Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Citizen Activists

One overcast day I went to a rally at City Hall. While people were arriving and waiting for the speeches to start I chatted with a friend, David, who was there as a summer Calgary Herald reporter, and with a TV cameraman David knew. They were commenting on people they recognized. My friend asked me unkindly, "Why do you see the same faces at demonstrations for different issues?" I was almost speechless with despair. How do you answer such a question? "To see old friends from the last demonstration," I lied "and catch up on what's been happening since."

Later the crowd ambled down the sidewalk with the TV man preceding us. I chatted with David. Every time the TV guy turned around to film us David had to step down onto the road. Reporters are supposed to report the news, not make it. We arrived at the Native Friendship Center where there was ethnic food and live entertainers from around the world.

David went off to file his story. What I never got around to telling him is this: if only for practical reasons, for solidarity, minorities must help each other, and that things are interconnected. A region high on racism is also going to be high on sexism. A politician who mouths "family values" is also going to deny funding to "family strengtheners" such assistance for men who batter or women's shelters.

David was used to individuals who are conservative, in single-issue groups, such as the established unions.

While big unions might have a reputation for being conservative, this has not traditionally been the case. They used to be, or still are, the main support for the (socialist) New Democratic Party. "Those 'labor organizers'...were primarily middle-class revolutionary activists to whom the CIO labor organizing drive was just one of many activities." So writes Saul Alinsky regarding the formation of these unions during the great depression of the 1930s.

In his book Rules For Radicals he continues, "The agendas of those labor union mass meetings were 10 % on the specific problems of that union and 90 % speakers on the conditions and needs of the southern Okies, the Spanish Civil War and the International Brigade, raising funds for blacks who were on trial in some southern state, demanding relief for the unemployed, denouncing police brutality, raising funds for anti-Nazi organizations, demanding an end to American sales of scrap iron to the Japanese military complex, and on and on. They ...organized vast sectors of middle-class America in support of their programs. But they are gone now, and any resemblance between them and the present professional labor organizer in only in title."

I can't get involved in everything- I pace myself- but neither can I deny the issues are there. I enjoy being with others who participate; they are loving and jolly and they remind me of the bumper sticker: "If I can't dance I don't want to be part of your revolution."

I would tell David that once you start accepting responsibility there's no turning back.

Sean Crawford
summer 2008
published originally in the University of Calgary Student Newspaper,
The Gauntlet for Dec 8, 1994

~I specifically looked at student activists in my third occupy wall street essay of December 2012.

~The friend was David Gazzard, my student editor for 1988-89. Unlike his siblings he had kept his Aussie accent- I suppose chicks dug it. While I make him sound unkind he was a decent moral person, like Australian Mel Gibson's character in Signs... -Did you know that for copyright reasons many excellent books, predessors to Harry Potter, were not for sale in the U.S.? One day his family dog came by the newspaper office. David said, "Hello Biggles" and I said dramatically, "By Captain W. E. Jones." "Hey, that is who he's named after!" (an aviator in a series)

~David went on to be a reporter in Australia. He said the Oz ecology did not require all the formal training to be a journalist, not like over here. Probably by the time my piece was written he was working directly with the Australian Prime Minister as the PM's (I forget- communications person? Something cool, anyway)

~Later David ran for Australian parliament and narrowly lost.

~In an election year when neither major U.S. party had concrete changes to offer, the republicans seized the high ground with their platform plank of "family values." It was powerfull fear mongering. How could democrats defend against something undefined yet sounding right? Harpers magazine later exposed the scam, with no effect, when they published a secret republican memorandum reminding followers not be taken in or try to seriously implement this "platform." The codeword "family values" mainly meant right wing status quo: no support for women or children or minorities and especially no equal rights for homosexuals.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Angry With Michael Crichton

Headnote: This essay came about because two or more obituaries claimed he was "rebuked by congress." I tried doing a tiresome google search using rebuke and testimony. I found only that one or two congresscritters had disagreed that day with Crichton before he even started to speak, with one saying she wanted "facts not fiction" but I found no record of a rebuke.
MAYBE those obit writers were better researchers than I...BUT I suspect they did not like Michael's philosophy.

