November 21, 2008

Here's Your Dessert, Dear

I met a lot of people while I rambled about. They’re all crowded together in my head now and flash by unexpectedly like fireflies in the evening of my mind. I think I met more people than most people manage, because I traveled so much and everybody was always new and interesting at least for awhile. I’ve forgotten some of their names and faces but remember them anyway for the time and the place and the circumstances I was in. Mostly I lived in poor conditions but I always managed to stay clean and most of the time employed. I was a bum only once and that was for a few days in L.A. in the late seventies when I was very depressed and out of gas and money and hungry too. I bummed money from people on the Strand in Hermosa Beach, and it was so humiliating I couldn’t stand it. Sometimes before I got older I met women who liked me and bedded me but it never lasted for one reason or another, usually my fault, sometimes theirs. Five of them meant a lot to me, but they never lasted long either. I guess I wanted something else. I didn’t always know what it was. Since I got out of the Marine Corps in 1962 and found myself alone without family support I found refuge in writing, usually in bars or restaurants or even bowling alleys, about whatever happened to be happening or whatever was on my mind. Most of it didn’t survive because I periodically threw everything away or lost it somehow. I was confused a lot of the time and had and probably still have so many personality flaws and character defects that it’s probably better that I don’t have that writing anymore. I guess if it was any good it would still be here, so there’s no great loss to me that it’s gone. It served the purpose of keeping me from feeling my loneliness and helping me to know myself and the world. For me writing is like thinking out loud. I took seriously Socrates’ admonition to “Know thyself.” To me it seems to be the key to living in the world without harm, because I think when we really know ourselves we don’t want to do any. Everything in God’s world is precious even when it’s horrible. I cannot imagine that there is no Plan for it all.

I always liked to study, and now I think I should have been a scholar or a teacher. God knows I’ve been trying to teach people what I thought I knew for long enough. Maybe it wasn’t much but it was all I had. If I could teach anybody in America anything I wish I could teach them to feel and to be honest about their feelings, because when you are dishonest, you give wrong information to people who might act differently if they knew the truth. Of course sometimes the truth about our feelings and ourselves is ugly and hard to bear, and nearly impossible to confess. I look at my earlier writing as bombast and grandiosity and pretentiousness. But some of the later stuff is honest and confessional and not so bad I think. If it doesn’t do anything else it gives a view of me and my times, which somehow seems important to me and hopefully to you.

Sometimes the world is so beautiful it is excruciating, and other times it is so ugly one just wants to commit suicide because of how hopeless it seems to live in it. There is nothing more deadly dreary and horrible to me than war, though I have never had to fight in or suffer one directly, thank God. But I can see how bad it is. I can feel the pain of the people who must suffer it, and even the pain of those who inflict it, whether they can or not. Sometimes it seems there is too much pain to bear. Sometimes there really is.

Imagine if you will that you and your family are sitting down to your evening meal in North Waziristan, Pakistan, and your grandfather and grandmother are present and your children are there too. Three generations of your family which have lived in the same place for nearly 100 years are seated on cushions, and after offering thanks to God you are passing around the bowls of hot food, and suddenly you and your relatives and your house are obliterated in a storm of fire and iron as swift and hot as lightning, sent from a CIA robot drone aptly-named Predator.

Gone. Dead. Burned until the bodies which have not been blown apart into a thousand pieces are shrunk to the size of a toddler and black as coal. The worker who was in the field bringing in the animals is deafened and the low-pressure area created by the suction of the bomb blast has sucked out his eyeballs.

When people are burned to death, a fire chief told me once, every bone in the body breaks from the violent contraction of muscles attached to those bones. Those who were not killed instantly in the blast suffer the torment of hell.

Imagine also that a controller back in Afghanistan, Dubai, Florida or McLean, VA, leans back in his chair and enjoys the congratulations of his or her mates.

“Good going! Great shooting!”

Or that a low-flying Warthog weapons platform 20 miles away over a border existing only on paper crackles with the message, “Target gone.” Mission accomplished. Back to base and a warm meal after the debriefing. Then some e-mail and television and off to bed early. Another mission tomorrow. Only six more months in this hellhole and finally back home to a hero's welcome in Louisiana and the wife and kids, and the grandparents. Grandpa Dave wrote yesterday saying, “Stay safe.”

And nobody knows. The Press won’t be informed. It’s a secret because it is a matter of “national security.” Perhaps something will be written about it in an internet forum in Pakistan that goes around the world and you can access it if you are curious. But few Americans do, and, after all, it is only the personal testimony of someone who claimed to have seen it or heard about it, and how reliable is that? It wasn't on The Evening News.

Get the picture? Am I connecting here? What do you think, reading this, after your evening meal? What do you feel? Or do you? Well anyway, here's your dessert, dear.

3 comments:

Alec "Pogo" Brewster said...

An old Norse (I think) saying goes, "We are all teachers; we teach and teach and teach until we learn".
Another says; "Yonder, yonder, yonder goes The Christ in strangers clothes".
Thanks for the lessons.

Anonymous said...

Mike and Alec embarrass me and where i come from... PHFOOIE!

Mike Havenar said...

If this somehow "embarrasses" you, perhaps you need a reality check. It had nothing to do with you.It's not all about you. If you cannot stand any criticism of your country, move to a fascist state where the other bullies and haters of free speech and democracy dwell. Or read something else. DD.

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