The story begins with those closet to you ...
and your memories of life with them
Each story has a personal beginning.
Mine began in 1941 – just months before America entered World War Two
With my grandfather and grandmother (my mom's parents)
< small>Me (at about age 8) with my mom, dad and sister (1949)< /small>
I grew up very close to my grandparents and spent most of my summers with them in Denver – which before it became a major Yuppie center, was still something of a frontier town (cows, horses, and trains).
My grandfather and grandmother ... also had their stories.
Here they are at a church picnic in central Illinois. My grandma (center), my grandpa's brother next to her, and my grandpa to the left of both of them (I think there might have been a bit of competition going on at the time). My grandma was a teacher and my grandpa, a country boy who was the first in the county to own an automobile – and who escaped to the city as soon as he could (Chicago).
And a grandmother and a grandfather on my father's side, grandparents I never knew (both had died before I was born) but who had her own stories – which I learned from my father and aunts and uncles.
My dad's parents – their college graduation pictures (1896)
grandmother, her sister and her
And my great grandfather (Noah Hodges) was part of the story. He was very much a "progressive," helping found a 7th-Day Adventist college near Lincoln, Nebraska. Here he is with his sons (my grandfather on the left) with his beehives and experimental fruit orchard in Nebraska.
I was born just
before America entered the war with Germany and
– and Japanese troops making a murderous mess in China
My father was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army in 1939 after graduating from the University of Kansas in chemical engineering. My mom was an English major from Baker University and a writer for the Kansas City Star.
But he resigned his commission when Monsanto Chemical Company offered him a position at their plant in East St. Louis, Illinois. When America entered the war two years later, he was instructed to stay at his job – for it was considered very strategic for the war effort.
Thus I grew up in a small middle-class town in Illinois very near St.
Here I am with my sister, Mary Virginia ('Gina') ... a year younger than me.
What I remember of the
war (from age one to four) was vague
After the war our family moved
to one of those new middle-class subdivisions
Welcome to Middle-Class America! That's all I knew about life. But it was good.
We usually spent our summers at my grandparents' home in Denver, just two houses down from the house where the mother of Mamie Eisenhower (the wife of the President) lived.
I even got a chance in Denver in the summer of 1952 to meet and shake the hands with Republican Party presidential candidate Eisenhower and his running-mate Nixon.
I was thrilled – because I had spent a whole week that summer following the Republican National Convention on our new 13" television! So it was that I was into national politics at age 11!
Besides their home in Denver, my grandparents had a small house in the nearby Rocky Mountains, where we spend many summer days ...
(Me ... getting ready to ride into town ... summer of 1954 - age 13)
... and some winters ice skating!
Skating on the small pond in front of the mountain home (the Christmas of 1954)
I was aware that America had been involved in a bloody war in Korea at that time (1950-1953)
... and understood the issue to have been that of America protecting the "democracy" of an allied nation against the aggressions of Communism
I was also aware that a Washington politician named Joe McCarthy had the nation on edgebecause of the terrible danger of Communism and Communist spies within America itself – and he was trying to bring these "Commies" to public view in order to root them out.
I was also aware of the fact that my parents did not really approve of the man.
I was also aware that the U.S. had recently (November 1st, 1952) exploded the world's first hydrogen bomb – because we so often practiced safety drills ...
... about which I was smart enough to know at the time that these would do little to help us avoid the devastation of an H-bomb attack ... or the radiation poisoning that would afflict the earth for at least 50 years after such an attack!!!
But mostly my world was focused on much less traumatic issues. My culture in fact was generally infused with the optimism that flowed forth from the ever-popular movies ... and the new world of television.
Some of this cultural material was instructive, some was just silly. But all of it sent the message that, all in all, life was very, very good in America.
All we really needed to do was just do "American" ... for clearly America was the very picture of success that all the world would be wise to model itself on!
The TV series "Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" gave a highly positive view of the "typical" American middle-class family. It was light-hearted. It was also highly instructive of what any middle-class family should presumably look like. It was a powerful social model.
Hollywood also gave us heroes to honor ... and try to follow ... such as Roy Rogers, Dale Evans (with Roy's horse Trigger) ... and Hopalong Cassidy, whose B-grade movies managed nonetheless to find via TV a massive following among American youth (even children) in the early 1950s.
