Why I Am Leftist (Vietnam War)

Tet Offensive
Phase 1: 30 January – 28 March, 1968
Phase 2: 5 May – 15 June, 1968
Phase 3: 17 August – 23 September 1968.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
assassinated in Memphis, TN
4 April 1968
Riots broke out in about 100 US cities and towns over many weeks.

Robert F. Kennedy
assassinated in Los Angeles, CA
6 June 1968
RFK had won the CA primary election for DP presidential nominee that day.

Richard M. Nixon
elected US president
5 November 1968

In the fall (October-November) of 1968 during his election campaign as the Republican Party’s nominee for US president, Richard Nixon sabotaged the Paris Peace Talks between the Johnson Administration and the Communist Party of Vietnam (“North Vietnam”), by using Anna Chennault (of the deposed Nationalist Chinese regime) as a secret agent to contact the South Vietnamese regime of Nguyen Van Thieu and have him renege on his commitment to send a delegation to the scheduled Paris peace negotiations (Nixon promised Thieu a better deal, if Nixon became President), so the peace talks failed by not even starting.

This was an act of treason by Nixon during a time of war.

Nixon used the “failure” of the Johnson Administration to either “win the war” (militarily) or bring the four combatants (North Vietnam and the ‘Viet Cong’ versus South Vietnam and the U.S.A.) into serious armistice and peace negotiations, as an electoral issue justifying voting for him. Nixon won (over the DP’s Hubert Humphrey) by less than 1% of the popular vote.

Nixon and Henry Kissinger (National Security Advisor, then Secretary of State) then expanded the war (into Laos and Cambodia), and only in 1973 – 5 years later – were they able to get the the Hanoi government (the Communist government of North Vietnam, and their allied popular forces in South Vietnam: the ‘Viet Cong’) back to the negotiating table in Paris, with the Communists finally agreeing once again to the concessions they had originally made in 1968.

During the interim, 22,000 additional Americans had died in the war, and perhaps a million more people of Vietnam (north and south) as well as Laos and Cambodia. This is all described in Episode 7 of Ken Burns’ 10 episode TV series, “The Vietnam War” (2017).

It was 50 years ago this month (during Phase 1 of the Tet Offensive) that I registered for the draft. My college deferment was cancelled at the end of 1968, and I was 1-A all of 1969. Bureaucratic delaying tactics and luck kept me from being inducted, and I drew a very high number in the Draft Lottery of December 1969, and so was passed up.

A tense time, and one that ensured I would forever be some kind of leftist.

The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21768668

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Art versus Stomach


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Art versus Stomach

Whether an artist will have enough means to buy the next meal, and subsequent meals, depends on how much editing and limitation of his artistry he is willing to accept. If your aim is to produce the greatest and most refined art you are capable of, then you cannot expect to capture a sufficient audience to meet your ego’s hopes for approval and enriching rewards, nor your metabolism’s need for its necessary nourishment. This is the eternal conflict between art and commerce, between fulfillment and popularity. Committed genius is more likely to die of an empty stomach, than a reliable hack is to want for a full belly. A happy artistic life is one that strikes a balance between the extremes of: an isolating commitment to the compulsion for creating excellence, versus the popular mediocrity of a comfortable prosperity.

28 January 2018

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Old Songs of Youth’s Promise

Anthony Tarrant reminded me of Wooden Ships by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, from long ago, and it got me thinking of the past. I shared Anthony’s post (on Facebook) because it moved me, and commented on it. So, further below are two responses in kind: music of unadorned art and sincere feeling far, far beyond the simplistic garish bombast of corporate “music” today.

Wooden Ships – Crosby Stills Nash and Young
https://youtu.be/3Q3j-i7GLr0

Takes me back to a lost world, lost dreams, and a different kind of people, both men and women. There was still the same kind of superficiality, the same kind of selfishness and venality as today, but I remember a much greater sense of optimism and even brotherhood (prompted mainly by anti-war sentiment) than I see today. Back then, it seemed evident that society would continue to improve, perhaps too slowly but inexorably. For me, that dream died on election day, 1980 (and then December 8 of that year). That’s why I had such resurrected hope in 2016 with Bernie Sanders, and was so angered by the petty and ignorant criticisms of him by idiot right-wingers and effete self-important and disconnected boutique leftists. This, and songs like this were like the aroma and pleasurable smoke on the breezes wafting a lovely girl’s hair as we looked with dancing eyes and knowing smiles out a big open window onto the springtime of our Sentimental Education (Flaubert) not knowing of dark chapters and separating currents to come far later. And here I am, marooned on a island of memories none now knows the language for understanding.