This week the author of the novel State of Fear, Michael Crichton, has passed away. (Better known for Jurassic Park.) If a politician dies, or even retires, all is forgiven. A gentleman doesn't speak ill of the dead. But Crichton continues, right now, to inspire fresh hatred from the global warming crowd. And he hasn't even been buried yet! I hope his family will eschew the internet.

On the 'net I see people being willfully blind, irrational— and hateful. One fellow, this week, going down a thread, kept raising new straw man arguments, against Crichton, as fast as they were knocked down. This on a thread that started as a sober memorial by fans. The problem, of course, is that, unlike being able to forget an out-of-sight politician, the hate-mongers can't forget how Crichton's essays and speeches are still in print. As is State of Fear.

As it happens the hate-mongers, some of them, will openly say on the web they haven't read his book, nor his testimony before congress. Instead they will attack him as a person, adding that being a mere novelist, and not a scientist, he "should not be allowed to testify" in the first place. His speech in the senate (which as you know is one half of the bicameral congress) is on his web site. I found his speech, but not his testimony. I, for one, sense the hate-mongers are claiming that Crichton testified against global warming and carbon dioxide. By fixating on their claim, like a pit bull stuck to an arm, they don't have to lift their eyes to face the implications of what Crichton actually said.


It is ironic. By expressing hatred, by refusing to read, by refusing to objectively refute, they are living proof of what Crichton testified about: that science, at least in the climate change domain, is moving away from science towards politics and propaganda. It is amazing to me that in our day and age people can graduate college but not soak up basic "Philosophy of Science 101."

Understanding the basis of Science—not just climate science—is the Key.

If I might reference an earlier controversy: I wasn't born yet when Alfred Kinsey did his research. He astounded people by showing that homosexuals were not a mere fraction of a fraction of one percent. And not, it logically followed, just a scattering of "bad" people who had "chosen" to be gay. By using the "Key" an entomologist can have a valid opinion regarding the methodology of a sex researcher. And vice versa. A scientist with a Christian religion who disagrees with Kinsey's 1940's sex research findings should be able to calmly, without hatred, refute Kinsey by doing "new, improved" research. But hatred is a good excuse for claiming, "I don't have the time to research, I don't need to read Kinsey..." Sounds familiar, I know. "I don't need to read the footnotes in State of Fear..." The novel is purely fiction, the copious footnotes are true and pure.


Crichton was a man who knew the Key. He found himself, in this brave new millennium, having to raise the awareness of congress by referring to the methods used in drug research trials, methods which are naturaly more stringent that the ones for, say, sociology. A hate-monger claimed on the web that Crichton was saying that climate research should be just as rigorous and verifiable as medical research. Wrong. Crichton was saying that we should not shrink from trying to have reasonable science standards where possible.

These standards would include doing separate experiments to verify research, and separate computer simulations to verify computer modeling, both in space (today) and in time. (After some years, does the computer model still hold up?) The fact that it took literally years before the United Nations hockey stick graph was verified by two Canadians... and thereby exposed as false... is a disgrace to science. Not just to the global warmers but to Science. The fact that the hockey scientists would not readily share their raw data... is not what I was taught to do as an idealistic student in science class. Unlike magic, a science experiment must be repeatable by others.

I remember when that graph, of global temperatures shooting up like the blade on a stick, made the front pages all over the world. Being an idealist, as I have documented in my Citizen Activists essay, I appreciated that graph. I thought: Sweet! Cool! Wow! ...Years later I did not appreciate abruptly learning how unscientific the graph was. I felt betrayed. I fully expect scientists, in their everyday lives, to be less than saints. I also expect them, in their professional lives, to be reliable. To have, as my grandmother would say, integrity.


Oh dear. Did everyone notice how in the above paragraph I just "had" to wave my activist credentials? A sure sign that society has hysteria is when I have to look away from an issue and, instead, call a time-out to "defend" myself. To me this is so degrading: as in arguing against the horrors of Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch-hunt and suddenly coming to a full stop—and switching gears—to say whether I am now, or have ever been, a witch. Oh well, at least my credentials were on topic; at least I didn't try to gratuitously say whether or not I believed in the environment.

Most folks who have read this far, enjoying people in general, would be bored to hear any more about the hate-mongers.... Many readers, interested in individuals, would rather I moved on to tell my personal story. OK, that suits me, even though I am modest—because my life story is relevant to my being angry with Crichton.

