Tuesday, July 8, 2014

#ROW80 3RD QTR 2014 – POST 2 – A VISIT TO MY NEUROLOGIST, 1968


I always look forward to seeing my neurologist. She's a wonderful doctor; a kind, caring and compassionate soul and is a mean wit, although I'm not really sure if she's aware of that fact. Since I was diagnosed with e. t. a year ago, visits to her have been more along the lines of a coffee klatsch, minus the coffee, and some witty and very astute observations from her regarding life. Today we critiqued Samuel Beckett plays, and “new music,” some of the forms of Art that I liken to “The Emperor's New Clothes” School of Whatever. This can also apply to Public Art, the sort that is put up in public squares and in open spaces, to guarantee maximum viewage and eye damage to as many viewers as possible.


 Can you imagine sitting in the office with this giant blue bear? What in the hell were these people thinking. . . or smoking. . . or shooting up, when they came up with this doozy? Oh, and I just noticed the upside-down red and white church. WTF? Same goes for the melted blue car in the upper left.




 A giant, metal, paper airplane. People get paid wheelbarrows of dough to come up with this insipid dreck.

Eyesores abounded in Ann Arbor, Michigan; there was one with a group of mannequins climbing a very tall steel ladder and crammed up along the top, as if they had all run into an invisible ceiling. Ant-like, the ones below were just a-climbin' up into the ones stuck at the top, creating a sort of wedge-shaped grouping of arms, legs and bald heads. The title referred to something nihilistic or inane, like “The Futility of the Worker's Plight”. To me, it just looked like a bunch of dummies on a ladder. Somebody paid good money for that and someone else laughed all the way to the bank. On the next block over was the giant metal cube, that was affixed to the pavement on one of it's corners. It would spin easily if you pushed it. I never did so, because I was afraid the monstrous thing would break off it's pinnings and crush me and 17 onlookers. Public Art can be dangerous!

Somehow, during the appointment, during the can-you-touch-my-finger-then-touch-your-nose-really-really-fast test, in which I always, always spazz out and touch my leg, or her ear, or some shit, the subject of Samuel Beckett came up. I had lived through “Waiting for Godot”, coming out on the other end of that play with a general what-the-fuck-was-that? sort of feeling, but at age eighteen, I was pretty much in a sea of what-the-fuck. I still am, but it's more a sort of confuse-a-what, brought on by my brain's own general demand for everything being made crystal-clear IMMEDIATELY and when, as so often happens in the course of life, that demand goes unrequited, my brain supplies its own answer and it's usually no where near anything close to reality on this planet. Maybe Neptune, from which I believe I'm commuting to and from daily, but not of Earth. This just only enriches my life in untold many and manifest ways and I've come to grips with it. But, I digress.

                       courtesy: samuelbeckett.net                                               

These ladies don't look like the bag-lady, hobos that I saw when I saw this at Stanford, but better clothing doesn't make it any more comprehensible. Maybe I'm just dim-mish.

I started telling my doctor about this OTHER Samuel Beckett play, or vignette, “Come and Go” I sat through at Stanford University once, and it consisted of three hobo-ish looking sorts who sat on a plain, wooden bench and said virtually nothing for about 3 or 4 hours, or so it seemed. These three bag ladies, named Flo, Vi and Ru were holding hands in an interlocking style – I didn't know this at the time, I just saw the thing cold – and spout what seem to be meaningless inanities for a total of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Lots of pregnant pauses, and pretending to be statuary. Finally, Vi, or Ru, or Flo, I cannot remember which says “I can feel the rings”. Finis. Play over. I had to go back and read the script and see if this still felt as out-of-touch for me as it did, when I saw it in my 'teens. Yep; no clearer. Beckett was odd. So, I'm telling my doctor all of this and about the hobo women, or vagabonds, or whatever, and she blurts out, while she was scribbling out some notes, “Hmmmm, sounds like “Waiting for Godot” meets Arlo Guthrie”.” I don't think she knows how funny she is sometimes, but I sure agree with her assessment.

Anyway, after our little chin-wag, I got my Primodone refills and I'm solid for 6 months. Graduated from e. t. boot camp. But, I certainly look forward to our visits; she's a keeper.