The Hopalong Cassidy thing was very popular in the early 1950s. I was too old to be a part of this craze ... for it really belonged to the kids born immediately after the War in some kind of "Baby Boom" (and thus termed the "Boomers"). It would be the last of their innocence before the politics of the Cold War would take over their upbringing.
Post-War America had suffered greatly from this thing called "authoritarianism." America had just experienced authoritarianism's evil work in Hitler's Germany and Tojo's Japan. America was now also seeing it in Stalin's Soviet Union. Had the modern age brought this on ... with its love of change ... especially when directed from above by dominant political figures? Could this happen to America?
The issue was made shockingly clear in the best-selling 1949 book, 1984 by George Orwell. It was about Big Brother taking over the thinking and thus the behavior of an entire society ... Hitler style. The book became almost cultic in the way it awakened American conversation (and fears) concerning this matter of creeping authoritarianism.
This fear arose with the revelation that much of the world of American intellectuals had long been inhabited by Communists ... or at least Communist sympathizers.
During the war ... when we were cooperating closely with Russia's Communist leader "Uncle Joe" Stalin ... Communism and Communist supporters in high places did not appear to be particularly problematic.
That changed dramatically after the war. When we woke up to find that Communists were placed widely within key American intellectual circles, we were outraged that someone had let people with such views get into positions of such major political and social influence in our democratic (middle-class) society.
Communists such as Alger Hiss (left) had risen to the very top of the world of American foreign policy decision-making ... and like Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and Klaus Fuchs had been centrally involved in the research leading to the development of the atomic bomb ... and had secretly been sending technical material to the Soviets to help them develop their atomic bomb.
This is what caused a "witch hunt" for Communists to develop in the early 1950s. This in turn threw American intellectuals into confusion, fear and outrage of their own ... especially when they started turning on each other.
Such was the case in 1952 when the famous Hollywood film director Elia Kazan (left) "outed" a huge number of Communists operating with the American film industry ... including his former friend and fellow writer Arthur Miller (right).
Consequently, many American intellectuals now despised totally the American middle class, claiming it was dangerously Fascist in demanding complete conformity to White, Christian and Patriotic middle-class ways.
Bitter intellectuals responded in various ways ... from the stage or screen, such as Arthur Miller's 1953 play The Crucible (portraying Christian Puritans of the late 1600s as forerunners of the witch-hunters of the 1950s).
... to sneering humor such as this New Yorker Magazine's cartoon entitled "The Non-conformist" ... showing how mindlessly conformist (Fascist-style) Middle America happened to be.
Of course the intellectuals were very out-of-step with the times ... and knew it. Miller's Broadway play went largely unnoticed when it was first presented ... and the intellectuals knew not to push things too far.
But they would have their chance for revenge in the coming 1960s ... when among other things Miller's play would be brought back out as a very successful commentary on the wickedness of Christian America ... so successful that this play became required reading in virtually every American high school ... even yet today.
All of this was timed with another development
on the American cultural scene: the shaping of the American Baby
First of all, Americans noted that everyone they knew, people like themselves who had been through the Depression and World War Two, thought pretty much alike. They were all members of the American Middle Class and possessed what seemed to be guided by the same moral voice, one that appeared to be even instinctive to anyone even moderately enlightened by Middle Class standards.
They did not realize of course that none of this was instinctive to them ... or any human being. It was shaped by the hardships, the need for cooperation and social discipline, to overcome the challenges of the Depression and the War.
But believing that their personal social values were simply a matter of instinct, they supposed that anyone, given the opportunity to develop freely, would naturally grow to adopt these same values on their own. They supposed this of people everywhere ... in other countries around the world ... countries needed to be freed up by American assistance (in overthrowing dictators, for example). They supposed that such "freed" people would then naturally, instinctively, come to adopt the same values (Middle Class American values) that seemed so instinctive to Americans as the right way, the "democratic way."
They also supposed this of their children. According to Dr. Spock, they were to go lightly on the discipline from above ... but let their (Boomer) children develop on their own, through their own good instincts. Too much discipline would be to cause them to be more susceptible to authoritarianism. Instead they were to be taught not only to think for themselves ... but also to resist all appeals by way of overbearing authority ... to resist all forms of authoritarianism in the heroic defense of American freedom.
this Spockian or Humanist logic failed to note was that it was creating
a social model in which right and wrong came to have almost any
meaning that a Boomer
decided that at the moment he or she wanted it to be ... and that
forcing any absolute social standards or even social demands on
Boomers would be "Fascist." Boomers were taught to
fight such social discipline with all their being.
