Monday, July 13, 2020

Nixon, Buchanan, and the Status Quo

Nixon, Buchanan, and the Status Quo
Peter Schultz

            So much of the divisiveness in US politics is a cover that serves, surprisingly, the status quo, a phenomenon I have been reminded of while reading Pat Buchanan’s book, Nixon’s White House Wars,” and especially chapter four, “Agnew’s Hour.”

            Agnew’s hour came when Buchanan proposed and Nixon accepted that the Vice President should launch attacks on the media. First, Agnew would attack the TV networks and then he would attack the NY Times and the Washington Post for “arrogance, bias, and elitism.” [78] Buchanan saw these attacks as changing the rules governing the media’s approach to politics and claimed that they had succeeded. “The networks never recovered from the Des Moines attacks. . . .” And “the networks and newspapers show[ed] they had been affected” because “Op-ed pages blossomed” and “CBS and other networks began to bring forward conservatives to do commentary.” [78]

            There are, however, several interesting aspects to these events that should be noted. First, to Buchanan’s surprise the TV networks, aware that Agnew was going to attack them, decided to air his Des Moines speech live. As Buchanan says: “I was stunned. This was going to be huge.  . .  . The Vice President would be given an audience of 50 million for a sustained polemic indicting the networks for biased and irresponsible stewardship . . . over American public opinion.” [72]

            Why would the networks do that? Buchanan argued they miscalculated, thinking the people would rally to their cause, not the president’s. But it was already clear from the people’s reaction to Nixon’s earlier speech on Vietnam that this was unlikely to happen as the popular reaction to that speech and the reaction of the network analysts were opposed. So why give Agnew such an audience? Perhaps because the networks were not as worried about the backlash as Buchanan thought they were. Perhaps like Nixon, et. al., the networks thought the dissonance created by Agnew would work to their advantage insofar as the media liked and profited from such conflict. So, while Nixon profited popularly, so too did the media, at least financially.

            Moreover, there was no real danger to the media, no real threat despite some innuendoes from Agnew. As Buchanan pointed out, the networks and the newspapers simply co-opted Buchanan by incorporating the conservative point of view into their programming. And parts of the media, like Time magazine which even put Agnew on its cover, seemed to almost celebrate his attacks. It might not even be wrong to say that media and the Nixon administration colluded in a way that obscured how each was preserving and fortifying the status quo.

            Buchanan reported that at this time the My Lai massacre in Vietnam was revealed and 375,000 people descended on D.C. to protest that war. Operating as “balanced” institutions, the media was not forced to do anything more than “report” these events as “news.” And in this way, these events would not threaten the status quo, as there would be “liberal” and “conservative” perspectives offered up by the media, thereby undermining attempts to use these events as indicators of a corrupt political order, an order of which the media was a central part. In the end, both the Nixon administration and the media maintained their legitimacy, the Nixon administration by attacking “arrogance, bias, and elitism,” and the media by demonstrating its openness to a “variety” of opinions.

            Buchanan notes over and over that the Nixon administration was not the conservative nirvana he hoped it would be. What is odd though is that he never seems to grasp how even his recommendations merely served to fortify the status quo. And this is so because Buchanan failed to recognize that the labels “liberal” and “conservative” are attached to “movements” legitimated by a political order that comprehends them both. Despite Buchanan’s revolutionary desires, there can no more be a conservative “revolution” than there can be a “liberal” revolution because these phenomena only make sense, only come to light as reflections of a more comprehensive political order. A revolution would require a critique, a break with that more comprehensive political order.

            That political order maintains itself by making us think that the political world is divided between “left” and “right,” between “liberals” and “conservatives.” But actually the political world is divided between “the top” and “the rest,” between the wealthy and the not wealthy, between the few and the many. Nixon’s “war” against the media was a war among the wealthy, among the few, between this few and that few. As such, it couldn’t and, of course, didn’t change American politics, as evidenced by Nixon’s fall from grace during Watergate, thanks in large part to the media. “Agnew’s hour” was just that, an ephemeral event that changed nothing permanently in the American political order. And even Nixon’s fall changed nothing permanently because it too was the result of a conflict among the few. In fact, Nixon’s fall also fortified the status quo as illustrated by the fact that Gerry Ford became president. What could be more status quo than a Ford presidency? Which of course even the Ford people recognized as they took pride in their election year mantra: “A Ford, Not a Lincoln.”

