It’s Not Over Yet

In today’s Washington Post, Dana Milbank declares that “our long national nightmare is over”—Trump has been defeated in the election. Unfortunately, Trump will retain power until the inauguration on January 20, 2021. Trump, as of this morning, is still maintaining falsely that his defeat was the result of illegal voting. He now has made false claims of fraudulent ballots or unlawful mail-in ballots more than 150 times. He shows no signs of conceding the election.

Also in today’s Post is an editorial that warns of “a perilous interregnum,” that is, Trump’s lame-duck period. The piece echoes my warnings of yesterday that Trump is capable of dastardly vengeance and that legislators, particularly Republicans, must step up to rein in a vindictive defeated president.

So I call once again on my fellow Americans to be wary: it’s not over yet.

Trump Desperate

As the U. S. breaks records for new virus cases and as it becomes clearer hourly that Trump has lost the election, he is becoming hourly more frantic. His Thursday night lie-filled tantrum broadcast from the White House showed how fraught he is. What Americans must brace for is that he will be in power until the inauguration on January 20, 2021. That’s the better part of three months. What damage might Trump inflict for vengeance?

Most worrisome is that the majority of Republicans still remain silent in the face of Trump’s outlandish lies about the election. That makes them complicit in the huge damage Trump has done to the presidency and the country. Will they continue their quiet support if Trump seeks to ravage the nation?

And what might Trump do? The possibilities are limited only by the bounds on presidential power.

I believe that we are in serious danger.

Autumn Melancholy

When the days grow shorter and colder, the leaves change color and fall, and the sky becomes sharp and clear, I know it’s autumn. I know icy weather is ahead. I know it’s time for the heavy coat, muffler, and gloves. Fall is here, and winter’s not far behind.

During the thirteen years that I spent more time in Vietnam than in the U.S., I adapted to the tropical climate. Like most Americans there, I wore as little clothing as possible, due to the heat, and, over time, I got very tan. In the long term, my constant exposure to the sun led to skin cancer which I still cope with.

When I returned to the states, the weather felt quite cold to me. I bundled up and waited impatiently for the heat of summer. I’ve been doing that ever since. I’m not an autumn person.

But autumn means more than coldness. It means shortened times of daylight, more darkness, less time spent out of doors. Beyond all that, it brings with it an inherent sadness. My sense is that the dejection of autumn derives from seeing the season as a metaphor for the beginning of the end of life. That feeling was captured in “September Song” by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson:

Oh, it’s a long, long while

From May to December

But the days grow short

When you reach September

When the autumn weather

Turns the leaves to flame

One hasn’t got time

For the waiting game

Oh, the days dwindle down

To a precious few

September

November

And these few precious days

I’ll spend with you

These precious days

I’ll spend with you.

Coronavirus Pandemic: New Milestone

In our convulsions over the election, we have overlooked rising levels of coronavirus infection which threaten thousands more deaths in the U.S. Yesterday, for the first time, the number of new U.S. infections topped 100,000 and shows no signs of slowing. And hospitalizations have exceeded 50,000, the highest since early August.

While Trump’s defeat in the election seems assured, he will still hold power until the inauguration on January 20, 2021. He maintains that we have turned a corner on the pandemic and still does nothing at all to counter it despite rising numbers of sick and dying. The vulnerable among us have more than two months to get through with no prospect of action from the federal government to combat a disease that is decimating us.

So it’s up to us to survive with no assistance from our government. We must isolate ourselves, wear masks when in the presence of others, maintain social distancing (at least six feet), and wash our hands incessantly. I’ve been doing all that for seven months. I guess I can do it for another half year until the changes instituted by the Biden administration begin to take effect.

Meanwhile, things will get worse before they get better. And I, an aging man with a history of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), would likely die if I contracted the disease. It’s up to me and me alone to stay alive.

And you wonder why I didn’t vote for Trump?

Memories of Saigon (2)

Over the years, the French became fewer as Americans streamed in. American English replaced French as the second language of Vietnam, and Saigon gradually changed from a quiet town to a roaring city filled with American soldiers and natives anxious to make money by serving them.

Through it all, there was much in the city that I loved. In the center was a square dominated by the national assembly building. In the middle of the square was a statue that changed several times during my years in the city. The last time I saw it, the statue was of a single soldier standing tall. On one side of the square was the Caravelle Hotel, the Continental was on the other. Close by were the city hall, and the Rex, another of the half dozen luxury hotels in the middle of the city. The Majestic stood on the banks of the Saigon River a few blocks east of the town center.

By the 1970s, Saigon had started to decline. Less money was spent on the upkeep of the city. Street pavement became broken and rough. Buildings were allowed to disintegrate. Refugees thronged the streets. Poverty grew more obvious. Villas were not maintained and became dilapidated. By the time the city fell to the communists in April 1975, it was a mere ghost of its former self.

During my last tour in Vietnam, my offices were in the building that had housed the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). That organization was dissolved in 1973 when U.S. troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, and the building was taken over by the Defense Attaché Office. It was located on the northern edge of Saigon in an area called Tan Son Nhat. I’ve told the story earlier in this blog of my escape after the North Vietnamese were in the streets of Saigon. Suffice it to say here that it was a narrow escape under fire.

I don’t know what’s happened to Saigon in the last 45 years. Obviously, I haven’t been back. But it will remain in my memory as a beautiful leisurely town filled with friendly people who welcomed me.

People ask me if I have any desire to return to Vietnam and see Saigon as it is today. The answer is no. To this day I suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) as a consequence of my experiences in Vietnam. I have no wish to revisit the scene of my distress.

