LIFE, BELIEFS AND REALITY MAKE STRANGE BEDFELLOWS
GROWING OLDER IN AN AMBIGUOUS WORLD
By Gordon Duff STAFF WRITER
Media can define life. We were warned of this by Marshall McLuhan years ago. Our real culture, the one replacing Chopin, James Joyce Walt Whitman and Dizzy Dean is CSI, Monster Trucks, “Final Four” basketball, internet games and a flood of communication and information, some building worldwide communities, some degrading values and destroying judgment.
The brains we grew up with never expected Al Gore’s internet. Newspapers around the country are going broke. I haven’t found more than a half dozen popular songs in 30 years I like and I see 10 movies a week. Am I,( or we), just numbing myself or searching?
Yesterday, I was playing Fallout 3, a video game about life after the apocalypse when I got a call on my computer to enter a teleconference on satellite applications for environmental (and defense) applications for new high resolution satellite radars. When asked what I was doing, I simply told them, “Playing a video game.” Everyone understood. What does this say?
The satellites would find oil, protect borders but I was killing feral ghouls in the Capital Wasteland. Which one is real. Have we blurred these lines?
With everything turned upside down, for many of us anyway, we can know anything all “free” and explained to “our liking” by phony pundits and websites. We search for reassuring information and become addicted to blogs and chat sites of those who share our anger and fear or are we building a new world? Are we evil or just more isolated and forgotten, yearning for purpose when anything we can offer seems meaningless in a world drowning in information, too often agonizingly depressing and overwhelming.
We have become a world of children exposed, for the first time, to alcohol, drugs, fast cars and permissive parents. Nobody warned any of us, nobody made any rules. We lost the ability to talk, share and feel. Millions of Americans look on their pets as the best people they know. What does that say about us?
I sometimes push veterans to write. When I do, I tell them to talk about war, if they were in one, or life in the military. The advice is simple. What happened? Tell us about it. What did you see? How did you feel? What were you thinking at the time? Who was with you? What happened to them? Where are they now?
My most important day in Vietnam was playing touch football. It lasted for 2 hours and was the only thing like that we ever did. Marine grunts aren’t allowed to play. We lived like prisoners. Nobody tells the truth about what it was like. All of us agree on one thing, we all lie.
At one point I “inherited” the job of sniper for a Marine Special Landing team. It was considered a “privilege.” After a couple of weeks I returned the rifle and begged for someone else to have a chance. I had become afraid of myself, I was learning to love killing people and feared I would never be able to stop. Welcome to the world of the real veteran. This is how we all feel, how we all think but we never say it. We are a adrenalin junkies. Are we only animals? Do we want know? Maybe we all do know.
I watch TV. On the show Grey’s Anatomy, one of the characters is a doctor, having returned from Iraq, who, without knowing, tries to strangle his girl friend. It is diagnosed as PTSD. I am now hoping they don’t operate on him to fix that. We don’t need this kind of disrespect. I suspect they will cut out his brain and he will be better.
Maybe if some of the right people had their brains cut out early on, none of us would have PTSD. Imagine being diagnosed as “mentally ill” for fighting in a war supposedly started by “sane” people?
I spent much of the last year discussing politics. I hate politics. My time as a lobbyist was one of the worst times in my life. I certainly missed my real war veteran friends. I was surrounded by draft dodgers or rear echelon “weenies” pretending to be heroes, all greedy narcissists, with the values of a pack of rats.
The real “Mission Accomplished” would have been to toss that little whining SOB overboard. Then we would have had something to cheer about.
THE SICKNESS OF IDEAS
I grew up, as some of you know, in a Detroit, auto worker family. Over the years we add labels, Marine, Michigan State “Spartan” or those endless career things we do, we call ourselves doctor or Mr. or “Chairman” or something. We drag them out of the closet like warm clothing or suits of armour, becoming “Colonel” or “Special Agent” or “Deputy Director” always followed by “ret.” which means we get a check in the mail and feel the world is passing us by.
