Friday, October 28, 2011

Bear under the Snow

(Causes of the Vietnam War, a Personal View)

The Vietnam War was a ten-year rainstorm, one I experienced for one tenth of it (and got a decoration for). It carried us, as if to the moon, as if the moon had dropped on us. It infected the community, everyday life; it also gave some of us, excitement (as it had for me), but many funerals, 56,000-American funerals, over 5,000 a month. It gave us new and daily sounds over the radio, and television, and the full actual sounds of war, I would get to hear, in 1971.
The political power of the day embodied us all; it killed JFK, and brought the war even closer to our living rooms. As the world turned at the United Nations, behind closed doors, in our Congress, right up to the Oval Office, politicians and industry discussed its merits (its intrinsic worth) for ten-years. We had many dragons in our flag. Thus, the storm continued unabated.
We all looked at each other—back then (us soldiers), as if we were young blind owls in the night, once confident Americans, now feeling abandonment and estrangement because of the nature of the war. And the people of the nation, my nation the ones that commanded us to fight it, behind our backs, cussed us, called us baby killers, told us to go to Canada, spit at us: damned if we ran, damned if we stayed and fought.
My story is not quite like most of the other soldiers’ stories in Vietnam. I didn’t question if the war was right or wrong, I just went, matter of fact, I had taken some jungle training in Washington State, when the doctors discovered my toes on my right foot had been smashed from a bomb falling on it in Augsburg, West Germany a few months prior—as a result, I became unfit for war. I did not have to go to Vietnam, —because I would not be able to run well enough. However, I wanted to go so I kept my old orders as they were cutting new ones, and jumped on the plane to Vietnam: I wanted the experience of being in a war, I had filled my veins with patriotic fever, and the travel seemed exciting. I was a silly boy back then.
There was a hostile spirit in the core of America, so I discovered during this time—being from the Midwest, I never noticed it until I started traveling, for the Army; this spirit, I do believe created a defeated attitude among us in Vietnam. Again, I suppose I was different, single, no one back home—for the most part, but many a soldier cried in the night, wanting to go home, be with his wife, children, even some cried for their mothers, this created a storm of drug related soldiers. I saw them come in healthy, and three months later, they were on every drug available. Soldiers not wanting to be soldiers do not make for good soldiers.
President Johnson had taken the 34,000-troops that President Kennedy had sent to Vietnam, American soldiers of war—sent them home, and replaced them with 500,000-soldiers, new ones (much like Obama has done, shifting soldiers like toys in the Middle East; and all remains quiet in the White House.) What can you say to a man like that, like Johnson? Only the devil knows.
Pickled and indecisive Americans, we were all of that and more back in the early late sixties and early seventies. Actually, Nixon was the only one who wanted to stop the fighting, and started bombing Hanoi, and had we continued, we would have won the war (without shame, or dishonor), but again, America screamed and howled at our barbarism, which it was, but we were fighting barbarians. Nixon sent home 300,000-Americans by end of 1971. Those 300,000 were part of Johnson’s scheme for the American Iron Horse, American Industry, and the real barbarians who kept the war going. It was a commercial war, costing the American Government—not one dime, we made up the paper money as if it was wallpaper; oiled the money machines night and day: it cost over nine-billion dollars—devaluing the dollar worldwide, as we have done today, are doing right now, with the two wars going on in the Middle East. Equal perhaps, at today’s inflated rate, Vietnam would have cost 105-billion. In comparison, Iraq has cost us 700-billion, a war like Vietnam, of no crisis for America.
I went to fight communism. I believed in America, only to find out the cold hearts and thin shadows of the emperors of America’s industrialization had designed the war to last, or last longer. By proxy, that is to say, to fight a war in another country—a playground war sort of—instead of fighting one another (the Russians and Chinese), in our own backyards, and profit by it. In addition, in the process we destroyed the ecosystem of Vietnam, which was nearly equal to that of the Amazon, along with killing three-million Vietnamese inhabitants.
Let me add, Agent Orange killed a good friend of mine, among others of course, and genetically altered and lowered the life span of a million other American soldiers (out of the ten million sent to Vietnam), perhaps even my system was infected, who’s to say. In any case, during its usage and years later, a grasshopper was not safe to live in the environment, and for ten years after the war, defected children were born because of the massive usage of chemicals by America. Therefore, Vietnam was also a testing ground for new biological warfare (not much different from Saddam Hussein, who used it on the Kurds, and we scorned him for it).
The industrial machines of America was at full capacity in the mid to late ‘60s and early ‘70s: cranes, jeeps, wings for planes, bullets for rifles, and helicopters: trains filled up with rations: beef and butter, vegetables and fruits, all to feed those ten-million soldiers rotating yearly. It was an industrial heyday for America’s Kings of Industry (they ruled the political system).

