- Mendocino County
- Anderson Valley
by Bruce Patterson, May 18, 2016
But the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game
—Bob Dylan, 1963
On my 16th Birthday, I officially quit high school, got a car and a fulltime union job busting tires at the Firestone store on, thanks to the Beach Boys, Pasadena’s famed Colorado Blvd (a stretch of old Hwy. 66). Before my dad regained custody of me when I was 14, I’d been running wild for two or three years depending on your standards. Having gotten kicked out of two high schools and then up and quitting the third one was, till then, my proudest achievement. Selfish, anarchistic, bullheaded, rebellious and fanciful, I liked talking shit, kicking up dust, hanging with misfits, smoking cigarettes, drinking Red Mt. and cactus juice, cutting classes, staying truant, joyriding cars, staying out past curfew and…
And so, even though I could bust my ass with the best of the skinny white boys of my tender age, it wasn’t enough to compensate for my unreliability, audacity and recklessness. I couldn’t hold a job and I couldn’t go without one seeing how, since I owed my dad and step-mom money for my room and board, car payments, outstanding payday loans, etc., my dad would find me a new job about as fast as I could lose the old one (it got so I figured he was doing it out of spite).
And so, in a measly little twelve months, I went from busting tires down the hill in Pasadena to working the docks of Firestone’s regional warehouse way down there in the flatland concrete City of Commerce, me either hand-loading trucks on the front side or off-loading boxcars on the backside. Fired for an instance of insubordination, next I started pumping gas and doing oil changes at Helmeck’s Firestone on Whittier Blvd. in downtown East El Lay. Next I got transferred to the wholesale auto parts warehouse out back—named “Atlantic” for the Blvd outside the fire door (Atlantic runs due south to Long Beach on the Pacific Ocean). I restocked shelves, filled orders and did janitorial duties. East El Lay was an exciting place—just Saturday’s rolling lowrider Quincanera parades and wedding processions were worth the price of admission—and I did so well I got promoted to making deliveries to corner service stations in a territory that stretched from Boyle Heights east of Skid Row to the wholesome hills of El Sereno (The Quiet One).
On my 17th Birthday, I joined the Airborne Infantry and volunteered for Vietnam. (Although I came equipped with a nice collection of psychological defects and character faults, doing things half-assed wasn’t one of them). Fourteen days past my 18th Birthday, the government granted me my wish (11/27/67). A couple of days after I was In-Country, I was standing at attention in a company-sized formation at Camp Radcliff’s (Central Highlands) Jungle School getting “orient-tated” by probably the most famous grunt paratrooper of the entire hideously named “Post-War Era:” Master Sergeant Blood Burns. A giant black man built like a 55 gallon drum with some dents pounded into it, his speech began something like this (children and prudes please hide your eyes):
“I kilt fucken Germans for two years and Kor-EE-ans and Cheye-NA-Maans for two years and these here North Vi-et nim-EEZ and Vi-et KONGZ for two years and, I swear, ole Mr. Charlie’s he’s gonna rip some of you shit-green cherries some new assholes” (entry wounds).
Now there followed a silence so deep the mosquitoes stopped buzzing and, like a hand grenade, I tossed a wisecrack. Next old Blood Burns was erupting in my face so long I fainted and dreamed I was swimming in the steaming Amazon River with piranhas for earrings.
And now, doing extra duty under a sliver moon, I was dragging sawed in half 55 gallon shit-cans out of the rear trapdoors of long, skinny, GI-Issue shit-houses and, using generous amounts of diesel fuel poured into a mess kit’s tin cup from a 5-gallon Jerry, as in “Kraut,” can with a long flexible steel spout—I was burning shit.
It was a starry night, a steady kind-ah-cool breeze was blowing the toxic fumes, and the stench, away toward the mountains and my tour was all downhill from there.
* * *
A while back on TV, I listened to the Tea Party Republican Governor of Michigan (one of a cabal) explaining in a press conference how, having poisoned dozens, if not thousands, of American children with lead-saturated municipal water, his duly-elected, snowcapped and no-assed bleeding heart was going out to the unfortunate victims. But, hey, it wasn’t any of his fault and now he has a job to complete and he’s tired of being bothered by the meaningless details of ancient history—details worried over by people far below his pay grade. Voters should be thankful he’s taking the time to answer their fool questions.
