The Prince Of Alienation
by Tom Cahill, January 25, 2017
Forward by Tom Wolfe
A hundred years from now when historians write about the 1960s in America, they wont write about it as the decade of the war in Vietnam or of space exploration or of political assassinations . . . but as the decade when manners and morals, styles of living, attitudes toward the world changed the country more crucially than any political events . . . all the changes that were labeled, however clumsily, with such tags as "the generation gap," "the counter culture," "black consciousness," "sexual permissiveness," "the death of God" …the abandonment of proprieties, pieties, decorums connoted by "go-go funds," "fast money," swinger groovy, hippie drop-out pop Beatles Andy Baby Jane Bernie Huey Eldridge LSD marathon encounter groups stone underground rip-off … the whole idea of American life that gushed forth when post war American affluence finally blew the lid off…"
I wrote "The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test" and waited for the novels that I was sure would come pouring out of the psychedelic experience … but they never came forth. I learned later that publishers had been waiting, too. They had been practically crying for novels by the new writers who must be out there somewhere, the new writers who would do the big novels of the hippie life or campus life or radical movements or the war in Vietnam or dope or sex or black militancy or encounter groups or the whole whirlpool all at once. They waited, and all they got was the Prince of Alienation . . . sailing off to Lonesome Island on his Tarot boat with his back turned and his Timeless Cape on, reeking of camphor balls.
–Tom Wolfe "The New Journalism," 1973
Tom Wolfe pegged me to the proverbial "T" from the Tarot boat--a flimsy collapsible sailing canoe called a Folbot that I named "Mahayana" with which I sailed some of the Seven Seas alone and all the way to the Timeless Cape and the camphor balls of the vintage costume portrait studio my wife, Sedonia, and I operated in San Francisco and later at the end of Main Street in the village of Mendocino from 1970 to 1980. One thing Wolfe missed is how American politics has affected me the past half century and right up to this very day when recently I had to seek psychological intervention because of Election 2016 and especially "Pizzagate" that followed. I have three great-grand children and the thought of any one of them kidnapped and sexually enslaved--upsets me to put it mildly. The FBI claims one hundred thousand children disappear in the USA each year. An organization very deep in the bowels of the Central Intelligence Agency call "the Finders" may know the whereabouts of some of these kids.
I wasn't born a crazy, radical, hippie. I had a lot of help getting here over the years. My mother passed her bipolar gene on to me but I haven't had a problem with manic-depression in almost twenty years. PTSD is my biggie. My first major trauma occurred while I was still a very impressionable teenager with an Above Top Secret clearance in US Air Force Intelligence in Germany in the late 50s. I had a job so boring but important that I was threatened with a court martial if I nodded off which I did frequently regardless of how much sleep I had the night before. I had to go through seamless reams of paper looking for certain codes dealing with weather reports around the Soviet guided missile test range at Kapustin Yar in Siberia. I had to look through hundreds perhaps thousands of messages before I found one I could plot on a map before me.
I would feel like a kid at Christmas when I found a code I could work with. But in a few minutes it was back to the monotonous torture of looking for another weather code. Why couldn't the Department of the Air Force have given me an F-86 Saber to fly like I wanted--very unrealistically of course since my math was worse than my vision. But I would have been happier as a janitor emptying the ashtrays on a B-50. Hey, it was those John Wayne movies that influenced me as a kid growing up in New Jersey across from Manhattan. Early childhood programing works wonders for Church and State.
Several guys in our 6910th Special Communications Squadron cracked-up and had to be medically discharged. So when I showed signs of stress like irritability, I was sent to see an Army psychiatrist at the big military hospital in nearby Landsthul. Captain Rich wrote out his report as I waited, placed it in an unsealed envelope and told me to give it to my commanding officer. On the train back to Zwiebrucken, I of course read the short report.
"Despite coming from a broken home, Airman Cahill seems reasonably well-adjusted. I recommend two weeks R & R," wrote the doctor. "R & R" is of course a simple code in use since at least WW II meaning "Rest and Recuperation."
In retrospect, I would have reported, "Despite coming from a broken home, Airman Cahill is reasonably well-adjusted but because of his imagination and immaturity, he has been kept on his present job too long and should be transferred to some work less responsible and stressful."
All kinds of BS circulated through our offices abut how important our work was, how the fate of the free world depended on us mostly teen-agers. Among other things we were told if the Russians invaded and threatened to capture us, we would be shot by our own Air Police. When I think back to those stories, it pisses me off how the Air Force manipulated us. I received a college education on the GI Bill but then I got into another career field that turned out to be BS--journalism.
In January 1957. I was 20-years-old and had been a radio traffic analyst with a weather specialty for about a year and a half. I was also very "gung-ho" and pleased that I had been entrusted with a Top Secret Eider clearance. But the Air Force took advantage of my good nature and willingness to do any shitty job. In retrospect I figure I had been kept on this job at least six months too long. I was used up but the Air Force had no replacement for me yet so I had to soldier on. In basic training we used to march to the cadence of "We came here to shoot down Migs, all we do is pile up gigs. And now at the ripe young age of 20, I was turning sour, going to seed, my mind rotting away.
