(From In Black and White and Color, a novel)
The first slaves were property of the Portuguese.
Next was Spain.
Columbus was from Genoa, an Italian.
The English had to get in on this.
Picture the scene with Bartolome de las Casas, America’s first priest, a Dominican friar, in color.
This place started as a colony, and it turned into an empire with colonies of its own.
But now there were no American colonies anymore – unless you counted Puerto Rico.
And the Virgin Islands.
On May 1, 1886, May Day in Chicago, Communists and Anarchists started the Haymarket Riot, had to have their asses kicked by Chicago cops.
After they blew some cops up with a fucking bomb.
Fred Hampton hijacked a Good Humor truck and drove around the west side giving away all the ice cream bars.
Fred Hampton. Catch him in the rack. That was the whole idea.
Ed Hanrahan killed Fred Hampton with Chicago cops. Ed Hanrahan of St. Giles. Why didn’t he go to Fenwick? He went to Notre Dame. Couldn’t he get into Fenwick? Where’d he go to high school? St. Philip? With the black kids? That how he got the way he is?
The 20th century opened with Teddy Roosevelt in the White House, and then his own chosen man, Taft, won in 1908.
On December 26 of that year Jack Johnson beat the crap out of Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia to win the heavyweight championship of the world.
Boxing was the first major professional sport to integrate. Team sports would take a while. Football next. Then it would take a while before basketball came along. Finally, baseball.
The USA was the land of the free, even Jackie Robinson could play ball here, and on October 23, 1945, he signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers farm team in Montreal for $600 a month and a $3,500 bonus.
Negro was both the popular and proper nomenclature.
Racism had so long induced a national schizophrenia that by the time Danny Boy arrived on the scene in the plumb middle of the century, nature unavoidably and routinely produced individuals as fucked up as Daniel Aloysius McDwyn, loving Jesus and hating Blacks, reading books and doubting God, knowing there was something wrong and doing nothing right.
Dan never wanted to leave the playground. Peter Pan never wanted to grow up.
By pretending, by trying to slip away, by quitting, by lying, by doing everything he could think of to avoid responsibility, to grow up.
Talking about Dan or America?
The USA? No, Dan. The USA would never grow up.
Edgar Rice Burroughs of Oak Park, Illinois went to Africa in his mind, to Deepest Darkest Africa, not that he ever actually went there, and so he created Tarzan of the Apes in Oak Park in 1912.
When Oak Parkers signed their blood oath to refuse to sell a home to a Black family, they were sentencing those Black people to a life of poverty – because a home is the only sliver of capital that working class people can ever own, and without it, they’ve got nothing. Go live in the projects, where you belong, go back to your shack in the south.
World War One started for the US in April of 1917. It lasted till 1919, which was also when the American Communist Party was founded – in Chicago.
Born in 1915, Connor McDwyn entered Fenwick as a freshman, age 14, in 1929, the year the school opened. He graduated in 1933, age 18. And then he did not go to college. He went to the college of hard knocks. He rose to second lieutenant in the Army and served in Manilla near the end of the war. But he must have studied in the school of hard knocks for a considerable time.
After the war he went to work for Com Ed. He’d been in the war, WW Two, the Big One. By the time the war in Korea came around, he was too old to serve.
In 1934 Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig did a baseball tour of Japan. We gave them baseball, and 11 years later we gave them the bomb.
You know what ended the Depression? World War Two.
The war in Europe started years before the USA got into it. Hitler started invading other countries. He built up his army way past the 100,00 troops dictated by the Treaty of Versailles, and off he went. He captured France, which boasted the most powerful army in the world, with England’s military not far behind in the rankings. Hitler figured he was unstoppable now, and he decided to go for England too. Hitler convinced Italy and Japan to back him up. The Italians weren’t much, but the Japanese were formidable.
Connor McDwyn would have to deal with them in Manilla.
It didn’t matter that Hitler’s military couldn’t match up with France or England, because the tactics Germany employed were so aggressive and new, they succeeded, and the ineptness of the response inspired Hitler to expand the war, and try to force England into immediate capitulation, just as he had France.
Hitler wanted all of Europe. He already had Italy because Mussolini was like his twin. Hitler struck a deal with Stalin to divide Poland between Germany and the USSR, but it wouldn’t be long before Hitler trick-fucked Stalin and went to war against Russia too,
It was getting to be a world war.
The Japanese used the same game plan the Confederacy had used in the American Civil War, the underdog approach, whereby you strike fast, seize the initiative with a surprise attack, and win with speed, brains, skill, talent, aggressiveness, and courage, only to suffer the same fate in the end, succumbing to overwhelming power and numbers.
If the Japanese had known that attacking Pearl Harbor was going to cost them Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they might have chosen not to attack.
If they had known what was unknowable. . .
That the USA would annihilate two Japanese cities full of living human beings, civilians. No one could have predicted that – because the barbarity of it was unthinkable, unimaginable.
Your problem is you have no imagination.
And now, thanks to the magic of history, you no longer need to imagine it – because it happened. It seemed to have ended the war instantly, like a light switched off.
If the past was once unimaginable and the future always unknowable, we were stuck in the middle, as always, with the present, where we didn’t stand a chance, with barely a clue to explain how we got here, how it all happened, let alone why. And still we weren’t entirely clueless. The past was occasionally knowable, something you might discover, uncover, or, more likely, stumble upon.
Like a land mine.
War was a chess match, and chess was war. You could only win at chess if you could think of the pieces as living breathing human beings and assign each their relative worth and capabilities, their use value, their weaknesses, and proceed to checkmate or stalemate or go down in noble defeat, it’s only a game, at least you tried.
Franklin Bobb was in the chess club. Joe Sessa with his irregular heartbeat was in the chess club.
Chess and the Thomist philosophy. Aquinas, the Dumb Ox. And Aristotle. All well and good, learning Latin and French and algebra and geometry, fine, biology – study of life, nothing wrong with all that, but where did the hippy priest crusading for Christ in the inner city find the time to molest teenage boys?
Race didn’t enter into it.
Because there was only one race.
But the inner city was another matter. And the inner city was only four blocks away, on the other side of Austin Boulevard, and it kept right on going all the way downtown, the whole city was the inner city.
Three principles of chess: Gain control of the four center squares, seize the initiative. Develop your pieces. The backline players, except for the knights, need space to move.
Castle as soon as possible. Protect the king.
Don’t get Pearl Harbored.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was entirely knowable, even predicted, down to the specifics of where the planes would come from and where they would strike, but poor chess playing put offense ahead of defense and practically lost the entire game in the opening moves.
The Japanese officially surrendered on September 2, 1945.
