The textual material on this particular page is drawn directly from my published work
        The Spiritual Pilgrim © 2021, pages 4-57.


Ultimately, what you have here before you is very personal testimony about what I have come to understand as to how societies succeed – and why they sometimes fail. It is about what I have learned through not only my many years of social research and course development but also through those same years of my own quite personal frontline encounters, struggles, occasional successes and occasional failures, in going at life.

I've majorly "been there – done that" over those 80 years of my life. And in this process, I came to this particular understanding, how it is personal involvement, even more than well-thought-out plans and schemes, that is what makes the whole thing called "life" work.

That's because we humans were made that way.

"Been there – done that" involved not only living in various points around the country – including a substantial portion in Washington, D.C. (an eye-opening experience in itself!) – but, as I previously mentioned, also residence and exploration abroad, in all kinds of different contexts.

Me (at age 8) with my mom, dad and sister Gina (1949)

Family as central to the process

But arriving at this understanding included also being part of a personal legacy that my family or ancestors before me developed as "family tradition." Much of what I did or became happened simply because I was raised in this particular family environment, in this family tradition.

But it's also a legacy that my children, coming after me, have also taken up, and in the process themselves have validated in their own ways, further verifying the wonderful qualities of this family legacy. I have thus learned from their own experiences as well.

Thus I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that family, even more importantly than government and its officials, is what brings rising generations to the Truth in life.

I know this very well having also served many years as a street and prison pastor, sadly discovering along another pathway how important the American family system is to its people, and the tragedy that hits our society when the family system is messed with by "progressive" social planners, modern-day Sophists who have no personal, no intimate, knowledge of what actually works in the communities and streets of America. Their Truth is rational, abstract and high-sounding. But it has no bearing on what is actually True about life, since such Truth is not found at their desks but instead through personal involvement in the world they are trying to preside over.

"Middle America" as a witness to such Truth

Thus what my sons and daughters (and my students) have discovered is that the great Truth in our lives is simply to live gloriously as supporting members of a "Middle American" family, finding a serviceable place in a social realm that is not too fancy – requiring only some vision, some understanding of how it works, and a willingness to do the labor necessary to make it work for us personally. There is much joy to be found in living so simply.

Living as "Middle Americans" has indeed worked for countless generations before us. It has been a social approach to life that much of America was founded on, especially in the Yankee North and the wild, wild West. And it is a social approach that, through much testing, has consistently brought Americans – including the many immigrants who flocked here, eager to take up the challenge of living the American way – to grand success. And it ultimately brought America itself forward as the world's leading "superpower." And, it is a social methodology that has also gone on to inspire the lives of many others around the world outside of America itself.

Again, personal involvement rather than social engineering
as the path to Truth

But for a number of very bad reasons, "Middle America "is undergoing rejection today, by Americans themselves. This is largely because social planners – self-appointed social authorities off in some bureaucratic office, or before you in the never-ceasing presence of the "media" – have decided that they know better than the rest of Middle America how life needs to go forward, how it needs to be more "progressive."

And we are increasingly seeing the brutal results of these Sophists' grand plans and ideals, however, not for the first time in our history – and very much so in my own lifetime.

Again, very personal involvement at the local level – rather than just grand social ideals coming from some distant social managers – has proven itself to be the best teacher concerning what works and what doesn't work on a very practical basis here in America, and even around the world.

And so, as the professor-consultant-pastor-teacher I have long been, I am inviting the reader of this journal into that personal world, to come to understand how the grand American legacy works – on that very personal basis, one that anyone can – and should – take up.

So let us begin this personal journey. 


Collinsville, the heartland of Middle America!

I was born in July of 1941, just before America's entry into World War Two, and raised in Collinsville, a small midwestern town in Illinois, a little to the east of St. Louis. I grew up there with a younger sister, a mom at home, and a father who worked as a chemical engineer in nearby E. St. Louis.

Collinsville was only 10 miles to the east of downtown St. Louis, though actually it was never a suburban retreat for the city of St. Louis.  It was a social universe unto itself, fully self-sufficient as a community of around 14,000 people – typical of thousands of such small communities spread across the country.

Family background: Dad's side of the family

My dad, Paul, was the baby of a family of six children, and raised within a professional family, both of his parents being college grads. His father was the class president of his senior class and his mom was its secretary. Reaching back even a generation earlier, his grandfather (my great-grandfather) was actually a co-founder of that same Seventh-Day Adventist college in Lincoln, Nebraska, and well-known for his experimental work with fruit orchards and bee hives. And his mother's father (my other great-grandfather on that side of the family) was mayor of the medium-sized town of Sedalia, Missouri.

But I knew of that side of the family only through the few stories I was able to piece together over time. My Dad's father became a banker, but one who ended up financially and emotionally devastated by the financial gyrations that descended upon rural America after World War One. Even sadder, my dad's mom was physically devastated by the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, became permanently infirm, and thus a remote personality during my dad's youth. And she died when he was still quite young.  He really was raised by his older brothers and sisters, particularly when the family moved to Kansas City, where one of his brothers became a fast-rising lawyer, the oldest sister a corporate secretary, another sister a nurse, and yet another sister a church secretary. And there was another brother, who headed off to New York City, eventually to rise as a technician in the new TV industry located there.

Dad's father had also died before my dad and mom married. And though I came to know my aunts and uncles quite well, Dad seldom talked about his parents. Thus I grew up knowing little about my grandparents on his side.

But I did come to know that my dad grew up in Kansas City as a quite tall youth (6'3"), was considered to be very good looking, and at the same time was quite unsure of what it was that he was supposed to become as a person. Apparently, the family worried about him quite a bit.

My dad and his family
My dad, Pearl, Helen, my grandfather (that I never knew)
James, Elmer, Bernice, and Helen's husband Stuart

Mom and her family

On the other side of the family, my mom, Margaret Blanche Miles, was a pampered only child, who knew little of the realities of the Depression, her parents being able to put her through Baker University during the darkest of those days.

Her parents (my grandma and grandpa!) I knew quite well, and was very, very close to – like being a second set of parents! My grandfather grew up as a farm-boy in a rural community in central Illinois, was well-known locally for his adventurous streak, was the first person in the county to own a car, and as soon as he could, headed off to Chicago to avoid the destiny of farm life. But he had started up a relationship with my grandmother, a local school teacher (also born and raised in central Illinois). Ultimately that relationship led to marriage, with the two of them then heading off to Kansas City, where my grandfather started up a business as a restaurant owner. This business too (like my other grandfather) had its ups and downs during the 1920s, and my grandfather ultimately sold the restaurant and went on the road selling asbestos fire-curtains for movie theaters. He did sufficiently well at this so as to be able, as just mentioned, to put my mom through private college, where she majored in English.

My mom was working as a writer for the Kansas City Star when she met my father at Christian Endeavor, a popular way for young adults to meet each other during the 1930s. My father fell head over heels in love with her, becoming totally devoted to her (as he would be for the rest of his life), and wanting to marry immediately. But she held out on that until he finished his engineering studies at the University of Kansas in Topeka.

Mom's Baker University graduation pictures - 1934

My Dad as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Reserves ... and Mom (1939)

Their wedding - February 1940

He met much of the financial burden of university studies through a ROTC scholarship – which led him to be commissioned into the reserves as a 2nd Lieutenant. Thus I came very close to being raised as an army brat. In the end, however, they chose the world of private industry rather than the army. Thus just before America's involvement in World War Two, they came to the St. Louis area for Dad to begin work at Monsanto Chemical Co. – just before I was born.

Dad's job with Monsanto was considered very strategic for the war effort and thus he was never activated to service. Consequently, I had very little sense of the war and its deprivations, even though I spent my first years going through it.

My sister, Mary Virginia or "Gina" (or just "Sis" to me) was born a year after me, and we remained close growing up – though often closer in battle than in peace!

Gina and me ... 1944, 1945, 1947, and 1949

Denver, my other home

In growing up, my sister and I moved back and forth seemingly constantly between St. Louis (that is, Collinsville) and Denver, where my grandparents now lived. My grandfather at that point worked for the Union Pacific Railroad as a dining car steward or manager, at home three days and on the road three days in constant succession.
Gina and I loved Denver. My grandparents owned a beautiful home on 8th Avenue just across from Cheesman Park, a park that became my summertime front yard to play in, also offering wading pools and all kinds of cultural activities – including an annual popular opera, such as Oklahoma, South Pacific, etc
My grandparents also owned a cabin home – complete with a little pond I could skate on in the winter – just outside of Evergreen, up in the Rocky Mountains just west of Denver. Evergreen at the time was reached by a winding road along mountain cliffs that used to excite me with fright as we made our way along it. And also, at that time, Evergreen was still something of a frontier town. I used to love to ride into town on a horse to pick up the family's mail!

Indeed, Denver itself at the time also still had something of the Old West flavor to it, founded heavily on the world of cattle and railroads. Years later I was to discover, to my great horror, that after I grew up, not only had Denver become totally "yuppified," Evergreen too had become a fashionable Yuppie suburb of Denver – thanks to Interstate 70!

Me (newly born in 1941) ... with my grandfather and grandmother (my mom's parents)
... the only set of grandparents I ever knew.  We were very close!

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)

July 1953 - Me (12) with my mother and grandparents in Denver

I also loved greatly their mountain cabin, a couple of miles outside of Evergreen, Colorado

Summer of 1954 ... about to ride into town to get the mail

Christmas of 1954 ... the cabin in Evergreen
and me clearing the snow on the pond so that I can do some skating there

Eisenhower and Nixon

Also, it was in Denver that I took my first steps into a world that would come to have great importance to me: that of national politics.

Actually, I had just taken my first interest in that world back home in Collinsville the year (1952) that my parents bought a new 13-inch TV set, and I found myself that summer following intently the Republican National Convention, covered fully by one of the national stations. I was deeply intrigued by it all.

But it was in Denver that the "personal" part of that world opened up.

It seems that General Dwight Eisenhower, who had just been selected by the Republicans at that same convention to be its presidential candidate, happened to be in Denver later than summer, when we too were there. He and his wife Amy were visiting Amy's mother (who lived only a couple of blocks down 8th Avenue from my grandparents), and was holding a reception, open to the public at the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver. So off to meet this man I went, where indeed, this 11-year old boy got to shake hands and be greeted – not only by Eisenhower but also by his running mate, Richard Nixon.

That meant a lot to me, something I would never forget, something that brought home to me that the idea that national politics was not really that remote, if you were willing to step forward a little to engage it personally!

And what a privilege for an 11-year-old (me!) to meet both Eisenhower and Nixon
at a reception in Denver ... my introduction to the world of politics

So my story also includes stories that my parents and grandparents told me
about their own lives ... long before I came on the scene!

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).  They too had her own stories – which I learned from my father and aunts and uncles.

My dad's parents – their college graduation pictures (1896)
he was class president, she was the class secretary ... a great combination!

My grandmother, her sister and her parents
– in Sedalia, Missouri (he was the town’s mayor)

And my great grandfather (Noah Hodges) was part of the story.   He was very much a "progressive," helping found the 7th-Day Adventist college near Lincoln, Nebraska that my grandparents graduated from.  Here he is with his sons (my grandfather on the left) with his beehives and experimental fruit orchard in Nebraska


Dad's role in my getting "Middle-Americanized"!

Fitting into the larger world that awaited me as I made my way step by step to adulthood never seemed to be a very complicated matter. The game-plan was clear to all, not at all controversial, and seemed to be simply a matter of doing what was expected of any normal human being.

First of all, there was the family model placed clearly before us. My dad was the "provider" thanks to his job. Today he would be considered very much the "professional." But back then he was just someone who simply did his job, to put a roof over our heads, put food on the table, and pay the bills.

He and a group of buddies (they all attended the town's Presbyterian Church) bought an old used car together to take them daily from their homes in Collinsville to their work at the East St. Louis Monsanto plant. In that car pool was a Monsanto division chief, my father (the engineer in the group), and several other men who performed tasks at various levels of production. That is, they made up what today would be considered members of distinctly different social ranks. But at that time, whatever their different roles at Monsanto were, they were simply co-workers, just as all Americans were simply co-workers in the American world.

Identity politics? That was a key part of what made Middle America so unique, at a time when the rest of the world had its various societies divided distinctly into a whole array of class, sectarian, ethnic, even tribal and national, groupings. The general idea in Middle America was that in America, you were just "American," nothing more, and certainly nothing less.

What about the Black world at that time? In Collinsville, you would have had almost no contact with such a Black world. Aside from a few families living in town, there was almost no Black presence there. True, nearby East St. Louis had a quite large, though (as yet) by no means dominant Black presence in the life of that community. Indeed, it was through regional sports, involving some of East St. Louis's high school sportsmen, that I came to have my first contacts with the Black community. And my general impression, besides the obvious fact that they had skins darker than mine, was that they tended to be excellent athletes. And that was about as far as the matter went for me personally.

True, there was some "diversity" in Collinsville, in that Collinsville had once been somewhat minorly an industrial town, mining soft coal for home-heating and whatever. A number of people had come to Collinsville from Southern Italy a generation or two earlier to work those mines, now at that point closed. In doing so, they naturally formed their own Italian-Catholic community in town. I did not have much contact with that world either, until the kids coming out of that community left the town's Catholic parochial school and went on to Collinsville's public high school, which I also attended, as did everyone my age in town. But that Italian-Catholic community had become so "Americanized" that in high school there was no discernible difference in terms of any "identity" matters.

Well not entirely. I found that these Catholic girls seemed to be especially attractive, and it was among that group typically that I found myself dating! My grandmother was not wild about the matter. But hey, she was off in Denver, so that hardly mattered at the time.

Mom's role

My mom was an "at-home-mom" as was virtually every other mom in town, at least as far as I knew. Sure, she was college-educated. True, she had once worked for an important city newspaper as a writer. Also, by today's understanding, that should have put her in the professional class, rather than be ranked as something as inferior as occupying the position of "other" or "unemployed" on today's tax sheets. Every woman was an "other" back then, and very importantly so in the scheme of community life, both nationally and locally.

She played the key role of nurturing the rising generation, especially during the critical first years of our lives when we developed our first notions of what larger life was supposed to be all about, and how it was that we were supposed to meet the larger world's expectations of our own performance. That training was vital to us, for it provided healthy development for any of us "Middle Americans."

Yes, she would eventually go on and get her master's degree in library science, and yes, she would then take up the job as the high-school librarian. But that was not to occur until my sister Gina and I were off in college pursuing our own education. Up until then, Mom was at home, making sure that our world was safe, manageable, and enjoyable. That was her first priority.

True, she was quite active outside the home, doing what most "Middle American" women did, connecting the family to the surrounding social world – while Dad was off at work and the kids were in school. She was very busy in church matters, which depended heavily on this unpaid, non-professional work force of committed women to make the worshiping community succeed in its call. She was busy helping at the public library, which also depended heavily on such volunteer support. And yes, she was active in the Collinsville Women's Club (an organization involved in every imaginable activity possible in this small world), even becoming its president at one point.

In all, Middle America found itself built heavily on this kind of egalitarian, volunteering public spirit. It needed no state bureaucrat to tell it how to go about life, much less how to make it better. It was quite good as it was. And any needed improvements would have come quickly from the good citizens of Collinsville themselves, who not only voted in the local elections but also participated in curriculum discussions (which tended to be very conservative anyway) at school board meetings and at open forums at city hall. That was the way American "democracy" worked. That was Middle America being just that: Middle America.

