioneers who have stayed with it, and I formed a little scenario in my mind that posits what needs to happen for solar to really get a significant foothold in our American infrastructure, by way of John Doe’s household and Jane Smith’s homestead.

My scenario starts with a fantasy: a widespread societal/economic attitude shift that inspires homeowners to install solar-panels on a massive scale—millions of homeowners thinking (believing) they can actually save money on their electrical bills by gathering energy from the sun on their very own rooftops. Makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

And the scenario works something like this:

Joe Blow has a few extra hundred bucks in his paycheck this week, so on Saturday he decides to go to the local Lowe’s or Costco or Sam’sClub and pickup another collector or two. He hauls them to the house and mounts them on the roof with a hardware system that has been patently engineered for simplicity of design and installation. The electrical connections below—hooking up to the panel and thereby the household electrical system—have previously been done by his electrician friends Wayne and Bryan.

Solarj

Then, after the connections and installation of the new panels have been accomplished in a half-day or so, he settles into an evening of relaxation with the surety that next month’s electric bill will be lower a a result of his incremental investments up on the roof. As time goes by, Joe uses a few extra bucks here and there to consistently repeat these simple periodic installations and thereby save $ by lowering his household’s power consumption.

Now what would it take for such a scenario to be reality instead of my tech-fantasy?

Starting with a look  back into history, back in the day, over a hundred years ago . . .

Henry Ford figured out how to actuate a new idea called mass production. Within a few decades, a Ford “in every garage” began to be a reality in American development and life. Every Joe Blow now understands that the reason this could happen was because Ford’s mass production assembly line enabled the company (and ultimately the wider automotive industry) to get the unit cost down to an affordable number that Joe and Jane Sixpack could actually spend to purchase a a car or truck for their family.

Now this is what we need for the solar industry in America–mass production and mass-market.

Who will take up the mantle? Who will heave the solartech excalibur out the stone of oil-dominance?

Tesla? GE? Some as-yet-unknown Startup in Phoenix, Detroit, Boone or Montgomery?

That remains to be seen, when and if it ever happens.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .in a brand new 2018. . .

Now suddenly appears an Omen that  perhaps the previously-thought-to-be-conspiracy Industrial Establishment has finally gotten a hold of the Solar vision! The next new expansion manufacturing industry!

What omen is that? The President announces a 30% tariff on foreign-manufactured solar collectors (and washing machines.)

Does this protectionism portend a willingness of American Industry to, at last, leap into solar production because they can now, with a little gov. help, compete with the Chinese and South Korea?

Or, more cynically, does it indicate the continuing Establishment denial of Solar development on a large scale for the sake of continuing oil hegemony?

We shall see in the days ahead what the effects of this tariff will be on our still-nascent Solar industry in America.

SolarStLuke

  Glass half-Full