It would also lead Americans to intervene in country after country, overthrowing social systems that seemed to fall short of "democracy" ... with the expectation that they were freeing those peoples to now take up the higher ways of democracy. What they did not realize was that all this Idealism ultimately would merely throw those societies into mass confusion ... one involving massive civil strife and bloody disruption of civilized life ... a realm of violence that would take years to bring the society back to some kind of operative peace.
But so deep was this Humanist philosophy (actually a civic religion) held by Americans, that repeated social failure ... at home as well as abroad ... would not change American insistence that we continue to follow such "political correctness" ... even to the last person standing on this earth!
This kind of social blindness (which still afflicts us even today) was to me one of the most amazing sights to behold, one of the saddest pieces of human tragedy I could imagine possible ... in the way it so easily dismantled social disciplines that many, many generations had worked so hard to put in place in order to bring peace and prosperity to the nation and its future generations. How sad!
Meanwhile, my world as I advanced into
my teens (the second half of the 1950s)
remained quite serene ... and culturally
precise (even limited) because my world
seemed so completely "put together"
Indeed, early on for me the Presbyterian Church in town was a key part of my life
... all the way up through high school.
Boy's Sunday School class -- 1953 (I'm the one with glasses. I was 12 at the time).
I attended church camp each summer from junior high all the way through high school.
Here I am (second from the left) singing in the church camp choir!
Our family led a
quite middle-class American life ... in our new but still modest home, with
... and my mother deeply involved in the town's social life.
Here she is, president of the town's Women's Club.
We celebrated the glories of middle-class life. Middle-class America enjoyed a prosperity unequaled anywhere else in the world ... and we were very well aware of that fact. America was a very safe, secure place (virtually no crime). And American politics was largely uncontested ... with President Eisenhower well-loved by everyone.
It was an awesome time to be an American (as it surely seemed to me at the time).
In high school things seemed to kind of come easily to me. I was sort of this nerd-athlete (cross-country, football and track). Needless to say I did not play football wearing my glasses!
I earned my first 'letter' in sports as a sophomore in long-distance running (cross country).
That's me way at the back with glasses ... standing in front of two all-American national basketball 1st and 2nd team selections. Basketball was actually more like a profession than just a mere sport in our "basketball town" of Collinsville. I stayed out of that sport ... it was way too serious a matter for me!
Nonetheless, by the time I was a senior, I was an officer in the lettermen's club.
I seemed to know how to do just enough work to earn decent grades in school ... and was an officer also in the National Honor Society (based on grades plus social activity)
... and in Mu Alpha Theta
(national Math Honor Society).
Socially speaking ... my life was pretty
Here I am with Roseann at Junior Prom. We had been sweet on each other since 8th grade ... though we never dated seriously ... but were always there for each other for special events such as this!
But socially speaking, it was my Presbyterian church youth group that meant most to me ... and my senior year I was Moderator (president) of the regional (some 50+ churches in the region ... termed a Presbytery) youth organization, Westminster Fellowship.
I knew early on that a call to full-time ministry was in my future.
camp on the campus of Blackburn College
Thus I went off to a Presbyterian-affiliated college (Hanover) in Indiana to get a college degree that would lead to seminary study and ordination as a Presbyterian minister.
Me with the humiliating freshman beanie.... and my Beta Theta Pi fraternity photo
it was at this point that my world shifted
Two things would interrupt those plans for seminary and the Christian ministry.
first is hard to explain ... except that the attempt by my Bible
professor to "modernize" the way he thought we should be reading
the Bible led to ...
The whole thing left me numb and resolved to change both my college and my major (to architectural engineering at the University of Illinois)
The second thing that would interrupt even those plans was a trip to Europe that summer of 1960 after my freshman year in college
The trip to Europe that summer opened my eyes up to a vast new world ... much bigger than my middle-class American world. I found myself engaging in conversations with the locals everywhere I could. I was fascinated ... I was captivated. I wanted to learn more.
It was in Venice that it all hit me! I could have lived there on the Grand Canal with my parents during much of my junior year in high school (1957-1958) ... when my father was sent by Monsanto to Italy to help clear up a major pollution problem that was damaging Venice's buildings and statues.
