Mental/emotional Illness

I read something about Donald Trump’s statement regarding US veterans with PTSD. He implied they hadn’t been strong enough to handle the grim, manly realities of warfare.

This brought to mind my own severe case of PTSD, and I offer this little story as an answer to both Donald and Hillary. (It’s a very personal story, but as a hermit in the rainforest I enjoy a bit of anonymity.)

I spent 13 months in Vietnam. I wasn’t part of a combat unit, but a few times I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, especially during Tet Offensive in 1968. I came away from that experience with nightmare images and a bad drug habit.

But the nature of my trauma is based on what happened after Vietnam. I had another year to go in the army, and the army in its great wisdom and glory assigned me to the Honor Guard at Fort Sheridan, Ill.

We wore beautiful uniforms – white ascots at our throats, white cotton gloves and shiny, patent-leather boots. The weapons we carried were also beautiful – old M1s, with all metal parts chrome-plated, and a walnut stock.

It was our job to act as pallbearers and honor guard for the men and women killed in Vietnam. We carried the flag-draped caskets, blew the bugle and fired the 21-gun salute.

The most hated moment of every ceremony, at least for us, was handing over the American flag to the mother, or father, or brother, or sister, or son, or daughter. We held a lottery before each funeral, and the loser was charged with this unpleasant task.

I lost the lottery a few times. I stood next to the casket, a soldier alone, holding the American flag in my hands, surrounded by grieving Loved Ones. I heard and saw their anguish and rage, and I knew some of it was directed at me. And I shared it. I had seen the war, and the utter devastating meaninglessness of it. But I could never say this out loud, much less to mothers and fathers. My grieving was deep and private. In fact, this presentation by the Honor Guard was supposed to lend meaning to the death of their child and friend – even a sense of “heroism.”

I approached the mother, said my little piece about “a grateful and sympathetic nation” and handed over the flag. Most mothers hugged the flag to their chests and screamed.

Those of us on the Honor Guard absorbed these powerful and passionate feelings. I had my heart broken so many times it’ll never get put back together again. Even now, forty-seven years later, tears roll down my cheeks as I pound on this fucking keyboard.

It’s important to remember that each death caused by our military means that 50 or a 100 people go into a state of grief and anger. Think of all the funerals. Most Americans have no idea what their government is doing in their name.

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DOOM!

I’m a “Doomer.”

For the past few months I did research for a book I co-authored with a colleague at Arizona State. We read about economic conditions, social stratification, racism, sexism, neo-liberalism, consumerism, education, religion, war, nuclear weapons and climate change.

These are not joyful topics to dive into, but necessary to a fairly coherent awareness of social, political and environmental realities on Planet Earth. I came away from this experience with great sadness and anger.

During a recent trip to the US, these sentiments escaped naturally in conversations with friends and relatives. I learned quickly that no one wanted to hear it. I was called a “Doomer” by three different people.

The identity of “Doomer” is socially defined, but now that I’m a hermit again in the jungle, surrounded by plants and animals, I’m back to being Mike Loco – not necessarily doomed, but not saved either.

SNAKE TALE

We had a big rain storm last night. I changed the 5″ rain gauge once and it was filled again this morning — over 10″ of rain in less than 12 hours! Fortunately, we have the biggest drainage in the world right out in front. But the storm knocked out my Pelton system and I had to shut off the fridge, the freezer and lights. At 6 this morning I went up the mountain to investigate and discovered the rushing stream had completely covered the intake box with sand, rocks, leaves and branches.

I cleared away the debris and got the water flowing again. As I turned to go back home, I saw a huge boa constrictor passing on the trail only 3 feet in front of me. It was at least 9 feet long and 6 or 7″ thick — a beautiful animal. Although it surely saw me, it paid me no mind.

As the tail passed by me I reached out and stroked it. The snake reacted immediately — the whole body tensed, the head whipped around and rose up.

Whoa! I backed off . . . .

Syria

During a recent trip to the United States, I encountered friends who defended US intervention in Syria as “humanitarian.” Bashar Assad is a terrible dictator, they said, and he very badly mistreated some segments of his population. Therefore, according to this vocabulary of motives, US president Barack Obama has every right to demand that Mr. Assad “must go.”

