History on my Mind

In the vast, vast world of the web, I heard something the other night about the “deep web,” another Internet beyond the surface web. I don’t exactly know how it works; however, from what I gathered it’s not something to fool around with.  Otherwise, those “men in black” dudes, who, as we all know have zero interpersonal skills, except for Will Smith, will break down your door in the wee hours of the night and whisk you away to some undisclosed place where you will disappear never to be heard from again.  Can I get an “amen” Mr. Snowden? We talk a good game about human rights.  As it came into the forefront post 911, the U.S. does have locations where they stash enemies of the state.  Any takers on that revelation?  It’s naïve to believe this is fresh information.  World War II internment camps on U.S. soil for Japanese Americans.  Short memories people.  Are we any better than China, Russia or North Korea? Just kidding NSA, CIA, FBI, NBA, NFL, and MLB. I’ve totally watched too many Homeland episodes. Wag the dog. Truth always hides in fiction.

Seriously, I didn’t know what set me off thinking along this track today. I was wholly prepared to write on a completely different topic.  It started like every other mundane day with me sleepwalking through the morning routine of walking the dog. Then, the engines of the Southwest flight overhead triggered a memory of a dream from the night before; thereby causing my domino effect thinking. In the dream, it was the 1940’s. I wore an army flight suit. Strange. Through the grimy canteen windows, I saw military aircraft landing and taking off. Stranger still. The soundtrack was Glenn Miller. The extras in the dream were raucous servicemen and civilian women. Dancing, laughing, smoking, drinking cocktails, eating and oblivious to what was happening around them.  From the sideline, I wondered what the hell? It was like being in a black and white war flick. I kept waiting for Ingrid Bergman to sweep in at any moment.

Cut, present day reality. My thoughts zoomed to the late 1960’s, lying on the living room floor where I pored over my Daddy’s magazines.  National Geographic, Look, Life, Time, Newsweek. Weirdo kid. I know. I dismissed the dream as my subconcious processing the current book I am reading, Monuments Men, and my new favorite television series House of Cards and The Blacklist. They’re reminiscent of growing up in the 1970’s.  It was a period of back room political deal-making, extreme paranoia, wiretapping, spying on citizens…oh, wait we’re still in that time.

We lived in Washington, D.C. during the turbulent height of the Vietnam War.  My childhood was atypical.  As an only child, I spent many hours around educated adults, who discussed current events with dynamic convictions. While other kids were out riding bikes, I sat in a hazy cloud of cigarette smoke, listening to my mother and aunt, talking over their Diet Rite colas, engaged in an intense conversation about President Nixon ordering U.S. troops to invade a place called Cambodia.  At ten, I wasn’t absolutely sure what it all meant. I knew it was important and that when I grew up I wanted to write stories like the ones I read in the magazines.

Mother was a teacher with strongly held beliefs about education and being well informed. Ignorance was a four-letter word. After school, we went on field trips to the Washington mall where we participated in anti-war demonstrations with war weary, hardened Vietnam vets and other like-minded citizens.  I wore my love beads, “war is not healthy for children and other living things” pin and other “peacenik” paraphernalia.  One time, we got tear-gassed. It was scary, yet exhilarating to participate in history that stood for something. Mother was a force to be reckoned with. I daresay had any of the D.C. police hassled us, without equivocation, she would have called them, “jack booted thugs.”

My first outing into “journalistic writing” was as a “cub” reporter for Ranger Rick magazine. If memory serves, the National Wildlife Federation published the kid’s magazine and took article submissions.  Here was my chance. I wrote a story about ecological awareness and it was published.  I was thrilled.  Who knew I was a ten year-old edgy early adopter (thanks Dr. B.), raising other kid’s consciousness about an important issue. Because of the Keep America Beautiful “Crying Indian” ad campaign, I wrote about clean water.  The single tear falling down the majestic Indian, “Native American” man’s cheek struck me. Iron Eyes Cody was the actor and get this he wasn’t even a Native American, just like Charlie Chan wasn’t Chinese. Kinda bummed me out when I made that discovery. Nonetheless it was a powerful commercial. “People start pollution, people can stop it.” Check it out. The commercial is on YouTube.

Living in D.C., we took the Washington Post newspaper. The country was appalled when Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein ferretted out the truth, which forever changed a nation. “Watergate.” The iconic word sums up a President’s legacy.  And thus “gate” has been associated with every subsequent political scandal. It’s a fore gone conclusion we are shaped by the events and the times in which we live; however, more the pity that it doesn’t seem much has changed. What has changed is how we get our news today. Not from the “big three” networks or the newspapers. Now it’s a bombardment of the 24 hours news cycle, the incessant droning of speculative opinionated talking heads, constant tweet updates and continual information overload. Most of it I term “junk news,” filler. Crap filling people’s minds with absolute drivel. Does anybody really give a rat’s ass about who dumped The Bachelor or the celebrity de jour? It’s exhausting culling the wheat from the chaff.

It remains a mystery why I had that dream, no pizza was involved, nor why it compelled me to pen this essay. Whatever the reason, it prompted me to contemplate free speech, figurative and literal dreams, the courage of one’s convictions, and the bravery to explore the former and pursue the latter.  As Winston Churchill said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Dream interpretation isn’t my forte.







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