Who was to blame? What is the importance, the significance of assigning blame? Assigning responsibility? To what end? And where does it lie? On the heads of the political and military leaders of all the countries involved in a world war? Do that with Napoleon, and Tolstoy will show you that’s bullshit, but is Napoleon not guilty? Certainly, he isn’t innocent.
An American B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and eighty thousand human beings were very soon dead. Three days later we bombed Nagasaki and wiped out forty thousand more. They never saw it coming. They got hit with the light shining from our beacon on a hill, a shining moment of American exceptionalism. We didn’t bomb a fort or a military installation, we bombed two whole cities, a significant upgrade from the bombing we’d done on the city of Dresden in Germany. All of this was defensible because it served to end World War Two, otherwise it would still be going on today, and World War Three would have to be indefinitely, perhaps infinitely, postponed.
Mistakes were made, to put it in the passive voice and thus avoid all responsibility, bad things happened, and they were regrettable, and perhaps unavoidable, but what made it worse was they kept getting worse, the mistakes that were made, like pebbles thrown into a pond, the circles of their terrible influence kept growing wider and could only come to rest on the shore of the pond, and that was the shore of the land of the dead. When Danny came into the world, just as you did, he was riding rough seas, huge waves of hate and violence.
Not to be forgotten when the smoke cleared – we won, and Hitler lost.
Dan’s big brother was born in December of 1942, a year after Pearl Harbor. At the time, Connor was 27.
In 1947 Allen Ginsberg signed off on his mother’s lobotomy.
She was a Communist.
And a nudist.
Truman won the election in 1948, defeating Dewey and holding onto the White House for the Democrats, who had been there since 1936, when Republican Herbert Hoover couldn’t get the USA out of the Depression and the voters decided Roosevelt might.
Dan was born into the burgeoning McCarthy Era. The Senator from Wisconsin, home of the Dells and Lake Lawn Lodge, was just getting warmed up. He had a list of 205 Communists, with a capital C, in our very own State Department. This was not the original witch hunt, in this country the Salem Witch Trials, but it was the first public event of note to be labeled as such while it was taking place, the first time the metaphor was imposed. When women were tried as witches, back in Salem, whether the defendants were in fact witches, they most certainly did not possess supernatural powers, and that was what they were being accused of, being in league with Satan, a being that does not exist. There was no evidence that McCarthy’s list ever existed either. He was just making it all up.
But what about Whittaker Chambers? He wasn’t making it all up, and you couldn’t get much higher up into the State Department than Alger Hiss.
As Danny emerged into the world, Whittaker Chambers stepped out of the shadows. He was Buckley’s hero. Buckley had heroes.
It wasn’t a war; it was called the Korean conflict. National Review would idolize Douglas MacArthur – because he could have settled things. MacArthur told Truman he could go fuck himself, and Buckley liked that.
Even though Truman just fired his ass.
The Korean War began in June 1950. Don Newcombe, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Whitey Ford would all miss a whole season in the big leagues to serve in the military. They were called up. There was a draft, and regular normal everyday citizens – men, of draft age, even Elvis and movie stars, in they went. They had gone in WW2 and they would go in Korea.
But they wouldn’t go to Vietnam. That would be different. Or they were different. Or both.
There was no war machine all revved up and waiting in the garage.
America in 1950, triumphant in wars, victorious in technology, at the very peak of its prosperity.
In 1950 sportswriters were amusing themselves by compiling lists of the first half-century’s greatest sports heroes. Jim Thorpe was the greatest athlete of all time, George Mikan the greatest basketball player.
This then was America in the middle of the 20th century, with Harry Truman president, a Democrat. He had been FDR’s vice-president, and then took over when Roosevelt dropped dead, shortly after beginning his fourth term. The country was nearing the end of more than 20 years of Democratic control of the executive branch.
Roosevelt. FDR. He could have been king. We could have made him our king.
People kept electing him, but we were not about to make him our king.
We practically made him our king.
But we don’t have kings here, and there are two other branches of government to keep the president in check – legislative, composed of hundreds of sharp lawyers, and judicial, meaning judges, who can pass judgment on everybody, including the president, and, just to make sure, Congress passed a law to limit the presidency to two terms thereafter.
So, there was Give em Hell Harry. He had won unexpectedly. Everyone had expected Republican Thomas Dewey to win. The Chicago Tribune went so far as to headline its early edition the day after the election DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!
It would be Truman who would decide to drop two atomic bombs on Japan.
“Sixteen hours ago, an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima. That bomb had more power than twenty-thousand tons of TNT. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the largest bomb yet used in the history of warfare. With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction. It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed. Having found the atomic bomb, we have used it. It is an awful responsibility that has come to us. We thank God it has come to us and not to our enemies. And we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”
The Democrats were coming to the end of their tenure in the White House. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the general who won World War Two. George Washington had been the general who won the Revolutionary War. It would somehow be unpatriotic for Eisenhower not to be elected president.
On January 20, 1953 Eisenhower moved into the White House, where he would live until January 20, 1961.
A country in transition from Truman to Eisenhower, then from Eisenhower to Kennedy, from George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.
In 1953 the President of General Motors, Erwin Wilson, was named Secretary of Defense. “What’s good for General Motors,” he said, “is what’s good for America.”
Integration of public schools by way of Brown v Board of Education, handed down in May of 1954, was by far the leading factor in the popularity of private schools, parochial schools, Catholic schools, which is to say, Fenwick, perhaps not called into existence by racism, but certainly propelled on its merry way thereby.
Dan knew, or could feel by instinct, that it wasn’t just the South. It was Oak Park.
William F. Buckley, Jr. founded National Review, the coolest magazine that ever was, in 1955. In 1957 it bravely answered the question of Why the South Must Prevail by clearly stating: “The claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage.” Buckley wrote that.
Buckley thought that racism would save the world from communism because in the end the difference between the Soviets and Red China was that the Soviets were white, and the Chinese weren’t. They could not abide one another. So Buckley saw the Soviets ultimately as allies.
Because we’re both white.
Buckley said that?
Such was his implication.
In 1957 Norman Mailer wrote The White Negro, and James Baldwin countered. Mailer and his hipsters wanted to appropriate Black experience, which he then mythologized and in no way apprehended.
Cuban Revolution 1959.
Dan had no way of knowing it, though you could have convinced him of it in a minute, but the whole Cold War was bullshit, a monstrous waste of time, money, energy, and lives.
Look at what was happening to Cuba, to the sprawling Soviet Union and its satellites, the Cubans had been cut off from all trade with America, left to live on left-overs, and the Soviets, were plowing their economy into a military that served no purpose but to suck the life out of America and itself, while America could always sell more shit and learn to live on shit and love it. The Soviets were doomed.