The '60s and 1968, in particular were a time that saw the United States of America turned on it's head and for the first time, we began to question those we had put in power. After LBJ and his Great Society, which gave us a safety net on top of what Franklin Delano Roosevelt had started during his Presidency, it began to look like there might be some true equality and hope for people in the lower income strata, who had had none. But, 1968 changed that, quite a bit. We discovered we had been lied to about the true state of the war in Viet Nam.

Robert MacNamara, General Westmoreland (deputy commander of Military Assistance Command, VietNam, or MACV) had been providing LBJ and the oversight committees in Congress and the Senate with falsified reports on the number of casualties of both the North Vietnamese and our own troops. We had been told that we were winning this war, and it was only a matter of time before we penetrated the North, took Hanoi, and unseated Ho Chi Minh, the titular President of North Viet Nam.

In March of 1968, during the Vietnamese New Year, that myth was busted wide open. A carefully laid plan, up and down the length of Viet Nam saw the uprising of North Vietnamese, especially in the South and in Saigon; the Tet Offensive. We took heavy, heavy casualties and for the first time, we really started to look at what we were doing in a country that as Muhammad Ali would say, we “ain't got no quarrel with them boys”. While this was not the undoing of the Johnson Administration, it was responsible for his decision to not run for a second full term, thus we elected Richard M. Nixon, who turned out to be no better, and in many ways worse for Southeast Asia; he claimed he wanted no wider war, but then expanded it to bombing parts of Cambodia and Laos, thus further destabilizing the region, and paving the way for Pol Pot, one of the 20th Century's true monsters and a crackerjack mass-murderer, when it came to genocide. Within a decade two-fifths of the 5 million people in Cambodia had died in re-education camps or been summarily executed and buried in mass graves.


Two-fifths of a nation of five million, or rather two million people died under the rule of Pol Pot. While we were not directly responsible for his rise to power, we had a huge part in destabilizing Cambodia, which had declared itself neutral, under the regime of Prince Norodom Sihanouk. America widened the bombing to include the mountains and the Mekong Delta, claiming that North Vietnamese were infiltrating the region. The truth? The Montagnards in the area were fiercely anti-communist and separatist, to boot.

So, where am I going with all of this? Back in the early 60s, we helped to prop up a corrupt leader in Saigon, because there was no one suitable, and rather than see the entire country become communist, we would have crawled in bed with Satan himself, in order to keep this from happening. In a similar fashion, we aided the Taliban in the early 80s, because they were fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. When the Vietnamese President Ngo Dien Dimh rigged a vote in the South, and won by an astonishing 98.2 percent, including 133 percent in Saigon, the country became “unified” in 1955. Although we did not have troops in the field then, we had “advisors”, most likely CIA operatives, due to the number of assassinations of key North Vietnamese politicians and players who were eliminated. The “advisors” were there to try and assist in establishing a democracy in Viet Nam, which Dimh had no intention of ever doing.

As these things go, it began to escalate; we were backing the wrong horse, and Ho Chi Minh, a true patriot, not just a communist, wanted Viet Nam for, well. . . the Vietnamese. We should have been backing no horse. Not too much to ask for. We all know the terrible ending of this conflagration. Millions of innocent Vietnamese died. We got our asses kicked, and for the FIRST time, we began to question what in the Hell we were doing in this little back water country, that the French (Dien Bien Phu, 1955) couldn't hang onto in the first place.

Now, we've come to this: Afghanistan is once more looking like some kind of quagmire. Despite the quote “Graveyard of Empires” a quick gander through Afghanistan's history, shows that conquering armies do have some success. The problem is as Alexander the Great has put it “It's easy to march into, tough to march out of”. So, we've split our forces there. We're in the 13th year of a who-knows-how-many-years run, despite assurances from the Obama administration, that we will leave some day.

My main bitch, whine, whinge, whatever you want to call it is that now we have a fairly well-organized islamic group called ISIS, which uses very sophisticated tactics in re-claiming territory in Iraq. Take Tirkut, recently. Not one shot fired; the whole operation was one of propaganda, much like Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany, but that kind of entrenchment goes a long way towards promoting goodwill among the citizens in comparison with the U. S. invasion. Again, we have backed the wrong horse; some guy, who looks more like a used-car salesman, than someone who would be leader of a great country in the Middle East.