The executives of industry knew nothing of leaping over bodies, digging holes in the dirt to hide one’s face from incoming rockets, the scrap metal, metal fragments displaced, and flying everywhichway (they quickly sent their children to college so they’d not have face the torrents of war). During one attack, a piece of metal the size of my fist, and bulky like a round smooth rock, red hot, passed flying by my cheek during a rocket attack, I moved an inch, seeing it come, and it missed me.
We were not baby killers—although babies—truth be told, in every war are killed, that is a fact, a reality of war—I do not know of any wars where they were not killed—consequently, we were just soldiers fighting a barbaric war, and trying to win it. We wanted to triumph, but no one back home did. Back home in the good old U. S. A., (figuratively speaking) they were all like happy fish, smiling at us as worms’ dangling on a hook, ready to be eaten one way or another. The very ones that called us baby killers were the ones who worked for the war machines. The factories, the food chain, the trains, the airports and transportation system in general, why didn’t they all go on strike, quite their jobs, hence, the war would have stopped abruptly—they made their living off the war and once it stopped unemployment rose to over six percent, from nearly zero. I remember because I was part of that unemployed era. Therefore, I suppose it was a Catch-22 for them, as it was for us in winning the war.
Vietnam was a cup of darkness poured over our heads. We were all invaders, if not terrorists, in some country, someone else’s country, that we were supposed to bring freedom to—where we didn’t belong, in which self-determination never came for the South. Constitutionally, the White House considered the Vietnam War a ‘Conflict’ thus giving the war justification to continue. Put another way, the only wars that were a crisis to America in the 20th and 21st Centuries, were WWII and Afganistan. No other wars of this period were politically or constitutionality correct and that came into play for Vietnam. It had to be justified. Of course, today, everything comes under the heading of National Security—hence, truth be told, we are fighting wars for world domination, not for America’s safety—which is fine if only we’d admit it, instead of pretending otherwise; we want to be placed strategically—which is obvious to the world that surrounds America, but not Americans per se.
For the soldiers the war was a jagged and heavy stone, one, no one could move, we were like a bear under the snow, we could not move any which way. We were like blind-owls in the night, blind to the ministers and department heads of American industry. We could not bomb this area or that area, or fight over here or over there, we had to shoot over the rubber trees or around it, do not shoot the enemy if they are in it. Do not shoot the enemy when they are stuck in the barbwire fences, which allows them to escape and live another day to kill more Americans. There were too many rules for us, and none for the enemy. We could not figure this out, that this was not a war to be won (because we could have easily won it; we had the manpower, the firepower, and the airpower, and even sea power—sailing about in the South China Sea; but the Americans and the political system and industry, did not have the willpower. In a way, we never lost the war per se; we simply got tired of it and walked away). No one could win a war anyhow, with such rules and such deviation among Americans—; they made such policies run ramped in our heads. These were either people who never fought a war, or people who were a lot smarter than us, who profited by it, and could care less if we won or lost, and who got killed in the process. This was America’s industrial and political way of thinking (God forbid, but the truth resides in the graveyards of America, in a so-called lost war, and in the devastation of Vietnam).
Anyhow, this is the way I see it, forty years later.

Conclusion (afterthoughts):

In closing, let me say, the first Americans created a civilization. The second developed it. The third, my generation perhaps yours also, we inherited it. Moreover, we tried to protect it, often like barbarians. However, as one can see it is a dying gift, to the future Americans. Unbelievably, barbarism is always around a civilization, especially if you intend to fight wars. Its center theme is to engulf its people by arms. Barbarism never admits its defeat, it will wait, and wait, outwait peace for war, like American Industry. Vietnam, it was a bloody war, from bloodthirsty barbarians in our country, ruled by a bloody city called Washington D.C., by a vicious, cold calculating ruler called Johnson who gave a free hand to our industrial barons to use the political system as they wished. Johnson, —the mightiest of the rulers of his day, now long dead of course, and mostly forgotten, under drifting sands, and all the better for us Americans.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Creating of the story: “The Cotton Belt”