The sixties marked the centennial of the Civil War and kids were wearing blue and gray Yankee and Rebel caps you could buy in a dime store. Everybody in Oak Park wanted a blue one – of course.
The sixties. This was the height of American prosperity. The whole family would get in the car and go for a drive. No destination. Just drive.
The Civil War centennial. We were celebrating the Civil War.
No, no. Ending the Civil War, celebrating ending the Civil War.
There was also the Davy Crocket coonskin cap.
There also was the foreign legion cap, which was cool, because it had that extra piece of cloth hanging off it to keep the back of your neck from being fried in the desert, but Dan didn’t see it that way, and when his mother wasn’t looking, he snatched her scissors and snipped it off.
You ruined your hat – why?
It was wearing a dress.
Occasionally real people, who were still existent and present and active and recognizable in the real world, would interact with fictional characters, created from, or, rather, produced by confused ideas of earlier times, beginning in the late 40s on through the 50s and 60s, due to Dan’s stunning stupidity, naivete, and immaturity, which is to say, youth.
Danny somehow knew that it was in sport that you found out what you were really all about, so, with each of these sports it was becoming clear that many of the world’s greatest athletes, if not most, were Black. So, what did that mean? Only that those athletes were setting the standards of excellence, and that their accomplishments were something to aspire to, but none of that earned you any points among the racists.
Tuesday, ten-thirty in the morning, air raid sirens go off, every Tuesday. Be a hell of a time for the Ruskies to attack, everyone would think it was just a drill, which might be good timing really – because everyone would routinely take shelter.
The whole world was being made over between 1960 and 1963. Twenty-four new countries came into existence. They had been European colonies.
The 50s slowly turned into the 60s, but it didn’t take long for the 60s to catch fire. The difference was as graphic as the contrast between Eisenhower and Kennedy.
To get to Kennedy, you had to get past Nixon. Everybody at Ascension was for Kennedy. A kid wearing a Nixon button, like Charley Clover did, would be pummeled by his classmates and his banners torn. Dan just watched. Charley Clover was a jerk, and he picked his nose. He had been caught picking his nose. He picked Nixon and he picked his nose, he was doomed.
Everything seemed to be going along just fine, until Kennedy got shot. Eisenhower had been like the country’s Grampa. Then we got Young Dad to replace him, and our new Dad was handsome and Irish and Catholic, he played touch football with his brothers.
The 60s flashed from black and white to color.
Kennedy against Nixon. It was a tough choice for conservative Catholics to vote for the liberal Democrat Catholic Kennedy – but he was a Catholic.
Kennedy was a Catholic and he played touch football with his brothers. So why shouldn’t he take over from the aged king? The prince becoming king, revitalizing the kingdom of Camelot.
President Kennedy said we could get to the moon by the end of the decade.
What a dreamworld.
And then bang.
It all ended on November 22, 1963.
As soon as LBJ became President, with that hangdog look and Jackie standing next to him in her pink blood-stained dress, the USA and its meaning were given a good shake in the kaleidoscope of sentiment and empathic response of patriotism at odds with reason, and it all added up to: it felt bad. Johnson was President, the nation was at war, spies and assassins were loose in the world, and there was no need for Catholics to be Democrats anymore – unless you were in Chicago. As always, Oak Park, Saints Rest, prided itself on being not Chicago.
Camelot was long dead. Even before Kennedy was shot all sorts of sneaky shit was going on with the CIA and the FBI. J. Edgar Hoover had practically invented the FBI, and so the FBI did pretty much did whatever he wanted, investigated anybody he want to investigate, investigated the hell out of them, while in his free time, he liked to wear women’s clothing.
Demare had swung that election for Kennedy by turning out the vote of Chicago’s dead.
They were in the Euclid house when Kennedy was shot on November 22, 1963, having completed little more than half his first term, and it’s a pretty sure bet he would’ve been re-elected, especially in light of the way LBJ crushed Goldwater in 64. But then Johnson would go on to serve only one term before the War in Vietnam made him say: Enough of this shit! By then it was 1968, that year, one of the most tempestuous in history, when childhood would vanish forever into Dan’s past.
Tom Ayers was the boss of Commonwealth Edison from 1960-1970. His son Bill was a class traitor and proud of it.
Bill Ayers and Dan’s brother were just a year apart. Ciaran was headed into the Marines and Vietnam. Bill Ayers was headed for the SDS. Ciaran had come out of Ascension and Fenwick and Oak Park. Ayers came out of Glen Ellyn, out of Forest Glen school. There was a brown lady named Celeste who cleaned the Ayers’ house.
There was a kid who was 8 years older than Ayers named Jimmy, who lived in the neighborhood, and when Ayers was 10 years old, 1953, the kid, Jimmy, got drafted, and was so afraid of going to war in Korea he shot himself.
Makes no sense. Because he was afraid that he was going to get killed, he killed himself?
Ayers went to Lake Forest Academy. He was starting guard on the football team, weighing 145 pounds, while Fenwick was winning the Prep Bowl 40-0. Ayers spent four years at Lake Forest and hated every minute of it. Then he goes to Michigan. The Wolverines. And he tries out for the football team. Michigan, the Wolverines, he must’ve been delusional. He quits school after a year. He’s in Michigan, he ends up in Detroit, still living on Big Daddy’s dime. He decides to become a freedom rider. At the same time, Ciaran is finishing up his ROTC, getting ready to go into the Marines.
In 1961 the USA sent 2,067 military advisers to Vietnam, and by 1963 there were 16,300 of them there, and by 1964 there were 23,000.
In 1965, after a bullshit report of an attack on an American ship patrolling the Gulf of Tonkin, President Johnson sent in combat troops, and the war was full on, even though war had not been declared.
Vietnam was a murky mess being promoted as Good versus Evil. Somehow, we were Good.
The domino theory predicted the citizens of country after country, the big one being China in 1946, would turn Communist, until the plague arrived in North America and we were the only American country left in the world.
That’s what you’re afraid of?
Now it’s ninety miles away.
1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Dylan wrote Hard Rain’s Agonna Fall during the Cuban missile crisis, writing each lyric as if it were a song itself, like Borges writing about books unwritten, because the world might end before he could get around to each song.
In 1962 James Meredith went to college at Ole Miss.
Esquire hired Norman Mailer in 1962. He wrote about Marilyn Monroe and then Hemingway, who had died the previous year.
Norman Mailer and William F. Buckley were going to debate each other in Chicago at the Madinah Temple on the eve of the Patterson-Liston fight.
