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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/2/19

Happenings in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

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"There's something happening here/What it is ain't exactly clear."

- Buffalo Springfield

By Edward Curtin

The Sunday newspaper had been left on the park bench. Its book page had lists of best-sellers, as if numbers two through ten could be the "best" along with number one. Absurdities were everywhere for the taking. On the Non-Fiction Hardcover list, numbers 3, 5, and 10 each had the word f*ck in the title. The books were published by two old and respected publishing houses: Harper and Little Brown. However, something was odd, for the word f*ck was spelled f*ck. These books were about hope, acceptance, and living the good life, cliche' topics in a feel-good culture: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Everything is F*cked, and Calm the F*ck Down. It seemed you had to be fucked first before you could accept the hope that the good life was coming your way. He wondered if these publishing houses thought that by eliminating the "u" they kept their hands clean and were not descending into the gutter with hoi polloi, while simultaneously titillating potential readers. Did they think readers would be offended by the word f*ck, but would not be by f*ck? Then it occurred to him that he didn't know what the f*ck non-fiction books were anyway. Maybe he had been wrong all his life and the opposite of up was non-up, not down.

***

On every table in the seaside resort's breakfast room there was a brightly colored flower in a clear watered vase. When he picked it up to smell the orange blossom, there was no smell and the water didn't move. He imagined an ersatz form of plastic happiness, a conjurer's delight, where everything was a trick, nothing moved, not even water.

***

Leaving the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in southern California where white and black Marines were regularly fighting and there were even some killings never reported by the press, the two young Marines escaped the tense and claustrophobic atmosphere on a weekend pass. It was early February 1967, and they took an overnight bus up the coast to San Francisco where they wandered around and found a breakfast restaurant near Union Square. There they read in the newspaper that for the week of January 12-19 the U.S. military had suffered its highest casualty count so far in Vietnam: 144 killed, 1, 044 wounded, and 6 missing-in-action. It jolted them awake more than the coffee. Later that afternoon, the two naifs wandered into the Haight-Ashbury district were they were startled by the first waves of acid-dazed hippies, who would soon arrive in hoards for the "summer of love." In the evening when they visited a bar for some beers, the waitress who delivered their drinks was topless. While they regarded this slight anomaly with manly indifference, she must have noticed their military haircuts that stood out among the longhairs, and so she served them buttons with their beers. The buttons read: Vietnam Love It Or Leave It. Heading back to the base, they knew where they didn't want to go.

***

The young man was studying for a PhD. He was intent on learning what made the world and people tick. He was attending a small seminar at the home of his professor, a famous German emigre who had worked for the Rand Corporation and U.S. Intelligence. Each of the five students was to give a short presentation on the subject of fake news and the issue of knowledge, since the course concerned the sociology of knowledge. The student began his presentation by quoting a famous philosopher's words: "In formulating any philosophy, the first consideration must always be: What can we know? That is, what can we be sure we know, or sure that we know we knew it, if indeed it is all knowable. Or have we simply forgotten it and are too embarrassed to say anything? Descartes hinted at the problem when he wrote, 'My mind can never know my body, although it has become quite friendly with my legs.' By "knowable," incidentally, I do not mean that which can be known by perception of the senses, or that which can be grasped by the mind, but more that which can be said to be Known or to possess a Knownness or Knowability, or at least something you can mention to a friend." The student paused and the eminent professor said, "So very interesting. Who is that philosopher?" The student replied, "Woody Allen." "He is very perceptive," said the professor, "and yet I have never heard of him. I will have to read his work." The student realized he was in good hands with such U.S. intelligence and Rand Corporation experts, so he asked the professor's wife for another glass of the German wine she was serving and toasted his good fortune with a wry grin. None of the other students got the joke.

***

A young man was reading a book that he highly recommended to his uncle. Leafing through it, the older man came upon this passage: "the free individual is just a fictional tale concocted by an assembly of biochemical algorithms." So what was the point of reading such a book, he wondered, since doing so was an exercise in pre-programmed absurdity since there was no freedom.

***

You have probably seen the bumper sticker that says: "sh*t Happens." Some people are just lucky, I suppose, and odd coincidences mark their lives. When he was just out of Columbia College and working for a reputed CIA front company, Business International Corporation, Barack Obama had a chance encounter with a young woman, Genevieve Cook, with whom he had a 1-2 year relationship. Like Obama and at about the same time, Cook just happened to have lived in Indonesia with her father, Michael Cook, who just happened to become Australia's top spook, the director-general of the Office of National Assessments, and also the Ambassador to Washington. Of course, Obama's mother, as is well-known, just happened to be living in Indonesia with Barack and Obama's step-father, Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian military officer, who had been called back to Indonesia by the CIA supported General Suharto three months before the CIA coup against President Sukarno. Suharto subsequently slaughtered over a million Indonesian Communists and Indonesian-Chinese. As is also well-known, it just so happened that Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, trained in the Russian language, after teaching English in the US Embassy in Jakarta that housed one of the largest CIA stations in Asia, did her "anthropological" work in Indonesia and Southeast Asia financed by the well-known CIA conduits, USAID and the Ford Foundation. Then there is Cook's stepfather, Philip C. Jessup, who just happened to be in Indonesia at the same time, doing nickel-mining deals with the genocidal Suharto government. Anyway, "sh*t happens." You never know whom you might meet along the way of life.

***

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Edward Curtin is a widely published author. His new book is Seeking Truth in A Country of Lies - https://www.claritypress.com/product/seeking-truth-in-a-country-of-lies/ His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/

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