Admittedly, I detest Dubya and think he's a tool of Dick Cheney's and stupid, to boot. I highly doubt that they would have approved of anyone who would think independently, or for the common good of his country. It may be fallacious thinking, but Talabani, just by his association with the Bush administration, can not possibly have his country's best interests at heart.

Elections, schmelections; we helped to groom and primp this guy, this Jalal Talabani, fluff him, pat him dry and make him look good, but underneath is the same old corruption and bad politics. Iraq's constitutional government is loosely based on our own, and he is limited to two 4-year terms. But, how great is it when you have still have corruption at every level from the police on up to the highest offices in the Military? By the end of the U. S.'s stay in South Viet Nam, we had propped up a revolving-door bunch of characters; a total of 13 guys in all. I think some of them had a second go at screwing up the country even more than it was already screwed up. All with our help, of course.


I started typing out all these names and then remembered the ole' cut-and-snip thingy. You can imagine what kind of hell it mush have been like in Saigon, during the last 10 years. I think a few of these guys ended up running 7-11s in east Los Angeles.

And we're doing it again; we're sending U. S. “advisors”, along with 250 military boots on the ground are in Iraq, or are headed back there to Baghdad. That means that we will be in a position to. . . do what? Just what are we trying to accomplish there, because I hear nothing coherent coming out of our State Department or from President Obama. It's time to cut the apron strings, the umbilical cord, let that bitch sail and if she sails over a cliff, so be it.


Damn! What a fine looking flag! My Lenin bobblehead and my copy of the USSR or CCCP Men's Chorus singing the Internationale await. Break out the vodka, black bread, cucumbers and sour cream! Naz Strovya!

I never said a word about Ukraine and Russia because I understand both cultures and people involved. Yeah, it's sad that Ukraine is being bullied by Russia, but the fact is there are ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine near the Russian border and in the Crimea, who probably do feel threatened by the ethnic Ukrainians; that's what happens when you go from being the conqueror, to being just the guy living next door. It's human nature. It's also within Russia's weltenschauung and very typically Russian, that the ground the ethnic Ukrainians are living on once belonged to them. They have typically been part of the Russian empire and within her sphere of influence since the Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War II, Stalin demanded the states of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tadjikistan as a buffer between Western Europe and Russia. I could be wrong about Azerbaijan and the -stans, but am too lazy to look it up.

Russians are extremely territorial in a way we cannot even begin to comprehend. I counted once, and between the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and World War II, when the Nazis invaded on June 22, 1941, Russia was invaded FIVE times, by enemy forces. The United States has NEVER been invaded; It's not hard to figure out the dynamics there, nor their reasons for behaving the way they do on both sides. I'd give my eye-teeth to be there now, but I can watch from a distance and it's going about the way I thought it would.

If you notice carefully, there's a lot of back-pedaling and well, “maybe we want this, maybe we aren't sure”. This is oh, so typical in Eastern European politics. A lot of smoke and mirrors and hollering about having what they don't have, but once whatever it is they want is on the horizon, or knocking on the door, well, it doesn't look so good up close. Thus, the confusion over whom is doing what and who is for Russia and by extension, Putin and who isn't. Their Politburo (I refuse to call it a Duma or a Parliament, because it's not) took back their vote of confidence on what he's doing in Ukraine, on the eve of the rebels' victory. What does it all mean?

Who knows; somewhere I have a feeling a bunch of folks are digging out their hammer-and-sickle flags and Lenin bobble-head statues and wishing for the good old days. It never fails. But whatever it all means, or doesn't mean, I do believe this: we need to stay home and stop trying to be the world's policemen. We're terrible at it, and we're not exporting Truth, Justice, and the American Way. We're sowing greed, corrupting, and hatred, and as a people, we're not like that. We're a bunch of blind bullies, ignorant of the ways and mores of the people we think we are helping, or pretending to help. We don't need the oil. We don't need the hegemony; technology has put that “bullets and bayonets” mentality back in the closet. We need to start acting like members of the human race, not some self-proclaimed Overlords.


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