“CHICAGO, Sept. 23–In what was billed as a political debate between a conservative and a hipster, William F. Buckley Jr. and Norman Mailer met before a crowd of 3,600 at Medinah Temple last night to discuss (but only when they felt like it) the subject: ‘What Is the Real Nature of the Right Wing in America?’”
The transcript of the debate was published in Playboy.
In Armies of the Night, Norman Mailer made a distinction between the Civil Rights march on Washington in 1963 and the Vietnam war protests.
Mahalia Jackson called out: “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”
It was Ike’s half-ass idea to split Vietnam in two and let Ho Chi Minh, who’d been elected by the whole country, have the north, while the new country of South Vietnam, would be ruled by one of the few Catholics to be found, a fellow named Diem, who was then overthrown and killed in 1963, same year as Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech, same year Kennedy would be shot, and Dan was in the sixth grade. His sister was not home for lunch. She was at Trinity. Ciaran was in college in Minnesota. His dad was at work. There was his mom and Gramma and his little brother, and Bozo’s Circus on WGN was interrupted.
Dan was the middle child, and their dilemma, the family’s dilemma, was that of the middle class, and they had no real power, except to complain, while their aspirations were comically removed from the practicalities of their lives, Aquinas and all that.
Mind and body. The aesthetes and the jocks. The draft-dodgers and the baby-killers. There was no in-between, no compromise.
The enemy were gooks, less than human, but if that were true, why would we give a shit about saving their gook country?
Someone on your team, a teammate, a comrade on the battlefield, someone who fought alongside you, who risked his life along with you, he wasn’t going to betray you and trick-fuck you the way your intellectual and artistic friend would.
Guys went over, got shot at by gooks, and shot back, and started hating gooks, started killing gooks indiscriminately, soldier, civilian, man, woman, young, old, and they hated the war, and they hated anyone who wanted to stop the war.
No one could think straight.
Bill Cosby is a very funny fellow . . . Right! Recorded at the Bitter End in March 1963. Released in November 1963. Played on his record player in stereo in Gas-Man’s bedroom 1964, and Dan and Gas Man chortled at its wonderfulness.
1964 was an election year. Goldwater against Johnson, and the Gas-Man was pulling hard for Goldwater. It wasn’t the same as in 1960, when everybody in school, besides Charley Clover, was for Kennedy, the Catholic. The whole school wasn’t going to get behind Johnson the way it had Kennedy, but nobody was for Goldwater.
In 64 Dan’s parents voted for Goldwater, although they knew he probably wouldn’t win.
It was 1964 and with all the other shit going on, Johnson versus Goldwater, Vietnam, Cuba, all that, Bobby Kennedy is fucking Susan Sontag.
The French Government . . . of Vietnam (maybe that made sense in the fifties, or whenever imperialism made sense) was backed in America by the Friends of Vietnam, including John F. Kennedy and Cardinal Spellman.
The Vietnamese should be Catholic, mais non?
But most of the Vietnamese were Buddhist.
The Magus was exactly the wrong book to read on the sophomore retreat, and it was exactly the wrong book to read if you wanted to support the war in Vietnam.
Dan didn’t support the war. He wasn’t for the war. He couldn’t defend the war, wasn’t about to.
Barry Goldwater said to bomb the hell out of em.
Buckley didn’t even think Goldwater was all that smart. Good man, on the right side, but not all that smart. Buckley was willing to go to war over going to war.
Goldwater lost in forty-four states. He won Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Georgia, the most racist states.
During the campaign it was fun to be for Goldwater because nobody else was. It made you stand out. You knew what AU/H2O stood for, just like UNCLE.
What sort of role model was Nicholas Urfe, or John Fowles for that matter?
They were very different people, not to speak of the fact that one was real and the other was not. Nicholas Urfe was the creation of John Fowles, and mere fantasy, wish fulfillment.
James Bond had a cruel mouth.
Nichlas Urfe was sort of an antihero, sort of because he speaks to the reader as though he has our empathy and understanding, but he is not likeable. He’s trying to tell us how he has been humbled, but he is still arrogant and conceited.
Dan didn’t see that way. Instead, he read with a kind of foreboding, a vague sense that what happened to Nicko in the book was going to happen to him in real life.
He would, though not on a Greek isle, discover himself to be a cad, to practice to deceive, but, above all, to be deceived, to deceive himself, to be the fool. It didn’t take a magus for him to be revealed as a fool. He could see that in himself because he was willing to look in the mirror, but he had to look closely and that meant missing everything that was going on in the background.
Now to bring it forward.
Catholics against the War, when it was Catholics who were waging the war in Vietnam on Buddhists.
It was Johnson behind Medicare and Medicaid, and he talked about America as a great society, if we could make it one, but was there a chance even that it could be a good society?
The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964. What could that mean to Dan? All he knew was that he had all the rights there were, and if Ruth, the colored lady who cleaned their house once a week, had a few rights now too, then good for her. It still didn’t stop the McDwyns from letting her go.
I think she stole a pair of Mom’s earrings.
Ruth came once a week, from Chicago, and she’d mop and wax the kitchen and dining room floors, vacuum the wall-to-wall carpeting, dust and polish the furniture. She would do a professional job. The house was professionally cleaned.
Hell, Dan stole all the loose change he could lay his hands on, and if there was a stack of ones, who’s going to miss one or two ones?
Black people were making music that moved you and thrilled you and you could listen to on your transistor radio, which you could put under your pillow and only you could hear it.
There were, mirabile dictu, even greater advancements to come, like an earpiece, but at that time, it was sufficient to put your transistor radio in your pocket. The transistor radio, snug in its leather jacket, you could take it with you almost anywhere. What was particularly wonderful about having the transistor radio under the pillow at night was that it was not allowed, but how was anyone to know, unless Mom came into the room and caught you?
Hand over that radio.
But why would she do that? Come barging into a kid’s bedroom like that?
That was the problem, living with all these people, trying to get some privacy.
What do you need privacy for?
Good question. What did Dan need privacy for?
The Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act came out of the 60s. Lyndon Johnson. Not Kennedy. Not Nixon.
Nixon was coming.
To racists the Civil Rights Act was a declaration of war, not the same Civil War as before, not north against south, industrial versus agricultural, this wasn’t even Black against white, because Black people, having won their rights would just as soon be done with it all and enjoy their rights, and everyone could live in peace, rather, it was whites against freedom, whites against equality, whites against truth, and Dan was white.
Dad and Mom were Republicans.
Oak Park was Republican.
There were Democrats in Chicago.
On July 2, 1964, a new world opened up to every Black person in America, a world that had in it not only bathrooms and water fountains, but restaurants and movie theaters and hotels, a world they had seen, but never lived in during all their lives, some of which were long and all of which they were used to, if not comfortable with, at least set in their ways, hesitant to change, unsure, afraid, so that black people still lived in fear.