And listening to this creep reminded me of the Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem testifying about how he was just a clerk doing his job as best he could with what he had. You couldn’t blame Eichmann because, like everybody else in Germany at the time, he was just following orders.
One reason I volunteered for Vietnam was that I hated Nazis and I knew the Communists weren’t any better. After I turned against my war, I spent four years organizing against it, mostly with other GIs and vets. But I also had plenty of “movement people” friends willing to enlighten me as to the differences between the two great 20th Century social philosophies (Fascism is Feudalism with gunpowder). But all I was focused on, and cared about, was the body counts.
When, in the spring of 1968, elements of the disgraced and disbanded Americal Division massacred hundreds of Vietnamese women, children and babies, my outfit was operating in the same general area. Thanks to the Pentagon’s cover-up, nobody found out about the My Lai Massacre until a year or so latter, and even then atrocity was whitewashed. Still, most everybody I knew in the ranks had very little sympathy for those guys. There were plenty of GIs who, like me, felt we’d shoot a whole jeepload of US Army officers before we’d follow their orders and turn our submachine guns on wailing little newborn babies, helpless little boys and girls and their hysterically begging mothers, big brothers and sisters. I wasn’t the only grunt in the US Army that hated Nazis.
Regarding the morality of the US massacring Indochinese civilians (like we’re doing today in Yemen to name just one “black site”) with airstrikes and bombing runs, well, that’s a whole other story.
The main fall guy for the My Lai Massacre, a certain Lt. Calley, became a folk hero to those convinced that we in the Fatherland should fashion our civilian society into something the Few, the Proud and the Holy can be proud of. Yet, in 1969-70, dozens of “underground” GI antiwar newspapers were in circulation, including the one, Bragg Briefs, I was writing for. So Lt. Calley became famous on US military posts all round the world as America’s latest favorite mass murderer.
About that time, I realized it wasn’t just Germany under the Nazis that had gotten afflicted with Good Germans. All our taxpaying lives we’ve been handing over blank checks to the permanent warfare/corporate welfare state (Imperialism is a two-headed monster) and still we never seem to notice how not even one of our blank checks ever gets cashed for pennies—stupid-assed pennies that won’t buy any-goddamned-thing and cost us two cents to produce and millions of people-hours to exchange and keep track of. It’s rivers of blood our blank checks get cashed for; official body counts wirelessly wired in from all corners of the world before getting stopped cold right before they reach our virgin eyes, ears and hearts.
You want to eliminate 21st Century slaughter? Kill off the war correspondents; ban combat photography and honest bookkeeping. Want peace on earth? Glorify the ancient ghoulish nursery rhymes, keep the blood money flowing, the gold-toothed grins on the luxury-boxed Merchants of Death and Masters of Ceremonies. Make your paying customers think you’re doing them a favor and their money is yours. Convince them they’re threatened and they’ll let you slaughter anybody anywhere just so long as they don’t hafta watch or help clean up the mess. Wrong side of the world, down the elevator four floors, around the corner, cross town, down state—who gives a shit about things they don’t know or care to know? You talk about a racket with a winning edge.
It makes sense that the rise of Donald Trump would, up till now, so closely parallel the rise of Adolf Hitler. Hitler, too, was an imitator; a budding actor playing the Messiah. Hitler learned his politics from Field Marshal Bismarck, Mussolini and the English Imperialists. Like Al Capone, Hitler thought he was Napoleon. And Napoleon? He thought he was Julius Caesar. And Caesar? He thought he was Alexander the Great.
And Trump? He’s just another Vietnam Era draft-dodging chicken shit chicken hawk. Except this particular phony went to some military school for rich kids for a spell and—they’ve got the now old Liberace-looking Vegas style primo donna on tape—Trump thinks his hitch as a snot-nose cadet taught him more about the American war in Indochina than we who’d fought it. And boy how it warms my heart knowing all Trump had learned; how positive and constructive my people’s war had been for him.
That reminds me: did you know the late 20th Century’s preeminent international war criminal, Henry Kissinger, is still alive and kicking? Is there no God in Heaven? Rumor has it that Kissinger is set to join Trump’s secret war cabinet, his black-leather-clad, haywire bionic arm and all.