Friday, July 10, 2020

Who Killed Kennedy?

Who Killed Kennedy?
Peter Schultz

            The Bay of Pigs invasion was a set up to force Kennedy to send “in the Marines” to rescue what was going to be and what was intended to be a failed invasion. From David Talbot’s book The Devil’s Chessboard:

            “But, as usual, there was method to [Allen] Dulles’ seeming carelessness. It is now clear that the CIA’s Bay of Pigs expedition was not simply doomed to fail, it was meant to fail. And its failure was designed to trigger the real action – in all-out, US military invasion of the island. Dulles plunged ahead with his hopeless, paramilitary mission. . . .because he was serenely confident that in the heat of battle, Kennedy would be forced to send the Marines crashing ashore. Dulles was banking on the young, untested commander in chief to cave to pressure from the Washington war machine, just as other presidents had bent to the spymaster’s will.” [p. 400]

            There were two investigations of the debacle in the Bay of Pigs, one chaired by General Maxwell Taylor and the other by Lyman Kirkpatrick, a CIA official. Both investigations laid the blame on the CIA and not the White House, although Dulles had been attempting through the media to lay blame on Kennedy. Again, from Talbot:

            “Dulles succeeded in suppressing the Kirkpatrick Report; it would remain locked away until the CIA was finally compelled to release it in 1998. But as word spread in Washington circles about the harsh report, it added to the anti-Kennedy passions flaring within the CIA.
            “The Bay of Pigs debacle produced ‘stuttering rage’ among CIA officers aligned with Dulles, according to CIA veteran Joseph B. Smith. . . .’I had the feeling all those [agents] there felt almost that the world had ended. . . .’ In August months after the failed venture, when Ralph McGehee returned from Vietnam, he too found the CIA in turmoil. Rumors spread that Kennedy was going to exact his revenge by slashing the CIA workforce through a massive ‘reduction in force,’ code-named the ‘701 program’ by the agency.
            “When Kennedy’s ax did fall, McGehee was stunned by the carnage. ‘About one of every five was fired. The tension became too much for some. On several occasions, one of my former office mates came to the office howling drunk and worked his way onto the 701 list.’
            “The Anti-Kennedy rage inside the CIA headquarters also reverberated at the Pentagon. ‘Pulling the rug  [on the Bay of Pigs invaders],’ fumed Joint Chiefs chairman Lemnitzer, was ‘absolutely reprehensible, almost criminal.’ [p. 411]

            And around the same time, an attempted coup against de Gaulle in France, a coup that involved some support from some officers in the CIA, led to Kennedy once again challenging the CIA. The attempted coup involved officers in the French military who were opposed to de Gaulle’s policies to end the war in Algeria and to grant Algeria its independence. “The savage passions of the war in Algeria had deeply affected [Maurice] Challe and left him vulnerable to the persuasion of more zealous French officers. . . .In his radio broadcast to the people of France, the coup leader explained that he was taking his stand against de Gaulle’s ‘government of capitulation. . . so that our dead shall not have died for nothing.”

            De Gaulle was convinced that Challe had the support of US intelligence because “Challe and American security officials shared a deep disaffection with de Gaulle” who was obstructing US ambitions regarding NATO and was insisting on an independent nuclear force for France. “In panic gripped Paris, report of US involvement in the coup filled newspapers across the political spectrum,” while Richard Bissell, the second in command in the CIA, had a luncheon meeting with the “Secret Army Organization (Organisation de l’Armee Secrete, or OAS) . . . a notorious anti-de Gaulle terrorist group….” [p. 414]

            The CIA and Dulles of course denied any involvement, a denial supported by some in the American media like some writing for the NY Times. But “JFK took pains to assure Paris that he strongly supported de Gaulle’s presidency. . . .” Kennedy told the French ambassador he disavowed US involvement but also said that “’the CIA is such a vast and poorly controlled machine that the most unlikely maneuvers might be attempted.’” [p. 418] As Talbot puts it: This “was a startling moment in US foreign relations,” as “Kennedy underlined how deeply estranged he was from his own security machinery by taking the extraordinary step of asking [ambassador] Alphand for the French government’s help to track down the US officials behind the coup. . . .” [418] Kennedy also instructed the US ambassador James Gavin to offer de Gaulle any support he might need, including preventing rebel forces from Algeria from landing at US air bases in France, an offer de Gaulle prudently refused.