Gas-Man was going to take Dan with him to a meeting of the John Birch Society. They were in eighth grade. While he wasn’t busy being the head of the John Birch Society, Robert Welch was a Boston candy maker. He made Milk Duds, Sugar Daddies, and Junior Mints.
Civil Rights might have been the law, but it’s not until somebody breaks the law and gets punished for it that it’s really a law. So those civil rights workers in Mississippi had to be murdered, and that was a clear violation of their civil rights.
February 1965, James Baldwin hands Buckley his ass at Cambridge. Resolved: The American dream is at the expense of the American Negro.
“Your people, sir, are not ready to rule themselves.” Those were Buckley’s words. He had the fucking gall to say that.
Baldwin wondered, “What happens to the poor white man’s, the poor white woman’s mind? Their moral lives have been destroyed by the plague called color.”
Master and slave – neither one is free.
WFB didn’t like the Beatles. He said they were godawful. That was how fucked up he was.
James Bond didn’t like them either, said you needed to listen to them with earmuffs on.
In 1965 Civil Rights protesters planned to march from Selma to Montgomery, and the Ku Klux Klan joined forces with the Sheriff to try to stop them.
Johnson went to Congress himself to pitch the Civil Rights Act, and he ended his speech by saying, “We shall overcome.”
In 1965 Buckley was running for Mayor of NYC. It began as something of a joke. He was running for mayor sarcastically. He knew he wasn’t going to win, just like he had known Goldwater wasn’t going to win.
It wasn’t about winning.
How could it be about anything else?
It was about ideas.
In Chicago it was preposterous to think that someone like Buckley could run for mayor. There was Demare, who was as much king as mayor. New York was different, but Chicago was a city too, just as much a city as New York.
Second City, my ass.
In 1965 Dan was graduating from Ascension and Ciaran was flying helicopters in Vietnam.
War was something that happened on TV.
And in the movies.
That’s just Hollywood. Real war happens on TV.
The fact was that the war was happening half a world away, and most of the dead people were yellow, and we only saw it on a TV screen, so that it seemed confined to that box, crammed in there with the Beverly Hillbillies and Judy Carne, manageable, soft core, a hint of sex and lots of violence and mostly for laughs, all in an effort to sell something. And we bought it.
The Vietnamese might turn Communist.
So fucking what?
The domino theory. We’ve got to stop the spread of . . .
The Communist Control Act of 1965 made it illegal to be a member of the Communist Party.
Kids might have heard Malcolm X saying, “by any means necessary,” but they didn’t stop to think that what might be necessary was reason and logic. They thought it meant anarchy.
In a way, Malcolm X was making Martin Luther King acceptable.
Malcolm X was shot 21 times by two Black guys with handguns and one guy with a shotgun who popped up out of the crowd on February 21, 1965.
In the 1966 Naked Lunch went on trial, with Ginsberg and Mailer testifying in its defense – and won.
Firing Line went on the air in 1966. On Firing Line Buckley argued with overwhelming evidence and eloquence, against man’s perfectibility, and then it was turned around him by Bertrand Russell: Does that mean you’re not supposed to try?
The question is not whether human beings are perfectible, but whether we’re at least going to try.
August 6, 1966, Lenny Bruce died.
Abbie Hoffman wants to do an exorcism. Think about that, Abbie Hoffman. Exorcism. Now: The Pentagon. And if there are enough of us to join in and circle the Pentagon –
It will levitate. We will levitate the Pentagon. Suspend it. And that will stop the war.
Now you’re thinking. I can’t believe we hadn’t thought of this before.
It took Abbie the fuck Hoffman.
October 21, 1967, however, there was to be no encircling, just this prayer to the gods to cast out the evil from the pentacle of power.
March on the Pentagon. Armies of the Night. Soldiers with machine guns were on the steps of the Capitol prepared to quell riots.
Quakers were lying naked on the floor of the jail because they had refused jail clothing, crazy with dehydration because they refused to drink, did Buckley have some smartass shit to say to them? They weren’t cowards afraid to fight in a war, they weren’t spoiled brats blowing shit up.
No, but they were Quakers. What do you expect? That’s what they do.
Hell no, we won’t go.
If you don’t have a whole shitload of people chanting it, it’s not going to work. But if you’ve got a whole shitload of people and they’re chanting Hell No We Won’t Go, a real chorus of strong voices –
The peace movement, or antiwar movement, would by its nature be attractive to anyone who was just afraid to fight in a war, not to cast any aspersions.
The Six-Day War in Israel in 1967: Saul Bellow said that the Egyptians had no air cover, and without it their army was helpless. The Israelis won the war because they blew up the Arab airfields, even those out of range, and then shot their aircraft to pieces.
What did it mean then that a country like Israel existed? What kind of world requires that?
In order to be safe from all others.
Still, a fresh start, a new country called Israel, full of Jews from all over the world, the best, the brightest, the knowledge and wisdom of centuries, to begin again and concentrate and create a society where people could live and work together in harmony with nature and their neighbors, and then it just got all fucked up.
Maybe it was fucked up from the beginning. Maybe it was doomed. Maybe it was a bad idea.
Maybe it was a good idea gone bad. Maybe it’s still a good idea. Who knows?
You know what you left out? The people who were already fucking living there.
See what I mean?
A world where broads don’t have to get pregnant just because they happened to get fucked –
Is a whole new world. A world people never lived in before, where she could be on the pill.
But the Church was dead set against abortion.
Communism with a capital C was as real as a heart attack.
The US had 500,000 troops in Vietnam by 1968. There were 16,000 dead that year.
The Tet Offensive was launched in January 1968. Combo forces of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.
Gene McCarthy started running in March of 1968. Then Bobby Kennedy announced he was running.
Johnson dropped out and Humphrey jumped in.
All of that allowed Nixon to creep back into the picture. Where was Charley Clover now?
In early March 1968, news broke about the My Lai massacre, and there were our boys in uniform killing around five hundred women and children and old people.
My Lai revealed that some of the soldiers had been transformed into baby killers, and the logic of the war was laid bare in the explanation: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
That was either a perfect statement of nihilism, or patently absurd, or both.
The argument for going to war was that when you were called up, you went. Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die. If everyone sat back and decided for themselves not if a war was just or not, but just whether they felt like going, where would we be?
We’d be right here. What difference does it make?
This was existentialism. This was the absurd. This was beyond him. He was spinning out of control into space out into the universe. He had smoked cigarettes and drunk every kind of alcohol he could get his hands on, but he was adamantly against drugs.
Learning nothing and getting nowhere, “and it’s one, two, three, what’re we fightin for? Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, next stop is Vietnam.”