These “humanitarian motives” are highly suspect. In the first place, the government lies. In the second place, the US has not only supported terrible dictators over the years, but also installed several terrible dictators.
The examples are many; Shah of Iran, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, several “regime changes” in Vietnam, and even Saddam Hussein, who was good buddies with the US for several years and received arms, cash and chemical weapons. The CIA coup against Allende in Guatemala in 1951 overturned a popularly elected government with a military junta, and for the next 30 years Guatemala was ruled by a succession of military dictatorships – by most estimates, killing over 100,000 people, many of them Mayan Indians.

The Shah of Iran ruled for over 20 years, helped by his deadly secret police SAVAK, which tormented, tortured and murdered all political opposition. Pinochet in Chile not only repressed and tortured his own population, but initiated the multi-country secret terrorist organization “Operation Condor” that murdered or “disappeared” an estimated 60,000 people.

These were terrible dictatorships, and all were supported by the US. It’s possible that Bashar Assad is also a terrible dictator. But that’s not his real crime. His real crime is that he’s an independent dictator – beyond the influence and power of the United States of America. And this is intolerable.

THE DANGEROUS BOOK BUSINESS

As a retired person I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life reading and writing. The last two years I was co-author of a non-fiction book which required lots of research and reading. The book will be published next month and we hope it’ll be used in a few universities.

While doing research for this book I was obliged to read other books and articles in a range of topics – education, consumerism, religion, climate change, war and neo-liberalism. I kept track of significant facts and ideas and filled my head with a smorgasbord of political and social science, along with chemistry, physics and climate science.

All this information spun together and coalesced into a hard nut of horror and panic. However, in writing for academia I had to be fairly restrained and sober. Also, I had to appear “objective” – that is, emotionally and politically neutral.

In this blog site, however, I can scream all I want!

What I scream is this: Millions of years of evolution, with humans and all life forms passing through various stages of development, all the ancient learning, arts and sciences, all the monuments to ourselves and the gods, all the achievements in innovation and invention, all the wars, all the love, hate, laughter and tears . . . now teeter on the edge of extinction.

This jerks my head around and turns my heart cold.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Me!

Hermitation is a strange condition. Of course, by its very nature, hermitation is an unknown situation and can only be experienced under very peculiar circumstances. For example, since a hermit passes nearly all his/her time without seeing or speaking to another human being, a particular environment is necessary – one with no people.

This happens to be my exact situation. There are no roads, no power lines, no phone lines anywhere near me. The nearest town is 40 kms upriver. There are a few neighbors scattered along the shoreline, but widely spaced – the nearest is half a kilometer away. Behind me are thousands of acres of primary rain forest.

Although I talk to no humans for long periods of time, I talk to myself fairly constantly, especially while engaged in mundane tasks such as cooking or cleaning or daily walks through the forest. During these times I talk quite a lot, scream sometimes, cry sometimes. I also talk to the animals and plants I live with. They’re good listeners, but rarely speak, and when they do it’s a language I don’t always understand.

Usually the talking helps organize my thoughts about a particular idea or analysis or related to work (writing). At other times, it’s simply a constant stream of free association – in essence, sheer nonsense. But occasionally this string of nonsense will hit on something truly hilarious and I’ll laugh all evening.

Even hermits can have fun . . .

CHICKENS: Part 3

For those of you who grew up on a farm, the following story may be commonplace. But for an urban boy born and raised, the only chickens I knew about where the ones in the pan or in the oven.

Since moving out into the country and living with animals, I’ve learned a few things about our chickens. For example, like most animals, they communicate with each other. Chickens can make a variety of sounds and I’ve noticed they make the same sounds in similar situations, which means these sounds have meaning.

Somehow a rooster knows when a hen wants to lay an egg, and he’ll help her find a place to lay. They’ll walk around, sometimes into the house, and when the rooster finds a likely place, he’ll show the hen. He’ll get into the corner or box and demonstrate to the hen where she should lay, all the while singing a soft, continuous cackle – almost like a chicken purring, if you can imagine that.

Then the hen will get into the assigned place, sit for a while – 15 to 25 minutes – and once she lays the egg she’ll jump up squawking, and the rooster crows, and nearly chickens holler and screech – a five minute congratulatory cluck fest for the new egg.

And if the box happens to be in the house, or in the kitchen, I only have to pick up the egg and crack it over the pan. It’s a good system. Special delivery, you might say . . . .