Don McLean – Vincent ( Starry, Starry Night) With Lyrics
https://youtu.be/oxHnRfhDmrk

Soldier, We Love You (Rita Martinson)
https://youtu.be/7iMusPYq83g

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Anthony Tarrant
https://anthonytarrant.wordpress.com/

Anthony also maintains a presence on Facebook.

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ADDENDUM, 15 January 2018

I just took a trip back to 1969, here it is:

Crosby, Stills, & Nash, CSN (1969 Complete 1st L.P./Classic Vinyl)
https://youtu.be/fM8hpsrmUe0

I heard this album about 10,000 times back when. The first two songs in particular are icons, hits, and paint a sound picture of some of the living in those times. Actually all of the songs on this album blend into one complete work, like the movements of a symphony. Back then you could walk past a college dorm and hear this album pouring out of one open window after another. Quite a reality.

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Being Alive

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Being Alive

The most important parts of my life
are my ideas and my family.

The qualities of others most important to me are:
character, compassion, honor, and intelligence.

My ideal society is one where
unforced and equitable mutual caring
has triumphed over
selfish, exclusionary and heartless grasping.

The biological purpose of living organisms is
to transmit genetic patterns through time.

The metaphysical purposes of consciousness are
to enjoy being aware of being alive,
to enjoy being aware of nature, and
to care for one another.

Happiness in life grows out of appreciation for it,
despite its many disappointments and sorrows.

Never surrender your dignity
to advance your career.

Never devalue your character
to beg for approval.

Love is the compassionate expression
of creative appreciation.

29 December 2017

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Paradise Rejected

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Paradise Rejected.

History, if it continues to exist beyond the mid 21st century, will record the society of the United States of America as the most idiotic that ever existed on the face of the Earth. Having achieved the pinnacle of wealth, physical power, knowledge and technological advancement of any society during the entire course of humanity’s existence, it nevertheless managed to miserably and abysmally fail to use its unparalleled capabilities to ensure lives of physical, economic and medical security for all its people, as well as liberation for them from unnecessary work – and most work today is unnecessary.

Also, the society of the United States of America has failed miserably and abysmally to use its unparalleled capabilities to effectively and unselfishly assist the other 95% of humanity to eliminate poverty, eradicate curable diseases, dampen conflicts and quell wars, and in partnership with that “rest of humanity” to expeditiously raise the standard of living of the least advantaged and most vulnerable of this world’s people.

The incredible stupidity of myopic ultra-capitalist greed, and the obdurate stupidity of the ultra-egotistical, navel-gazing, bigoted, racist, willfully ignorant self-absorption of too many (I think most) of the American people will ultimately spell out the epitaph of what we now call the American Civilization.

It is true that much of humanity outside the United States of America shares these failings, but all of their societies, even in combination, lack the magnitude of capabilities that the United States possesses, and which could be put to authentically good uses.

If archeologists from alien worlds or future Earthly life-forms ever decipher the history of the United States and of humanity from their dead remains, they will no doubt conclude that the extinction of the United States was inevitable and well-deserved on the basis of its behavior. Those archeologists might also conclude the same about humanity as a whole if it had escaped destruction as a result of the American collapse, and yet had not overcome the same failings that doomed American Civilization.

What is most infuriating about all this is that such a sad degeneration and painful extinction need not happen at all. It is entirely in our power right now to think right and act right to literally make an Earthly Paradise of both the United States of America, and even the World.

What I have learned about people is that there is always an infinite reservoir of excuses for insuring inaction, and for continuing with conditions of abject stupidity and unconscionable cruelty.

My Biggest Mistake.

My biggest mistake is to place what turn out to be too high and unrealistic expectations on other people, and then being disappointed when they fail to meet them.