You could burn your draft card.
Hell no, we won’t go.
Vietnam was such a total disaster that it killed the draft. It was too embarrassing, dispiriting, to go to war and have the soldiers refuse to participate, burn their draft cards or run away.
Bill Ayers was going to fight it and run away.
His dad was way up there at Com Ed. Mr. Ayers.
Dan remained steadfast in his belief that the war could not touch him, and, besides, he wouldn’t even have to worry about it for at least the next four years because he’d be a student, 2-S. He’d have a deferment. He didn’t thank God for it, providential as it may seem, he might thank his lucky stars because there was evidence, true evidence, that September of 1951 was a lucky time to be born, it slid neatly between the Korean War and Vietnam to make its generation free from military service.
Deprived of the chance to be a soldier. Glory. The chance to prove your manhood, find your courage.
Dan could live with that. He had not distinguished himself in his lone position of leadership, and he was a coward. Other than that, he’d make a fine soldier, utterly expendable.
Fortunately, he was lucky.
Luckily, he was fortunate.
You ever tried pot?
No thank you.
I wasn’t offering it to you.
No one ever did. Dan must’ve been doing something wrong. It was not only his conceit that caused his shame and guilt and sadness.
Dan’s instincts were truest and most noble in dealing with sports, with games and players and athletes and fans, he could tell the truth then and act his part, though it be an extra in a crowd scene, because life was a movie, and he was the star of the movie, the protagonist, so being an extra turned him into an anti-hero, against his will, but, being a coward and a quitter, he was incapable of fighting it off. His destiny was to be an anti-hero, and you can either accept your fate, or you can try to escape it, in which case you will run right into it. Having nothing better to do, Dan decided to do both, now one, now the other, but he would not play a villain, nor would he attempt any more to be the hero, although of necessity he would play antagonist to many. The war was out.
On March 31, 1968, Johnson went on TV and said, “There is division in the American house right now.” Then he quit. He wasn’t running for re-election. He was out. McCarthy and Bobby could fight it out.
Four days later Martin Luther King was shot to death. To Black people the message was: You tried non-violence, and this is how it works.
On April 5 riots began in more than 100 cities.
In Chicago, Demare gave an order to shoot to kill.
“As long as I’m mayor of this city, there’s going to be law and order in this city,” sez Demare.
Early in 1968, before Johnson dropped out, Gene McCarthy declared his candidacy for President, and all he wanted to do was stop the war. Then Bobby Kennedy jumped in too, and he made civil rights part of it.
Johnson’s grandfather had died at age 64, his father had died at 64, and Johnson himself would die when he was 64.
George Wallace was running for President in 1968, with Curtis LeMay as his running mate.
George Wallace. Good lord, Mom wrote an admiring letter to George Wallace.
The Democratic Convention was going to be held in McCormick Place, but then it burned down. DaMare wasn’t going to let that stop Chicago from holding the Democratic convention.
It would just have to be held in the ancient Chicago Amphitheater, instead, where the Fenwick Friars had whupped Crane Tech just four months before for the City title in basketball.
That summer Dan was getting himself some fat ass with a rich girl from River Forest. They were making out in her driveway when Bobby Kennedy was shot.
In 1968 the Republicans convened in Miami Beach. ABC had already signed Buckley up to comment, but he had to have an opponent, so ABC asked him for suggestions, and then ABC asked Buckley who did he not want to debate, and, stupidly, he replied. That he honestly replied Gore Vidal doesn’t matter. He was stupid.
Gore Vidal, the author of Myra Breckenridge.
Dan was trying to reconcile himself with this society and culture, using William F. Buckley, Gas-man, and Jim Ryun as his guides, each of them blazing a path he could neither follow nor comprehend.
Ryun was training for the 1968 Olympics, or thought he was, but he was training for a race he had no chance of winning.
Nixon wasn’t a conservative. It was hard to say what he was.
The only problem with the protest was that there was no objective beyond just trying to fuck things up, and things were already fucked up. Kennedy and Johnson were half-ass liberals that seemed to have backed into a war that was stupid, evil, and un-winnable, and now they didn’t know how to get out.
At the Democratic Convention in the Ampitheater. Bill Ayers was caught up in Lenin and the Russian Revolution and Che Gueverra and Castro and the Cuban revolutionaries, so if the domino theory that left America waiting to be the last nation to fall like all the rest, was fundamentally silly, the fiery rhetoric of the SDS could easily give credence to middle class fears. The Reds were out to get them, and they are us.
It’s like Vietnam is this girl, and we both want to go with her, us and the Reds, so we say fine, let her choose who she wants to go with, but if she picks the Reds, we’re going to rape her and kill her.
Hell no, we won’t go.
If you don’t have a whole shitload of people chanting it, it’s not going to work. But if you’ve got a whole shitload of people and they’re chanting Hell No We Won’t Go, a real chorus of strong voices –
The peace movement, or antiwar movement, would by its nature be attractive to anyone who was just afraid to fight in a war, not to cast any aspersions.
You think the world revolves around you?
You mean do I see things from my own point of view? I’d kind of have to, wouldn’t I?
Dan did think the world revolved around him. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the world revolved around him at about a million miles a second. He was living in the eye of a cosmic hurricane, a tiny spec at the center of his own consciousness, while Bill Ayers was getting ready to kill someone.
You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
So, they took Dylan’s lyric as their anthem and called themselves the Weathermen, when the song plainly said you don’t need a weatherman.
The revolution was coming.
The world was in flames, devouring all the oppressed people everywhere, and we were going to save them.
That’s white of us.
I am the catcher in the rye.
Chairman Mao. The Weathermen carried his Little Red Book.
Bring the war home.
But if the troops, the soldiers, were warmongers and baby killers, why would you want to bring them home?
So they could become cops.
There was the War and there was the War against the War.
The SDS was studying The Blaster’s Handbook, learning to make bombs, to go along with the weapons of the street, brass knuckles, saps, garrotes.
Working class, my ass, that’s Mr. Ayers’ kid.
Do you have any idea how horrible this is?
War. Riots. Hate. Theft on the grandest of scales. Hypocrisy. Ignorance. Fear. Cowardice. What’s not to love about it?
Have a love-in.
And the terrible ghastly shit the Cong did to the Americans they captured?
That was as fucked up as anything.
Walter Cronkite said on the news: “It is more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in stalemate.”
“For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. This summer’s almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation; and for every means we have to escalate, the enemy can match us, and that applies to invasion of the North, the use of nuclear weapons, or the mere commitment of one hundred, or two hundred, or three hundred thousand more American troops to the battle. And with each escalation, the world comes closer to the brink of cosmic disaster.” -Walter Cronkite February 27, 1968
Sweden was haven for draft dodgers. Johnson recalled the US ambassador to Sweden in March of 1968.
