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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Daddy, let your mind roll on

Cruising down the Blue Ridge Parkway, our traveling correspondent Jack muses:

I've been writing more than reading on this trip, but I finally finished Isaacson's wonderful Einstein bio. I was fascinated to learn that Einstein left Nazi Germany in 1933, came to America, and became an American citizen -- he had other offers -- largely because of the American commitment to free speech. He had a big mouth and personally tested that commitment many times during the McCarthy red-baiting era, which he abhorred. The FBI developed a thick file on Einstein, and J. Edgar Hoover thought him a subversive. Reading all this reminded me of an experience I had in Vietnam. After each recon patrol, I would meet with my patrol team for an intelligence debriefing. We were small, tight units, so the discussion would often devolve into a bull session. Occasionally a Marine would ask me: "What the @#%* are we doing over here, Lieutenant?" I had a stock answer which I had picked up from a senior officer, sure to get their attention, something like: "I don't know about you but I'm over here to defend the right of people to burn the American flag." After they stopped throwing things at me, I would explain: "If we can put up with scumbags who burn our flag, that means your kids will never have to worry about going to jail for something they say." Then we would jump into a robust discussion, but they appreciated the point. Those of you worried about the Chinese overtaking the West economically should worry much more about what happens on the day the Chinese people decide that they have had enough of top-down limits on their political speech and activity. If we know anything from history, we know that day is coming.

Comments (14)

In modern, forward-thinking societies, political correctness is killing free speech from within, while religion or government is killing free speech everywhere else.

When is the president I voted for going to say something about Molly Norris, I wonder?
If he doesn't say something about her soon, I will NEVER vote for him again, even if CHENEY runs against him.

The article below says it all.


I am rereading 1984 again, conceived by a contemporary of Einstein. Portland's UR and Light Rail scams are a find example of 2+2=5 and a lot of what is going on in the book is too close for comfort. Let's hope there are enough left in our proles, starting with China's proles as your reporter mentions to keep us from the same end as Winston.

You are so right about how the big O tries to protect downtown's reputation. Two people got shot in NW PDX last night and what is their headline on this today? - A bland, "Police respond to downtown homicide." No wonder they continue to lose circulation and influence.

Sorry, I meant for the above comment to be associated with a different post.

I spent a very memorial weekend up in the Blue Ridge
Mountains when I was a kid; one of those peak experiences
in life that gets seared into the brain.

We were guests of a family who owned a cabin up there. Our hosts had a daughter-who I became smitten with and a son-who my sister fell in love with that weekend. Another guest was Alexei, an ex-Red Army colonel, a Cossack(and of course fervently anti-Russian)who had commanded a Cossack unit in 1941, was captured by the Germans, and later joined the Vlasov Army.

Our host was a remarkable man in many ways. He had movie star good looks and my dad once said that, although very accomplished and a hero, he was one of the most unassuming men he had ever met. S.L.A. Marshall referred to him in a book as being one of the most beloved men in the U.S. Army. Before the war he had been a lawyer and because of his age, and because he had a family, he could have easily avoided military service.

But he joined up soon after war was declared and wanting to get into the thick of it, volunteered for the airborne. He parachuted into Normandy early morning on D-Day as an 82nd Airborne battalion commander and later with the 17th Airborne fought at the Bulge and parachuted behind the Rhine River ahead of the Rhine crossing. By the end of the war he had been awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, the DSC, and a couple of Purple Hearts.

Later, among other posts, he was a military adviser in South Korea, became assistant commander of the 101st Airborne, and served in Vietnam during the early years of America’s involvement there. After retiring as a major general he joined the CIA and served again in Vietnam(my dad knew him in Germany during the early and very halcyon postwar years when they were in Detachment R (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detachment_R)together). After he retired from the CIA he went back to practicing law.