And it all paid the bills. We lived quite comfortably – as everyone I knew did in Collinsville – not at exactly the same income level, but not on the basis of much of an income spread either. In any case, I knew of no one "poor" in Collinsville. 

Our family led a quite middle-class American life ... in our new but still modest home

  ... which my father designed and had built
(and I got to help out in the later stages of its development)

... and with my father working at Monsanto ...

and my mother deeply involved in the town's social life
... typical of all "Middle American" families at the time.

Here she is, president of the town's Women's Club.

My first experience with a much harder or crueler reality

his is not to say that I lived entirely in some kind of social "bubble"! Something that happened even in my preteen years left an indelible mark on me: a Disney nature movie! I would never get out of my mind a scene that I was exposed to, of an African leopard creeping up on an inattentive younger gazelle and bringing it down, in order to feed its own hungry cubs. It was deeply shocking to watch, at the same time being aware (even at such an early age) that it was very necessary for the survival of the leopard's cubs. Yes but what about the survival of the gazelle?

Unlike everything else in my well-regulated existence, I realized that there was no "rational" answer to that question. That was certainly for me a "first." I can't say it made me cynical (though I would come to know cynicism quite intimately in later years). It just undercut the kind of pleasant assurance I had that all things had quite logical, even straightforward, formulas designed to provide a trouble-free life.

This was my introduction to an existential proposition that things just happen, and some unavoidable decisions would have to be made, not on the basis of some clear reason, but on the basis that they simply had to be made in order just to move ahead, sometimes just to survive. And they were choices that had more the feel of guesswork than rational planning for success.

I would later have this understanding amplified as I came to appreciate the fact that this was a challenge found widely in life. For instance, it was typically the situation facing an army about to go into battle. All the battle plans that had been made will suddenly have to be adjusted, even possibly be set completely aside, once the first shot is fired and the action gets underway, for both sides of the contest.

When finally moving past the typical Cowboys-and-Indians stage in my early life, I would take on more seriously an understanding of the drama facing the immigrant Anglos and the native Indian-Americans when they encountered each other in their struggle for the land. One would be a winner. One a loser. And the struggle would be very ugly. The Anglos were determined to build their communities in the New World, and they needed the land to farm and thus feed their population. And the Indians needed those same lands to hunt, in order to continue to support their own economy. And they would defend their hunting territories (as they always had), brutally if necessary.

Yes, life is a matter of watching the leopard and gazelle going at things. The leopard, though the mightier of the two, did not always succeed in bringing down the gazelle. And when that happened, the leopard cubs would grow ever hungrier, and more susceptible to tragedy.

There were no guarantees about such things. But the dynamic could not be escaped. Survival depended on it.

Such ideas and understandings for a mere youth to have to take on!  But it would deeply shape my future venture into the world of social dynamics, where things tended to operate along much the same lines.

But in general ... we Hodges truly 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).

My religious upbringing

But there seemed to be the matter of church to offer comfort in the face of such things. The Christian life (as I understood it at the time) was a set of answers to all of such mysteries and contradictions. And I wasn't the only one who tended to go at America's national religion, Christianity (actually coupled with "democracy" and "capitalism") from that perspective. We all worshiped an orderly God, whom we were certain had ordained this perfect order.

Thus it was that in my Middle America, everyone went to church. Besides, there was not much else to do of a Sunday morning anyway, as everything – absolutely everything – was shut down so that people's attention could then be focused on church!

Yes, there was great religious diversity in town. True, there was no synagogue in town, although my family doctor, and his daughter that I grew up with from 3rd grade through high school graduation, were Jewish, and attended a synagogue nearby (which our Presbyterian youth group visited once on something of a religious "exchange.") But religiously involved we all were, regardless of the particular form it took. Religion was a key component of Middle American life.

Yes, I dated Catholic girls, and yes, I was active in high school sports (cross-country, track, and football), and yes, I danced regularly at "Teen Town" on weekend evenings. But the real focus of my social life was the town's First Presbyterian Church. I not only grew up within its religious-moral precincts, I found it to be the center of a lot of social activity for me. My closest friends in Collinsville were always the ones that I had grown up with in Sunday School. And on Sunday evenings, we attended regularly the youth group, Westminster Fellowship. And we went to the week-long Westminster Fellowship summer camps together.

Indeed, so active was I in all these church activities that I not only later became a camp counselor for the younger version of summer camp, I became an officer in the organization, becoming the "moderator" (head) of the Collinsville chapter of Westminster Fellowship, but then also the moderator of the entire Alton Presbytery (50+ Presbyterian churches in the region) and finally vice-moderator of the entire Illinois Synod (all the Presbyterian churches in Illinois).

It was hardly a wonder that I headed off to a Presbyterian college in the fall of 1959 with the idea that I would be preparing myself for the Presbyterian ministry.

Yet oddly enough, it was not my parents who tended to shape this idea into reality. They themselves had really offered no opinion on the matter of what career direction I should take as I headed into the future, although college itself was a certainty. It was my grandmother, with whom I was especially close, who really helped channel me in this religious direction.

Early on for me the Presbyterian Church in town
was a key part of my life.. and source of self-understanding
... 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!

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."

That was because I was of the "Silent Generation" ... born just prior to the great "Baby Boom." The "anti-authoritarian" children's program got started late in our own development!

We "Silents" would not be as deeply impacted by the anti-authoritarianism (actually "anti-authority" of any kind ... whether our teachers, our parents,or anyone else in authority above us) that was being pushed so hard at the time.  It would really impact the Boomers coming up behind us Silents!

July 1955 - me (14) with my grandma ... as I am about to enter high school

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!

The track team my senior year (me in the middle)

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 an officer in Mu Alpha Theta (national Math Honor Society).
I loved math and art ... and thought history to be about the most boring subject ever!

Socially speaking ... my life was pretty typical.  
You were expected to have some kind of boy-girl relationship if you wanted to fit in.

Here I am with Roseann both before and then during 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!

And here we are dancing together the next year (our senior year) at the prom.

However, 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.

1958 Summer camp on the campus of Blackburn College
(I'm in the middle, second row from the back)

 My first (very indirect) contact with the world outside of America

Where my parents played a huge role in shaping the future unfolding before me was the way they brought the world of Europe, more precisely Italy, and even more precisely the city of Venice, into the Hodges realm. That started up during my junior year in high school.

My father was finding his advancement up the administrative hierarchy at Monsanto to be not particularly to his taste. He was an engineer, a scientist at heart, not a corporate executive. And the corporate politics involved in career advancement was for him a most unpleasant dynamic. He was a researcher, whose work his own boss was taking credit for inorder to promote himself in the corporate game.

My mom stepped in at one point and urged my father to join Toastmasters Club in town, in order to help my father develop the necessary public speaking skills he would need to compete in the corporate game. That would serve him in important ways in the future, though it did not change anything immediately for my father politically at Monsanto.

Eventually, sick of corporate politics, Dad was about to quit Monsanto, when his boss's boss, valuing my father's work greatly, stepped into the picture. Monsanto's chemical company plants, sitting astride the Mississippi on both sides of the river, were using the river to dump unwanted chemicals. Clearly this was going to have to come to a halt, at some considerable cost to the company. But it was going to take someone with a visionary mind to tackle such an immense challenge. And this Monsanto chief saw in my father exactly the person best suited to take on just such a challenge.

And since this took my father completely out of the corporate lineup, but promised to make him very much an independent force within the company, he was quick to say yes to the offer.

But he would need to take on a huge amount of research – and experimentation – to get "stream pollution control" up and running at Monsanto.

Two things happened at about the same time (1957) for my father. First of all, he signed up for some of the first graduate courses offered at St. Louis's Washington University, on this new subject of pollution abatement or control. And secondly, the Italian government was putting pressure on the chemical plants in Maestra, on the Italian mainland opposite the water-surrounded Venice, to do something about the terrible pollution coming from those chemical plants. Somehow, Monsanto got brought into the deal, and soon Monsanto had my father flying off to Italy to review the situation there. It turned out to be a great opportunity for him to actually get very busy undertaking serious efforts to do something quite real about the problem.

It very quickly came to the point where it was clear that my father was going to have to relocate himself to Italy, to Venice. And with that came the opportunity for my family to move itself to Italy, at least for a season (4 to 6 months?). My mother jumped at the chance.

But my sister and I balked at the whole idea. Our world was there in Collinsville. And I had just started up a relationship with a girl I met at summer church camp, and leaving that behind made no sense. Exchanging that relationship for what, Italy? I knew all there was to know about Italy (so I supposed), just from my own involvement in Collinsville's Italian-Catholic community. I could "do Italy" just fine right there in Collinsville.

So, it was agreed. With my mother's departure for Italy, my grandmother would move in with us in Collinsville and take over family management during our parents' absence

And wouldn't you know that within two weeks of the transition, I got dumped by my new, all-precious girlfriend! That hurt, although in no ways did it change any thoughts I had about having turned down the opportunity to move to Venice. Coming to an understanding of what exactly I had missed by way of an invaluable experience would have to wait a few years.

Four months later my parents returned, deeply changed by the experience.

We had known virtually nothing of "life abroad" prior to that. And why should we? We as Middle Americans believed – almost as some kind of religious doctrine – that America was the most perfect place in the world, and that the world should therefore model itself on our social-cultural ("Christian/democratic/capitalist") ways.

As I would eventually come to discover, yes indeed, America is a very great place. But so are other places.

But discovering that fact however brought no loss of appreciation of the wonderfulness of my America. I learned that the world is full of great places, great in different ways, but still "great." And the greatness of one place does not diminish the greatness of other places!

But we Middle Americans didn't know that. Or at least I didn't know that. Not yet anyway.

Yes, but now my parents did. And as a follow-up to their amazing life lived right on Venice's Grand Canal, they undertook Italian language study, not becoming great at it, but henceforth always very supportive of the idea of Italian culture itself.

Thus it was that a much larger world was about to open up for me, though at the time I was still quite clueless about any of it! 

My sister and I actually said "no" to joining my parents in Venice, Italy
where my father was assigned the task of helping Italy fight pollution there.

Part of my motivation was that I had actually started up 
something of a romance with a girl I had met that summer in camp.

So our grandma moved in with Sis and me ... while mom and dad were away (4 months)

And wouldn't you know, the young lady dumped me ...
two weeks after my parents' departure for Italy!

(1959 - 1960)

Anyway ... finally, off to college

 I went off to a Presbyterian-affiliated college (Hanover) in Indiana 
to get a college degree that would lead to seminary study 
and ultimately ordination as a Presbyterian minister.

Me with the humiliating freshman beanie.

... and my Beta Theta Pi fraternity photo

Hard at work in my studies!

Hanover College: Biblical criticism and the loss of my Christian faith

The decision to become a Presbyterian minister did not outlast my first semester at college. In my very first Bible course, the professor delighted in exposing all of the "myths" of Scripture. This was the theological vogue of the day.  Stripping the Bible of all its supposedly merely superstitious miracle stories would certainly produce a stronger, more reasonable foundation for the Christian faith.  At least that's how my Bible professor thought (and others like him).

This was hardly a new idea, Thomas Jefferson himself proposed exactly the same idea back in the early 1800s, which, by the way, did not bring Christianity, or anything else, to a higher realm. And it certainly was not going to have any different effect now, 150 years later. Nonetheless, the professor undertook the task with something of a vengeance, leaving us all disillusioned and gasping in his assault on our Sunday School worlds.

Then he flew off to London the next semester during spring break, and committed suicide.

My Christian faith began to crumble under the shock – though, for a while, I held on to the social aspects of the Christian faith in order not to become totally unanchored. This was not all that difficult, for most of my Christian faith had been built on Christianity's social aspects anyway. Indeed, I had no clue at the time about anything like "spirituality." I don't remember ever hearing such a concept mentioned during my growing up years.

Anyway, I had long been encouraged by my high school math and art teachers and now also a college art professor at Hanover to take my interests and apparent strengths in math and art seriously – and consider architecture as a life work. Thus, towards the end of my freshman year I arranged a transfer for the coming fall semester to the architectural engineering program at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

The attempt by my Bible professor to "modernize" the way he thought we should be reading the Bible led to my confusion and loss of  Christian direction ... and his suicide that spring.

The whole thing left me numb.  Upon the advice of an art professor that I admired very much, I came to the decision to change both my college and my major ... to architectural engineering at the University of Illinois.

Dec. 1959 - Dinner at home during Christmas with my family 
(including my grandparents visiting from Denver)

Apr. 1960 - spring break ... with our dog Sheba

The Empire State Building

But that summer (1960) intervened, to change my life and the direction it would take for the next 25 years. In early June I joined my family on the train headed east to New York City (my family had already boarded the train in St. Louis and I joined them as it passed through Indiana). Then upon arriving at this massive metropolis, we spent a few days touring it prior to our departure for Europe for the summer. We of course did the requisite sites, including a trip to the top of the Empire State Building.

What a different perspective on the importance of the individual, whom I was taught to extol (almost worship), that I got, looking down on the ant-sized people on the street below. As I gazed further out upon the city, I had the sensation that the loss of a few thousand people here and there would hardly make a difference in a city this size – much less in the world. This was almost as deflating an episode as the loss of my Sunday School religion at Hanover College.

I would have great difficulty, for a long time after that, believing that individual lives counted that much in the greater scheme of things. A few lives perhaps (hopefully even mine), namely, those of a handful of great leaders and thinkers. But the vast numbers of the rest of us were destined to live our lives much like worker ants live out their lives, quietly and insignificantly.

Europe (summer of 1960)

On the other hand, the next three months touring Europe with my family opened up such a world of wonder and beauty that it came as a powerful counterpoise to the loss of my small, smug WASPish (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) cosmos. Spaces in Europe were small, but more ingeniously designed in their miniature scope (miniature in comparison to the vast, unchanging cultural layout of America, which I knew quite well through the many car trips our family had previously made across the country, here and there) – and quite unique in particular character as the European cultural scenes shifted every hundred or so miles.

We landed in Amsterdam and I became entranced immediately with the canals, bridges, narrow three-story homes and shops, and the people everywhere on bicycles – speaking a tongue totally unknown to me. From there we moved up along the Rhine River through Germany, across Switzerland to Austria, and finally down into Italy to Venice.

You can imagine how I kicked myself for having stupidly passed up the opportunity not just to visit but to have actually lived in this magical place. But by this time, I had already come to the decision that I would never pass up such an opportunity again. In fact, I was determined to return, to spend extended time at least at one of the many marvelous European communities I was discovering along the way.

And it was not just the sites that intrigued me. I never lost an opportunity to engage any of the locals possessing enough English to converse with me about what they understood about their own culture, their dreams, their understandings about life. I did so in the cafes, in museums, along the docks, but most often at the bed-and-breakfasts we stayed at, as Dad drove us from city to city

Anyway, we spent an entire month covering Italy from North to South. In the process, I fell particularly in love with Florence, which I explored from end to end, and to which I would years later send my son Paul and my daughter Elizabeth to live and study the local language and culture.