The 60s started out with Kennedy president, but that didn’t last for long. Johnson had to finish Kennedy’s term. Then Johnson ran against Goldwater and clobbered him. But the next four years were enough to make Johnson puke, that is, to make him quit. He didn’t seem to be able to get us out of the mess that Kennedy had gotten us into in Vietnam.
So, Johnson quit after one term.
Bobby Kennedy runs for president and gets killed. Gene McCarthy is for peace, but the nomination goes to Humphrey, who wants to keep the war going.
Welcome to Chicago.
Ten thousand protesters were coming to Chicago for the convention, and they wanted to know where they were permitted to protest. Demare told them Nowhere.
LBJ had said we were living in a Great Society. It was great enough to reach across the world into southeast Asia to help people out.
Far, far beyond their village in America, Oak Park, the former Saints Rest, the Largest Village in the World, there were gooks, who were akin to chinks and japs, to be added to the list of despised races, which amounted to all that were not white.
There were no permits granted for camping overnight in Lincoln Park, like the Boy Scouts used to do, so the 11pm curfew was going to be enforced. It was going to be enforced, as the saying went, like ten men!
There were 25,000 Chicago cops, plus the National Guard, and their orders, apparently, were to beat the living shit out of everybody. They weren’t about to let the would-be rioters beat them to the punch. The police rioted first.
Dan watched the riots on TV, just like people in France and Miami and Timbuktu watched it, in wonderment. But for Dan there was a personal attachment. Wow, that’s happening right downtown. Yet none of it touched him. Heads were being busted in Lincoln Park and along Michigan Avenue, but Dan was safe, with his short hair and his Fenwick blazer, white-collared shirt, tie, dark trousers, with a belt, and cuffs, 21 minutes away from the Loop by el, in Oak Park, beyond the cul-de-sacs along Austin Boulevard, but Father Farrell was going down there, down into the inner-city to save souls, like that priest in that old movie where the ship was sinking or the building was on fire and people were trapped and doomed and there was no getting them out or rescuing them, and somebody tried to stop the priest from rushing headlong right the hell in there, because he wasn’t going to save anybody’s life, they were all going to die, but he was going the hell in there anyway because he was going to baptize people before they died so their souls could go to heaven.
Don’t go in there, father! For the Love of God, don’t go in there!
For the Love of God, I am going in there.
Now there was one selfless act.
Selfless and saintly and stupid.
This could not have been the way the world looked to Dan’s mother, because she was the mother of a son in combat, and on the front door of the brick house on the corner of Euclid and Van Buren, by which all must pass on their way to church, hung the emblem and star that meant a soldier came from here.
Once the gas spread over the park the kids grabbed at anything they could get their hands on to throw at the cops, stones, bottles, concrete from the potholes in the street.
The fucking Quakers led a march that was stopped at 39th Street and Halsted.
You have no idea how much shit is going to go down right here right now.
The Yippies fanned out in all directions, spreading the cops’ forces thinner.
Wednesday night was the Massacre on Michigan Avenue, and it was on TV. It started in Grant Park. The only way out was on to Michigan Avenue.
The whole world is watching.
Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut was saying: “The turmoil and violence is competing with this great convention for the attention of the American people.”
And then he said something about the cops using Gestapo tactics, and Demare’s face turned purple and he blew up.
Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch, you lousy motherfucker, go home!
The lousy was particularly Chicago.
Dump the Hump.
Dick Nixon before Nixon Dicks you!
Vidal called Buckley a Nazi. Buckley called Vidal a queer, as if they were equivalent pejoratives, balled his fist and threatened to punch him, thereby completely losing the argument and, worse, losing his famous cool, his signature sangfroid.
Buckley had lost a fight. He would never be the same. He would never recover.
“A revolutionary with a taste in wine has already come half the distance from Marx to Burke.” – Mailer
In 68 the Republicans came back into power. Nixon was in charge.
Nixon, the President, was a Republican. President Eisenhower was a Republican and he had been a five-star general and he had led the invasion of Normandy, had been the leader of the allied forces against the Nazis. All was well. It would never be better than that. Those were the good old days of yore, the likes of which would ne’er be seen again, the bullshit of 1952 to 1960, all there in black and white.
A flower child was putting a flower in the gun barrel of a helmeted soldier.
A hundred thousand French soldiers died in Vietnam before the French got the hell out, before the French learned that imperialism was over.
Still, the spread of Communism had to be stopped.
A separate peace – that was the notion that one could tell the rest of the world to fuck off. Unfortunately, no one in the world was in a position to do that successfully.
Go to Canada.
The smell of pot was in the air, strong and sweet enough to be inviting. There was weed and free love and anarchy, or there was a crew-cut and see how many of you could fit into a phone booth with Dobie Gillis and Maynard G. Krebs and Jed Clampett, and Dan wanted to squeeze in next to Judy Carne in her miniskirt.
In the summer of 1969 Charlie Manson sent his followers out on their killing spree.
In Chi there had already been the black and white version, Richard Speck’s Night of the Nurses.
Roman Polanski’s Repulsion was playing at the Clark Theater,
Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge, with a girl in the car, and he left her there, at the bottom of a lake in July of 69.
There was a massacre at Mi Lai. Lieutenant William Calley took the fall for it.
In 1969 Norman Mailer was running for Mayor of NYC.
The senior class showed its thinking with two subversive and subsequently banned t-shirts, one said Class of ‘69, and the other said Fenwick Beaver Patrol. That was the extent of the rebellion against authority.
How the hell did the Republicans come up with Nixon? Sure, Goldwater had been demolished, but Nixon?
Nixon had been lurking in the background the whole time, since 1952 when Ike chose him for his running mate.
The Black Panthers, and other Black militants, and Black protesters were out for justice, not peace, so they weren’t joining up with the peace movement, they were joining the anti-war movement. Their fight wasn’t with the Viet Cong, it was with Bull Connor.
Instead of remembering it, the scenes would unfold as they happened, in all their newness and strangeness and surprise and ignorance and naivete. Something happening. Imperfect. Going on.
If you were a Frenchman, you saw the USA moving into Vietnam after your compatriots had ignominiously slinked out.
The French have a somewhat older culture. Ed Fenwick could have told you about that. Culture, that is. Western values. The French were old hands at imperialism, and here came the Yanks, while back in America the Blacks were rioting in the cities and the general population was marching on the Pentagon.
Catholicism was not just of Chartres or even the Pieta and the Sistine ceiling and Gregorian chant and all the monks, particularly the Irish, preserving the great texts, but Catholic culture, from burning people alive at the stake for heresy to burning them with napalm and gasoline jell.