(the photo above was actually taken in the
spring of 2012 by either my son Paul or my
Upon my return to the States in September (1960) and arriving at the University of Illinois, I immediately changed from engineering to arts and sciences ... and began to prepare for my junior year, which I knew would be spent in Europe.
That next year I was placed by the Presbyterian junior-year abroad study program in Geneva, Switzerland ... to take courses at the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International Studies
At first I was disappointed that this was not France. But I got over my disappointment quickly when I found out how very international Geneva happened to be.
I had studied French for two years (and had a chance to use the language in numerous conversation the previous summer in Europe) ... and was ready for study at the University.
I was delighted to discover that the University of Geneva was filled with students from all around the world.
But I had also begun the study of German the previous year ... and found that I ended up speaking as much German as French (maybe even more) ... because my closest friends in Geneva were mostly German.
... in particular Adam, who became something like a brother to me.
I was reminded in a very personal way that the Cold War was still on when, that summer before I returned to the US, I visted Berlin (celebrating my 21st birthday there) and saw there the wall that the Communists had put around the Western part of the city to keep people from escaping to the West from the hard world of the Communist East (they had just started putting it up the previous August when I first arrived in Europe).
By this time I had
become a complete internationalist
... just in time for another piece of drama in the Cold War: the Cuban Missile Crisis
... then after graduation in 1963 from the University of Illinois, I headed off to Washington, D.C. ... to begin graduate work in international studies at Georgetown University
It was while at Georgetown (1963-1968)
that I was introduced not only to the
political world of Washington, D.C.,
but also to the heart of international
politics and diplomacy
I arrived in D.C. at the height of the Kennedy Era ... when America was dedicated to winning the Cold War, ultimately not by guns and tanks ... but (under Kennedy's new direction) by winning the hearts of a rising "Third World" (Asian, African and Latin American countries) through programs like the Peace Corps.
I even took a part-time job at
the Washington headquarters of the Peace Corps
I had just missed Dr. King's grand address to the nation on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington (March 1963) ... about opening up Middle-Class America to the Blacks. But I could feel the legacy of that speech all around me in Washington. It was understood at the time as essentially a matter of opening up the resistant South to the right of Blacks to vote ... just like anyone else in this country.
It had not (yet)
become an issue of what to do with the multitudes of Blacks
Another major American event coming out of Washington, D.C. about the time I arrived there was the dominating role in the life of the nation that the U.S. Supreme Court was beginning to take for itself ... because Federal judges had come to believe that they knew better than anyone else (even Congress) the principles by which America should now be governed.
The Warren Court (under Chief Justice Earl Warren) turned the First Amendment of the Constitution to mean almost the opposite of what the original framers of our Constitution intended it to be: "Congress shall make no laws concerning the establishment of religion nor the prevention of the free exercise thereof ..." originally protecting from any form of government regulation the people's right to exercise freely their religion (as well as free speech, press, assembly, etc.).
The Supreme Court cited a statement made by Jefferson (who had no part in writing the Constitution) that a "wall of separation" was supposed to exist between the affairs of state and the affairs of religion ... and that religion was to have no part in the affairs of state. But in the 1960s the government would extend the reach of its powers of state deep into the life of the nation ... chasing the Christian religion out of this expanding domain of state control ... in short preventing the free exercise of religion wherever the government (or more particularly the Supreme Court) chose to extend the powers of the federal state ... or even just public life itself.
In short, according to the
Supreme Court, religious practice was now to be carefully restricted so as not to violate
the (new) Constitutional principle of the separation of church and
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo
Black, who wrote a number of the Court's opinions
Black wrote the 1947 Court opinion in the Everson v. Board of Education case stating that the First Amendment "erected a wall between church and state. ... That wall must be kept high and impregnable."
He also wrote the 1962 Court opinion in the Engle v. Vitale case stating the government- written prayers, even broad non-denominational prayers, were not to be recited in the public schools as they violated the "Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment ... ignoring the fact that at the same time he and the Supreme Court were themselves violating the "Non-Prevention Clause" of that same First Amendment.
Ultimately, living in Washington, D.C. during the 1960s proved to be quite traumatic.
President Kennedy was shot during a visit to Dallas that November
We were doubly shocked by the
man who took his place, Vice President Lyndon Johnson
But we were soon to learn that he was going to compensate for his public shortcomings ... by working behind the scenes to build Washington into the nation's new nerve center ... reshaped so as to direct every aspect of American society that Johnson could lay his hands on.