Angry With Crichton, Part II

My life was nice. At a young age, in my twenties, many of my happiest productive hours were spent as a young volunteer reporter for my university student newspaper. Our campus had no career program in journalism, but as keen volunteers we soaked up "Journalism 101." I learned that an ethical reporter will always strive for "balance" by using multiple sources, and then letting the reader decide. If I quote a rehabilitation expert, as head of a parole board, saying that a memorable killer with a life sentence is to be allowed to go free, and if the parole board experts all agree, then I should nevertheless also seek out someone who disagrees, perhaps a tearful survivor. My readers will of course agree with a consensus of experts, but they still deserve a chance to consider the other side.

My journalism peers told a folk story, to promote the rule of balance, of the sole exception to having ethics: a man followed some G.I.s into a Nazi death camp and proceeded to file his grim story without first getting a Nazi quote for balance. "Sometimes," he said "there is no other side."


Years ago l noticed that a certain nation-wide chain of newspapers was publishing every single one of its global warming stories without ever trying for balance. Unfortunately, in the media, ownership tends to mean control. And I think, from some (off topic) scant evidence, that these particular owners are too arrogant to go back and learn ethics 101. For a long time I had noticed this bias. Finally, at last, a syndicated journalist with a weekly environment page addressed the issue by saying that it was fine to not have balance because of the importance of the issue, because readers might be "confused." At the time I hoped it was just "her and the owners" and not "her and the other reporters too." Now my hope has dwindled. That no other journalists rang any alarm bells is a sign of— ...of something disgusting.

My young life was nice. At the age of 17, when I moved out alone from the innocent farm to the big city, I didn't know the slang "grifter." I did know "con artist." I knew I wasn't magically immune to being fleeced. I figured I had only two things going for me. First, cons usually depend on the mark being greedy. I wasn't. Second, the con man usually generates a sense of urgency. So as I gawked at the skyscrapers I resolved to be on the lookout for any such urgings. When the above journalist implied, "the end justifies the means" she was trying to exuse her actions, to herself and others, by trying to generate a contagious urgency.


It was nice how the other student reporters let me volunteer to "do the Ernest Hemingway newsman thing" without first being a student myself. Years earlier, just like young Louis L' Amour, I was an avid reader yet not afraid of hard work. And so I was once a soldier—for six of the happiest years of my life. I was picked for junior (NCO) leadership school. Yes, it was hard.

Of course we took parade drill and book learning such as the Geneva convention. More important was learning problem solving, "task procedure," for on base and in the field, and, most important of all, learning "NATO battle procedure." This meant disciplining our minds to always do certain things in a certain order. Leading an attack was stressfull but straight forward. Equally hard, in a different way, were mock problems such as using our troops to suddenly improvise an effective checkpoint, rescue a wounded paratrooper high up a tree, lead a bomb search without any previous search training, and so forth. As confident soldiers, our tendency during such role playing was to revert to what we thought we would do in real life. Wrong. Or to hurry too fast. Wrong again. Our true goal was this: to learn to use army procedure with due deliberate speed.

Of course in an immediate emergency such as first aide we would "think" super-fast, rather than use deliberate thinking...but we would still follow super-quick procedure (ABC means airway breathing circulation—in that order). There is never, ever, a need to close our eyes and hurry in a blind panic. I won't close my eyes to the scientific method, depite the urgings of persons with a global warming religion.

I wish certain civilians would learn to slow down. Poor U.S. soldiers might have avoided Iraq; we might have avoided eight years of President Bush, if only the Florida designer of the "butterfly ballot" had slowed down enough to take the time to do a user test. At least, to her credit, as a check and balance, she did have the humility to go down the hall and show the butterfly ballot to some other government workers. Unfortunately, they carefully looked it up and down and pronounced it, "Good."

Had the Florida folks slowed down to spend a little money on research into what computer experts call the "user interface" they would have learned something: actual users do not look a ballot up and down. They just look for their candidate's name so they can mark it. They won't always notice if the butterfly "wings" are not symmetrical but offset by a line. God only knows how many votes, which should have gone to Bush's rival, went instead to some guy named Buchanan. Call it the butterfly effect: Someone waves a ballot and years later a storm of steel rages over Baghdad.