Then we returned to Switzerland and crossed into France. And there is where I was able to put to very good use the French I had learned that first year at Hanover, talking deep into the night with a French grandma owning the bed and breakfast, and her very young granddaughter, who was just as excited to hear me explain about the deeper character of "Middle America," a subject I had not previously seen the need to investigate, much less do so deeply in order to explain it – as I now found myself doing when the subject (at this point, often) came up.

In France I was anxious to visit the Reims Cathedral, for I had just written, as an English assignment my second semester at Hanover, a 20-page paper describing the cathedral's origins, its physical structure, its role in French life.  And now being there (and other similar cathedrals wherever I found the opportunity) I was so easily carried to another time, another world.

And Paris was awesome, especially when I discovered the Caveau de la Huchette, a jazz club in the Latin Quarter, where I showed up several nights running to dance with the very stylish French girls!

From France and then Belgium, we crossed to England. London was, of course, magnificent!

Then I left the company of my mother and sister (my father had already flown back to his work at home) and headed across England on my own.

But I had just got myself seated on the train heading west, to discover that my BritRail pass was missing. Thus I now realized that to complete my journey, I would have to use my limited cash reserves to pay the way (I found out later that my sister had hidden the BritRail pass as a sisterly prank, and then forget to put it back before I left on my trip!)

Anyway, one of my stops was at the Stonehenge historical site, where one evening I found myself actually alone out on the plains where the massive Stonehenge structure was located, taken aback at the obvious technical difficulty it had to have been, thousands of years ago, to bring those stones in from afar (there were no mountains nearby) and raise them up to the heights where they still stood even today. What must human life have been like so long ago? Who were these people, existing even well before the Celtic invasions hundreds of years before Christ (and thus, no, not originally Druid worship sites)? Who were they? And would our work today come to have as lasting a quality as this work did? Was modern culture really that strong?

From England and Wales I headed to Ireland, again, finding myself deeply engaged in conversation with the locals about how they understood and undertook life.

Then I headed on to Scotland, where I found myself falling in love with bagpipe music (years later I would buy myself a set of Scottish bagpipes, and go at the challenge of playing one!). One evening in Inverness, I sat for a long time in the presence of two men who had simply come together to play their bagpipes, the three of us transported by their music into a world that had been around for a very long time before even our arrival on the scene!

Anyway, I finally arrived in Edinburgh, with absolutely no more cash in hand, but also missing – thanks also to my sister's prank – the information mentioning the hotel where I was to meet my mother and sister. Meanwhile, I found a bed-and-breakfast where I could put meals on the bill (for future payment), but figured I would have to go to the American consular offices to find a way of connecting with my family. But it was the weekend and those offices would surely have been closed. Then the thought occurred to me (God's own intervention!) of showing up at the entrance to St. Giles Cathedral Sunday morning, and looking for the possibility they would come there for Sunday worship. And wouldn't you know, there they were – already waiting for me on the steps of the cathedral!1

I loved the European experience I had just had, all of it. Such a wonderful delving into a world with deep cultural roots, something rather lacking in my beloved America.

I never regretted anything up to that time as much as I did, having to get on that plane in mid-September to head home. Europe had stolen my heart.

1Ironically, it would be that same entrance to St. Giles Cathedral that would be the setting for a life-changing vision I was to receive many years later, as a call to full-time service in Christian ministy!

The second thing that would interrupt even those career plans 
was a 3-month trip to Europe that summer of 1960

The trip 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 ... right on the awesome Grand Canal ... with my parents during a good portion of my junior year in high school (1957-1958)!

(the photo above was actually taken in the spring of 2012 by either my son Paul or my
daughter Elizabeth when both of them were living and studying in Italy at Florence)

And Europe in general was awesome!

June 1960 - Trying to get comfortable on the stony beach at Nice (France)

July 1960 - I found enough snow in the Austrian Alps for a snowball!


Getting ready (1960-1961)

The very first thing I did upon entering the University of Illinois that fall was to transfer out of architectural engineering and into the humanities program.  I knew that I had to follow out this new line of inquiry into life – even though it had no practical occupational applications.

That school year (1960-1961) at first was lonely and insipid in comparison to the thrill of life I had experienced in Europe. It was however always made bearable by the knowledge that I would be spending the next year (my junior year) as a student somewhere in Europe – presumably France. Thus during my sophomore year at the University of Illinois I continued my French studies, but also took up German, and delved into the history of Western Civilization, a subject that still commands my deep affections.

Things however did pick up socially in the spring semester quite a bit with my work with the University's Sheequon spring carnival and with some Beta Theta Pi fraternity activities (I had become a member of that fraternity the previous year at Hanover), in particular the various dances they sponsored during the course of the year.

Mob mentality

But yet another event on campus that I got to experience first-hand would add further to my understanding of the realm of social dynamics.

Time was creeping up on the first of May, when by some kind of tradition, a "panty raid" by boys on the girls' dorms was expected to take place, as some kind of rite of spring. For reasons not clear to me, the Inter-Fraternity Council decided that this event was not going to happen. And somehow they seemed to succeed in getting an agreement on the matter across campus.

Although I was a "fraternity boy," I had found it necessary to finance, at least partially, college expenses by working in the kitchen of yet another fraternity, for the work took care of the need for my meals, which were then free to me.

Anyway, May Day arrived, then came the evening, and nothing yet had happened.

But it was our own efforts at the Lambda Chi house to clean up the dishes after dinner that got things up and running. Instead of simply dumping the dishwater out back, one of the kitchen crew decided that dumping it on a crewmate was far more interesting. Well, one thing led to another, and very soon I realized that a lot of guys had come out from fraternity row, to join in the developing water fight. With this, things gathered momentum quickly. And then someone called out for a grand assault on the girls' dorms across campus. And by this time, a wild herd of young men had assembled. And yes, they headed for the girls' dorms. And yes, it was by this time a full stampede!

Along the way one young man jumped up on a bulldozer parked along some road work, and began driving it back and forth. Scary! Then the wild pack headed across faculty row, mowing down the hedges that lined the sidewalks leading to the faculty homes.

As we approached the girls' dorms, the group gathered at a fire hydrant, which someone opened up, only to have a campus cop drive up and shut it off, only to have a young man jump out of the crowd, grab the astonished cop's monkey wrench and turn it back on again
At this point, I decided that I had had enough of the "fun" of participating in such mass action, and headed home.

Along the way I gave deep thought to the actions of those individuals, who, on their own, would never have dared undertake such behavior. But mob psychology had overtaken them, and they moved accordingly.

That in itself would continue to haunt me, when I came to understand through this experience how noble individualism could be converted so easily into mob action, very destructive mob action. This was a new facet of social dynamics I previously had no reason to give any thought to. Now it was a major piece in my understanding of wars, of battles, of strikes, of riots, and how easily they are taken up by otherwise very cautious individuals. You just needed the right chemistry present, and social reason could be easily replaced by uncontrolled social passion. And I would get to see a lot of this kind of behavior in later years, some of that quite soon.  

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.

Although things got off to a slow start at Illinois, over Christmas I got contact lenses (thus looking less like a nerd) ... and my social life picked up!

1961 - Beta Theta Pi Fraternity Winter Dance

July 1961 - at home in Collinsville with family (and visiting grandparents and other relatives) - and girlfriend Susie (we got "pinned" ... a fraternity-sorority ritual!). 

I was working that summer in a very hot, nasty zinc plant, waiting until I could get away to Europe in August!


School was ending and my plans to spend my junior year at a European university were coming into being. I was to be placed through the Presbyterian Junior Year Abroad Program somewhere in Europe. Because of my ongoing French language study, as well as actual use the previous summer, my expectations were that this placement would naturally be at a university in France. Thus I was quite disappointed when I first learned that I had been placed at the University of Geneva in Switzerland – French-speaking to be sure, but not France.

But I quickly learned upon my arrival at Geneva (August of 1961) that this was in fact most fortuitous for me – for Geneva proved to be perfect for my personal needs.

As it turned out, Geneva was a small, breathtakingly beautiful city located along the edge of the huge Lake Geneva, with the Alps rising up sharply at the very edge of town. Though small in size, Geneva was magnificent, with its multitudes of international diplomats and jetsetters and was incredibly cosmopolitan in its ways. It was a perfect learning place for someone who wanted to be immersed in the broader cultural coloration of the world. It was a town of Russian and Chinese Communists, of Southern African guerrilla leaders, of Arab modernizers, of sophisticated Europeans – and yes even religious leaders out of the Reformed Tradition of the 16th century Genevan, John Calvin, from which my Presbyterian tradition came.

I proceeded immediately to become entranced not only with Geneva, but with a Norwegian miss, Tove, who was in Geneva also attending my summer French class, studying the language prior to becoming a Scandinavian Airlines stewardess. We quickly hit it off. As we adventured together around Geneva and beyond, I encountered a chemistry for living that I had never known before. At the end of the French summer session in late September, Tove returned home to Oslo, supposedly to bring her family the news of a deep change of plans in her life, for she now intended to return to Geneva in early November to become a regular student at the university, with me. I in the meantime hitchhiked from Geneva to Oslo to meet her parents – only to find upon my arrival there that her father had other plans for his daughter! Thus sadly did I, a few days later, find myself hitchhiking back to Geneva, without my true love in company with me. I was alone, in an aloneness I had never known before in my life. The cold, damp grayness of the late October weather I encountered – first in Copenhagen (where we had originally intended to spend time together exploring the city's many attractions) then all the way back to Geneva – seemed most appropriate to my mood.  

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.

And I was delighted to meet Tove, a Norwegian, there studying French (August-October) at the university, in preparation for her work as a Scandinavian Airlines stewardess.  

We hit it off big ... and at the end of the course (which we were both taking), she headed back to Oslo to tell her parents that plans had changed and she wanted to study full-time at the University.  

And I hitch-hiked up to Oslo ... only to arrive to find that her father had plans for her other than this relationship with me.  I hitchhiked back to Geneva alone, heartbroken and exhausted. 

We stayed in touch for a while (she did become an SAS stewardess) ... but I would never see her again.

My German friends

On the other hand, almost from my first day back in Geneva I found myself in the constant company of a German student, Adam, who would become something like a brother to me. Before classes for the fall term had started, he whisked me off to his home in Munich to pick up my spirits – and to teach me how to drink beer! And upon our return to Geneva to start that fall term I joined him in his wider social circle of German friends. Thankfully during the previous school year I had taken up German study, and was competent enough to follow not only their activities but also their conversations, even their more complex ideas (Adam was the only one in the group with a command of the English language, so all group conversation was conducted in German). In fact, by the end of the academic year next summer, I was fully fluent in German
What a group! They played harder, skied harder, stayed up longer and ventured out more often than any people I had ever encountered before! I immediately was absorbed into their company – and for most of the rest of the year in Geneva I became something of a German! For a midwestern boy from Illinois this proved to be quite soul-stretching!

But that soul-stretching came not just in their ability to teach me how to let go of my highly structured world, how to plunge into realms discovered by means well beyond those of mere cultural curiosity.

Most importantly, the Germans introduced me to a world of post-authoritarianism, an authentic way of warding off the tendency to do group-think – such as I had seen displayed in the mob action on the Illinois campus the previous school-year. They were very cautious about jumping to quick political decisions, but went at social issues carefully, rather than passionately. And I quickly learned why.

They, of course, had survived as children the bombing of their homes by American and British bombers during "Hitler's war." Then after the war they had to come to hard decisions about where they stood on the matter of what their parents had done during the war, not only to the Jews, but also to their Slavic neighbors, in fact in one way or another, to most anyone not identified as German (the Italians largely excepted, thanks to Hitler's Fascist mentor Mussolini).

One thing was certain about my German buddies. They understood the great dangers of political crusading, of surrendering their better senses in following a charismatic individual into some kind of great political campaign.

In short, they showed me that a cautious approach to social issues was, in the long run, the most likely way to produce good social results. True, they could have great fun, even be on the wild side at times. But when it came to politics, they were a very introspective breed. Indeed, my German friends were true conservatives, in the very best, the very wisest, sense of the word.

And so it was that I learned a great deal from them in terms of social dynamics.  

Thankfully, 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 (who, except Adam, spoke no English).

..Indeed, it was Adam who became something like a brother to me.

Adam and Kati (on the right); "Jack" and his girlfriend on the left

Adam's girlfriend Kati, with me in front of the Reformation Statues
located at the University of Geneva
(I'm wearing a Norwegian sweater that Tove wove for me)

Enjoying the sun at a Swiss ski lodge


In the early months of 1962, I became stretched in a new direction, as a relationship with a young American also at the University of Geneva, Kim, began to take off. Kim was all the sophistication I was not. Though she was only 18 and 2½ years younger than me, she was much wiser in the ways that were just beginning to open up to me, she being the daughter of a ranking American NATO officer living in Paris and having herself lived in many different cultural settings growing up.

I never was really quite sure what her fascination was for me – even though our relationship was to continue as we both later returned to the States. In fact it was to last for three years – and be for me my first truly deep relationship with a female. She was another major part of my coming of age.

Southeastern Europe on a motor scooter

But our relationship had only just begun when I decided to take the month of spring break from mid-March to mid-April to point my Vespa motor scooter eastward and head off alone into a part of Europe I had not yet explored. My purpose was much the same as it had been when I was traveling through Europe with my family: to engage as many people as possible in discussions about their culture, their personal understanding about life's ultimate purposes, except that much of this would be undertaken this time with people living in the Soviet sphere of domination, "behind the Iron Curtain" as we described it in those days. It would also include my first venture into the land of Islam (Turkey).

The trip lasted a month and marked another one of those turning points in my life. I had a couple of close encounters with death, once nearly sliding over a precipice in the snowbound Alps as I headed toward Austria; another trying to get out of the diesel fumes I had been swallowing for an hour as I followed a school bus along the twisting Aegean road in Greece, nearly going off the cliff as I avoided an oncoming car when I finally made a desperate attempt to pass the bus.

But it was oddly a different day that the reality of death touched me deeply – symbolically, but very tangibly. It was a tough day. I had set out from Edirne (near the Bulgarian-Turkish border I had just crossed) toward Istanbul – about a 7-hour trip by my Vespa. I was three hours underway when I remembered that I had left my passport with the hotel clerk back in Edirne and had to return to pick it up. It was a sunny but very windy day with the gusts coming off the Black Sea so strong that one of them blew me off the road, and it took a Turkish shepherd and me together to get the Vespa back up on the road.

That afternoon, once again on my way to Istanbul, I passed a dead dog lying along the side of the road – not the first time I had seen one. But something about that dog lying there in the finality of its death struck me deeply. It lasted only a couple of seconds as I passed. Perhaps it was only my profound fatigue that made me react so strongly. But from that moment on I would no longer hold the youthful view that I was going to live forever. The ultimate and irreversible reality of death truly impressed me – in a way that remained lasting, and building, over the next years.

Also an event in Istanbul would leave a deep mark on my understanding about life and its easy patterns. At one point I got a bit lost in wandering through this ancient city, and found myself facing what presumably was the city dump. And I was shocked when I saw the grey matter that the dump was made of actually moving! And when I looked again, what I realized that I was seeing were filth-covered humans, a fair number of them, living in the dump, presumably scrounging for whatever bits of food they could find there.

