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My Books

This is the post excerpt.

I have been writing since I was six years old. I now have four novels and seventeen stories in print. Adelaide Books in New York will publish my latest novel, Secretocracy, early in 2020.

My first published book, Friendly Casualties, was a novel in short stories derived from experiences in the 13 years I trundled between the U.S. and Vietnam to provide signals intelligence support to U.S. Army and Marine combat units fighting in South Vietnam. The first half of the book is a series of short stories in which characters from one story reappear in another. The second half is a novella that draws together all the preceding tales.

No-Accounts came from my years of caring for AIDS patients. It tells the story of a straight man caring for a gay man dying of AIDS. I got into helping men with AIDS to help me cope with the horrors of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. When I was with my patients, men suffering more than I was, my unbearable memories went dormant.

Next came The Trion Syndrome. It begins with the Greek Trion legend about a demigod so brutal to the vanquished that the gods sent the Eucharides, three female monsters, to drown him. The protagonist, Dave Bell, is haunted by half-remembered visions of the war in Vietnam. At his lowest point, he recalls that he killed a child. Dave considers suicide, but a young man appears and helps him. It is his illegitimate son, a child he had tried to kill through abortion, who now helps him find his way home.

Last of the Annamese was published in March 2017. I used this novel to confront my memories of the fall of Saigon from which I escaped under fire. Once again, the image of the boy-child recurs, as the protagonist, Chuck Griffin, a retired Marine, grieves over the loss of his son, killed in combat in Vietnam. He returns to Vietnam as a civilian intelligence analyst after the withdrawal of U.S. troops and encounters Vietnamese boys whom he tries to save during the conflagration.

Secretocracy tells the story of an federal intelligence budgeteer persecuted by the current administration because he refuses to approve finds for an illegal operation.

 

Nefertiti

Featured on the chest in my piano room is a bust of the Egyptian queen, Nefertiti. The piece is a representation of the head and neck, about nine inches tall on a black base three inches in height. It is entirely black and is missing the headpiece featured in the famous bust of Nefertiti in the Neues Museum in Berlin. Instead, the queen appears in this representation as completely bald. The beauty in the bust rests entirely in the face and the shape of the head.

And it is unquestionably beautiful. I so often pause in my daily routine to admire the exquisite proportions of the head and face, the layout of the features, the peacefulness in its perfect balance.

Nefertiti lived from about 1370 to 1330 BC. She was the wife of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh who launched a religious revolution, replacing the traditional polytheism of ancient Egypt with monotheism and the worship Aten, the sun disc. Nefertiti eventually abandoned the religion of Aten and was banished by Akhenaten. She committed suicide in grief over the loss of her daughter.

Her name means “the beautiful one is come.” That is certainly fitting. Her bust is arguably the most beautiful of the multitude of artistic pieces I have throughout my house. In her quiet beauty, she dominates the piano room.

Her presence in my house reflects my fascination with the history of ancient Egypt during my youth. The Egyptian empire lasted three thousand years before it became a province of Rome in 30 BC coincident with the suicide of Cleopatra. I marveled that any civilization could exist with relative cohesion longer than the anno domini (AD) period which began 2,020 years ago.

But the beauty of Nefertiti, who lived more than three thousand years ago, is eternal. As long as there are human beings to appreciate beauty, she will be admired.

My Soul Has a Hat

A couple of years ago, my friend Grady Smith sent me the text of a poem called, “My Soul Has a Hat.” I posted it at the time. Grady has sent me the text again. Again I was deeply moved. So here it is one more time:

Beautifully written by Mario de Andrade (San Paolo 1893-1945) Poet, novelist, essayist and musicologist. One of the founders of Brazilian modernism.

__________________________

MY SOUL HAS A HAT

I counted my years and realized that I have less time to live by, than I have lived so far.

I feel like a child who won a pack of candies: at first he ate them with pleasure but when he realized that there was little left, he began to taste them intensely.

I have no time for endless meetings where the statutes, rules, procedures and internal regulations are discussed, knowing that nothing will be done.

I no longer have the patience to stand absurd people who, despite their chronological age, have not grown up.

My time is too short: I want the essence, my spirit is in a hurry. I do not have much candy in the package anymore.

I want to live next to humans, very realistic people who know how to laugh at their mistakes and who are not inflated by their own triumphs and who take responsibility for their actions. In this way, human dignity is defended and we live in truth and honesty.

It is the essentials that make life useful.

I want to surround myself with people who know how to touch the hearts of those whom hard strokes of life have learned to grow with sweet touches of the soul.

Yes, I’m in a hurry. I’m in a hurry to live with the intensity that only maturity can give.

I do not intend to waste any of the remaining desserts. I am sure they will be exquisite, much more than those eaten so far.

My goal is to reach the end satisfied and at peace with my loved ones and my conscience.

We have two lives and the second begins when you realize you only have one.

End of quote.