When I try to compensate for this error by assuming the worst about people I don’t know, and interacting as little as possible with others, I am accused of being negative, unsociable, grouchy, and unfair. If I respond to this criticism by being more positive, sociable, not grouchy, and fair, then I find that I fall back into my original and most frustrating error. In an effort to avoid this nauseating oscillation, I try to dampen my enthusiasm (which kills the spirit) and moderate my disgust (which insults intelligence), by being reserved – not extroverted – and saying as little as possible to others, especially when it comes to being truthful about them and their preoccupations.

People believe what they want to believe, and it is nothing but trouble to contradict them. Almost always it is an illusion to think you can help others by contradicting what you know are their mistaken ideas. What is frustrating about keeping your unwanted counsel is watching the everything all around you needlessly degenerate.

Even knowing that you yourself have your own preferred illusions, it remains disheartening to feel you are living as the sole sane individual in an insane asylum – The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari – or the sole hairless speaking ape on the Planet of the Apes.

As I sit here, looking out onto a beautiful scene of glorious early fall sunshine illuminating crystal clear air, and the radiant greenery of forested hillsides, with Stellar Jays squawking as they scavenge for Hummingbird eggs, remnants of fresh cat kills, and other morsels of protein; and of the many Hummingbirds clicking and twittering around my head as they drill through the air and swoop in to lap up the sugar water I put into feeders for them, I think of how slowly the elegant and amoral natural world and its animal life-forms evolves, and of how far these animals are from developing a civilization. And yet, compared to us humans, these animals are incapable of degenerating as precipitously as we have so abundantly shown we are prepared to do.

Bleed Patriotically For America’s Gun Masturbation.

The NRA is lobbying Congress for a state funeral for Stephen Paddock (look him up if you don’t know) as a patriotic ritual of celebrating the 2nd Amendment, which is the Holy Sacrament of the United States of America.

Gun Clutchers are obsessive-compulsive sociopaths whose sacred right to kill must be protected by whatever degree of human and animal sacrifice is required. It is the patriotic duty of all Americans (humans and animals) to accept being personally sacrificed (or have their children and family members sacrificed) to uphold the sacrament of the 2nd Amendment. Don’t cry, instead bleed patriotically for the freedom of American gun masturbation.

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The Family Wheel

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The Family Wheel

The family is like a wheel: the mother is the hub, the center around which the family revolves, and she is the anchor point for each member, who are the spokes.

Any spoke on its own is like a stick in the road, unable to move and at the whim of whoever passes by to either be picked up and carried along, or kicked aside into the ditch with other discards, or simply ignored to be trampled and to weather, weaken and splinter, eventually being scattered by the wind to disappear unnoticed.

The mother hub is the center into which each spoke is anchored by mother love, giving the entire wheel its strength by opposing and complimenting each others direction of force. And so the wheel can turn and the family progress spoke-by-spoke.

The movement of such a wheel will be bumpy, and its integrity lost if any one spoke fails when the entire weight of the family rests upon it. Preventing this is what the father does. He is the rim of the wheel, absorbing the bumps in the road and dissipating the shocks of the journey into a gentler pressure transferred uniformly around the entire wheel, to smooth the travel and preserve the integrity of the wheel.

Of course, a family is an organism, a living wheel, not an inert assembly like the wheel of an oxcart. So, in time the child spokes will mature and need to go out into the world to become the hubs or rims of their own families. Also, the aged spokes of the family wheel will come to the ends of their lives, fade away, and only remain anchored to their descendant hubs and rims as memories. Eventually the family wheel will be spoke-less, with the father rim freely orbiting the mother hub – revolving in her own thoughts – as the boundary between the external world and the inner space of family memory.

It may even be that a spoke-less family wheel floats apart, as the old mother hub and father rim each drift away into their own personal oblivions. Another wheel of life, its journey ended but its legacy continuing as a new generation of family wheels. Organisms of temporary existence carrying forward and then passing on the weight of the enduring urge for life.

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Five Leftist Luminaries of My Time

Sacco and Vanzetti (anarchist cause célèbre)

The five Leftist Luminaries I want to give my impressions about are:

George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair, 25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950)

Avram Noam Chomsky (7 December 1928 – )

Eugene Louis “Gore” Vidal (3 October 1925 – 31 July 2012)

Christopher Eric Hitchens (13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011)

Alexander Claud Cockburn (6 June 1941 – 21 July 2012).

This article is an account of personal opinions and recollections, it is not a work of journalism based on exhaustive research.