This was poverty such as I had heard about previously… but had no idea of its reality. Indeed, in America, being "poor" had a very different meaning than what I, at that point, was observing. American poverty did not mean that you were starving. It meant only that you did not possess the wealth or the status that qualified you as "Middle American."

What I was observing there in Istanbul was true poverty, the kind, unfortunately, that exists quite readily here and there around the world, and has always done so. From that point on I was quite aware of the fact that whatever constituted the American idea of a crusade to end poverty in America, it had little to do with the dynamic I saw before me there in Istanbul.

Actually, things weren't always that serious on this trip. I enjoyed immensely meeting university students from Hungary, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria and managed to get to know a number of them quite well in a very short time (either German or French, or even occasionally English, seemed to be useful in this or that situation).

But even then, such encounters could have some larger, very dramatic outcomes. Thus, for instance, a university student I had spent several days with in Budapest escaped from Hungary later that summer and came to me in Geneva unannounced, because I was the only contact she had in the West. I was able to help her gain refugee status through the European office of the United Nations located right there in Geneva. And I was able to send her on to Paris, where her brother, who himself had just escaped Hungarian authorities, was discovered to be living (he had given the slip to a Hungarian delegation he was part of while on a diplomatic mission to Egypt).

It is also possible that the Soviets, whose Hungarian police followed me closely the whole time I was in Budapest (as one of the first Westerners allowed into Hungary after the 1956 riots, and subsequent boycott of Hungary by the Western powers), also made the connection, for when I applied for a travel visa to go through Russia on my way to Helsinki that summer, I was rejected on "security grounds"!!!

Spring and summer (1962)

Anyway, I returned to Geneva in April with almost no money in my pocket and almost no gas left in the Vespa's tank – and took up where I left off with my German friends and with Kim. Studies at the university and at the nearby Graduate Institute of International Studies (I was allowed to take graduate courses focused on international diplomacy and history) continued until mid-July.

Then with exams over, I sold the Vespa and took off hitchhiking toward Oslo to see if I could restart my relationship with Tove. Along the way, I took a side trip to Berlin.

Things were very tense at that time in Berlin. The Berlin Wall had gone up the previous August just as I arrived at Geneva (it was strange that fellow students asked me what we were going to do about the wall, as I had absolutely no say in the matter, of course!), and Europe was still having a hard time accepting this development. And now, almost a year later, in hitching a ride into Berlin from West Germany, I found security to be very tight and very intimidating, a reminder of what life under absolute State authority was like.

And American-supported West Berlin was such a contrast to Communist East Berlin, which you could see across the newly constructed wall. West Berlin was "jumping" – bright lights, bars and restaurants everywhere, in fact a great place for me to celebrate my 21st birthday!

But curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to cross into East Berlin to have a closer look. It was scary! I had to turn my passport over to an East German agent at a booth that was once a ticket window for the city's subway, when you could still go from East to West in the city. It was dark down there, symbolic of the general atmosphere in East Berlin. When I came up on the Eastern side, the area was flat, with some distant buildings still in deep disrepair. And nobody was really there, except a couple, off in the distance, who stared at me the whole time. It was creepy. It was depressing. I soon made my way back to the station, gladly got my passport back …and enjoyed a couple more days in West Berlin.

But at this point I made an important decision. I would not be heading onwards towards Oslo (and Tove) but instead to Paris (and Kim).  And so off I went.

Thus my last month in Europe was spent with Kim and her family, first in Paris, then at a villa located on the Mediterranean coast, where Kim and I found ourselves doing all the fashionable things that one does at the French Riviera – morning, noon and night! It was exciting now being part of Europe's fashionable "jet set."

Then in late August I returned home to the States.  


Early the next year I started dating an American girl, Kim, who was also attending the university.  We hit it off ... and I would finish out the academic year  in her company.  

Something that was a lot of fun was the International day (mid-June) at the university, in which the various countries represented there put on displays representing their countries.  I took charge of the American exhibit.  Being Americans, naturally we felt compelled to go really big ... so not only did we put together an "Oncle Sam's Campus Bar," but also a dance floor next to it ... to demonstrate some American dance steps popular back in America!  

(left) Adam with Margie, my dance partner, and another American girl (from Georgia) 
(right) showing the onlookers the "moves"

Me in front of the American pavilion
Adam, two other German friends, and an English friend ... in front of the British pavilion

I would spend the time I had remaining in Europe (until September) with Kim and her family ... first in Paris and then at a villa along the Mediterranean coast at  Nice. 


We would continue that relationship when we both returned to the States

I was reminded in a very personal way that the Cold War was still on ... when that summer I visited Berlin (celebrating my 21st birthday there in mid-July) and saw the wall that the Communists had placed 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).

In September I returned to Illinois to finish a political science major (history minor)

After Kim and I returned to the States (September 1961), I headed off to finish my course work for my political science major (history minor) at the University of Illinois ... and she began her study at Connecticut College for women.

She would spend Christmases with us rather than return to her parents' home in Paris ... and we would also get together as best we could.   It got a bit easier when I got to Georgetown in the late summer of 1963.  At least we were on the same side of the country.

Kim was charming, but ambitious.  I never quite figured out what it was about me that could have interested her. 

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


 My senior year at Illinois (1962-1963)

I tried to adjust to midwestern life during my senior year at the University of Illinois – but it again seemed so bland in comparison to my European existence, that I was restless throughout that year. Kim, who was now at Connecticut College for Women, spent Christmas with me and my family; then in late January I traveled East to interview at Georgetown and Columbia – and to visit Kim in Connecticut; and in March she came out to visit me on campus. Those were the only high points for that long, slow year.

Interestingly, I was invited (and, strangely, accepted) to be one of two student members on the University's Champaign/Urbana Ministerial Council. At this point I was into existentialism rather than Christianity – and had not entered a church to worship during my entire year in Geneva – and was at this point, my senior year, attending the Presbyterian campus church purely on social rather than theological grounds. I didn't hide the fact. But somehow it seemed not to bother anybody.

I really could not figure out what they thought was important – they seemed to be so all-accommodating to everything. The associate pastor at the campus church even told me – on a trip we made to Chicago to work with the Black community in South Chicago over the week break between semesters – that what was ultimately significant about Christianity was its moral teachings. Did I not believe these to be right and good? Yes, of course. That's why we were going to Chicago.

But such logic only impressed me all the more that there was nothing theologically very profound about Christianity, at least Christianity such as the adult world seemed to be practicing. Anyone of a sound mind most likely had a pretty good idea of the difference between good and evil. I was certain that you didn't need to be a Christian to do that (Kim and my German friends, for instance, did not presume to be "Christian" in any meaningful way)

Thus when I went off to graduate school at Georgetown I bid the church goodbye, without a bit of remorse – or even thought. 

It was while at Georgetown University (1963-1968) that I was introduced not only to the political world of Washington, DC, but also to the the heart of international politics and diplomacy

Political "Realism" digs in

Meanwhile, Georgetown University itself was an additional source of my continuing social-political journey. And it would have a huge impact on the way I was to move further into the adult world.

Anyway, if I had ever supposed that I was going to graduate school with the hope of replacing my lost Christian faith with the rising and highly Idealistic "Humanist" faith, typical of most Silents, a strong dose of "political realism" at Georgetown – plus life itself in the nation's capital – clearly blocked that option.

I arrived there at the height of the Kennedy era. Among other things that distinguished this social-political era, American youth now entering the adult world – a quite patriotic sub-generation of "Silents" – had answered quite readily Kennedy's call to "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." These Silents signed up in great numbers as American social-cultural emissaries sent as volunteer members of the American Peace Corps. They were sent in huge numbers to the Third World of Asia, Africa and Latin America, to present to this rising post-imperial world the "true path" to freedom – that is, doing things the "American way." The presupposition was that these countries had a real cultural choice to make in stepping into their futures, as if the culture they had been living under – probably for many, many generations – could be easily put aside so that they could freely take up American (rather than Soviet Russian or "Communist") ways. All that was needed was for Peace Corps volunteers to show these good citizens of the "Third World" the way to do so.

Washington's bureaucratic lifestyle

I myself did not join the movement, as I was in Washington (or "DC" – which was the way we locals usually called the city) to study, not serve. But I did take up a part-time job (20 hours a week) at the Peace Corps Headquarters in DC – from 1964 to 1966. This would be my first experience working inside the Washington bureaucracy.

At the time all this seemed quite okay. The Peace Corps was a nice organization to find yourself working for, although it was not a hotbed of idealism or patriotism, or much of anything else. It was just a bureaucratic job after all.

Thus it was in those days that I first learned about how bureaucracy is supposed to work. In Washington, "corporate production" is not about cars, or washing machines, or dresses, or lumber. It is about social ideas, ones that are supposed to guide the nation. In other words, grand social ideas are what Washington supposedly produces, in massive quantities.

As far as the ideas themselves, the only ones actually creating those ideas are the political leaders: the president, the members of Congress, the federal justices, etc. Everyone else is there to support – that is, give flesh to the bones of – those ideas. That's what the massive bureaucracy that constitutes the rest of Washington society does.2

It does not require a lot of brain power to be a bureaucrat. You simply take a place somewhere in the system and perform a small or finite function in the process of putting those ideas into action. You sit at a desk, with an in-box on the left and an out-box on the right of your desk, and papers or folders that are to be moved from one box to the other as your job. It actually does not take long to learn exactly what it is that you are supposed to do with those documents. You do not need to be an expert at some particular social or technical field. You only need to know what it is that you are expected to do between those two boxes.

Furthermore, there is a professional game at the heart of bureaucratic life, in which the object is to rise in government or "G" ranking by changing positions from one agency to another, with each move involving 1) an increase in the size or number of staff that operate below you 2) and a larger budget that you and your staff have to work with. So you may start out at the Department of the Navy as a very low level clerk, advance a step or two to a higher position in the Department of Commerce, then later switch yet to an even higher position in the Department of Education, or the Department of Transportation, or the Department of Agriculture, and so on. It's what you do with your life, rise up the bureaucratic ranks. Interesting, if you are "into" that kind of lifestyle!

An additional dose of "Realism"

Also instructive for me was a story that was passed around at Peace Corps headquarters at that time about an American youth, one of the first to join the new Peace Corps, who was sent off to India to show villagers the capitalist or entrepreneurial ways of America, through the establishment and management of a new chicken farm at the village.

The American volunteer was not at all unsophisticated, and had learned not only the local Indian dialect – and, even as an English major in college, how to raise chickens during his Peace Corps training! – but also the necessary diplomacy he would need in order to get the village on board with his chicken project. Thus upon his arrival at the village he went very slow with his project, getting the village elders to understand and then be enthusiastic in support of the idea of raising chickens commercially.

It took some time before things were finally ready to go. But by the end of his two-years in India, he had a real chicken business going full speed in the village. Then once back in the States, he headed off to grad school, but never let the village get far from his thoughts.

After a year back at home he decided to return to India to see how his chicken business was doing. He wrote to the village elders to let them know of his intentions, and they replied that the village would be more than happy to see their "hero" again.
And thus it was that he arrived at the village, and a very enthusiastic reception by the villagers. But he noticed that the chicken cages were empty.

When he finally had a chance to ask the elders what happened, their reply was a shock to him, nothing that he had anticipated. "Oh, Sahib," they said, "the village will ever remember you as a great man, who left us the ability to put on such a chicken feast for the neighboring villagers, one that had never been seen before."

And so that was that. His two-year effort to institute capitalism in the village had become the basis for what mattered even much more in Hindu culture, the ability to put on an extravagant show of wealth – and its possible service in offering grand charity to others – something that would make the village stand out forever in the regard of everyone locally.

That lesson dug deeply into my own thinking.

Other cultures did not just go away because brilliant American culture suddenly showed up. I would soon get to see this dynamic repeated by the American military presence in Vietnam. And I was not at all surprised by the results. Rather, I was deeply disappointed at how American leadership seemed so unable to get past its own cultural thinking in order to work seriously with the way other cultures operated – and have done so for a very long time, and for reasons very clear to the locals.

Thus it was that part of my political "Realism" began to take clearer shape in my Washington years.

The DC Alpha male

Something else I learned about quite quickly reminds me of what I learned in watching that Disney nature movie as a child: life can have some very interesting ways, even shocking if you are not expecting them.

I came to DC out of a very Middle-American world, with its own ideas about society, what it is supposed to look like and how it is supposed to work. My world was built on the foundations of family, a father working a job to support that family and a mom at home to shape the inner life of that family. And there were certain social expectations and social boundaries that my sister and I were expected to learn, and develop ourselves along those same lines. There were simply things you were expected to do, and not do.

One of the first things I learned upon my arrival to Washington was about the many sexual affairs my President (Kennedy) had with numerous women, supposedly including the famous Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe. I can't say that this came as a shock (I already knew enough about the private lives of men of power in history). But discovering that his brother Bobby, whom I supposed was the more "moral" of the brothers, shared in the "deserts" as well, was a bit shocking. Wow! On the other hand, young brother Teddy as the family's "problem child" came as no surprise, for instance, the stories circulating widely in DC about how many times the family had to use its influence to get him back into Harvard!

I realized that something outside of the Middle-American norm applied to those of great social power. As everywhere else in nature, the strongest male got all the privileges with the opposite sex. And DC was full of such men of power, and women who knew how the game worked.

For instance, two years into my presence in DC – when I found myself actually living in the Georgetown neighborhood – next door to me was a group of young ladies that had come to DC to start out their careers. One of those was a recent winner of the Miss Indiana pageant, and had come to DC to get a job on Capitol Hill, more specifically in Senator Birch Bayh's office.  And she knew exactly how to work his male staff members to secure that position.  Needless to say, she succeeded.

And then also, I had a housemate and fellow student, Joe, who worked part-time in the evenings as a Senate Office Building elevator operator, who used to keep me informed on what went up and down the elevator after visiting hours were over!
And when I was typing up my master's thesis on Congressman Clark Thompson's IBM Selectric typewriter in his office at night, how many times it was that I had to cut work short because the Administrative Assistant would show up with a cutie in tow, and needed the room for "business."

And then Courtney (a guy's name back then!), a law school student at George Washington University and someone I met while working with an afterschool program for kids, and who subsequently would became a very close friend, was a young man with huge ambitions with respect to the opposite sex. He was a true Alpha Male, destined also to rise high in the DC political game (he eventually became Administrative Assistant to newly appointed Illinois Senator Smith, then soon thereafter Nixon's legal-liaison with the Pentagon). And when my sister Gina returned from her life in Europe, Courtney wanted to date her on her visit to DC.  I warned her, though she informed me that she knew quite well how to handle such situations. And apparently she did!

And that was just what happened in DC. The DC news media was well aware of these goings on, although the DC rules were that you were expected to look the other way, especially when DC's moral behavior was likely to shock the rest of the nation! Beyond that, you were not supposed to get caught in your adventures, because DC goings-on were never supposed to leave DC!

But that would change with the arrival of the 1970s, and the appearance of the young Boomer moral crusaders taking their places in the DC news business. But by that time I was only a spectator of such doings, living in Alabama, watching in amazement at the new morality arising in the nation's capital, and the incredible moral hypocrisy that went with it among the DC veterans who were playing along with the new political dynamics.  Ah politics!