Why I Have PTSI (3)

PTSI never goes away. The memories never fade. In the early years, I was subject to panic attacks, flashbacks, irrational rages, nightmares, and depression. But over time, I have trained my emotions so that these days I can face the memories more calmly. I still have nightmares and sometimes crying jags, but for the most part, I’m rational.

Just as my corpsman friend wrote about his PTSI to help him cope and, especially, to help others affected by it, I’m now preparing to speak publicly about my own case and how I manage. I need to do presentations on my PTSI for my own good—it’s another way I can force myself to face my affliction—but primarily because it can help others. Those suffering from PTSI rarely speak of it publicly. They believe they are the only ones cursed with unspeakable memories and are ashamed. When they discover that they are part of a brotherhood of afflicted men, they are better able to handle themselves and their malady.

When I talk to others with PTSI, I’ll emphasize the importance of taking pride in their service to their country. Their struggle comes from wounds that created scars of honor. They put their lives on the line for the good of their country. They have every right to be proud of their service.

So do I.

Why I Have PTSI (2)

I called those who died by my side in combat men. They were really boys, eighteen and nineteen years old. Some had never before been away from home when were drafted or enlisted. Some looked to me like they had barely started shaving. They considered me, then in my late twenties and early thirties, an old man.

And then there was the enemy. The North Vietnamese soldiers were as young or younger than the American soldiers, and they looked like children. They were much smaller than the Americans. It felt like we were fighting and killing little kids. And their deaths were as gruesome as those of the Americans.

One incident I can talk about. Through signals intelligence, I targeted an enemy unit. Our side was victorious. After the clash was over, we went to the spot where the unit had been deployed. Most of the bodies were gone—the North Vietnamese made a point of taking their dead and wounded from the battlefield. But we found one body. It was a little guy—he wouldn’t have come up to my shoulder standing tall. In his pocket, I found a letter. Since I knew Vietnamese, I was able to read it. It was from his wife in North Vietnam. With it were snapshots of a tiny smiling woman holding a grinning toddler. I had been instrumental in killing a young father.

During the fall of Saigon, it was the ghastly deaths of civilians that stained my soul. People were trampled to death by panicking mobs. Others died from North Vietnamese artillery shelling. I was caught in the shelling. It damaged my hearing. Ever since, I’ve had to wear hearing aids.

More tomorrow.

Why I Have PTSI

I’ve just completed editing on an article on Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) by a former Navy corpsman who served with the Marines in Vietnam in 1967. In the article he describes what he went through on the battlefield that left his soul in tatters. During the final read-through of the edited article, I remembered questions readers of this blog have asked me: what happened to me that caused my own case of PTSI?

Most of it I still can’t bring myself to talk about. The events that wounded my psyche came from my repeated signals intelligence support to troops in combat, both Marine and army, all over south Vietnam, between 1964 and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam in 1973; and from living through the fall of Saigon in April 1975, escaping under fire after the North Vietnamese were already in the streets of the city.

Men fighting by my side were killed in ways so grisly that only those who have experienced combat can understand. Sometimes so little was left of them that the survivors were hard put to find enough to put in a body bag.

One of the factors in my PTSI is that I was so emotionally close to the men who were killed. The strongest bond I have ever experienced is that between men who fight side by side on the battlefield. These were men I was living with, sleeping on the ground next to them, sharing C-rations with them, using their latrines, going into combat with them. To have them so hideously killed by my side shook my grip on sanity.

More tomorrow.

Corporations That Pay No Tax

At least 60 of the nation’s biggest corporations paid no federal income taxes in 2018 on a collective $79 billion in profits, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) reports. I have no figures for 2019, but the numbers haven’t gone down any.

ITEP reported that the following companies paid no federal taxes in 2018: Netflix, Amazon, Chevron, Delta Airlines, Eli Lilly, General Motors, Gannett, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Halliburton, IBM, Jetblue Airways, Principal Financial, Salesforce.com, US Steel, and Whirlpool. The complete list is at https://itep.org/notadime.

I reported a day ago that our national debt is now bigger than out gross national product. One reason that the well-to-do and corporations pay little to no tax is the $1.5 trillion tax cut of 2017.

Isn’t it time for the American people to do the math and elect a Congress and president who will take steps to correct this appalling situation?

The U.S. National Debt

An emergency I never hear about is our national debt. By the end of 2019, it had exceeded $23.16 trillion—federal debt held by the public at the end of the year was $17.26 trillion and intragovernmental holdings were $5.9 trillion. That means that our national debt is now bigger than our gross domestic product. That hasn’t been the case since the end of World War II . Interest payments on the debt are now estimated to be 8.7% of all federal outlays.

Part of the reason is the $1.5 trillion tax cut of 2017 that decreased the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Another reason is the continued addition of more and more spending.

Meanwhile, in less than 20 years, the Social Security Trust Fund won’t have enough to cover the retirement benefits promised to our aging population. That could mean higher taxes because the high U.S. debt rules out further loans from other countries, but a Republican Congress is more likely to curtail benefits than raise taxes.

In short, we Americans have a serious problem on our hands. The sooner we reduce government spending and/or raise taxes, the better. We’ll need to proceed with care.