So this was our host at the cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I remember the bitter cold, the overcast sky. Me and his daughter taking a walk along the creek that ran below the cabin. And being woken in the middle of the night by laughter and voices speaking Russian. I got up to pee and there was my dad and Alexei playing chess and drinking vodka from large tumblers(my dad was never on a leash-short or otherwise).
Alexei had on his enormous black Cossack cape-made out of an almost complete bear skin-over his shoulders(later we went up with him to Gettysburg to tour the battlefield-my dad spent the drive home being mostly sick, his head hanging out the car window-Alexei’s wicked vodka again).

After that weekend I don’t recall seeing our host again. I learned a few years ago that a grandson had died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Now, to paraphrase Alan Ginsberg:

“I saw the best minds of MY generation destroyed by blandness”

Einstein was a genius in more than one way.

In the Marines in Korea, we had no political agenda, except we thought that Harry Truman was an a@#%* and McArthur a pompous fool!

As for China, I believe that day is coming as well, but we will benefit from it, for most of China loves America, always have. If anything, they will be emulating our society. We have never fought China and have always been their allies. Korea was an anomaly, in which we unwittingly (McArthur's stupidity) entered their sphere of influence. To the Chinese, they are the center of the world and aren't interested in conquests outside of their periphery. 3000 years of history have proven this.

Wow. BillA, how much about Asian and Chinese history and culture do you actually know and how much do you think you know? Enough of China believes that the West was partially responsible for the great gaps between the rich and the poorest in that country that I have no illusion that they respect Americans. You might want to check out some of the Chinese poster art that started with the advent of Mao's party. Chinese hatred of the West reached an all time high during the misnamed "Cultural Revolution". Those Chinese whose families were part of "reprogramming" might be friendly towards the West but they are an exception. There's some historical reality.

The Chinese 'sphere of influence' is malleable. Tibet, Turkestan, Manchuria, Mongolia, Taiwan, and Nan Hai all atest to varying levels of interest in claims far from the seat of the emperor.

It is true, from my personal experience, that the average Chinese seem to love us, America, that is...It strikes me as inexplicable. And if they seek to emulate us...then, I weep for their environment, already overtaxed, I'm sure.

Einstein seems to have been very aware of the proclivities which could well have gotten him into deep personal trouble and took the opportunity provided him to avoid that eventuality.

If that's not genius, I don't know what is.

I'm impressed that once assured of his celebrity, he did what he could for 'good', or what he thought it was.

The gift of speaking our mind to power and living our lives unhindered is a dream come true. Let us hope we can keep it.

I inadvertently became a China scholar while in North Korea in 1950, at the battle of the Chosin Reservoir with the First Marine Division, I encountered the Chinese Army first hand. Later, in 1958-60, I lived and worked on the offshore island of Chinmen (Quemoy) with the Nationalist Chinese Army for 2 years. In 1970, returning to attend Pennsylvania State University, I received a degree in history with China as my main course of study. In 1995, I visited Beijing, China, accompanying my wife, who was invited to a woman's conference. While there I walked through the streets of Beijing for 2 weeks and spoke to a large number of people who were delighted to converse with an American in their native language. Having studied China while living there, and at the university level and through a massive amount of reading, I feel I have an excellent knowledge of the culture, the people, its history, as well as the spoken language, with some ability to read and write. I feel that it is difficult at best to know what the average person felt during the Mao regime.

I think the average Chinese felt close to being delivered to a re-education camp, or to starvation, or both, during many of the years under Mao. Some great Chinese films have been made (allegorical, many of them, to escape the sharp eyes of the censors) about the power of government to crush the individual. It's amazing to see what directors like Yimou and others were able to get past those censors. And if you just want a hedonistic evening of politics, rent Yimou's "To Live" and swoon over China's leading lady of political art films, the incomparable Gong Li.

Bill A - I am sure you got the view of China that the government wants all Westerners to have of China. It's not exactly like your interactions were free from complete monitoring. Meanwhile, the parents of one of my acquaintances got sent to the re-education campes. She is now quite happily a US citizen.