2Except for the massive Black population that inhabited DC’s extensive slums, made up of individuals who came to Washington possibly hoping to find employment in the city as some kind of laborer, such as the dynamic in Detroit, or Chicago or Philadelphia. But Washington involved almost purely white-collar (office) work rather than Blue-collar (industrial) work. Thus unemployment in those Black neighborhoods was extensive, along with all the social problems that accompanied such unemployment.

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
to be a part of the great adventure.

Ultimately, living in Washington, D.C. during the 1960s proved to be quite traumatic.

When President Kennedy was shot during a visit to Dallas that November (1963), 
Washington (and the nation) went into deep shock.

We were doubly shocked by the man who took his place, Vice President Lyndon Johnson
... who had none of Kennedy's polish or charm.

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
announcing his plans for the "Great Society" (May 22, 1964)

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 Boomers 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. 

Kim let me know that Friedan's book was a hot item at her Connecticut College for Women!


My master's thesis on South Africa

In completing my first year's required coursework at Georgetown (1964), my professor-mentor suggested that I do my master's thesis on the African nationalist movement in South Africa – and I accepted, thinking that I was going to be studying one of those exciting epochs in the expansion of world liberation. But as I looked more deeply into the South African situation, I found out that he had assigned me a quite different task: coming up with an explanation of why a smaller group of Whites could so successfully intimidate and hold in servitude a larger number of Blacks – and probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

In this I was forced to take a view of human nature that differed quite strongly from that of the "Liberal" world around me.

First of all, South Africa was a very complex mixture of ethnic groups, so that it was not a mere mirroring of the Black-White dualism that America itself was increasingly sensitive about at the time. South Africa was not just Black or White. If White, it could be Dutch-speaking or English-speaking White. If Black, it could be Xhosa or Zulu in tribal makeup (the two groups did not like each other very much). Or it could be Indian, of either the Hindu or Muslim variety. And it could be "Colored," descendants of the original inhabitants of the Southern Africa region, the "San" people (Bushmen and Hottentots), intermixed with Portuguese, Dutch and other blood, who as a distinct racial community now actually spoke Dutch.

And South Africa was not a country moving out from under the distant European authorities of the English, French, Portuguese or Belgians. It had been, since the 1600s, self-governing in the same way that the American colonies, including the original Dutch colonies of America (the forerunners of New York, New Jersey and Delaware) had also been self-governing since the 1600s.

And as far as Black-White issues went, the Bantu tribes (primarily Xhosas) had themselves invaded the region, coming South along the coast of the Indian Ocean, at about the same time (the mid-1600s) that the Dutch moved into the area from the opposite direction by way of the South Atlantic. These Dutch built a settlement at the Cape, and then moved on into the interior behind the Cape. In fact, the ever-expanding Dutch Whites did not meet the ever-expanding Bantu Blacks until a century later (the mid-1700s) at the Great Fish River, about mid-way over what is today South Africa.

Then in the early 1800s, the British moved in to take the Cape away from the Dutch community (that was calling itself "Afrikaners" in the same way Anglos in the New World were calling themselves "Americans.") Many Dutch Afrikaners in the early-to-mid-1800s decided to escape the new British authorities by heading into the open lands of the interior, open because the newly assembled tribe of the Zulu had done a pretty good job of killing off all of the enemy Bantu tribesmen, largely depopulating the area.

Then later in the 1800s, gold and diamonds were found in abundance in that interior region, within the rather young Afrikaner republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. And it was the enterprising British, not the Afrikaners themselves, who tried to start up their own mining operations in these Afrikaner regions. However, these British entrepreneurs were forced to bring in not only European workers but also Blacks from the neighboring tribal territories to work their mines, because the Afrikaners were farmers (Boers) and not interested in such underground work.

Finally Afrikaner resistance exploded over this, and the Boer War (1899-1902) broke out, in which the British distinguished themselves with their barbarity in sending Boer women, children and the elderly into concentration camps, to break the will of the resistant Boers (which included, in the Boer armies, a large number of Dutch-speaking "Coloreds"). The outcry of the rest of Europe over such behavior was so great that finally the British broke off the war effort, ultimately turning the whole area (including their huge Cape Province) back over to the Afrikaners as the "Union of South Africa," but bringing this South Africa into their British Empire on a voluntary basis (part of the peace deal) – in time to join the British in fighting World War One.

Meanwhile the population of the Black tribal lands (some now independent territories or even states) had exploded in size (no tribal wars to keep the population in balance with the land, as had been the ancient pattern) and Blacks began to pour in huge numbers into the White cities, especially in the Transvaal, looking for jobs, especially in the years following both World Wars One and Two.

The Afrikaners attempted to control this flow with a policy of controlled immigration, built on the policy of racial, tribal, etc. classification, the heart of their program of apartheid or "separateness."

But by the beginning of the 1960s, European "imperialism" was in disgrace, and the British, French, Portuguese and Belgians were being pressured to give up their imperial holdings in Africa. And by extension of the same logic, the world – with America taking the lead in the matter – began to pressure the Afrikaners to give up the policy of apartheid, threatening serious consequences if they did not.

But the Afrikaners understood clearly that his meant having to turn over their 300-year-old society to the now-numerically-dominant Bantu tribesmen (most probably the Xhosa).

As I looked into the matter, I came to realize that there was little likelihood of the Afrikaner being convinced of the need to conduct social surrender. As cruel as apartheid could be, the Afrikaners were simply not going to allow the collapse of their world. Thus I concluded my 250-page study with the assessment that it was most unlikely that anything significant was going to change with respect to South Africa's social structure, at least for anything like the foreseeable future. No amount of pressure, domestic or international, was going to cause the Afrikaners to give up their long-standing place in the scheme of things there in South Africa.

My conclusion did not please everyone, some accusing me of siding with the "Fascist" Afrikaners. Actually I wasn't siding with anyone. I was merely describing the political dynamics of this particular society, such as I came to understand them through some serious research into the matter.

Thankfully, my thesis mentor and professor was impressed with my work, and urged me to stay on at Georgetown and take on doctoral studies there. It was a thought, a good thought.

Kim and I go our separate ways

Most of my first two years at Georgetown proved to be incredibly tough for me emotionally. Besides a serious spiritual loss of the ability to believe in anything high or grand, even at times in myself, I found life tedious and uninteresting. At first I could afford an apartment only across the Potomac in a nondescript neighborhood of Arlington. I would, however, be able in my second year to move into DC itself in finding an apartment just off Dupont Circle, a big step up. But still, I had no social life apart from an occasional visit to or from Kim.

Our visits tended to swing between delightful and painful – for I found her both warm and intimidating. She was very demanding of performance – from both me and herself, which made it impossible to be truly relaxed in her company. Also I always seemed to be having to play catchup with her obvious sophistication.

I was therefore entirely caught off guard when on her third Christmas visit with me back in St. Louis I realized that she was pressing for a deeper commitment from me as to our future together. She would be graduating in June and we talked about going together to London to the London School of Economics, she to study for her MA and me for my PhD. That had seemed fine with me, until London wrote back stating that it would admit both of us to its Master's program – and I of course was just about to receive a Master's degree from Georgetown. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until much later that this was a standard admissions practice for doctoral studies in England, and that my Georgetown work would probably have all transferred toward the PhD after I took some qualifying exams in London.

Anyway, I made the decision that I would not be going to London – which then put Kim in the position of having to decide what to do. She indicated a willingness to decline the London invitation – except that faced with this possibility, I could not, would not, ask her to do that.

I really couldn't say why I was encouraging her to go on without me – except that at that moment I had a vague feeling that my life was much too thin emotionally to carry the responsibility of another person's permanent commitment, a person especially as high-powered as Kim. I felt myself panicking at the prospects – even as much as I deeply cared for her.

This all proved to be a major crisis in our relationship. And after several follow-up phone conversations in January (1965) in which it became obvious that nothing was going to change for me, our 3-year relationship simply came to an end. I certainly didn't want our relationship to end. But under the circumstances I wasn't able to move forward with it either. Kim, in her decisive way, withdrew completely.  

Me ... during a visit to my sister in Chicago around that time

Depression and detachment

The spring of 1965 was a low-water point for me. However, I did find my apartment in the Dupont Circle area offering me a reasonable 25-minute walk to and from the University, and found these walks to be the only thing that seemed to give me any peace.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of trying to remedy my loneliness by reading more existentialist literature, which merely made my sense of spiritual malaise all the deeper.

I finally decided simply to stop pressing life for its answers – and called my parents, to ask them to fly me home for an emotional R & R (rest and relaxation). Then while back in Illinois I drove up to Chicago to visit Sis, somewhere along the way got interested in Greek dance and language, bought myself a new navy blazer, a set of repp-striped ties and khaki slacks – and decided to put all further questions about life on hold. I returned to Georgetown determined to party.

Of course I continued my studies, moving on into Georgetown's PhD program in the summer of 1965, as well as into Georgetown itself residentially – finding a townhouse, only a couple of blocks from the university, to share with three other grad students.

But I now moved forward as a detached observer of the human scene. I focused the remainder of my graduate work on social change and revolution, trying to find the main causes or forces that shaped human culture and civilization. But I never allowed any of this to draw me in emotionally. I simply observed, analyzed and described – coldly but accurately enough.  

My father encounters the ugly world of political journalism

An event that occurred about this same time in my father's life brought my father into this same "Realist" world. A reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, St. Louis's leading newspaper and also owner of one of its main TV stations, asked my father if he would be willing to be interviewed about the pollution-abatement work my dad was doing. My father had been appointed several years earlier by the Illinois governor to serve on his new pollution control board as its technical expert, whose input was considered to be very valuable in finding practical ways that Illinois industries could take up strong anti-pollution measures – without bankrupting themselves in the process. Indeed, my father's work was becoming so well-known that he had been back and forth between St. Louis and Washington, consulting with congressmen about his work, and what could be learned of a practical nature from that work. It was, after all, the mid-1960s, and the issue of pollution control was just becoming a big political item.

So my father agreed to sit down with the reporter and discuss quite frankly the problems, the difficulties, the breakthroughs, etc. in trying to deal with the problem. He spent a full hour with the reporter in doing so. And overall, my father thought the interview went well, that the young man now understood the difficulties my father faced in taking on this challenge.

How shocked he was, however, when the interview was soon presented on TV, briefly (a minute or two in length only) in which the reporter had skillfully gone through the interview, cutting and snipping here and there, actually redoing his own questions posed to my father. And then he presented the whole thing as a discovery of a major "coverup," one in which he, this young crusading reporter, caught the evil Monsanto Chemical Company attempting to hide from the public.

My father, ever the engineer, lived in a very orderly world, one of logic and reason. He had no idea that people could be as devious as this young journalist in presenting a pure lie as the truth!

Anyway, he was so upset that he tendered his resignation to the Illinois Pollution Control Board. But the governor begged him to stay, and Monsanto reminded him that his work was invaluable, if the country was going to be able to make the transition, and still stay alive economically. So my father backed down, and continued his work on the Board. But his heart was deeply broken.

He told me this story on one of his visits to DC soon after this event. Ever the Realist, I told him that this was just how politics works. It's all about developing the right kinds of public perceptions that advance your career. That's all the journalist was interested in. He probably couldn't care less about the pollution issue, something however that absorbed my father, heart and soul.

The difficulties involved in trying to live above human deception

Unfortunately, there was nothing you could do about this kind of human behavior. It was/is/always will be part of our human world. All you could do personally was not to allow yourself to be thrown off course by such behavior. It's going to happen, especially if you are involved in something of deep public concern at the moment. You just have to keep going, and not get distracted by such evil.

I knew enough from my own study of history that being able to address public opinion, without being caught up in it at the same time, was what great American leaders of the past (such as Washington and Lincoln) had to do in order to succeed in doing truly great things politically and socially.

Sadly, however, my reading of history at that point did not seem to give me any understanding of why these "greats" were able to do this, of how a deep spiritual strength that these particular individuals commanded was based on a very intimate relationship with God, so that they could avoid being drawn into a dependence on public opinion itself. They reserved that sense of dependence on a very trustworthy God.

Unfortunately, it was only later, much later, that I came to discover the importance of this kind of a relationship with God as the source of enormous strength supporting awesome social leadership.

At the time, I was simply not finding this insight in the history books I was reading, or just found myself not able to understand or absorb the deep meaning of this dynamic when I might have run across it in my readings. Which of those it was that shaped my understanding, or lack thereof, of this component of truly great American leadership I'm not certain. Anyway, that key portion of my understanding of life's "realities" was just not there, not yet anyway.

In any case, living in DC, I myself got to see this self-promoting dynamic, one that had hurt my father so deeply, all around me – every day. It's what feeds DC social life. Nothing other than such politics is ever "produced" in DC.  And if you intend to work and function in DC, you had better understand the rules of the game!

And so I got to actually counsel the one individual who had himself inspired me almost every step of my own journey! I learned (as I would someday even from my street guys as well as my students) that counsel is mutual in all significant human relationships! It goes both ways!
Party Time

At the same time that I entered the Georgetown PhD program I also entered something of a Georgetown party program (!), centered on some of the foreign students at the University, in particular the sons and daughters of European diplomats posted to Washington. It started out for me when in the late spring of 1965 the daughter of the German 1st Secretary invited me into the "junior dip(lomat)-set." There I also met and started dating Stefania, daughter of an Italian NATO general. I had no car, but double-dated with Faisal, the Saudi ambassador's son, who was dating Stefania's sister, and who owned a Ford Mustang. It was quite a group – with parties both Friday and Saturday nights, every weekend – not infrequently formal in attire (I thus spent my scarce funds to buy a used tuxedo).

And now living in Georgetown itself only expanded my social life even further, as our townhouse became one of the major gathering points – sometimes almost nightly – for the junior dip-set, especially the German contingent.

Interestingly, rather than finding my studies undermined by this hectic social pace, I found myself more relaxed and concentrated when I did study.  And my work showed it.  

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)


Stefania returned to Rome with her family for the summer. While she was gone a new relationship opened up for me when Martha, a summer intern in her Texas Congressman's office on Capitol Hill, came into my life.

She and a number of other females moved into a townhouse next door to us in Georgetown (along with the Indiana beauty-queen previously mentioned!). And my friend Courtney, who was over visiting me at that time, made it a point to send an invitation across our back fence for all the girls next door to have dinner with us. And thus I met Martha.

Anyway, Martha and I hit it off immediately, in a whirl of activity that had us together virtually all our free moments. Needless to say, when Stefania returned from Rome at the end of the summer, she found that the DC world she had left behind for a few months had changed dramatically. I felt sad, for I truly liked Stefania a lot. But as I still understood things, you can't have these feelings about more than one woman at a time. I chose – not entirely gladly. But choose I did.

At the end of the summer, Martha decided not to return to her teaching job in Texas but to stay on permanently in her Congressman's office, and moved to another Georgetown townhouse with some of her friends, only a couple of blocks away. Our relationship continued on its hectic course.

As I was laying low with the junior dip-set because of my switch in relationships, Martha opened a new set of social affiliations with some of the Capitol Hill crowd. But we tired quickly of the incessant jockeying for status that all social events on the Hill entailed. Eventually I returned to the junior dip-set, with Martha in tow. I found this world forgiving and still welcoming, and both of us found it to be much more to our liking.

We lived next door to each other on Prospect Street (I lived in the house on the right,
she on the left), just a couple of blocks from the University.