George Orwell

For me, George Orwell was the essential Leftist Luminary of the second quarter of the 20th century, and he remains the source-point of political writing and criticism from the socialist point of view in the English language to this very day. I have read his two most famous novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, as well the two non-fiction works The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia. In addition, I have read Essays, a collection of “more than 240” of Orwell’s essays published by Everyman’s Library (Alfred A. Knopf), a 1370 page book. I recommend these all.

I had not previously written about George Orwell, but the following article (linked just below) mentions him along with Noam Chomsky, and a number of other historical personalities.

Left Conservatives Under Right Progressives
12 February 2016
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2016/02/12/left-conservatives-under-right-progressives-2/

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Noam Chomsky

In the fields of Linguistics, Political Philosophy and Political Criticism, Noam Chomsky is the equivalent of Albert Einstein to physics. Chomsky is the essential Leftist Luminary of the second half of the 20th century, and to this day. Besides being most brilliant and authoritative, he is supremely moral, ethical and gentlemanly. He is a man of deep feeling for humanity (read At War With Asia): a mensch. I have read many of Chomsky’s books, essays, articles and tracts. If you have not read him, The Chomsky Reader (edited by James Peck) and Deterring Democracy are excellent places to start.

The only article I have written about Noam Chomsky is this:

On Reading “At War With Asia,” by Noam Chomsky
20 June 2012
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2012/06/20/on-reading-at-war-with-asia-by-noam-chomsky/

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Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal was a Left Luminary author of fiction and political criticism, which both served the purpose of being witty intellectual entertainment. Vidal was very much a media star renowned for his appearances on television talk (and argument) shows. Essential to Vidal’s image was his projection of absolute overconfidence, and command of his material, giving him a withering authority expressed pithily in either the spoken or written word. I have read numbers of his essays (I read more non-fiction than fiction), and these may ultimately be what he is remembered for instead of his mainly historical novels, which were very popular during his lifetime.

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Christopher Hitchens

Chris Hitchens was a brash, outrageous and witty Left Luminary and intellectual entertainer in the Gore Vidal mode, but even more bristley. He was a confrontational person that assaulted rather than persuaded points of view that differed from his own. Hitchens succeeded in maintaining his very public career as a pundit even after heedlessly dashing the expectations of his original and most faithful audience, when he flipped from being a scathing leftist critic of US militarism and imperialism to a vociferous allegiance to George W. Bush’s “war on terror” (i.e., on Islamist militants) after the 9-11 attacks. The events of 11 September 2001 completely shocked and shook him, and he was characteristically and explosively indelicate about expressing his reformed view of international relations. Hitchens career success after 2001 was analogous to that of Bob Dylan’s after 1965, when Dylan trampled cacophonously on the expectations of his gentle folk music devotees by erupting onto the folk-pop music scene with an all-out rock-and-roll band and persona.

The memorial article I wrote soon after Christopher Hitchens died is this:

Christopher Hitchens, Coyote, or Saint Paul?
2 January 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci36.html

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Alexander Cockburn

Alex Cockburn was a close contemporary of Christopher Hitchens, also a product of the United Kingdom (an Irishman who went to boarding school in Scotland, and received his university education in England). Cockburn was essentially Hitchens’s twin as regards his US Leftist Luminary persona and highly sharpened attention-getting literary style, and he was also an intellectual entertainer. Both Cockburn and Hitchens assumed themselves to be hip Leftist Luminaries and projected that enthusiasm (presumptuousness?) as a supreme self-confidence that could at times reach the point of arrogance.

Where Cockburn and Hitchens differed significantly was in consistency of ideological commitment. Unlike Hitchens’s precipitous swing from left to right, Cockburn never wavered in his Stalinist-derived ideology.

Alexander Cockburn’s father, Claud Cockburn, was an Irish communist journalist during the Spanish Civil War, and also secretly a propaganda agent of the USSR. Claud Cockburn wrote some factually inaccurate news accounts of the fighting in Spain that were very favorable to the Republican side (despite them suffering a disastrous loss), which was being aided by Stalin’s foreign intervention. These false accounts were purportedly justified as helping buck up international socialist resolve to the anti-fascist (anti-Francoist) cause.