It was oppressive, the weight of all those centuries, and it was meant to be oppressive because the whole enterprise was a power play.
In Vietnam 58,000 US soldiers would die, and who knows how many Vietnamese?
No one knows.
Somebody must know. Somebody must have some idea, somebody must have a pretty good damn idea because we’re not talking about people who got wiped out by the plague in the middle ages, these are modern people.
They live in rice paddies.
You don’t eat rice? We’re invading their country. How else can you see it? They didn’t invade us. They can’t invade us. They’re never going to invade us. They didn’t attack us.
What is this, isolationism? That never works. Can’t just quit and go home.
Let them run their own damn country. Let them be communists if they want to be. What the hell do we care?
Bill Ayers didn’t want to fight in the war either, but there was a difference; Bill Ayers didn’t want the war being fought. He was going to do something about it. Dan didn’t do anything, and Bill Ayers would end up getting someone killed in his misguided attempt to stop the war.
Things got misguided.
Who was guiding them?
What was guiding them?
Bill Ayers and his band of desperados were leading the assault on the cops. Dirty tricks. They weren’t just there to protest the war; they were there to fuck things up too.
They’re comin’ here from other places, sez DeMare
To choose between Nixon and Humphrey, between war and war, was no choice at all.
Dan wasn’t old enough to vote. You had to be 21 to vote. And since he couldn’t vote, what did it matter? Either way, the war was going to go on.
Dan didn’t protest the war. His big brother was fighting in the war.
He wasn’t fighting – he was flying.
He ever fire a shot in anger?
Ever fire a shot?
Doesn’t talk about it. He was flying a helicopter; he wasn’t shooting at anybody.
One time his brother said something about the war, he said that you never get over the shock that someone you don’t even know is trying to kill you.
On the surface, absurd. Why are you shocked – you’re invading their fucking country? But on the sensory level, this is the way the human mechanism reacts to war and it is not good.
None of it is.
“These people come here from other places.” – DeMare
There was nothing lower to say of someone in Chicago.
America was Dan’s fucked-up country, but it wasn’t even America, even that was bullshit. It was the United States of America, which was a country in North America, along with Canada, and why weren’t the Canadians Americans too? And what about Central America, South America? Americans all, no?
Jim Thorpe, All-American.
Bill Ayers, Mr. Ayers’ son, was with the SDS, and the plan was to provoke a response from the pigs, and it would play on TV.
About a million Vietnamese people were going to be murdered, but no one was going anywhere. It wasn’t like we were out to conquer Vietnam, drive the enemy out and take over. The enemy was not going anywhere. The enemy was just waiting for us to leave.
A little Vietnamese girl was running naked down a country road, screaming and crying because she’d been coated with a gasoline-jell that was incinerating her, and she had her picture taken, and that was what the enemy looked like.
Bomb them into the stone age.
Gooks. It didn’t take long. One day nobody even knows what Vietnam is, let alone where it is, the next day we’re fighting a war there and calling the people who live there gooks.
1969 would be Nixon’s first year as President. He’d been hanging around for nearly 20 years and now he was in charge.
Some men left the earth entirely and went to the moon. Kennedy had sent them there.
From September of 1951 to August of 1969, 18 years, from birth and infancy to early childhood, to being a young boy, to a boy on the cusp of puberty, to young manhood, all while the world was spinning madly, more and more out of control, which means only that the more and more indicated that the out of control nature of things had been pre-existent, pre-1951, in a world where a serious attempt could be made to eliminate an entire race of human beings, only to be stopped short of its goal by the allied forces of nations themselves built on slavery and genocide. These were no good old days. There were no good old days.
You tried to kill yourself.
No I didn’t.
That was a suicide attempt, and, fortunately, you failed.
The fuck? I was just trying to see how fast I could go.
All the way to heaven.
Perchance to dream.
Wake the fuck up.
September 5, 1969. My Lai Verdict. Not much. Calley would be out of prison by 1974.
October 5, 1969, the SDS blew up the statue of a policeman that had been erected on the site of the Haymarket Riot, and this royally pissed off Demare.
Dan was coming of age in the Affluent Society, where it was natural to act like an arrogant asshole. That was Dan’s excuse, one of Dan’s excuses.
Stop the spread of communism.
Exactly how do you propose to do that?
By sending in troops.
By force? And that’s going to what?
Communism was something you could fight. We had stopped the spread of fascism in just this way. All it took was World War Two.
So that was how and why his brother was going to wind up in Vietnam, flying a helicopter.
Otto Kerner, Demare’s Republican Governor, headed up a report on race riots that said: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal.” The report came out on February 29, 1969.
SDS was blowing up something just about every day now.
The casualty count in Vietnam that day: 21 enemy dead, no weapons recovered, no American casualties. A good day.
Burn your draft card.
Dan didn’t have a draft card, he wasn’t even 18 yet, and besides he was going to college, the war had nothing to do with him.
The one on TV.
Turn it off.
That was why he drove the car like that. He was trying to escape his own mind, not just the swirling universe of war and chaos and God and body and mind, but his own particular involvement, what he’d done, and all that he was miserably incapable of doing, what he was guilty of, his cowardice, his loneliness, his pride, selfishness, greed, cruelty. He was everything that was wrong, and he was sorry, he was sad, he was pathetic.
No draft card? Don’t worry about it. Have a drink.
Turned out to be a safe way to try to kill yourself.
But, physically, not a scratch on you.
An indelible mark.
In your mind,
On your soul.
In the mind of the SDS, blowing shit up would make the government stop the war.
That all they want, that all they’re trying to do?
They didn’t want the war to come to an end, they wanted it to just stop, freeze, and then disappear.
The war was going to end, if you could call that stopping it, but it wasn’t going to stop in the middle. It wouldn’t stop until the end.
Dan was the middle child of a middle-class family in the middle of the cold war in the middle of the Vietnam War, in the middle, being as close to the getting in as the getting out. Another thirty-thousand troops would have to die first, after another mind-blowing psychedelic orgy of death and rancor and mind-body split, insanity, car crashes, cigarettes, booze, broads, Beatles, breakdowns, beatings and whole lot of laughs, sick laughs, desperate laughing, exhaustive laughing and braying, until it would finally peter out and the last helicopter and would take off from the roof of the embassy in Saigon, and Ho Chi Minh would win, Vietnam would win, what was left of it, but that wouldn’t come until the end, and this was just the middle. Not knowing that it was the middle only made it worse.
Poor schmucks. Think they’re going to stop the war.
Poor schmucks. Think they’re going to win the war.
They were both dead wrong.
Of course life is tragic – we die.