With Martha and some Georgetown friends

I had a very busy social life in Washington (mostly with the sons and daughters of the foreign diplomats posted to Washington).  But my best friend was Courtney – a law student at nearby George Washington University.  We would remain close friends over the many years (until his fairly recent death).  He would end up not only practicing law in DC but become part of Nixon’s White House staff ... as legal counsel in the White House / Pentagon relationship.

Me (with my Abe Lincoln beard) and Courtney

Martha and Courtney ... in a visit we made to his English girlfriend Valerie
who was studying at Penn State


Martha continued to work for her Congressman for one more year. Then the second year, at my urging, she enrolled full-time for some special post-grad work in history at George Washington University – at least for a semester.

But she wanted to get married. And she let it be known that she was not going to wait around forever. In the early spring of 1967, she returned to Texas.

I had not always dated Martha exclusively – though certainly predominantly. I had found other interests along the way, though none of them were ever serious. I just somehow could not get focused on Martha, being about as panicky at the thought of a permanent commitment with her as I had been with Kim.

But for some reason not entirely clear to me, I soon found myself in my phone calls to Texas talking with Martha about the eventual possibility of marriage. Before I knew it, the date was set: the coming October 14th, her parents' anniversary.

She returned to DC for a few months and then went off with one of her former Georgetown roommates to Europe, supposedly for the whole summer – somewhere along the way meeting my parents in Vienna to pick out her crystal glassware. 

Breaking off the relationship

But with Martha away I found myself in more relationships. Thus I realized that there was going to be no wedding in October.

I was taken by surprise in mid-July when I received a phone call from Martha, announcing that she had returned early from Europe because she was missing me so much. My reaction was one of panic, for I knew that the moment that I had been dreading had arrived: I was going to have to confront her with my feelings. I did – and she again took off for Texas.

I felt sad, glad, dismayed, guilty, and I'm not sure what else during the blur of the following weeks. My family was also dismayed – for they liked Martha very much and were looking forward to the wedding.

Grandmother passes on

If that were not enough emotional confusion, I then learned that my beloved Grandmother was in a hospital in Denver, dying of cancer. I flew out to Denver and found her in a semi-coma – wrestling with death in the most dispiriting way.

It made me all the more convinced that the Christian faith was largely worthless, for it seemed to bring my grandmother, a longstanding pillar of the church, no visible comfort at this critical moment in her life. I was sad, even bitter about this.3

Moving ahead

I was also still feeling enormously guilty about what I had done to Martha. Indeed, I felt as if my feelings or emotions were no longer my friends but my enemies, as I wrestled with them.

Towards the end of that week in Denver something inside of me resolved to forget my emotions and "stand up and be a man." I was going to go through with that wedding – and put all this useless torment behind me. It was much the same way I resolved my existential depression several years earlier: just deciding that I wasn't going to spend any more time worrying about things that have no logical resolution.

At the end of September, I drove out to Indiana to be a groomsman for Courtney, as Martha arrived there to be a bridesmaid for his English bride-to-be, Valerie (who had also been a roommate of Martha's in DC).  I knew that Courtney was as paralyzed as I was over the thought of marriage – even more so. And thus watching him go through the process gave me no small amount of encouragement.

Two weeks later, in mid-October, Martha and I got married in Galveston, Texas, as originally planned.  It was a small wedding, mostly family, and only a few friends, such as Courtney and Val.

3It was only much later that I learned that, fairly soon after my return to DC, she found the strength that her faith was supposed to offer, and faced her end quite peacefully.

I was a groomsman at Courtney and Valerie's wedding in Indiana. 
He and Val (in the photo below) attended Martha and my wedding in Texas
two weeks later (October 1967).

           With Courtney and Val                                   Sis (Gina), Mom, Grandpa and Dad

At the luncheon that followed our wedding ceremony

My mom and dad about this time

Martha and I then returned as husband and wife to DC for me to finish out my last semester of doctoral studies before I took the last batch of my doctoral exams the following spring.

For a while life seemed pretty uneventful – until April of 1968. 

Martha and I returned to Washington to our apartment just off Dupont Circle

Martha with one of our two cats.  Notice ... she is sitting in front of a huge project of mine:  an immense historical time chart (from China across the top ... down to America running along the bottom) ... reaching back to 3000 BC and coming up to the present, each century represented by a 3" vertical column (a section of the lower left however shows a break-down of Western history by the decades since 1700)!   What a perspective on the move of history this gave me.

However... we did get to witness up close an event that took place In October of 1967, when  thousands of young people descended on Washington to participate in an anti-war demonstration in front of the Pentagon

Some came to demonstrate the gentleness – but anti-war resolve – of "flower power."

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."


Washington Burning

I had been fairly preoccupied with finishing up my doctoral exams and hadn't paid too much attention to the news. But at 5:00 p.m., as I was finishing my last comprehensive written exam, the proctor spoke up and announced that we had to finish and quickly return to our homes: a curfew had just been imposed on Washington, D.C.

What??!! Then it all came back to me. Martin Luther King had been assassinated the day before in Memphis. Trouble had been expected – even in DC.

Apparently, things had gotten bad. I could tell how bad by the large cloud of smoke that hovered over the city ahead of me as I made my way on foot through the deserted streets of Georgetown toward Dupont Circle where Martha and I lived. Martha met me at the door with bags packed: we would be fleeing across the Potomac to Virginia to stay with Courtney and Val until this all blew over.

Dr. King's Last Sunday Sermon

This was all very eerie to me also because just the previous Sunday, we had been at the Episcopal National Cathedral, where we went most Sunday mornings.

This attendance at the Cathedral however had not been so much to worship God as to touch the deeper roots of our waning WASPish heritage. Neither of us was at that point really a believer in God. Martha had been raised Baptist, but like me had abandoned the faith some years before. But we were both hungry to build on something loftier than our little lives.

Anyway, we were quite surprised to find the area around the Cathedral a buzz of activity that particular Sunday. "Dr. King is preaching" we were told when we inquired about all this activity.

So there we were as Dr. King preached ... his last Sunday sermon ever.

Now as I reflected back on this sermon, I remembered how he spoke, as it now appeared quite prophetically, about how his work focusing on the advancement of Black civil rights was coming to a close.  He did not approve of how the Black Panthers had taken over the movement, and anyway he made it clear that he was presently refocusing his efforts in promoting the lives of the poor, White as well as Black.

He had also commented on how, with the Black movement initiative passing on to others, things might take a nastier turn. Indeed, how quickly and ironically his prophecy had all come to pass.  

 America in moral-spiritual crisis

While we were in Virginia with Courtney and Val, Courtney decided to answer the call that went out for lawyers to come to the DC courthouse to take up the defense of those arrested for pillaging or burning businesses in the District. I accompanied him back into DC, but actually only to observe up close how all this chaos was being handled.

So I found myself at the Courthouse, sitting out among a massive number of individuals awaiting their cases, listening to the conversations around me to get a sense of the actual dynamic of "burn baby burn," something that by this time had become something of a Black Power mantra. But what surprised me most was that there was something almost of a party atmosphere filling the massive waiting room. Indeed, sitting right next to me were two young men who decided that they had enough time before their case was due to come up, to head out to a place where they were certain they could get themselves some new shoes! And I am quite certain they were not talking about purchasing those shoes.

What struck me most about the whole thing was that this had nothing to do with Dr. King, or civil rights, or anything else political. The activity that got these people in trouble had nothing to do with standing up for Dr. King and the horror of what had happened to him. It seems I was more impacted emotionally by his death than they were. For them, the whole mess seemed simply to amount to economic opportunity afforded by the breakdown of law and order!

I also felt as if I was observing the results of something similar to what happened with the wild mob charging across faculty lawns anxious to conduct a panty raid on the girls' dorms at the University of Illinois. It was just mob mentality in action.

We stayed only a few days with Courtney and Val, moving back to our apartment when things quieted down. But we still lived under a 3:00 p.m. curfew enforced by members of the National Guard, whose military convoy would pass in front of our apartment a couple of times an hour. Could this be our Washington, D.C., capital of the Free World? It really played to my growing sense of cynicism.

What was happening to America at this point?

I knew I was watching the passing of the age of American innocence (and childish presumptuousness). Hippie kids had recently been camping out in large numbers just a block away from our apartment, in a rather contrived effort to demonstrate "flower power." "Peaceniks" were beginning to beat a steady path into town to protest the Vietnam war – evidencing spirits themselves that bespoke war rather than peace. And now DC was a city of several burned-out sections (one within a few blocks of where we lived)!

Sadly also there was a new mood in the air, in the largely bi-racial Dupont Circle area where we lived (in fact, only a block away from where I had lived several years earlier). On a couple of previous occasions, we residents of the area had come out to work together to clean up the trash (broken wine bottles mostly) that littered the streets and sidewalks. There was a very positive neighborhood spirit at the time, one that I liked immensely. But with Dr. King's assassination, that spirit had become very icy, as Blacks now looked on Martha and me with clear contempt as we passed by.

But we had had no role in Dr. King's assassination. It didn't matter. This was how "identity politics" always works. Tragic, but not an uncommon tragedy in America. Even more tragically, it was one that would appear on the scene again and again in the years ahead.

Our plans to move on

Martha and I for months had been making plans to leave the States at the end of that summer – to follow the trail-of-conquest of Alexander the Great across Asia, all the way to India, eventually to settle in Belgium for me to do my research work for my doctoral dissertation. As the summer approached, I was ready – very ready – to get on with my life, and to get away from this madness that seemed to be infecting my people. Thus in August – an apparent American failure in Vietnam (given the seeming success of the Viet Cong's "Tet Offensive"), Johnson's announcement of his future departure from office, the King assassination and consequent burning and plundering of America, another Kennedy assassination, a disappointing Poor People's March on Washington, and a madcap Democratic national convention later, all in that same annus horribilis (horrible year) of 1968 – we gladly bid America goodbye. 

In Washington, the looting and burning of the city came to within two blocks of our townhouse apartment in a mixed Black-White neighborhood … and Martha and I would be forced to flee to the home of Courtney and Val across the Potomac in Virginia.  

Tragically, even when things finally settled down and we returned to our place on Dupont Circle, once friendly relations with our Black neighbors were icy ... as Blacks now looked on our "Whiteness" in anger.

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, Martha and I left the country ... never so happy to leave
this American "mad-house" behind us.  We would be away for two years.


Asia – following the trail of Alexander the Great

Martha and I bought a used VW "squareback" (station wagon) in Brussels, Belgium, and then headed east, down through Germany, Switzerland, and Italy to Greece, then picked up parts of the trail of conquest of Alexander (300s BC). We crossed Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan – encountering some of the most incredible driving conditions along the way, not to mention people and places.

By the most amazing timing, we hit historical sites well beyond the tourist season, traveling as we were in September, October, November, etc. For instance, at the Roman Colosseum, we saw no one else there at that time; at the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, there seemed to be only a handful of people touring the place; there were not a lot of people on Athens' acropolis; we were the only ones at Mycenae, Olympia, and Sparta (although Sparta was mostly still not excavated at the time); we were the only ones at the ancient Cretan capital of Knossos (on both of our two days visiting there); there was only another two or three people at the ancient city of Corinth; no one else was at Alexander's home of Pella or at the ancient Hittite capital at Boğazkale , and on and on. It was weird and wonderful. But it allowed us not just to tour the sites, but to sit and reflect on the historical perspectives that just being there allowed.  

We 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 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.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Colosseum

The Via Appia (Roman road) / Pompeii

In Greece: the ruins of ancient Sparta and the ancient Stadium of Olympia

Mycenae:  The Lion's Gate and King Agamemnon's Palace 

The ancient city of Corinth

Athens – Early October (1968)  The Parthenon and the Erechthion

Knossos, the capital of the great Crete civilization / Martha staring down into the Labyrinth 

The king's room and the throne room at Knossos

 Alexander's capital at Pella in Macedonia

It's November ... and we arrive in Istanbul:  The Bosporus and the Hagia Sophia

Inside the Hagia Sophia

As we head East from Istanbul through Bithynia, we are most definitely in Asia ... and getting our first glimpse of the Asian countryside as it will appear across Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan.  Impressive vistas ... but barren.

We stop along the way at Gordian, to visit "Midas's Tomb" (probably not!)

... and the ruins of the city where Alexander "untied the Gordian Knot" with his sword ... fulfilling the prophecy that one such as he would conquer the world.  Although Alexander did not conquer the world, he did conquer a good part of it!

We finally arrive (through massive mud) at Boğazkale … location of 
the ancient capital of the Hittite Empire (anciently, the city was called Hattusha)

Once again, we spent the day alone there (noting where a swinging door left its scratches!)

We arrived at the coast of the Black Sea (which most definitely is not Black!)
... and a very nice road, though a bit crowded here and there!

We then arrived at the beautiful Black Sea coastal city of Trabzon ... before heading east
 ... and passing Mount Ararat along the way (the famed resting place of Noah's Ark)

While at Trabzon, an American soldier posted at an observation post there told us a tragic story of how this region known as Turkish Armenia was cleared of its Armenian population by the "Terrible Turks" during the early part of the 20th century ... by Turks loading the Armenian men into boats and dumping them out in the Black Sea ... and then turning on the women and children ... who suffered all sorts of unmentionable treatment by the Turks.

At this point we headed into the Armenian Mountains
... and, as the road took us higher, we saw some very worrisome snowy conditions ahead.

This made me quite nervous, because I knew that we had to come back 
this same way some months later, during the height of winter.

Eventually we came down the other side ... where I had some serious car cleanup to do!


In Iran's capital of Tehran, we stayed with the family of one of my former Georgetown housemates, a very pro-Western family. They were able to explain to us the complexities of the Westernization of a proudly Muslim (although Shi'ite Muslim rather than Sunni Muslim) society, that also had not forgotten its origins as the ancient empire of Persia (the European West's constant enemy). And although where we were located in Tehran was fully modern, we were warned not to venture into the very traditional southern part of the city, where the hatred of Westerners ran deep.

It was at this point that we realized the delicacy of the cultural situation that America's close ally, the Shah, was dealing with. But (at the moment) he was generally very popular among his people, even out in the very conservative countryside. He had brought visible upgrading to the roads, city centers, schools, etc.

As a consequence, except for certain pockets of the country, we were well received as Westerners, in particular as Americans, especially since there seemed to be no others of that category around! Even here, we seemed to have this venture into the East all to ourselves!  

Then we headed east across northwestern Iran.  I would begin to see a lot of fortified villages ... a reminder of how violent life could be in that part of the world.  

I realized also the risks Martha and I had embraced in taking on this trip.  I was, of course, always apprehensive ... but never afraid.  Indeed, what actually kept us going was a strange sense that there was some "unseen hand" on our lives ... something I would come to call "fortuna."  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.

Eventually we arrived at the city of Tabriz in Iranian Azerbaijan ... where a Mr. Hararichi took us under his wing to show us around ... including a rug factory where a man was hand-weaving a very fancy (and thus probably very expensive) Iranian rug.

Then we headed on to Tehran, Iran’s capital, where 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. 

Then we headed north out Tehran, soon reaching the snowy Elburz mountains,

crossed them and then came down a very steep road on the other side ...