Give someone the right title, pay them enough, tell them they are heroic or doing “G-d’s work” and this is no brutality people are not capable of. We don’t have a single government agency left that hasn’t proven this true.
But, (excuse the preposition), I was talking about ideas and how dangerous they are. G-d wanting nuclear war to bring on “the rapture,” an odd pseudo-biblical cult belief is a favorite. My mother was one of those. My dad was a Communist. He believed in racial equality and ending poverty but hated Russia and Republicans. He saw them both as totalitarian. He had a good head on his shoulders.
In a world where ideas don’t work any better than the crap “Billy whatshisname” sells on TV to fix scratches on your car, selling lies instead of soap is part of the continuing con we have opened ourselves up to by reading and listening. Every orifice we leave open isn’t safe anymore. We are like prisoners in county jail on shower day, “keep your back to the wall and don’t pick up the soap.”
That’s what we used to call it. Milk used to be made of chalk. All medicine was opium or rat poison. We forget our history. We are a nation of phonies.
We have bars that invite people to get in cars, drink, then drive drunk back home. When they kill our family members, we are surprised. When police set up “check lanes” instead of parking outside the bars, nobody ever asks why we all have to be harassed when any idiot knows where the drunks come from. Lobbyists for “the beverage industry” keep the murder going and hogtie cops.
How do you think cigarettes have remained semi-legal forever when they have decimated our lives. They killed both my parents, my wife’s father at 46 and wiped out so many friends I can’t count anymore.
THE PHONY WAR ON DRUGS, MORE HUCKSTERISM
Years after leaving office, President Reagan was forced to testify as to why his government sent weapons to our enemy, Iran. He had no idea. This must be on YouTube somewhere. I can tell you, it was about drugs.
Cocaine cowboys and opium growers, be it South America, Afghanistan, Turkey, Thailand or in the processing and “trading” countries, many important allies in the “war on terror”,” flood our country with drugs. This, in turn, has made the prison system in the US a Gulag of the size of Stalin’s with millions of Americans behind bars for decades or in and out of jail/rehab/prison/cemetery all because we are not only addicted to drugs but our government has had a secret addiction to drug importers for over 150 years and the money they bring in. It isn’t even a secret. Our phony “war on drugs” is a joke, even compared to our phony “war on terror.”
REALITY BASED CONTROL OVER GOVERNMENT INSANITY
Military contractors, engineers, scientists, machinists and “the best of the best” have helped keep us free. The world is a dangerous place. But, for every engineer, their are 2 hucksters buying lunch for a General and a $10,000,000 office remodel or company outing we pay for as part of a permanent con that has corrupted our military worse than Prohibition ended up corrupting police.
We have addicted our military, not “war fighters” but our real military, the “grocery clerks” in the Pentagon who live in a world of “brown nosing” their way to rank or fat defense jobs while “joke” weapons systems make up 90% of the “pork projects” and “earmarks” we decry as budget poison but defend as “supporting the troops.”
MEDICINE: IS A $50 ASPIRIN DUMBER THAN A $600 HAMMER?
I have a dentist who fixes my teeth. I have a psychiatrist who knows I am crazy and suspects he may also be. I don’t have a doctor. I have insurance. I am “Category I” at the VA but I have never had a health condition or illness successfully diagnosed or treated and I am far from the only one.
Medicine is a racket, a tax, a corrupt government that buys and sells congressmen, senators and even presidents like so many candy bars. The government taxes us to death and spends billions subsidizing drug development and medical billing fraud in a system that makes the worst aspects of our military seem like a deal.
A penicillin tablet has always wholesaled for about a penny. Prescriptions that used to cost a day’s wages are now free, an open admission we had been robbed blind for decades. You can pay $2500 bucks for a CAT scan and be fairly certain that the person who read it took 10 seconds and would have missed a tumor the size of a basketball.
If you are a veteran, chances are any equipment used on you was never cleaned, any blood work done will be mislabeled, switched or simply thrown away and you may be getting better care than civilians. I spent an hour this week, on the phone with a retired VA lab tech who said sending anything to a VA lab for testing, as there is NO real quality assurance program at VA labs, is wasteful or even dangerous. Bad diagnosis leads to wrong treatments, treatments that can, in themselves, be fatal and often are.