Urgency does not excuse panic. I believe there is always time for media ethics, for science ethics, and always time to verify science. We could do double blind experiments; we could take the time to give the same research problem to three laboratories. We could give an experiment, of ice core rings, say, to three labs. Let all three do algorithms and generate equations and do regression analysis and so forth. If all three get a hockey stick then, "Sweet!" No team will dare fudge results. By doing proper science we will never have to sadly say, as Florida did, "If only—."

The late Michael Crichton explained so much so well during his senate speech. His family has restored his web site; once again I can read his speeches and essays. Meanwhile, his hateful detractors not only won't read his testimony, they will not even care to know he has those articles, articles not merely about climate but about things under the general roof of science—and media too. I think people are wrong to be angry at him.

His site includes several PBS videos from being a guest on The Charlie Rose Show. I am grateful to have seen several long video-taped speeches where Michael is charming and understated. Of course, being human, at some level he must have been angry. Perhaps he expressed his anger at home. Figuratively, I am beside him in solidarity. As a guest in Michael's kitchen, I am angry too, right along with him.

Sean Crawford

November, 2008


Forgive my overkill, but here Journalist Jon Franklin, who won a pulitzer for his account of a brain surgery, has posted his a keynote speech to toxicologists, addressing the politicalization of science.  It's quite a long speech but I was fascinated all through, as I'm sure his audience was too. The truth is out there, and it's grim.

And here a local writer tackles the issue of verifying computer models with the real world, over time.

Update for January 2014: Chricthon's website has been changed to leave things out. Here is a snipped version of his speech. It would be sad for you to go from that short version to a link where people, including scientists, are wilfully misrepresenting him to put him down. I don't know if they are being self-important or have a vested interest. I have yet to see him put down by someone who explicitly states a belief that global warming is not (anthropegenic) manmade.

I found several YouTube clips of congress that seems to be made by a Nineteen Eighty-Four type of leftist: everything edited to put Crichton in shadow and highlight his detracters. His actual testimony was NOT shown... I can't fathom having so much hatred as to cause such unfairness.

I referenced Crichton last month in Editing and Climategate, also in my very short essay Global Hot Air, (May 2011) and in my one where I call him my hero, Smokers and World Peace. (September 2011)

By the way, another writer hero of mine is Sir Winston Churchill. I have many of his books. During the war if any of his staff wrote that today in Burma our forces were "fighting with the Japanese" he would have them change it to "fighting against the Japanese."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Global Warming and Consensus

"We use the archetypes," says Pulitzer winner Tom French. "We can't let the archetypes use us." 
As a cautionary tale, he cites the reporting on the dangers of silicone breast implants to the health of women. Study after study confirms the medical safety of this procedure. Yet the culture refuses to accept it. Why? French wonders if it may arise from the archetype that vanity should be punished, or that evil corporations are willing to profit by poisoning women's bodies. 
Use archetypes. Don't let them use you.  (...From poynter online 50 writing tips, tip 10)

CBS news has exposed a global warming scandal according to yesterday's Calgary Sun, July 2, 2009. It seems that two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) experts have been suppressed from saying that the EPA is rushing, unwisely, into declaring that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. (CO2) Columnist Lorrie Goldstein is comparing Obama to Bush and saying that had Bush tried to pull this stunt the media would have noticed, big time.

Writes Goldstien, "Carlin said EPA officials wanted to rush through their decision on carbon dioxide, adding while regulatory decisions normally take a year or two, this one took mere weeks and EPA staff had only four and a half days to respond to a draft report on the decision."

I realize some people will excuse the EPA for being unethical because of the nation's current emotional claim that "CO2 is causing global warming," a claim "they say" a "consensus of scientists" believe in. I am not "some people." You can't be a "tiny bit pregnant" or a "tiny bit unethical." Ethics matter. Consensus is no excuse; the angels are not self-evidently on the side of consensus. It was less than a year ago that a "consensus of experts" would have said there would never be a global recession, surely not one led by the good old U.S. of A. (And if the U.S.was so irresponsible then surely Americans would never compound their leadership dishonor by adding insult to their world injury with a "buy America" policy, a policy that, here at home, stabs the Free Trade Agreement.)