            It is important to emphasize that what was in dispute here was how to deal with the independence movements that had arisen throughout the world at that time. Dulles et. al. viewed these movements as little more than Communist inspired and controlled movements, part of the Soviet Union’s crusade to impose Communism on the world. Kennedy did not see these movements as Communist inspired but as nationalist movements seeking to throw off their colonial past. Hence, by supporting de Gaulle and sabotaging the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and refusing to send in the Marines into Cuba, Kennedy was viewed by some, like Admiral Burke, as “’a very bad president’ who ‘permitted himself to jeopardize the nation.’” [411]  This is close to charging Kennedy with treason, a charge that carries with it a death sentence in courts of law.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Playing on the Devil's Chessboard: Modernity's Bargain

Playing on the Devil’s Chessboard: Modernity’s Bargain
Peter Schultz

            In the book The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, by David Talbot, there is the following passage, a quotation by an American woman, Erica Wallach who had been held captive in the Soviet Union for five years on suspicion of being a spy. This suspicion arose in part because the Field family, a family with ties to Allen Dulles, had raised Ms. Wallach.

            “’Dulles [Ms. Wallach said] had a certain arrogance in which he believed that he could work with the Devil – anybody’s Devil – and still be Allen Dulles. He could work with Noah Field and betray him. He could work with the Nazis or the Communists. He thought himself untouchable by these experiences and, of course, you cannot help but be touched, be affected, no matter how noble your cause is.’” [p. 158]

            That is, Dulles thought his actions wouldn’t corrupt him because his cause was noble, so even the “Devil” could be an ally or he could be an ally of the “Devil.” Further, he thought that even though he was playing on the devil’s chessboard, he could win. But as events in Iran and other places illustrated, when you play on the devil’s chessboard, the devil always wins and you always lose. So not only was Dulles corrupted but so too was the United States. As Talbot put it: “The Eisenhower-Dulles era was a Pax Americana enforced by terror.” [p. 241] To support its empire, which was an “empire on the cheap,” the US had to engage in terror and support allies, like Iran, that also engaged in terror.

            This, it seems to me, is modernity’s bargain: Cutting a Faustian deal with the devil, thinking we could acquire power, wealth, and a kind of immortality by joining forces with the devil. But what we didn’t realize – and still haven’t – is that we have bargained away our souls, our humanity and, hence, our chance for happiness. And when you play on the devil’s chessboard, only the devil wins. Just ask LBJ, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George Bush, Jr.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Depths of Depravity in "This Town"

The Depths of the Depravity in “This Town”
Peter Schultz

            This Town is a book written by Mark Leibovich and it is about Washington, D.C. and how it “works.” This town, that is, D.C. is essentially a town of  “shameless racket of self-promoters,” which “imposes on its actors a reflex toward devious and opportunistic behavior, and also a tendency to care more about public relations than any other aspect of their professional lives – and maybe even personal lives.” [p. 362, 369] Some of the most astounding passages in This Town are the following, dealing with David Petraeus, one of the most honored members of what Leibovich calls “the Club.”

            “David Petraeus was, at that moment, enduring something worse. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell broke the story that the decorated general would quit as head of the CIA over an affair with his ‘official biographer.’” Mitchell said: “’I don’t take any pleasure in this in the sense that it is really a personal tragedy. Having covered Gen. Petraeus myself here and overseas, I am absolutely convinced from all communications I have from people directly involved that this is a matter of honor.’” [p. 338]

            As Leibovich puts it: “Figuratively speaking, Petraeus had been in bed with the press for years.” As a result, “he was portrayed as a fearless and scholarly hero, maybe even a future president…. Not surprisingly, ‘official biographer Paula Broadwell produced a gushy tome on the studly soldier, All In…. And Petraeus left many people in the Club deeply saddened and gravely concerned for the well-being of their four star friend. What an awful way for his decorated career to end.” [p. 339]

            Nevertheless, in a short time, one week, both Petraeus and Broadwell were represented by professionals to deal with their disgrace. Petraeus had hired “super-lawyer Robert Bennett…for advice on post-governmental issues, and…. for planning this future.” Broadwell had hired other professionals who were “providing communications counsel.” [p. 339] Obviously, Petraeus and Broadwell saw their behavior as creating PR problems and just as obviously they were going to deal with them as such.