 ... to the Caspian Sea ... whose coast resembled greatly the coast of the Black Sea

Then we headed into Eastern Iran ... the bastion of Iranian-Muslim conservatism.  Aware of this sensitivity of traditional Islam … we continued to move East cautiously …  finally arriving at Mashhad, sort of the headquarters for this traditionalism.

The very conservative city, Mashhad ... in Eastern Iran.   
Notice the scarcity of women in public!

Martha was of course "uncovered" ... and we really stood out as strangers!  A group of people took an interest in us when one of them was able to converse with us at a restaurant.  I don't remember in what language, because French or German were just as likely as English to be known in this part of the world. Actually the likelihood of any of those languages being spoken in Mashhad was slight!

The remoteness of Eastern Iran ... as most everywhere in central Asia

At this point our roads grew very challenging!


When we got to the Iran-Afghan border, our car got bogged down in the mud in the five-mile stretch of no-man's land between the two countries. We were finally able to get a group of Afghan soldiers sent to get our car out of its mess. Then we had to spend the night at the Afghan border sleeping in the car.

Early the next morning we were asked to take on an Afghan traveler, who had run out of travel funds, had managed to get to the Afghan border – and needed to get into Herat, where he could then continue on his own. We were told that he was head of the country's Chamber of Commerce. Yeah, right – as if we were stupid enough to believe such a fishy story! But we took him on anyway.

When we got to Herat, we took him to the airport, where he took a flight onward to Kabul. And indeed, we knew by that time (he spoke excellent German) that he was indeed what he claimed to be. Before he departed, he invited us to look him up when we got to Kabul.

The drive the rest of the way across Afghanistan was peaceful and largely uneventful, almost anyway. It was at one part of the road that we passed a group of men along the road, waving their hands wildly at us. We thought that was very friendly, until (at 100 kilometers an hour) we went sailing into a crude iron pipe poised across the road, to stop travelers (few of whom were actually on the road) so that they could collect "passage" money from them. Thankfully the bar merely creased the upper left portion of the car. Had it been a few inches lower, it would have taken off my head. As these guys came running up, I was furious. I pointed out the glass lying about. Obviously, we were not the first ones to have experienced this misadventure. They shrugged their shoulders, and we continued on. We would have to have the car repaired in Kabul.

We were rather shaken by the experience, even though it was not the first time that strange (and dangerous) things had come our way. Nor would it be the last of such episodes either.

But after all, we had willingly, gladly actually, undertaken an adventure that everyone back home thought qualified us as being totally insane. Where we were going was uncharted territory. And indeed, we took on each day with no way of knowing how things would turn out for us that day. But that's just who we were, adventurers.

I mention this particular episode because of how it led to other amazing things. When we reached Kabul on the other side of the country, we took a few days to enjoy its interesting primitiveness. And then, with the car repaired, we found ourselves ready to move on into Pakistan. But in the meantime, we were advised not to do so just yet, but to wait until a violent uprising going on just across the border in Pakistan had a chance to settle down (this area was "Pakistan" only on the map, but actually a very, very independent-minded Pashtun region). We took the advice. A British couple we met in Kabul did not, and soon returned with their car badly damaged and one of them badly bruised and cut up. We knew we were therefore going to be in Kabul for a while.

At this point we decided to take up the invitation to visit our Afghan Chamber of Commerce friend, Muhammad, and sent word to him where we were staying. Finally, a hotel clerk came to our room to tell us that someone waited for us in the lobby. But when I went down all I saw there was someone who was obviously an Englishman, by his very dress and demeanor. But wouldn't you know it was his nephew, Nasir, who indeed was an architect, schooled at the University of London and well-experienced in the field in England itself. We would spend the next days (a week really) with him, and friends.

Indeed, it was nearing the end of November, and Nasir's brother and family invited us to their home to help us celebrate our American Thanksgiving holiday. What a wonderfully gracious family they were. And it turned out also that he was the country's leading surgeon, who had trained in the field in Houston under the direction of the famous heart surgeon, Denton Cooley! Wow!

But the "wow" did not stop there. We even got an invitation to a fashion show put on by the Afghan Queen, and found ourselves in the most amazing company in the process.

Even after we moved on, we would keep close contact with our Afghan friends, for a number of years anyway, when several moves and changes later in our lives broke the lines of communications. Then when I heard that Soviet-backed "reformers" had taken over the country in 1978, producing a civil war that killed thousands, among them numerous Westernized Afghans, a deep chill hit me. I feared that this statistic most likely included our once-close Afghan friends.  


Then arriving at the Iranian-Afghan border ... we got hopelessly bogged down along the 3-to-4-mile-long "no-man's-land" between the two borders. 

The next morning we met the president of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce, Mohammed Saleh  (actually giving him a ride into Herat) ... and then later 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 Mohammed's nephew, Nasir (a London-trained architect). 

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.

Pakistan and India

Finally we headed south through the famous Khyber Pass and descended down into Pakistan, a land full of people and animals crowded into the country's living spaces. The situation was so tight, the roads so crowded that they were almost impassable, that finally we left our car in Pakistan and headed on into India by train, making the mistake of buying cheap 3rd-class tickets for an overnight journey. We could barely breathe, the train was so crammed with people. The next morning we switched to the 2nd-class, but soon discovered that Indians had the habit of invading the 2nd-class cars when the 3rd-class car could take on not another individual. We finally decided to go 1st-class, which turned out to be not very expensive, and an excellent way to meet very interesting individuals.

We finally arrived in New Delhi, and settled in there for over a week, right off of the very Victorian Connaught Circus. There was so much to see and do there. At first we loved the food dearly, until we finally tired of one curried meal after another (even a fruit dish was curried), and found that the American Embassy opened its restaurant on Friday noons for Westerners (not many actually) to come there to buy hamburgers and shakes! Otherwise we had something of a wonderful love affair with India.

India was such a contrast, of elegance in its historical sites and poverty in the streets. And India, like Pakistan, was a very crowded country. I had no idea of how India could possibly continue to expand its population (actually at the time, it had only half the population that it does today!)

But I admired the way the Indians went at life. Poverty did not mean misery. It only meant going at life in a simpler way. I remember sitting at a window at a railroad station's restaurant gazing out at the yard below me, where a woman was seated on the ground, assembling a small fire of cow "chips" to prepare a meal for her small children frolicking around the yard. There was an amazing "completeness" about the scene. She was doing what she knew to do to push on in life, and the kids seemed perfectly happy with the life they were delivered.

It was at that point that it dawned on me that life simply calls on us to find ways to accommodate ourselves to it, as so many of our own American ancestors had done in the wilds of America. It was not our job to push life into a well-ordered box, although that seemed to be our goal in life these days, at least in my well-ordered American world. And in finding ourselves in such a well-padded box, we seemed to spend a great deal of time looking over our shoulders at life, afraid of what might happen to us if we were forced to live outside that box. So we did everything in our power to make our box even more secure.

Yet, there in India was grand elegance, splendid reminders of that at Delhi's Red Fort, where the palaces were breath-taking with their marble work detailed with semi-precious gems and their hand-cut marble screens.

It led me to inquire more deeply into the story of the Mogul dynasty that had built this splendid work (including the Taj Mahal which we would later visit), of the family's rise, its dominance – then its decay and ultimately its fall.

I would never forget this. It would later become the inspiration for my "four generations theory" – of the typical rise and fall of most all societies (at some point in their existence) – eventually presented in my university course work, and in my recent publications on American history.

And, of course, we just had to make our way to Varanasi (old Benares), a "holy city" (both Hindu and Buddhist) located along the banks of the great Ganges River. There we found Hindu temples, even Muslim mosques, and Mogul palaces alongside common homes and shops, as well as the great Buddhist shrine at nearby Sarnath. We watched Indians coming to the water to bathe in the holy waters and to offer floral wreaths in thanksgiving for some event in their lives. We saw Indian dobymen washing the people's clothing, just upstream from where the dead were being burned at the river's edge and their ashes scattered into the holy waters of the Ganges. We saw semi-naked holy men at prayer. We saw sacred cows wandering the streets, not to be touched, even to be pushed away from food stands where they munched away on the produce offered there. We passed religious processions in the streets, etc., etc., etc. It was so unlike anything you were likely to run into in America (even a monkey visiting us through an open window as we took breakfast at our hotel!)

On to Nepal

There was no practical way to get to Kathmandu, Nepal's capital, except by flight. So we had the privilege – and the glory – of flying over the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. And we arrived in a world that still belonged to an age several centuries ago. It was primitive in a medieval sort of way, and also glorious in that primitiveness.

However, It was not until we got to Nepal that we also encountered the craziness that we had left behind in America. In Kathmandu you would periodically run into some sunken-eyed Westerner who would finally remember that his or her body needed something besides the inexpensive and readily available opium to sustain it. They would occasionally drag themselves to the local Chinese restaurant to get some cheap food before disappearing again into some hellhole to continue their drugged existences. Periodically they would be flown out of Nepal in body bags. Such a dismal end for people who had come so far to "find themselves."

Back to India

We flew back to India and arrived at a still-quite-Victorian Bombay (the future "Mumbai") just in time for Christmas. It was strange to note that Hindus found ample reason to celebrate Christmas, in a very typical Indian way – with bright colors everywhere, music blaring out onto the streets, and the people parading everywhere, happy to be caught up in the event.

All of this obviously had no connection whatsoever with the Christmas I was familiar with. But for me at the time, Christmas anyway was just a beautiful family holiday on the calendar, to be celebrated for whatever purpose and by whatever manner you chose to do so. Beyond that it had no particular meaning. (I was not anti-Christian at the time. Just not part of that religious world).

Pakistan, India and Nepal

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 India …
seeing the ancient and the modern (mostly the ancient!) side by side 

Delhi's Temple dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi

The Red Fort at Delhi

Along the Ganges River at Benares

The crowded streets of Benares / the Buddhist holy site at Sarnath (nearby)

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.

The Buddhist Ajunta caves

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 University of Poona) … who also introduced us to India’s famous movie industry. 

A still quite Victorian Bombay (at that time)

We spent a good deal of time with an old friend, Deepak, who was at that point a professor at the University of Baroda, India's sort of "Harvard." He was now happily married, with children. We spent time together just relaxing, taking meals along the Indian Ocean, visiting the ancient Buddhist Elephanta Caves, and visiting a Bombay movie set where they were filming one of India's many productions.

Deepak was the picture of happiness, especially in his marriage with Purnima, a marriage arranged by his family of course. I remember when he got "the letter" commanding him to return from St. Louis (he was attending Washington University the same time as my father) to Bombay. As a majorly free spirit at the time, he knew exactly what his father's intentions were, to end that freedom with a proper marriage.

He explained to me that his father at least had offered him not one but three candidates. He looked over their resumés (!) and announced that he would start with Purnima. And after a single date with her, he told his father that he would not need to check out the other two candidates. Purnima was an excellent choice – beautiful, well-educated, a skilled dancing teacher, and of very good family. Indeed, Deepak could not say enough positive things about the wisdom of the way marriages were "arranged" in India. I suppose he had a point! 

Fun with my old friend Deepak

We visited a place where they were filming an Indian movie ...

and of course we visited more of  the requisite historical sites (there being many in India!)

The famous Taj Mahal at Agra ... once the center of Mughal imperial power

The luxurious Agra Red Fort and palaces

Finally in late January we began our trip back to Belgium

Time to head back West

I think that part of the reason for both my expatriate existence – and my decision to include Asia as part of that experience was a sense that I would find some of that "transcendence" that my soul craved so much: a sense of sharing in some of the "wisdom" of countless generations that went before us. I wanted to plant my personal soul in some of that antiquity.

But in any case, it was time to get back to "reality." I had a dissertation to write, and the need to find employment back in Belgium, where we planned to establish ourselves for the immediate future.

The hand of Fortuna

In the course of the trip I began slowly to develop that rising sense of some unseen hand surrounding and protecting Martha and me during all this venture into the unknown. Things that had been happening along the way seemed to me to be much more than mere coincidence. And it certainly was more – much more – than just good luck. This "hand" not only had an invaluable presence, it seemed to have some larger purpose behind that presence. Slowly this "hand" began to take for me identity simply as Fortuna.

I certainly would never have called this Fortuna "God," for this in no way conformed to my Sunday School teaching about the nature of God. But nonetheless, I did have a keen sense of the outside support of some kind of mysterious force. The very decision to head East across Asia with only the crudest of maps available to guide me and no sense of what I would do if breakdowns or banditry or sickness or something should afflict me – this was possible for me only because I had this strong sense of Fortuna.

Most importantly, in very life-and-death moments, this hand of Fortuna came through for us, when we were in desperate need of assistance. A couple of the most dramatic instances occurred on the trip back from India to Europe.

The Baluchi Desert

One such instance occurred when I lost my way from the road (path) through the Baluchi Desert, for the road was drifted over constantly by shifting sand. At one point, I found myself hopelessly mired down in sand in the middle of the Baluchi Desert. I could not dig myself out.

I feared being stranded out there, for in such a defenseless plight Martha and I were perfect targets for murderous thieves. But as I got out of the car to consider my situation, I looked up, and – wonder of wonders – saw two men working off in the distance. They saw our plight, and came up to help us get ourselves dug out and redirected back on the road (which they had been working on).

How odd it all was, since they had been the only people I had seen all morning along the road (it was just desert after all!). And I had passed very few cars or trucks since heading out that morning. Yet there they were a few hundred yards off to help us! (angels in disguise?)  

... 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).  We get bogged down in a sand drift ... only to find two road workers a hundred yards off, able to get us back on the "road."  Interesting, because these were about the only people we saw that day.  Angels?

We get a short break from the bad roads and snow when we come to Isfahan (Iran), the old royal capital ... with the Ali Kapu Palace and Bazaar.

The Iranian-Turkish border town / The road as we start out

The wintry heights of Turkish Armenia

Another such instance occurred a short time later as the car climbed the snow-covered road to the top of Turkey's Armenian Mountains.

Constant snow storms had killed 14 people in those mountains the previous week. And arriving at the Iran-Turkey border, we learned that the border authorities were about to close the main road across those mountains, the road that would bring us to Erzurum in Turkey on the other side of the mountain chain. The next morning, I pleaded with the authorities to let us pass on ahead, as we were running out of money. And everyone was aware that once closed, the border would not be reopened for months. They finally relented and let us proceed.

And so there we were, heading up along a heavily snow-covered road with conditions worsening with each mile. Then it happened: we got hopelessly stranded in a huge snow drift which effectively blocked the road ahead, and prevented us from even being able to turn around and head back to where we had started from. We unloaded everything we were packing, in order to lighten the car. But it proved to be to no avail. We were stuck – completely stuck – with snow coming down heavily around us. And there was no prospect of help, as we had seen no one on the road since we left the border. At that point we realized that we were thus destined to become statistics added to the number who had died from this horrible snow storm.

Then miraculously a truck full of Turks appeared out of the snowy haze. Thankfully they were determined to help, rather than take advantage of our hopeless situation. They dug us out of the drift and then swung in front of us so that the truck blasted its way through the drifts before us, plowing a path for us through the mountainous heights. And then when we came down on the other side, to more drivable conditions, they drove off. (More angels in disguise?)  

By the time we reach an equally somber Istanbul, we are 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 language issues ... and Belgian political leadership trying to move the country ahead in the face of linguistic divisions.