Washington exploded in size (and expense) during Johnson's five years in the White House ... and he completely reshaped the Democratic Party around his Socialist ideals.
President Johnson at the
University of Michigan commencement ceremony
In his State of the Union Address in January of 1965 he was more specific about the programs he had in mind ... and the general cost involved. But somehow (he assured us) this was all going to be worth it. He and Washington were indeed going to construct his Great Society.
He also sent off hundreds of thousands of American young men ... supposedly to bring democracy (by gunpoint) to the troubled Vietnamese nation. He was a man with huge ambitions ... seeking to prove to the world that he could be more awesome than even a Kennedy.
To Johnson, "civil rights" meant full government support in life for the underprivileged ... at the taxpayers expense. Thus he led the Black community to believe that the government was going to compensate them for all the previous years of White mistreatment. Blacks could now expect wonderful things to come their way ... because it was owed them by the American people and their government.
But becoming dependent on such government "assistance" would soon prove disastrous to the Black's ability to work their way out of poverty ... as had previously done the Irish, the Poles, the Italians, etc. who came as poor and powerless, but worked hard to advance their families ... and bring them into full status as members of the American middle class.
Above is Johnson in 1964 signing the Civil Rights Act (to be followed in 1965 and 1968 by even more comprehensive Civil Rights Acts).
Meanwhile, with the first Boomers (or "Hippies") coming of age in the mid-1960s ... American headed down a very zany road. They were set on proving that they were ready to answer to no authority but their own instincts or impulses ... just as they had been trained by their middle-class Vet parents in the 1950s.
I was only about 5 or 6 years older than the first Boomers ... but was part of a very different generation: the so-called "Silent Generation." We were still intensely patriotic and still willing to work within the system ... something that distinguished us greatly from the younger Hippie Boomers.
But cultural change was in the air everywhere. And what seemed most odd to me at the time, "change" included a new thing of women rising up in rebellion against the "tyranny of men" ... even against the idea of the middle-class life itself ... a process shaped and directed by Betty Friedan, who wrote the new Bible of the Feminist Movement, The Feminine Mystique (1963), an immediate best-seller ... especially among the students at women's colleges across the country.
Something else I followed closely while at Georgetown was a growing split between the traditionalists (the older members of the political science field) and the younger behaviorists ... who sneered at the old-timers because their work was not scientific ... meaning, not loaded up with statistics and tables that automatically made things "scientific."
But I noticed also that the traditionalists had much deeper insights (from the historical record) about the long-standing tendencies of human behavior ... than the shallow -- and frankly just silly -- statistical studies coming forth (and appearing increasingly more frequently) in the scholarly journals.
Even the young scholars knew that their works were pretty shallow. But their attitude was that this was just the beginning of a great scientific revolution in social studies ... a revolution that one day soon would bring all social behavior under scientific management (meaning ... control of society by intellectuals such as themselves)
Clearly this kind of "scientific" pride was behind Johnson's Great Society programs as well. Experts working out of Washington were supposedly now going to solve scientifically the remaining challenges of poverty, illiteracy, crime, etc. ... which were comparatively small matters at the time. The Middle Class had done a respectable job handling the bulk of those issues. But the experts brought to Washington were now going to complete the process by bringing America to perfection ... indeed to make America the Great Society that Johnson described.
Actually, quite the opposite was about to happen.
get to watch America fall apart under all the "new-think" of Johnson
Tragically this new-think would serve to reshape the social setting of the American inner city. Blacks living in American inner-cities soon ceased waiting for the government to send goodies their way ... and simply started plundering local businesses for "the goodies they deserved."
Thus ... for instance ... things got very nasty in Detroit (1965).
And the largely Black Watts
section of Los Angeles experienced the same pillaging
Meanwhile Johnson’s war in Vietnam was not only turning very bloody for both Americans and Vietnamese … but it was becoming increasingly clear to Americans that "democracy" was never going to take hold in Vietnam … at least not at gunpoint.
But no one knew what to do about this confusing (and disastrous) situation. So … the killing and maiming continued … pointlessly.
Thus it was that protests against military service during the Vietnam War started up.
Students (supported by a younger generation of "freedom fighting" university faculty) now began to take over their universities … for any number of "social justice" causes in which they stood up in heroic resistance to the authoritarianism of the "Establishment" (their Vet parents' Middle Class society) … although increasingly their crusading was directed particularly against the war in Vietnam.