            Because Petraeus and Broadwell were members of the Club, other members of the Club sympathized with their travails, with Andrea Mitchell labeling Petraeus and Broadwell’s affair a “tragedy.” And, in fact, it is important to recognize that from the perspective of the Club’s members, the affair was a tragedy or could have become one if Washington’s cover as a place of virtuous, well-meaning, and rather selfless behavior were to be blown. So it was important for Petraeus to resign as “a matter of honor” and for both Petraeus and Broadwell to genuflect by seeking out the advice of prominent members of the Club, in the form, of course, of “professional advice.” There are cover-ups in D.C. all the time, in response to particular events that are embarrassing. But the most important cover-up is one that remains hidden in plain sight, so to speak. And that is the cover-up of that Washington is a place of shameless self-promoters, who always put their interests ahead of the nation’s interests even though doing so imperils the nation’s well-being. And it seems to me that in that way, our politics resemble the politics of monarchical and aristocratic nations like Great Britain before the monarchy and the aristocracy became empty offices, mere titles without more. What Leibovich calls the Club should perhaps be called “the Court.” But whatever it is called, its reality needs to be recognized for what it is and what it isn’t. The picture isn’t pretty, to say the least, but it needs be exposed and examined. A lot depends on it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Great Political Battle Raging? Not So Much

A Great Political Battle Raging? Not So Much
Peter Schultz

            There is, many think, a great political battle raging in the US between the Republicans and the Democrats, between Trump supporters and Biden supporters, including the “Never Trumpians.” This battle is so great, it is said, that the fate of the US and its alleged democracy lies in the balance. Should Trump win again, his opponents argue, the US democracy will lie in ruins, sunk in that swamp Trump promised to drain. Should Trump lose, his supporters say, US democracy will be undermined by those who would make “socialism” the ruling force in the nation, thereby undermining, once and for all, its greatness.

            Heady stuff, to be sure. However, two books, neither of which is devoted to analyzing our current situation, make me wonder and even doubt these prevailing thoughts that there is a great political battle raging in the US presently. Those two books are This Town by Mark Leibovich and Secret Agenda by Jim Hougan. The former is or was a fairly well known book on how Washington works, while the latter is a little known analysis of what the Watergate crisis was actually about. Both books illustrate why it is risky to take at face value conventional accounts of what is going on in our nation’s capital.

            An example from This Town illustrates these risks, an example dealing with the raid that led to the assassination of bin Laden.

            “As it turned out, the president’s involvement [with the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner] was nearly messed up . . . by the US raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. A few days before the mission, on August 28, the tiny group of high-level national security principals who knew about the operation was discussing the timing of it in the White House Situation Room. While the raid ultimately happened on Sunday night, Saturday night was first raised as a possibility. But someone pointed out that Obama was scheduled to be at the Correspondents’ Association dinner that night and his absence (and that of other top administration officials) could tip off the journalist filled room that something was up.  At which point, Hillary Clinton looked up and said simply ‘Fuck the White House Correspondents’ dinner’.” [p. 245-6]

            So, when planning a raid on bin Laden’s compound and his probably assassination, a group of “high-level national security principals” concerned themselves with planning the attack – deemed to be of overwhelming importance in the war on terror – so it would not conflict with the White House Correspondents’ annual dinner. And from the scheduling it would appear the raid was in fact planned so as to avoid a conflict with that dinner, despite Hillary’s objections.

            In This Town, Leibovich makes it perfectly clear that Washington’s social milieu trumps political concerns repeatedly. People who seem to be enemies move in the same social and business circles comfortably and, more to the point, do not let their political concerns disrupt their socializing. Leibovich, for these reasons, dubs the controlling social set in D.C. “the Club.” And he argues: “You could do worse to explain the disconnect between Washington and the rest of the country then to assemble a highlight reel from the Correspondents’ Association weekend’s event juxtaposed with scenes of economic despair, a simply military death toll, or montage of poor, oil-soaked pelicans in the Gulf Coast, which had suffered the worst spill in history a few days before the 2010 dinner.” [p. 136]

            What seem like political phenomena – e.g., the removal of General McChrystal from his command in Afghanistan – are actually social phenomena. McChrystal’s removal had nothing to do with the military situation in Afghanistan. It was just that he and his men had broken the rules, the social rules that govern Washington society. For the same reasons, the reporter who broke the story for Rolling Stone had to be – and was – punished. “The substance and merit of the remarks were beside the point. Because McChrystal was playing the game wrong. He made a dumb PR move.” [pp. 129-30]

            And Hastings, the reporter involved, was also punished, being vilified by other journalists for violating “an ‘unspoken agreement’ between reporters and military officials.” [p. 132] “Hastings was treated as a suspicious interloper.” [ibid.] As Leibovich sums it up: “The bigger points in this case concerns the place of a ‘respectable journalist’ in the Washington Club – or lifetime banishment from it. Hastings trashed the Club. He was a skunk at the garden party.” [p. 133] And if you this is an isolated incident, I suggest familiarizing yourself with how the Washington Post treated Jim Webb of the San Jose Mercury after he broke the story of the Contras running drugs into the US during and with the knowledge of the Reagan administration.