Looking for work in Belgium

Upon our return to Brussels in February (now the year 1969), we faced the immediate problem of finding work – for we had indeed spent all of our money in those six months of wandering.

I had been warned in Washington by the Belgian consul that getting a job in Belgium would be an impossibility, as work visas were virtually unattainable. But I was not one to let such details slow me up. I had received considerable training in Washington in computer programming, and once in Brussels I went from American corporation to American corporation located there in search of employment as a computer programmer. In the meantime, Martha found a job teaching English at a language school – paid under the table of course!

But I was turned down in interview after interview – not because they did not want to hire me, but because they knew there was no way they were going to be able to get me a work visa. The Belgian government wanted to place Belgians in this newly opening field of computer programming. I grew discouraged after about the 10th similar interview outcome.

Fortuna comes to our aid again, and again!

Being discouraged by this was something new to me. I would never have thought simply to arrive on the scene in Belgium to begin looking for a job if I had not had this sense of this mysterious Fortuna being "with me." But now it seemed to be failing me.


And then IBM-Belgium contacted me! They had heard I was interviewing, and wanted to know if I would be willing to be interviewed by them! As it turned out, they desperately needed a programmer/analyst who could work directly with their new American customers in Brussels in developing customized computer operations. Their Belgian staff were having difficulties with the subtleties of American business language. They badly needed an American to bridge that gap. Therefore I was exactly what they needed. And not to worry about the visa. They could get one granted on the basis that I possessed skills (native English-speaker) that they could not get from a Belgian national. I was hired on the spot!

Fortuna had come through for me again!

At about this time Martha was hired by an English-speaking Catholic school in Brussels – and we were on easy street! Indeed, Fortuna was busy for us both!

I enjoyed the work immensely. And I had the great satisfaction of being able to solve some programming problems that had some of the other IBM technicians stumped. And I was able to work closely with both Toyota and Ampex offices in Belgium.

But any thought of being able to work for IBM and at the same time press forward on my doctoral research was soon dispelled. IBM left me little time and energy for such an enterprise. I simply had nothing left of me by the evening energy-wise, nothing able to undertake the rigors of doctoral research.

But by the fall, Fortuna performed yet another miracle for us when Martha got an even better job teaching at the American military school in Brussels. We could live easily (even splendidly) on her salary alone. So I resigned from my job with IBM and turned my attention to my doctoral work. Life was good. No, it was perfect!  

We soon found an apartment just in time to receive a visit from Val
– and Courtney’s cousin Jane.  At that point, furnishings were scarce!

However, we eventually got settled in quite comfortably! 

Welcome to our apartment building!

We loved to sit on our balcony ...
and look out on our neighborhood (Ixelles or southern Brussels)

Avenue du Derby ... from our balcony
very spectacular when the cherry blossoms bloomed

On this basis we quickly made ourselves at home in Belgium


It was an active time socially. We received visits frequently from our families, and both Val and Courtney's cousin (also a former roommate of Martha's) came to visit.

And of course, I met a number of young Belgian professionals through my IBM days, and for the year and a half we were Belgian residents, we remained close to them – especially our Walloon (French-speaking) friends, Pierre and Anne, and our Flemish (Dutch-speaking) friend, Victor. Indeed, Victor became like another brother to me.

At Martha's school we became close friends of a number of American teachers, expatriates and adventurers like ourselves and most like my German friends in Geneva – in their tendency to travel forth at every opportunity. We did a lot of traveling with them.

And I met two Americans (from Tulane University in New Orleans) who were, like me, researching their doctoral dissertations at the Royal Library in Brussels: Bob and Newt. We established the almost daily habit of having three-hour lunches over beers at a nearby cafe, designing solutions to the problems of America, and the world!4

All in all, Martha and I found that our Belgian life was every bit as stimulating as the life I once knew in Geneva.

4Newt would have the opportunity to put those thoughts to action. After teaching college in Georgia, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, was elected, and quickly rose in the ranks of the Republican Party, eventually becoming House Speaker, and the force behind the "Republican Party Revolution" of 1994!

Doing the Greek hasapiko dance with Victor and family ... at his home in Halle 
... and visiting Ypres with him
He was a Flemish Belgian ... also something like a brother to me

Dinner with Belgian (French-speaking Walloons) and American friends
Pierre and Anne / Ben and Ann (lots of Anns!) 

In Liège with Pierre and Anne and family

Being invited into the homes of our Belgian friends ...  was like being accepted into family ... a great honor!

On a canoe trip in the Ardennes Forest with Belgian friends

But IBM 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 alone.

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. 

Bob Sanders and his Danish wife Ann                                 Newt Gingrich        

Belgium itself was beautiful ... and we did a lot of touring the area.  We spent a lot of time in London as well ... and traveled to Paris a couple of times.

Here we are in Bruges / Brugge (depending on French or Flemish pronunciation!)

Researching "identity politics"

Multiculturalism had become for me a matter of supreme interest. Of course that summer of 1960 traveling through Europe and discovering the wonder of many different cultures – and the discovery, by way of contrast, of how very American I was – constituted the huge startup of this interest. And my 1961-1962 school year in Geneva had only taken that interest deeper. And my research on multicultural South Africa (1964-1965) had pushed me to ask questions now of what politically this could mean to a society. And my trip across Asia had stretched my familiarity with multiculturalism beyond even the realm of Western culture itself.

And so now I was in Brussels, Belgium, taking up the matter as serious doctoral research, trying to understand the political-social implications of Belgium being a society separated deeply by the language line of Dutch-speaking Flemish in the north and French-speaking Walloons in the south.

At one time (the 1800s, when the country was formed) Belgium had been more or less unified by the fact that the country's political elite, even in the Flemish North, were fluent in French, as French was the language that the upper classes of Europe expected everyone to operate in.

But the nationalist impulse unleashed by World War One, and the German occupation of Belgium during that war, had encouraged a reaction by the Flemish (Dutch is after all merely another German dialect) against the country's francophones (those who speak French). And World War Two and another German occupation had not softened Belgium's cultural animosities either.

The challenges – and dangers – of multiculturalism

In any case, I was very aware of how much language shaped, defined, and directed culture, especially in this age of nationalism. Language is the means by which a society's dreams, its understandings, its plans are conveyed to the people. It is very, very hard to sign onto a society's cultural doings if you do not speak the language of that culture.

Yes, I am well aware that Liberals somehow believe that multiculturalism is a blessing to a society because it promotes "diversity" and diversity supports "freedom." At least it is supposed to do so in theory.

Actually I never saw that to be the case out there in the real world.  In all my research into the dynamics of multiculturalism I came to understand quite clearly that multiculturalism was not a natural blessing.  Instead, it was a very dangerous challenge – one that had to find some kind of larger solution to it, before it tore a society to pieces. The American Civil War presented a clear example of just those dangers. So did the Russian and Chinese Revolutions. So also did Gandhi's revolution in India, which set Indian Hindus against Indian Muslims and against Indian Sikhs – even destroying Gandhi in the process. The world around me gave constant witness to that truth. And it would continue to do so in the future.


But what about Switzerland? Wasn't it multicultural, with parts of the country speaking French, parts speaking German, parts speaking Italian, and other parts speaking variants of an ancient Latin form called "Romansh"? Wasn't it a multicultural society, seemingly always found in a constant state of peace?

The answer to that, as I well knew personally, was "yes." But I also knew why, and it had nothing to do with the Swiss fashioning themselves into some kind of higher species, able to operate in the upper atmosphere of Liberal enlightenment.

The Swiss were in fact a very down-to-earth or socially practical people, who had created a multi-cultural confederation of 26 very self-sufficient cantons. It was at the local level of the canton where the real business of government (and everything else) took place.

The point at which Switzerland approached the character of a nation was almost solely in its own self-understanding as a people united against the larger world. In fact, it was in the requirement of Swiss military service that there was a larger or "national" political call placed on the Swiss. And this was strictly a defensive call, one to protect the country from the intrigues of the larger powers surrounding their small but mountainous world. In short, Switzerland was basically a defensive alliance of 26 rather autonomous cantons.

The language issue was for the Swiss of significance only at the canton level, where there indeed, one or another of the languages supported the cultural identity defining that particular canton. True, the Swiss tended to be multilingual, in their ability to speak across cantonal lines. But still, they were first and foremost French, German, Italian or Romansch-speaking Swiss (there is no "Swiss" national language).

And the Swiss had no aggressive foreign policy. Indeed, their policy was to stay out of everyone else's business, and keep everyone else out of theirs. Beyond that, they needed no nationalist cause (such as what drove World Wars One and Two) to define them. In fact, they laid very low during both wars, using their considerable mountain defenses to keep the warring parties out of their country.

Indeed, in virtually everything, they have performed as diplomatic "neutrals," joining none of the European alliances – except for the multinational organizations, the League of Nations and its successor the United Nations – whose European regional headquarters in fact have been located in Swiss Geneva. They have even refused to join the multinational European Union.

So yes, the Swiss found a very effective answer to the challenge of multiculturalism. But for the rest of the world to be able, or even be willing, to go down that same "confederational" rather than national road was, and still is, most unlikely. The crusading spirit of linguistic or sectarian nationalism in our world has always been much stronger than the kind of self-restricted and purely defensive instincts that have long directed Swiss behavior.

Bi-Cultural Belgium

Yet, something (sort of) along those lines I realized was beginning to redirect Belgian cultural politics, even as I first took up the subject in late 1969. And Charles De Gaulle was a big help in this matter!

De Gaulle hated the English-speaking world, and blocked British entry into the European Common Market. And step by step he also removed French participation from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), because it was clearly led by the United States. When he failed to get other European nations to join him in this NATO boycott, he kicked not only all American troops out of France, but also NATO headquarters (which had been placed in France) out of the country as well.

At this point NATO shifted its operational center north, to Belgium, where the administrative center of the new European Union (the Common Market and its evolved successor organizations) was already located. In doing so this gave Belgium something of a very key international status as the "center" of the New Europe, politically, economically and now militarily as well. And American corporations followed that shift in also moving their European headquarters to Belgium, which I well knew, having worked (via IBM) in these new offices.

And this shift proved to lift Belgium above the linguistic squabbles that had previously bedeviled Belgian politics, when political actors had previously played on cultural sensitivities to advance their particular careers. Now Belgian politicians had a higher purpose, competing to be the better party to lead Belgium even further forward in its new role as administrative center of the New Europe.

Lessons learned

Of course, as I was doing my research (and ultimately writing) on the subject in the period 1969-1970, this new dynamic was only in its infant stages. But I saw where things were going to be taking Belgian society… and how its new higher national purpose would help it move past its linguistic or cultural quarrels.

And I would never forget what I learned in digging deeply into just this kind of social dynamic. It would serve me well in later years in understanding the most likely paths that this or that sectarian social or political movement was likely to take a society, and where a higher and more unifying purpose might better take that society.

And I learned especially the key role that leadership played in the process, for vision and resolve to move toward higher things did not just come by nature to a people. It had to be designed and presented before the people by those who could explain, and – most importantly – give clear personal example to the people of what these higher things were all about.

A true leader needed only to "inspire" the people. If he had to become a "dictator" in this matter, it was clear that the groundwork for a higher social purpose was still lacking. The people were still unable (most likely because of continuing sectarian or cultural differences) to let go of their social prejudices, and move with their leader to new things. Stalin faced that problem, Hitler did not. Gandhi, despite a willingness of both Muslims and Hindus to work together to get the British to "quit India," could not find a way to get Muslims and Hindus to work together after that. Indeed, the two Indian groups became bitter enemies. Mao never figured out how to get rural and urban China to work together – and nearly ruined China, twice. And so on.

So yes, I would watch closely how I saw a society's leaders approach the political-economic-cultural and even spiritual challenges facing a country. Would they merely advance their political careers by cultivating support among one social grouping, against another group in their society (and its leaders)? That was classical political sleaziness, not uncommon in societies that call themselves "democracies," where the people are easily mobilized to action because it is their group duty (quasi-patriotism or just crude sectarianism) to go at some other group, as some kind of great crusade! I saw plenty of that unfolding in America in the late 1960s.

Or were they really able to take that society to higher things, without starting a foreign war as a very destructive cheap-shot version of "pursuing higher things?"

President Kennedy and Dr. King clearly understood things along higher moral lines and tried to inspire Americans to support those higher things.

But Johnson did not have the same confidence in the American people, and tried to put his "higher vision" in place (his "Great Society") through social programs devised by social specialists and backed up by government economic policy and ultimately enforced by the law itself.  But turning the challenge over to Washington bureaucrats was not the same thing as turning the challenge over to the American people, who were left very passive in this higher reach – with ironically, the Black community also becoming even more deeply reactive to "Middle America."

Johnson, also tried to bring the nation to higher national purpose by taking on the challenge of fighting the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia.  But he really knew very little about the dynamics that drove Vietnamese society, and turned that country into an even bigger mess.

Thus tragically, disaster resulted from his efforts, both domestically and overseas.

And I had been in Washington (1963-1968) to see that all unfold!  


As I approached completion of my research in mid-1970, Martha and I debated whether to settle permanently in Europe or head home. We both loved Europe very much. But we knew that our futures really belonged in America. So in the late summer of 1970 we returned to the States.

We returned to a more subdued – though still distressed – America. The Kent State massacre had taken some of the edge off the antiwar movement and young people were backing down from the great causes, and getting more "into themselves."

Anyway, I had a busy year writing up the results of my research (most of this effort spent in Texas living with Martha's parents in Galveston) and looking for a teaching job. I knew that I was in for a tough challenge in this job hunt. Even when we were in Belgium, TIME magazine came out with a cover showing a student in doctoral robes, filling a gas tank (back then the work of a filling station attendant). The meaning was clear. The job market for PhDs was all dried up.

Indeed, colleges and universities were suffering declining enrollments as America began withdrawing from Vietnam (thus cutbacks in the draft, the great incentive to male college enrollment!). And this was occurring at a time when there was also a huge glut of new PhDs (who had found graduate study preferable to service in Vietnam!) coming onto the market looking for fewer and fewer college teaching jobs. I quickly discovered that with dwindling job openings, PhDs were a dime a dozen.

But again, Fortuna smiled. In the summer of 1971, as I was sitting in Courtney's office in D.C., seeking a job from my friend – who was now political appointments chief for the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – a call was forwarded to me from Mobile, Alabama. A fairly new and still growing University of South Alabama was interested in possibly hiring me to teach in the international relations field. I gladly agreed to be interviewed, flew to Mobile, found the interview to be a very positive experience, and was hired.

Martha and I quickly located in Mobile a small cracker-box rental home to live in (a short drive away from the university), moved all our belongings there, and then a few weeks later I happily took up my new teaching duties at the university.

This was also what I believed to be the last that I would ever need Fortuna to get me through. I felt that I was now in a position to shape my own destiny. All my youthful preparations for becoming the consummate "self" now kicked into gear.  

Me on our return to the states (back in Collinsville).  
Notice the slacks ... high style at the time!

We eventually located ourselves more permanently in Texas ... where I had my hands full finishing the writing of my doctoral dissertation … 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.  I had my own life plan well under my own control (or so I now believed)

Go on to the next section:  The Professional

Miles H. Hodges