Then from mid-1967 onward
I watched Johnson's America break down
into mindless chaos and fury.
Everyone seemed angry about something
It was a hot summer and Black youth were again out in the streets
angrily protesting about how unfair life was.
Once again, Detroit exploded in violent rage - 1967
And there to cultivate and direct that anger was a new group:
… Things soon turned very, very
Finally the National
Guard had to be called into Detroit
Newark (New Jersey’s largest city) also turned violent during that same summer.
The police reacted. But It was too late. Businesses fled the city … plunging Newark into a deep economic crisis that lasted for years.
Then in October of 1967 thousands of young people descended on Washington to participate in an anti-war demonstration in front of the Pentagon
But elsewhere … and at the same time … anti-war protests often took on an angry character as Boomers protested the "Fascism" of those defending the evil "System."
"Dirty Fascist" screams an overwrought University of Wisconsin protester at
When 1968 rolled around, America seemed
simply to turn itself upside down
Tragically, 1968 started off with the news of a "Tet Offensive" conducted by the Communists in downtown Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam. Viet Cong insurgents had even managed to kill American soldiers guarding the American Embassy there.
Americans had previously been told that we were (slowly) winning the war there. Now Americans (with the help of the press) were convinced it was all a big Johnson lie.
The anti-war protests by Boomer youth now grew larger and louder in scope. The chant of protesters rings out: "Hey, hey, LBJ … how many kids did you kill today"
A very worn-out
President Johnson, listening to a tape sent by his son-in-law,
Then in March (1968) Johnson surprised the world by announcing that he would not be running for re-election that year. It seemed that he was simply going to let America figure its own way out of the mess that he had started in Vietnam and in his American Great Society.
Worse … and massively tragically for America … in April some White psycho decided to assassinate Civil Rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Black burning and
pillaging that followed swept almost every major city in
Chicago burns out of control.
In Washington, the looting and burning of the city came to within two blocks of my townhouse apartment in a mixed Black-White neighborhood … and once friendly relations with Black neighbors turned icy as Blacks now looked on their neighbors' "Whiteness" in anger.
Meanwhile at Columbia University protesters and counter-protesters clashed violently when Leftist students attempted to shut down the University (May 1968) because the University was being "racist" in attempting to build a new building on a lot which the University owned … but had been used by academics and students as a neighborhood garden project involving the surrounding Black community.
But other students took exception to the shutdown ... especially those expecting to graduate from Columbia within a few weeks.
Then in June tragedy struck again, when Bobby Kennedy was
Nobody looted and burned America. But the country was again stunned … greatly stunned. Bobby was well on his way to becoming the Democratic Party's replacement candidate for the retiring Johnson (and probably the next President).
That summer the Republican Party nominated Richard Nixon for President and the tough Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew for Vice President (whose actions had spared Baltimore the violence of the Black riots).
Middle Class Americans (who now typically voted Republican) were fed up with Johnson’s and his government’s failed leadership and wanted America to get its act back together again.
But in August all the protesting instincts of the rising Boomer youth were directed at the Democratic Party’s National Convention in Chicago … for it was the Democratic Party – and its future – that most interested the Boomer.
But things immediately turned wild!
In the chaos, the situation grew far worse when the Chicago police literally "rioted."
I couldn't believe how "Great Society" America had deteriorated into something I no longer recognized as the nation I had grown up in.
In August of 1968 I left the country ... never so
happy to leave this American 'mad-house'
behind me. I would be away for two years.
When I returned, it was to a very different
But let me get back to my own story ...
of what was happening in my personal world
during the increasingly crazy 1960s
While in Geneva (1961-1962), I met Kim. We would date for the next three years, though mostly at a distance … for she was in college in Connecticut while I was back my senior year in Illinois and then at grad school in Washington, D.C.
Kim was charming, but ambitious. I never quite figured out what it was about me that could have interested her. Anyway, we spent as much time together as we could … particularly Christmas vacations when she would join me in Collinsville … rather than fly back to Pariswhere her parents lived.
That relationship came to an end three years later when Kim graduated from college … and wanted to go with me to England to study. We both were accepted to a master's degree program at the London School of Economics. But I had just recived my masters from Georgetown (I did not learn until a couple of years later that this was the normal path into a doctoral program in England). She was willing to try something else ... to stay behind in America for study. But I just could not ask her to do that. I was not ready for this … and had no idea what it was that was holding me back.