IF BANKERS STOLE TRILLIONS, WHY ARE REPUBLICANS BLAMING BLACK PEOPLE?
If I get this straight, black people, all buying million dollar waterfront property while on welfare, bankrupted our government, all caused by Jimmy Carter years ago. Nobody can find these people or these homes but the old “welfare Cadillac” urban legend that empties trailer parks in Montana on voting day to support Wall Street thieves goes on and on. Just tell some moron a “queer” is coming to take his guns away and Satan himself could be president, or as we all well known, vice president anyway.
GOOD AND DECENT PEOPLE STILL?
As big a pack of rubes, kooks and freaks as we are, with a petty criminal conspiracy running our government, maybe even blowing up airliners and our own buildings, invading countries on a whim and torturing and imprisoning people without even the “whim,” Americans are still, I hope anyway, still something special in the world.
Since 1980, we have lived on a continual diet of fear and lies from every source possible but still remain good people, for the most part. When bombarded with unrefuted claims elections were stolen, rights taken away, our basic values destroyed, however, we, America of all places on Earth, sat on our fat asses and did nothing.
This, from a country where people will do more for each other, or used to anyway, is unbelievable. Our universities are centers of drunken parties but not social protest. If we have difficult work, we open our borders like a great sewer, pay slave wages to illegal immigrants then whine like babies that they have taken “our jobs.”
I grew up in a town where people stood at machines in 130 degree temperature 6 days a week to live in a house smaller than my bedroom. These people died at 50 or 60 from lung disease, smoking, industrial solvents and overwork.
Now we are clerks and managers, lending or borrowing imaginary wealth, waking some day finding it was all a dream and we now owe money we couldn’t pay off in a century.
We look around us and everything is built some place else and wonder why things are wrong.
Still, millions work, work hard, serve their country, stand by their friends and even show the common sense of rolling their eyes back in their head every time a news report comes on or they pick up the news paper, if their town still has one. These are still real Americans.
We all need to belong somewhere, be valued and value ourselves. Living in a world where work is considered “inconsequential” and people mean nothing, we can only hold onto the surreal and ghostly.
However we may have sunk these past few decades, however much we lost our illusions of freedom and honor, traded for fear and lies, we bounce back. Maybe our wars aren’t really saving the world but the kids who die in them didn’t start them either. We run from extreme to extreme, we “honor” heroes and make them live under bridges when they become inconvenient. We are only doing what we have done before so many times.
MOVING BACK MAY BE MOVING FORWARD
Usually, my dad got Sunday off work. We would pack a cooler, the one we got free with our new 1955 Ford, with macaroni salad, cold chicken and jars of ice water and go fishing for the day at a nearby lake. Eventually, we bought a plywood boat that would fit to the top of the car.
We didn’t have a 40 foot motor home with trailered Harleys or a little BMW hooked on the back.
Is catching a fish over 50 years ago a bigger deal than spending $500 for gas to watch a football game while parked next to the Grand Canyon? Think about it. What are your memories? I remember my first fish and I remember cold chicken but know of nothing I can buy that can bring back the feelings of life in America before television told us we were poor.
Life may be sending some of those times back our way. Buy a fishing pole, put some recapped tires on the Oldsmobile and escape back into what really was a better time. Take a friend.
Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran and regular contributor on political and social issues.
Gordon Duff posted articles on VT from 2008 to 2022. He is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War. A disabled veteran, he worked on veterans and POW issues for decades.
Gordon is an accredited diplomat and is generally accepted as one of the top global intelligence specialists. He manages the world’s largest private intelligence organization and regularly consults with governments challenged by security issues.
Duff has traveled extensively, is published around the world, and is a regular guest on TV and radio in more than “several” countries. He is also a trained chef, wine enthusiast, avid motorcyclist, and gunsmith specializing in historical weapons and restoration. Business experience and interests are in energy and defense technology.