In July 1957, more than six months after the psychiatric exam, I was ordered to report to another office on Monday morning 0800. At that place and time, I learned I had been transferred to the "Goon Platoon" for two weeks. The Air Force had no room at any of the air bases for our squadron so we were at an Army base in Zweibrucken near the Saarland. The Goon Platoon was comprised of mostly soldiers on their way to or returning from the stockade which is a military jail. I was the only airman since we were usually much better behaved than the GIs who like us were mostly teen agers or not much older.
An Army sergeant showed me how to operate and maintain a large lawn mower that was self-propelled. All I had to do was steer it. He told me what area I was to mow, what time to show up for work and what time I could knock off. I never saw him or any other supervisor again. I felt like I was being punished but at least I was a trustee and I was so desperate to get away from my work as an analyst, I didn't complain. In basic training we used to march to the cadence of "We came here to shoot down Migs, all we do is pile up gigs." And so it goes . . .
On Wednesday my immediate commanding officer homed in on the noise of the mower, and told he could fix it so I could return to our "shop" the next day. "No thank you sir, I'll finish my term," I responded. Now I really felt like I was being punished or at least shamed. But the sky was unusually clear for summer in western Germany, and I was working in bathing suit and brogans getting a nice tan on the job. No one was supervising me but anyone concerned always knew where I was by the sound of the mower.
I never distinguished myself in the Air Force but at least I served my time and even received a Good Conduct Medal. Wow! Six months after the Good Platoon, I was offered a third stripe or a six months early out, not a discharge because I had to serve four more years in the inactive reserve. But I could go to college a semester earlier than I planned I didn't hesitate over the choice. Fuck John Wayne! The only uniform he ever wore was on the silver screen yet you'd think he and Ronald Reagan won WW II by themselves. Reagan was in the Army but served his time in Hollywood making training films.
Compared to horror stories of other veterans, mine doesn't even register on the Richter Scale. But the goon platoon hurt me when I really wanted to do well for my country. The next big trauma for me occurred a few years after I was separated from the Air Force. 1960 was the first time I voted in a presidential election. I voted for John Kennedy even though I didn't like or trust him. To me he was "lace curtain Irish" with a flannel tongue while I was "shanty Irish" from literally near the railroad tracks on which trains fed Manhattan and hauled away the trash on the return trip. And both ways, the smell was impressive. Long before the Clean Air Act, the snow was always grey in Jersey City. Now because The Donald and others have driven the price of real estate so high in Manhattan, Jersey City is being gentrified.
First "Spaghetti" the kids pony, then the children themselves warmed me to the President. Then the way he handled the Cuban Missile Crisis finished the job. By the Fall of 1963, I was a Kennedy man. And in the morning of November 22, I was busy gathering my photo gear. I was working on a statewide magazine published in Austin for the rural electric cooperatives of Texas which LBJ helped organize in the Thirties when he was a rare-for-Texas New Deal Democrat. That morning I already had a White House press pass and one of the electric coop directors was going to set me up a photo shoot of the Kennedys at a Democratic Party fund-raiser in Austin that night. Early afternoon the news from Dallas hit me like a locomotive. My first thought was the KKK or the John Birch Society killed the President.
Next morning I learned at least one thing the police and media got wrong about the assassination was the weapon the shooter allegedly used when I watched on TV a Dallas County Deputy Sheriff hold up an Italian-made Manlicher Carcano 7.65 mm carbine a guy my age named Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly used. I owned one just like it and knew it's sordid history and reason Italian soldiers called it the "Humanitarian Rifle." (1) It was a vintage weapon designed in the late 19th Century, (2) it had a very slow bolt action, (3) short barrel for close-range fighting (4) was poorly manufactured and (5) in a book a friend had, it was listed as the worst small arm used in WW II by any combatants.
So from Day Two, I've been a "Conspiracy nut"--a term coined by the CIA and used by the corporate-owned media that like legislators doesn't dare cross "Capitalism Invisible Army" as Buckminster Fuller called the spy agency.
Over the course of the last half century, I have come to agree totally with former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura who once said, "If you can get away with killing a president, you can get away with anything." From Vietnam to Election 2016, it's been one outrage after another, one of my favorite "false flag attacks" being the attempted sinking of the USS Liberty. This occurred during LBJ's "watch" in 1967 when one USAF B-52 was within THREE MINUTES of nuking Cairo. But that's another story for another time.
* * *
Here I present my nomination for the all-time worst POTUS ever…
"All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him. If it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; if it be democratic, then it seeks to protect the man who is inferior in every way against both. One of its primary functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives. The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are."