Chicago - 1964
The next year, as I got started on my doctoral studies at Georgetown, I started dating Martha, a girl from Texas whose Daddy had got her a summer job (she was a teacher back in Houston) in their Congressman’s office in Washington. At the end of the summer she decided to stay in Washington … and not go back to Texas. I knew what that meant!
We dated (but I also dated other girls at that time)
We lived next door to each other on Prospect Street (I lived in the
house on the right),
I had a very busy social life in Washington
(mostly with the sons and daughters of the foreign
After two years of dating, Martha pushed for
I agreed, mostly because I could not come up with a reason not to ...
and because Courtney … who was as afraid of marriage as I was …
agreed to marry Valerie, his British girlfriend. It ultimately seemed like the
"grown-up" thing to do.
Martha and I returned to Washington for me to finish out my doctoral studies and comprehensive exams at Georgetown … just in time to watch our capital city go crazy with constant protests … and burning. We had to escape to the Virginia suburbs to live with Courtney and Val until the craziness settled down in the city so that we could then safely return to our Dupont Circle apartment.
At the end of August (1968) we left the country for Europe, bought a VW "Squareback" in Belgium, and proceeded to head Southeast, to Geneva, then Italy, then East across to Greece, then on to Turkey, then Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan (leaving the car there and continuing on by train), to India and finally flying from India to Nepal … arriving in Katmandu by Christmas.
What was so wonderful was that it was well past the tourist season … and we had famous historical sites nearly to ourselves. In fact, in most instances, we were the only ones on site.
Athens – Early October (1968)
Indeed, we had the world almost to ourselves even back in Italy
The Roman Colosseum / The Via Appia (Roman road)
The Roman Forum / Pompeii
In Greece: the ruins of ancient Sparta and the ancient Stadium of Olympia
Agamemnon's Palace at Mycenae and Alexander's capital at Pella in Macedonia
Knossos – the ancient capital of the Minoan Empire (on the island of Crete)
In Turkey we spent the day alone at Boğazkale … location of the
ancient capital of the
From Turkey we headed on East into Iran …happy to have any roads at all
… with many problems along the way, waking up each day not sure whether the day would bring good or bad. But what kept us going was a strange sense that there was some "unseen hand" on our lives.
I had long ago given up my Sunday School idea of God … but had not (not yet anyway) given up on the notion that somehow I enjoyed very peculiar protection. It allowed me to do things that held most people back.
Years later I would come to understand that this had always been the hand of God.
When we got to Tehran, Iran’s capital, we stayed with the family of a former Iranian Georgetown housemate of mine. We were surprised to see how modern it was … at least the northern half of the city (thanks in part to the modernizing policies of the Shah). We were told to stay out of the Southern half of the city (militantly traditionalist Muslim), because the people there hated Westerners … and what Western culture had done to their Muslim world.
Aware of this sensitivity of traditional Islam … we continued to move East cautiously … heading across very conservative Eastern Iran and then on to Afghanistan.
At the Iranian-Afghan border we met the president of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce, Mohammed Saleh (actually giving him a ride into Herat) and then enjoying a Thanksgiving meal with his relatives in Kabul (a surgeon who had trained in Houston and his family), attending a reception and dinner put on by Afghan’s king and queen, and just hanging out with Nasir (a London-trained architect).
[I fear that they are all dead ... because we no longer heard from them after the Communist takeover by Taraki in 1978 and the arrest and execution of 27,000 of Afghanistan's leaders.]
With Mohammed in Herat
In Kabul with Nasir and an Indian musician / Martha decked out in an Afghan burka!
Here I am relaxing in our hotel room in Kabul.
As we drove toward the Khyber Pass, we found ourselves in major Pashtun territory ... a rather violent land where people lived behind high walls and men ventured forth only if well-armed.
Then we went through the Khyber Pass (major Taliban territory today) … down into the crowded streets of Pakistan … where we left the car and continued on into India by train!
Then we spent the next month in
We then flew across the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains to Nepal’s capital, Katmandu, ... and nearby religious center of Patan… where we felt as if we had stepped back several centuries in time.
We then returned to India for another month of travel.