            Trump himself is a social disturbance and, hence, must be dealt with insofar as he threatens the Club and its status. Trump is especially disturbing because he shamelessly rejects both the Club and membership in it. Those like Trump must be dealt with, their power limited, their reputations besmirched, and even their offices taken from them if possible. Joe Biden, however, is a member of the Club and, hence, he will if elected president restore Washington’s social balance. His politics, his talents or lack thereof are not important because his election will bring “the right people” – the socially acceptable people – back into the government and the Washington social scene. There is no great political battle taking place in D.C. any more than there were great battles in junior high or high school.

            In Hougan’s Secret Agenda, it is clear that what was actually going on during Watergate was quite different than what the official story said was going on. In the officially approved story, Watergate was the culmination of Nixon’s paranoid politics, which led to his certain impeachment that was only short-circuited by his resignation. But as Hougan shows, Nixon was as much a victim as a perpetrator. As J. Edgar Hoover said in a newspaper interview: “By God, [Nixon’s] got some former CIA men working for him that I’d kick out of my office. Someday, that bunch will serve him up a fine mess.” [p. 77] Of course, Hoover was correct although he did not live to the mess these men served up to Nixon.

            Hoover knew there were CIA men embedded in Nixon’s White House and administration, as did others like H.R. Haldeman and Pat Buchanan. But what Hoover may not have known was that at least two of these CIA men – Howard Hunt and James McCord – were not really working for Nixon. They were working with and for the CIA. That is, Hunt and McCord’s loyalties were not to Nixon or his presidency; those loyalties belonged to the CIA.

            Does this mean the CIA brought down Richard Nixon? Not necessarily, although their actions may have contributed to that result unintentionally. But it does mean that Watergate was not “a morality play,” was not “a simple story with the President at its center,” [p.56] as the official story would have us believe. Such morality plays necessitate some playing “the bad guys,” while others play “the good guys.” Most people don’t want to hear, as Hougan puts it, that “Watergate . . . was not so much a partisan political scandal as it was, secretly, a sex scandal, the unpredictable outcome of a CIA operation that . . . tripped on its own shoelaces.” [p. xviii] People prefer to ignore that the Nixon administration was “beset by leaks as massive as the Pentagon Papers, and besieged by critics on the both the Right and the Left,” and all of this amidst “the suspicions of a feuding intelligence community, as least part of which was convinced that . . . Henry Kissinger was objectively . . . a Soviet agent.” [p. 65] As Hougan put it: “our history [of Watergate] is a forgery, the by-product of secret agents acting on secret agendas of their own.” [p. xviii]

            In Leibovich’s terms, our real history is one in which the Club’s members seek to preserve their own and the Club’s social status, operating clandestinely because to do otherwise would give the game away. Were it known, for example, that the CIA was successfully seeking compromising “intell” on prominent Washingtonians, the Club would lose it legitimacy, as would its members. Were the Nixon administration to become known as engaging in criminal act, Washington would be perceived as harboring criminal enterprises.

            When such phenomena threaten to become public, then it is essential that the Club, the Washington establishment act to preserve its secrets. When such phenomena are exposed, as happened to Nixon during Watergate, then those responsible must be punished while making it look like such acts are aberrations. Hence, the need for what Hougan calls “morality plays” where the perpetrators are characterized as uniquely evil. And, of course, this was how Watergate was played out, as a morality play that succeeded in banishing Richard Nixon.