The Story “The Cotton Belt,” started out in episodes, it started with its first episode called: “Old Josh from Ozark, Alabama” (1862), and written on 8-14-2005, thus, the character of Old Josh, was created and molded forevermore, and soon after that, his image was drawn; whereupon, his two sons, Silas and Jordon came into the picture. Old Josh was never meant to be a book, or novel on its own. Between August 8, 2005 and the last episode, the 85th “Jes’ a Damn Nigger” June 20, 2009, the character had gone through a paramount amount of changes.
The book “The Cotton Belt,” which is a book within a book, and perhaps the main book, slowly developed its characters and images. In November of 2008, Granny Mae came into picture in “Grits and Eggs”. The Toad Races down at Leastways Downs came in, while writing episode No: 18, on January 24, 2006. The two headed rat came in, in episode, 84, 6-19-2009, where after, the following day, the last episode would be written. Amos, was somewhere in the background, but became more pronounced in “Who’s Blacker” episode 77, written 1-20-2009, and of course in Episode No: 39, we see Amos Jackson hung, written, 2-20-2008, both used for the novel. On 2-7-2007, the “Elegy for Josh” was written. Even though the date of his death had changed in the novel, as to the episodes, and where Ashley was just a passing figure, that Silas had, once upon a time, during the writing of “The Cotton Belt,” in 2010-11, she became more significant for the story.
In episode three, “Chatting in the Barn,” Silas became a speaking figure and his personality was created, which would be profound throughout the following episodes, on 8-14-2005. Jordon took a backseat to Silas, and only in the novel itself he became a more pronounced figure.
In “Josh Goes Fishing” episode nine, written 9-2005, we see Josh’s thinking more clearly, his old age orneriness. In episode ten, “Laying Sick in Bed,” we see Josh can have affairs, or a liking for the opposite sex at his older age, written also in September of 2005. So you see the character of Old Josh was laid out for the book, “The Cotton Belt,” long before the story was put together as a whole, in 2010 and 2011. Consequently, this one book out of six that make up the saga took the bulk of the time in creating the saga, seven years to be exact—whereupon the author molded the stories into a novelette, or short novel, and connected them with the other five books.

As these episodes went on year after year, the characters became more and more, such as, Abram Boston, Josh’s brother-in-law, although brief in the novel, he had a few episodes to endure, born 1789, who is the brother to Rebecca Boston Jefferson, otherwise known as ‘Sweet Pea’ Josh’s ex wife, by common-law marriage. Sheriff Parker (1840…), comes into the picture, but is never pronounced as a leading character, although in the book, his character is more obvious than in the episodes. Elmer Barchans, who owns a plantation ten-miles from the Hightower’s, never is shown but once, and then comes out at the end, in the book “The Old Folks,” that is to say, he never is developed in the episodes nor in the book all that much. Otis Fargo, the bartender is similar to the Barchans, he is, but he isn’t, I mean he is always far-off in the distance.
The Abernathy family does not come out much in the episodes, but much more in the Novel, developed in “The Vanquished Plantations”, as are the Smiley’s. The Stanley’s seen more in “The Cotton Belt”.

In the first story of the saga, “The Tobacco Kings,” which was really the third book in the six book saga, became the first book, more of an introduction to the some of the new and old characters of the Old Josh episodes, such as the Ritt’s who had been in the previous episodes, but briefly, and now, in the saga, the Ritt family comes out in all six books, and as “The Tobacco Kings” is the prelude book to the saga, “The Old Folks,” is the later, or postscript, or afterthought. In-between, we have “The Cotton Belt,” and “The Vanquished Plantation,” and “Voices out of Saigon” written through out 2008, where Langdon Abernathy becomes one of the main characters in that story, if not the main character, and when all the books are combined, be becomes even a bigger figure, after Old Josh. But this is where a new flock of characters are developed, and some old ones used to keep the saga alive, as the Hightower’s in New Orleans, and second and third generations of the Jefferson’s, and Jackson’s. Also this the connecting of WWI with the War in Vietnam becomes clearer for the Abernathy family. Also where the destruction of the plantation life is severely noticed, and the novel moves from the South to Asia, to include Cambodia.

At this point, and through the story “The Vanquished Plantains,” this was also written in 2008 (for the most part) the story is updated from 1960, to 1965, whereas, “Voices out of Saigon,” comes afterwards, 1969 to 2012. But we see Langdon in his formative years, and the infamous Wallace Brothers, and the infusion of Abby Wallace as well, and North Caroline becomes as pronounced as Ozark, Alabama was in ‘The Cotton Belt.’ The Civil War is still in the background, and so is WWI (written about the Ammo Humpers in 6-2008), and the Vietnam War is developing. A lot of well developed chapter stories come out of this one book, as for “The Monster Hog,” and the “Demonic Wolf” in particular. This book within the saga, is second to the largest, I think “¨Voices out of Saigon,” might be the largest, and the shortest book being “The Tobacco Kings,” then the next shortest would be “The Old Folks,” which is really a follow-up, book, put in at the last minute, to show the reader what did happen to all those characters you’ve already read about, and the author never told you their end plight on planet earth.
In “Voices out of Saigon,” we have new characters again, as well as some old ones; such as: Cassandra Hightower of New Orleans, Henry Small, Linda Macaulay, Sergeant Carter, Langdon Abernathy, Amos, Vang, Zuxin, Ming and so on, and of course, Caroline Abernathy, Langdon’s mother, who seeks out Langdon in Saigon, being informed by Sergeant Carter, he is in ill health.

All in all, the saga consumes about 360-years, and is a most enduring ongoing story, which keeps the reader turning the pages. The book has 660 pages, and 140,000 words.