Certainly you are right in some cases; in Korea, no contest, on the offshore islands, the Chinese nationalist view, even as I was the only American on the island, but while in Beijing no one was with me as I wandered through the city. Also please give me credit in my studies over the years of being open minded and not connected with the government. I detested the Mao regime only slightly more than the KMT. Don't forget that some of the taint of the Mao era still lingers on, but is fading. Most of us westerners think in short-term timespans. A year, 10 years, even 50 years. In most Asia cultures, time has a way of being extended almost indefinitely. During the course of China's history, they have been conquered, overrun, and during Mao's time, overcome from within. Each time, even though it may have taken sometimes hundreds of years, they overcame everyone of these setbacks and are still moving forward. It used to be that the overseas Chinese were the most industrious business people, now it has become homegrown. I also believe that where the most revered people in Chinese society were once scholars, they now might be business leaders. And they will certainly need their skills to overcome the eventual revolution of the Chinese workers as they taste the fruits of increasing personal power in the workplace and in their lifestyle.

Bill - You have a very interesting take on the Chinese and industry. I can tell you for a fact it took the Chinese many years to learn how to produce manufactured footwear that was saleable in the West. Though what we would reject was considered great by them so it had to be disposed of carefully so it would not end up on the streets. Even today there are two classes of factories in China. Those for export and those for home use. The export factories produce far better and far more diverse goods.

If the history of factory labor follows its course as it has in other places, it will lead to changes. However, the Chinese government is so ruthless in suppressing dissent, it may not have the same results there.

I, too, have in memory a special weekend (no, 2 separate weekends) in Asheville, NC, which included a cruise along the Blue Ridge Parkway. A memory, but not memorable, (nor "memorial").

That's some good wordworking you put there, Geoffrey Duin. Steve ...?

Our host was ... one of the most beloved men in the U.S. Army. ... a military adviser in South Korea ... assistant commander of the 101st Airborne ... served in Vietnam ... joined the CIA and served again in Vietnam .... After he retired from the CIA he went back to (civilian life).
Uh, the CIA is the one 'job' you canNOT 'retire' from. They won't let you; you know too much and if you try to get away with the knowledge, they have to kill you.

[July 28, 2008 -- No indictment of cops in Carnaby assassination; Carnaby's bona fides as CIA agent verified again
(subscription req'd)]

Of course, in a larger sense there is NO escape, anyway, from self-vilification. Since history now verifies that the long-playing 'communist danger' was ALL, (starting from 60 years before 1990, when you note the first supreme-racist totalitarian to lie that 'communality'-sense was causing his "outrage," Hitler's Goebbels, an 'excuse' gotten originally from Edward Bernays, then taken for Allen Dulles's adoption as means to his self-serving same totalitarian-CIA ends), ALL a bogus P.R. myth of some made-up 'enemy' prop (same falsity as 'terrorist danger') against which to issue 6th Commandment-waiver 'licenses to kill' and thrill a manic powerlust fill -- www.informationclearinghouse.info/article26461.htm -- and to an ends coming without justification whatsoever for murder in the name of The Company and only the unprincipled person's eternal soul's private damned torment, no difference 'retired' or not.

Old warmakers never die, they just keep killing to know they're alive.


Bill A., a treat to read your sharing foreign sensibilities, also. But if I may 'correct' the tidbit about China's 3000-year self-acceptance in business -- minding their own and keeping their nose out of others'. I'd say it's closer to 5000 years, (4707 and counting, if you like to be precise -- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_calendar )

(Although some evidence
[ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1421_Hypothesis ]
purports that perhaps the Chinese ventured out once upon a time, a hundred years ahead of Magellan, disapproved of what they found in their sickening psychopath neighbors and so repaired to their Heaven and burned the drawbridge behind them.
Who would blame them?)

I'm afraid, though, that our considerate "traveling correspondent Jack" may be restricted from full foresight of China's future economics behavior; restricted in the same manner as the NYTimes's Op-Ed writer of 9/26, and (all of us) restricted BY such shortsighted (and pre-judgmentally biased) 'analysis' in CFR-type 'white papers' so rampantly P.R.'ed in the Press and media.
'Blaming China Won't Help the Economy'

It just seems to me the history's momentum, or gravitas, carried in Chinese comportment goes mostly unconsidered, between the Blue Ridge Parkway on the right and Highway 101 on the left.



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