It was in the 1990's that the media and "everybody" knew that silicon breast implants caused ill health. Such was the consensus, a consensus tested in court. It was only after Dow Corning lost a settlement case, and therefore went bankrupt, (with lost jobs) that the first ever science study was conducted. Results disagreed with the "consensus." Each subsequent study also cleared Dow. Too late. The villain here was not the EPA but the FDA. They got jittery from the consensus and therefore banned breast implants not because they were unsafe but because, with only 90 days to respond, the corporations could not prove they were safe. Today? The consensus is gone, the ban overturned. Too late. (see Risk by Canadian Dan Gardner, 2008, with a 2009 afterword on the global economic crisis.)

It was in medicine that a young Michael Crichton, with whom I am angry, got his start. I wonder what he thought of the implant hysteria? Lots of people are angry at him.

Sean Crawford
feeling stabbed
North of Montana
Calgary AB
Footnote: The November 24, 2014 edition of The Globe and Mail, "Canada's national newspaper," contains a story on a young hero who defied consensus, and received an award at the White House from President John Kennedy. She has also received a letter of honour in 2010 from President Barack Obama, which she keeps next to her 100th birthday message from the Queen.

Frances Kelsey, a young Canadian then working at the Food and Drug Administration, withstood the ongoing pressure from the drug companies, and the consensus in Europe and Canada. Because she stood against the consensus until there was more science, the U.S was spared the scourge of thalidomide. (You may recall the line in Billy Joel's hit song We didn't Start the Fire, "children of thalidomide."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Better to Sow

Gray sky. Chill. The fall wind rolled leaves across the campus and blew my thinning hair. I walked past a group of energetic colorful students, busy around a recycling bin. A part of me ached to belong among them. I paused and a young lady enthusiastically told me how they were being "ecological." I smiled and walked away.

I did not tell those shiny happy people that I too had once been involved, years ago, when there was nothing environmental on campus. For a time, I had taken my turn at single handedly keeping the dream to recycle alive by rolling six pop can carts down to the loading dock. There I got up to my biceps in the grease and food that people forced inside the carts. The carts were so novel: for some folks those two little can sized holes were beyond their ken.

The Campus Recycling Committee patiently met each obstacle, worked things out, and evolved a system. So many details! It took us two years of serious meetings, I think, before, at last, the first six recycling carts were set out in Mac Hall.

All along I felt that some students disapproved, that we worked amid scorn and disbelief that we'd ever succeed. The campus was a little more conservative then. Once, in the shadow of a nuclear peace banner, a man told me it was "too hard on my psyche" to work on a hopeless cause. Since then the Berlin Wall has tumbled and scores of recycling bins have sprung up on campus.

As I walked away from those warm students on that cold fall day, I reflected that a few people will always find the hope, the belief, and the spirit to work for change.

And, under that grey sky, I knew one thing for sure.The old prophets were right... It is better to sow than to reap.

Sean crawford

gazing at a future unseen,
Calgary Alberta

originally published as a Viewpoint in The Gauntlet, our University of Calgary student newspaper, October 28, 1993

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fallen Dreamer

I remember: In the mid 1980's, on a darkened stage at the university, an old Trojan woman lay grieving alone, holding her shoulders off the floor, whispering "Who shall I blame, then?... The Greeks? Helen?... ... All of us... All of us..."

And then she was gone and only a little sacred fire burned there, alone, as all of us left.

Much later in this essay I will "connect the dots."

Last night I was moved by hearing the music, while reading the search engine lyrics, for Army Dreamer by Kate Bush, with comments by less than a dozen "reviewers." Perhaps if I was a woman I would have cried; one of the reviewers did cry; another reviewer was a father, with a son in Afghanistan, who said he found the background army sounds almost too much to bear. I have Kate's Album but since I only play it on road trips I had never before seen the lyrics writ plain. I hadn't realized, for example, that "tears on a tin box" was Mum huddling over an army issue casket.