Now I resent the attempt to blame us lower-class white boys for the rise of scumbags like Donald Trump or that Howdy Doody-looking fucker running the House of Bagmen. Now if there’s fighting, killing and dying to be done, us lower class dudes have always been good for that. But we’re not the king-makers in this country, never have been and so we shouldn’t be blamed for a scumbags like Trump. We just bring in the crops, keep the factories, schools and hospitals humming, the drive-thru fast-food joints fast, and the highways free of wrecks, the maimed and the splattered. If our short national history has proven anything, it’s that, whether as soldiers or civilians, we working stiffs are proudly expendable.
Becoming wealthy begins with having more marketable assets than outstanding debts: personal debts plus your cut of the National Debt (plus the debt the old always owe to the young). In 2016’s market, unless you’re flying around in your private Sky Yacht sprawled out in silk jammies on a wall-to-wall waterbed profiling for the cameras like Super Fly gone grotesquely flabby and grooving to recordings of Frank Sinatra before he lost his voice, chances are you needn’t worry about getting wealthy anytime soon.
It’s the monopoly media that creates and inflates scumbags like Donald Trump. That’s obvious to anybody tuned into the media’s legions of Big-Happy-Sexy-Mama-Dude-Groupie “journalists” having the critical eyes of pickled blowfish. Have all of these “extremely successful” media personalities lost the ability to know American from anti-American, the Constitutional from the Un-Constitutional, the difference between right and wrong, liberty and slavery, patriotism and rank treason?
Come on, for the last six months this vain and vile penthouse imposter has gotten more fawning free media attention than the President of the US has gotten in seven long years. This while Obama has more native intelligence than Donald Trump would have even if Bush Jr., Rumsfeld and Cheney were shoved up his ass.
So I ask you: are you really prepared to listen to President Donald Trump running his tiny pink pie-hole about invaders from Mars and Mexico’s desert coyotes sitting on tons of gold bullion that’s just sitting ours for the taking? Are you willing to sit still for the rest of your electronic life listening to Trump’s robotic young female “surrogates” announcing upcoming, earth-shaking, Trumponian Proclamations until finally he makes his grandiosely tardy entrance like Jackie Gleason the disaffected Bronx bus driver home from the grind and ready to reclaim his man-castle?
“Who’s for dinner?” Jackie asks his housewife Alice, licking his chops and rubbing his growling belly.
Is that the kind of endless feedback loop you’re looking forward to in your retirement? If so, drop dead.
We should be mighty suspicious when the media unanimously presents us with this two-faced maniac non-stop center stage without ever once uttering a peep about how dirty Trump is: how ignorant, dangerous and clinically sicko as in certifiably unfit to drive a Bronx bus, much less become a Crossing Guard. My god, people: Trump is dirtier than a traveling revival tent preacher who, after his long-lost uncle dies and leaves him a fortune, spontaneously re-discovers Jesus, opens a drive thru mega-church and mortuary, buys himself a mothballed AM radio station and a shiny new Jag-ou-Wire convertible and begins broadcasting his sacred sermons “live and around the world” while he’s actually in his dining room opening envelopes, separating the paper money from the personal checks, and contemptuously tossing into his nearly full salad bowl the miscellaneous coinage senile old geezers insist on mailing him as testaments to their poverty and devotion. This while his recorded voice is reaching no further than his smoggy corner of his metro area. Trump is dirtier than the sole proprietor of a Jim Crow era traveling Tennessee carnival just down from the mountains who buys the county sheriffs along his route free summer family vacations in Wisconsin in exchange for giving him, his boys, girls and customers a little bit of privacy for just one little weekend per year. Trump’s as crooked as a gun runner selling the natives rifles that don’t shoot and ammunition that blows up in their faces. If Satan was in need of an organ-grinder’s monkey to be an assassin to spike some fool’s Kool-Aid with poison, he’d hire Trump.
Want some encouraging words? Here’s some George Bernard Shaw: “Don’t waste your time on social questions. The trouble with the poor is poverty. The trouble with the rich is uselessness.” Both problems can be fixed.