            Turning to our current situation, a president like Trump presents a real challenge to the Club, the established social order in Washington because not only does he despise the Club, he openly, shamelessly despises it. But that does not mean there is a great political battle going on presently, as so many like to say. What’s going on is nothing more and nothing less than the Club, the established order defending itself, defending its status and the status of its members. As a result, previous lines that were thought to be real dividing lines, e.g., lines between those who supported Bush’s war in Iraq and those who didn’t, have disappeared. When the Club’s endangered it is time to circle the wagons. And, of course, Trump must be punished and his punishment must be made to look like a defense of morality, as Trump himself is characterized as a terrible political evil. But he isn’t and there isn’t a battle for America’s soul going on presently. And the proof of this will come out when once Trump is defeated, very little will change socially or politically in the US.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Nations, Power, and Human Beings

Nations, Power, and Human Beings
Peter Schultz

            There is only one way to limit governmental power, by embedding it in a community. Once the connection between a government and a community is severed, the government will acquire great power, usually in the form of executive or bureaucratic power. Nations, which are not and cannot be communities, are created to facilitate the acquisition and exercise of great power, in the pursuit of greatness.

            There is a similar phenomenon regarding human beings. Once the link between human beings and community is severed, human beings will pursue power, power after power ceasing only in death. Without a community, a human being has no “place,” is left exposed, alienated and controlled by a fear of death, of annihilation. Thus, human beings pursue power to protect themselves, even while feeling and being alienated and fearful. Life becomes a “rat race,” an endless pursuit of security. It is not an accident that the specter of endless war is before us. It has always been there but is just now becoming visible. “The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Trouble With Being a War Hero

The Trouble With Being a War Hero
Peter Schultz

            The trouble with being a war hero is that those who become such heroes by virtue of being killed in action lose their humanity. That is, they become icons, as it were, and their flaws and idiosyncracies, those things which make us human, all too human, disappear in the fog of their idealization. Everything they did before they were felled in battle are seen as leading up and even pointing to their deaths, so that their lives are sanitized and even glamorized to a point where they become something like saints. They become unreal.

            I knew, as a brother, one such person, who has become something of a war hero, namely Charles J. Schultz, known to me and his family simply as “Charlie.” Charlie was KIA in Vietnam in 1967 where he was waging war as a 2d Lt. in the United States Marine Corps. He had volunteered to be a Marine officer and he could have avoided the war altogether as he had been accepted to the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources after graduating from Muhlenberg College in 1966 as a pre-med major. As to be expected and is appropriate, Charlie has been honored by those who knew him and a scholarship is given annually by Metuchen High School, where he sent to school, in his name and the name of another graduate in the same class, Richard Herold, whose remains have not been recovered.

            In reading one of Charlie’s books on JFK – he was a devotee of Kennedy – I came across the following marginal note: “How do you know when you are angry?” It was the only marginal note in a rather large book. It intrigued me at first because I thought you must know when you are angry. On further thought, however, I concluded that that was not necessarily the case, that you could be angry and not realize it because it was buried in your unconscious. Maybe you were angry at a parent and, because such anger isn’t considered appropriate, you hid it or from it. Which is what I did with my mother whom I was thought of and often said was a saint. As a therapist pointed out to me two years after I had declared my mother was a saint, I was actually quite angry with my mother and was compensating so as not to deal with that anger. It just wasn’t something I wanted to face.

            So perhaps Charlie was feeling with anger too, although not produced by the same source as mine. We can never know now. But the point is this: Beneath all of Charlie’s nerdiness – he chose to wear a coat and tie to high school in order to raise its ambience, as he put it, beneath being Mr. Boy Scout, rising to head his troop in whatever rank is the highest in the Boy Scouts, beneath being his fraternity’s president and the president of the interfraternity council in college, beneath being a 2d Lt. in the United States Marine Corp, he was angry young man who didn’t know he was angry and didn’t know what he was angry about.

            In other words, he was a human being and one who felt things, especially injustices and cruelty perhaps. He rescued and healed an abused dog he named “Jack” after you know who and he wanted to do whatever it is one does after going to a school for natural resources. And so he was angry, or so it seems. And perhaps it was this anger that led him to think he should enlist in the Marines and to make war in Vietnam. Maybe he was angry at himself and was trying to prove his manhood by virtue of becoming a soldier. That’s something that happens frequently.

            It doesn’t really matter here what Charlie might have been angry about because the point is that he was beneath all his accomplishments – and they were many – a young human being who was angry. Which is to say he was a human being, nothing more and nothing less. His life was cut short, ironically in a war characterized by injustice and cruelty but a war also covered over with flags and other symbols of patriotism, as wars always are. Would it have mattered had Charlie been able to consciously know his anger? I don’t know but my bet is that it would have.