However, Stalin’s main concern was to directly control communist parties and socialist movements worldwide, and Stalin’s military, spy and police agents were vigorously undermining communist and socialist parties not obedient to the Kremlin, and having the leaders of such independent parties executed. One victim of this secret purge (during the “May Events” of 1937 in Barcelona) was the leader of the POUM, a small independent communist party in Spain that George Orwell had joined to fight against the fascists (led by Francisco Franco). It was Orwell who exposed Claud Cockburn (read Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia), and Claud subsequently lost his credibility, and with Stalin’s favor now replaced by his ire, and he lost his Irish foreign correspondent newspaper job and had to return to Ireland and Scotland.

Claud Cockburn later married for a third time, to a woman of means with whom he had three sons, the eldest being Alexander Cockburn. Claud continued with his literary career, and one product of it was the comic novel Beat the Devil, which American film director John Huston turned into a 1950s movie that was not too successful even though it starred Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre, and Robert Morley.

I was motivated to learn this story about Alexander Cockburn’s father, after an e-mail exchange with Alex in which he surprised me by scathingly dismissing my admiration for George Orwell.

Alex Cockburn was vituperatively critical (in his editorials in Counter Punch, his magazine with Jeffrey St. Clair) of the character of Christopher Hitchens. Cockburn’s ire was aimed not just at Hitchens’s ideological reversal of 2001, but at a graver sin in Cockburn’s eyes: betraying by ratting out on an earlier colleague who was in the crosshairs of a US government witch hunt. As I recall, the designated victim had been a left-liberal friend of both Hitchens and Cockburn, and he was being set up by government investigator-prosecutors as the culprit of some political-financial activity the government (the administration of George W. Bush) was seeking to criminalize in order to silence a critic of the regime. This is all plausible, as Hitchens never sued Cockburn for libel.

These US-from-the-UK Leftist Luminary battling twins, sadly, were fatally stricken with cancer at nearly the same time, with Hitchens dying first and Cockburn seven months later. Cockburn was entirely closed-mouth about his disease, which was only disclosed when his death was publicly announced. In contrast, Hitchens was completely open and publicly confessional, in print and on video, about his disease throughout its entire course. Cockburn was acerbically critical of what he viewed as Hitchens’s mawkish attention-getting, so in contrast to Cockburn’s own tight-lipped reserve during his own demise.

These were sad endings of the public presences of the Twin Battling Berserkers of Hip Modern Leftist Luminosity in the United States. A similarly sad and publicly sour ending of an American Leftist Luminant (as subsequently revealed by the legal battle over his will) was that of Gore Vidal, ten days after Alexander Cockburn’s final exit.

I hope that for both Cockburn and Hitchens the private within-the-family passings were as peaceful and loving as can be had for such an event. For Cockburn I have no doubt it was; for Hitchens I don’t know; and for Vidal I know it was not.

I believe that Alex Cockburn was always jealous of Christopher Hitchens for being more successful at accomplishing what they both wanted to accomplish in their careers: public recognition as major pundits. It seems to me as if Hitchens, despite his character flaws and likely ethical lapses, always threw shade on Alex Cockburn, even if unconsciously and unintentionally, and that Alex deeply resented this because he saw himself as the significantly more ethical man. I can’t judge.

I did not know Christopher Hitchens personally. From my several (not many) interactions with Alexander Cockburn, I have no doubt he was an ethical person and good family man. My only significant criticism of Alexander Cockburn is that he was inflexibly ideological and this inflexibility, much more than his lack of scientific knowledge, could even undermine his usually sterling ability for critical thinking – his ability to be rational and logical – on matters of science like climate change.

The memorial article article I wrote the night Alexander Cockburn died is this:

My Memorial for Alexander Cockburn
11 August 2012
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2012/08/11/my-memorial-for-alexander-cockburn/

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In Conclusion

Of my five 20th century Leftist Luminaries only Noam Chomsky, the third oldest, is still wonderfully alive and will complete his 89th year in December 2017.

For me, the lesson I think it is reasonable to draw out of this review of Leftist Luminaries is to value the honest and helpful insights offered by the thought-provoking, elegant and entertaining works of five very human men, who were clearly motivated in no small part by a sense of solidarity with the rest of humanity in the timeless quest for the lessening of life’s pains, and the emergence of a better and brave new world.

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