Memories of Saigon

My post of yesterday about the city of Huế got me to remembering a Vietnamese city I was much more familiar with, Saigon. That was where I and my family lived on two different multi-year tours, and it was from Saigon’s northern edge that I escaped under fire when the city fell to the North Vietnamese on 29 April 1975.

As I have noted here before, my children disliked living in Vietnam because of the poverty that reduced the populace to scraping by to stay alive. But my wife loved being there. She had servants to cook, do housework, and take care of the children. She was free to shop, play tennis, and attend coffees and teas and, on my second tour, play the role of Mrs. Chief—I was head of the covert National Security Agency (NSA) operation in Vietnam. During both tours, I was so busy with work (intercepting and exploiting the radio communications of the North Vietnamese invaders) that I barely had time to see my family.

When I first arrived in Saigon in 1962 (my family didn’t come until the next year), it was still a sleepy southern town in the tropics in which French was spoken as commonly as Vietnamese. French settlers, left over from the French domination that ended in 1954, still inhabited many of the more exclusive parts of the city. It was a residential town, filled with French-style villas complete with palm-shaded yards and servants’ quarters.

The southwestern quadrant of the city was called Chợ Lớn, that is, “Large Market” (rendered as Cholon by Americans). It was at the time—and maybe still is today—the largest Chinatown in the world. My knowledge of Chinese did me little good there, because the people, unlike the residents of Hong Kong, spoke only their own dialect of Chinese, which I believe was Cantonese, and neither spoke nor understood the Beijing dialect (also known as Mandarin or the “national language,” that is gwo yu, 國語,  which I had studied). But they were particularly friendly to Americans whom they considered, correctly, as culturally more like them than the Vietnamese.

More tomorrow.

Huế

The people of Vietnam think of their country as consisting of three regions, north, south, and central. Each region has a principal city—Hanoi in the north, Saigon in the south, and Huế in the center, on the coast just south of what used to be the border between communist North Vietnam and republican South Vietnam. During my time in Vietnam, I visited Huế at every opportunity. I loved the old city, the seat of Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802 to 1945.

Huế is filled with sight-seeing wonders. The Đại Nội Citadel is encircled by a moat and thick stone walls. Within is the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines, and the so-called Forbidden Purple City, once the emperor’s home. Close by is a replica of the Royal Theater.

Huế was the site of the worst atrocities of the Vietnam war. During the 1968 Tết Offensive, the North Vietnamese carried out mass killings there. They seized the city on 31 January. U.S. efforts to retake the city lasted 26 days. In the interim, the North Vietnamese killed as many as 6,000 men, women, children, and infants. After recapture of the city, U.S. forces found bodies of people bound, tortured, buried alive, and clubbed to death.

The source of my knowledge of Huế, other than my personal experience in Vietnam, is Mark Bowden’s book Huế 1968, (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2017). Bowden, the author of Black Hawk Down, devotes over 600 pages to a detailed and scrupulously researched study of the North Vietnamese occupation of Huế.

In these days when the U.S. is becoming more friendly to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, I think it is important for us to remember the butchery that the Vietnamese communists are capable of. Nowhere is that aspect of North Vietnamese character more obvious than in the story of Huế in 1968.

Election Day

The date for the most important election in my lifetime is now only two days away. The way people vote will decide the fate of the United States of America. Either we will reelect the man and the party—Trump and the Republicans—who are pushing our nation toward fascism or we will choose democracy.

In front of my house is a sign that shows the American flag with the words “PRO-AMERICA” and “ANTI-TRUMP.” The man across the cul-de-sac from me has put a sign in his yard that says “STOP TRUMP, ELECT DEMOCRATS, SAVE AMERICA.” To me, neither sign is an exaggeration.

My best guess is that the election will defeat Trump and the Republicans at levels never before reached in our country. I believe that we will know before midnight on 3 November that Trump and his party have been ousted at historical margins.

But I might be wrong. The election might be close. The final count and the outcome might be delayed for days, even weeks, because so many voters opted for vote-by-mail due to the pandemic.

I’m confident that Trump and the Republicans will be removed from power, but if the complete tally is slow in coming, Trump might refuse to accept the results, claiming the election is rigged,  and insist on holding the White House and Congress. Chaos will follow.

Under these conditions, our country will suffer enormous damage. But Trump doesn’t care about destruction inflicted on the U.S. He cares only about himself.

We’d best be prepared for the worst.

The Tom Glenn High School

I’m periodically reminded by notifications from the internet that there is a school by my name, Tom Glenn High School. It’s in Leander, Texas. It opened in 2016. It’s named after the previous superintendent of the Leander School District, Tom Glenn.

My full name is Thomas Louis Glenn III. My father and grandfather were both named Thomas Louis Glenn. Neither of them were men I want to be like, but I’m stuck with them as predecessors with my name.

I don’t think of Tom Glenn as being a common name, but apparently it is. I regularly stumble across other men with that name, including an author. His book is P-47 Pilots: The Fighter-Bomber Boys published by the Zenith Press in 1998. And every once in a while, another Tom Glenn surfaces in the news.

So much for being unique.

Choose Democracy

I have just joined an organization I discovered on line. It’s called Choose Democracy. You can find it at https://choosedemocracy.us/ Here is its pledge:

1.         We will vote.

2.         We will refuse to accept election results until all the votes are counted.

3.         We will nonviolently take to the streets if a coup is attempted.

4.         If we need to, we will shut down this country to protect the integrity of the democratic process.

The group is obviously opposing Trump’s threat to ignore the election results and maintain his hold on the White House. That would constitute a coup d’etat. Since the Republicans have not denounced Trump’s expressed intent to ignore the election results, the rest of us have to gear up to remove Trump by force if it comes to that.

I never thought I’d see the day when we Americans would be calling for the forced removal of a defeated president attempting a coup. So this is what Trump has brought us to.