In Bombay (today’s Mumbai) we encountered not only remaining elements of Victorian or British India … but an old friend Deepak (at this point a professor at the Univ. of Poona) … who also introduced us to India’s famous movie industry.
And of course we visited more of the requisite historical sites (there being many in India!)
Finally in late January we began our trip back to Belgium ...
this time a very grueling trip because we went across the Baluchi Desert (where Alexander lost much of his army on his return West from India) and the now snow-covered mountains bordering Iran and Turkey. We nearly lost our lives in both places (by only some very wierd interventions by the protecting "Hand" did we escape disaster)!
By the time we reached Istanbul, we were completely exhausted.
Finally in mid-February we arrived at our European destination … Brussels where I planned to research and write my doctoral dissertation on Belgian leadership.
We soon found an apartment just in time to receive a visit from
We finally got settled in quite comfortably!
I immediately began to look for a job as a computer programmer … without any "luck." But then just as I came to think that the ‘hand’ had forgotten me, IBM called me to see if I would be interested coming to work for them! What a surprise … and way beyond anything I would have dreamed possible.
Martha meanwhile got teaching jobs, first at a language school, then at an English-speaking Catholic school … and then finally at an American military school.
On this basis we quickly made ourselves at home in Belgium
with Belgian and American friends …
Being invited into the homes of our Belgian friends ... (here in Liège with Pierre and Anne and family) was like being accepted into family ... a great honor!
On a canoe trip in the Ardennes Forest with Belgian friends
Bob and Ann Sanders / Newt Gingrich
drained all my energy daily … and I was making no progress on my
dissertation. Then finally with Martha’s job at the American
military school, we could then easily live off her salary.
I quit IBM (to their great surprise) after 9 months and headed off to the Brussels library to begin my research … and that first day met two grad students from Tulane University (New Orleans) also doing doctoral research: Bob Sanders and Newt Gingrich. We would become close friends … taking long lunches together … and discussing the problems of the world … but especially those going on back in America.
On or around my 28th birthday
(July 19, 1969) two events back in America were to reach even to Europe in
their impact on the times … and in the days and years ahead.
The other event occurred the night before my birthday … but would not come immediately to public notice. It was when Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy (always the problem child in the Kennedy family) ran his car off a wooden bridge into a tidal channel on the small Island of Chappaquiddick … and managed to get himself out of the car … but left a young lady in the car to drown … and did not bother to tell the authorities of what had happened until the next morning (who at that point had already discovered the car and the dead girl).
Being a Kennedy … he got off with a suspended prison sentence … though authorities revisited the events again the next year and concluded that much of Kennedy’s story was a lie. But somehow "Chappaquiddick Ted" Kennedy escaped the political consequences of his actions among his Liberal admirers.
When Martha and I returned to America
at the end of the summer of 1970, one thing
that seemed very obvious to me was that after
a tragic mishap at Kent State University in Ohio
(May 1970), much of the Boomer protest
movement had lost considerable energy
In order to demonstrate their anti-war zeal,
The next day nervous National Guardsmen were brought in to face down the rioters.
Then something went wrong ... and National Guardsmen actually fired on protesting students.
However ... not all anti-war protests were over at this point. There was the April 1971 anti-war protest in Washington of U.S. Veterans Against the War.
In their anger, the veterans
stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial
At that same time Kennedy brought a young Lt. John Kerry before Congress to testify about all the horrible things U.S. soldiers were doing in Vietnam. It seemed to me at the time that this was all just typical Washington political opportunism. Indeed, the sponsorship of this even by Chappaquiddick Ted, at this point appearing to be America’s great moral voice in promoting Kerry’s testimony, stirred even more deeply my sense of political cynicism!
What would eventually prove to be even more cynical was that this same John Kerry would become a Massachusetts Senator (1984) and then eventually (2004) run as the Democratic Party candidate for President. Ultimately, Kerry was defeated in the election.
But President Obama would bring Kerry once again to national prominence, in appointing him to serve as his Secretary of State (2013-2017)! Shaming America obviously had its rewards!
Anyway, since my return to the states in 1970, I had my hands full finishing the writing of my doctoral dissertation (most of which I did living with Martha’s family in Texas) … and searching for a university teaching job. In the summer of 1971 I was hired by the political science department at the University of South Alabama (Mobile) … to begin teaching there that fall.
From this point on I would no
longer be calling on the "unseen hand" to help me along.