I suppose I was affected by the context of my previous half hour on the computer before I reached Kate's song. I had begun, you see, by going straight to the youtube video of the old spiritual Samson and Delilah as interpreted by the British lead singer of Garbage, Shirley Manson. For a season two episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles the song ran for its entirety, four and half minutes, without any dialogue being audible. I admired such craftsmanship. I admired the symmetry, too, for the same technique had been used for season one: For a no-dialogue scene the song had been one about judgment day, sung by Johnny Cash, When the Man Comes Around. This while a robot is sending people to meet their maker.

Perhaps, last night, I was made vulnerable by a fan video, one where a music track of This Woman's Work is Never Done, really beautiful and transcendent, plays over clips of Sarah Conner, a single mother. I watched once more as Sarah is helpless in a dream, too far away to intervene, as a robot raises a pistol in one swift sure motion and shoots down a boy as he flees for his life and the boy falls hard.

During the season two Shirly Manson song Sarah gets her chance. This time, as the pistol hammer falls, she leaps in front of her son and she pulls her son down like a secret serviceman taking a bullet for the president. The apostle John noted, "Greater love hath no man..." (And Kate sings, But he never even made it to his twenties)

A reviewer noted that Kate packs her words with meaning, never choosing any phrase merely to made a rhyme. Yes.


The last time I attended a military funeral there were probably too many people in attendance to fit into the cathedral; we used the rodeo grounds. I knew the parents. They had a nice Russian wolfhound. They had a girl. And once they had a boy—their only begotten son.

Although I sat where the attendees, except for the couple with me, didn't know the young man personally, I could hear from all around me, at all times in the service, people needing their handkerchiefs. The service included projected slides, reminiscing, and a family friend, a folksinger, with a guitar. He sang of a father's shock and outrage, "My boy came home in a box!"

At this many of the mourners, many of them in uniform, hesitated, were puzzled at first, wondering how to react. To a young person of generation Y, I guess, there would be nothing amiss. After all, war is diverse: the soldiers write letters and they use futuristic satellite telephones; they come home walking and in a "box." That's life.

The reason my peers hesitated is our legacy of Vietnam. Even teenage recruits share a cultural memory of being called "baby killers" and of returning Nam veterans at the airport being spat upon. How sweet then that Kate Bush can be so kind. And so informed—she starts her song by trilling BFPO. I wonder how many civilians realize this means British Forces Posted Overseas?

Kate and I were both born in the 1950's, we both remember the home front during the Vietnam war. It was boomer Steve Jobst of Apple who said in a commencement address, after surviving cancer, that you can only connect the dots by looking backward. Now I understand Vietnam better than I did back then. I'm still trying.


First dot: With our U.S. casualties in the tens of hundreds over there in Iraq we have as yet no protests or riots over here. No campus activity. Call me cynical, but surely this is because today there is no conscription, no lottery style draft. I remember how during the '60's some older person wrote a book about the draft, saying sympathetically that it is normal U.S. behavior to worry about saving your own skin. Maybe so. Hence today's quiet campus.

Second dot: People re-arrange their world-view to integrate their most pressing needs. For example, a drug user of my aquaintance who "needs his drugs" has no clue about the politico-civic issues around the 1930's prohibition of alcohol. To seek any such clues would destroy his excuse that "prohibition never works." And just as a drug user may feel disengaged from the life of democracy, so too may a drug dealer, just like a convict, need to claim that city hall and big business and the police are criminals too. And many prostitutes will claim that marriage is prostitution. (I used to have breakfast with a prostitute.)

There was a loving young housewife married to a soldier. This was in the '60's, during Vietnam. And one day some other young woman directed some shocking, very venomous, hatred at the poor wife. As it happens, the blame for war was nailed by Euripides over 2,000 years ago in ancient Greece: surely by modern times it must be clear that targeting a young housewife for blame is just plain wrong. The wife, after she recovered, had a theory. Her understanding of the verbal assault was this: The girl felt an overwhelming pressure to take action and then, in her hysteria, from her pressing need, arranged her world-view so she could feel justified in targeting the wife.

That's crazy, but it makes sense. Now I can understand other crazy things as being from hysteria, things like believing servicemen were baby killers. And perhaps—I could be wrong—I may finally grasp why "responsible" citizens still can't say, "innocent soldiers." Perhaps if they said so then they couldn't bear their own guilt.

Third dot: College students were exempt from conscription. The baby boomer students shared with each other tricks to use after graduation to further avoid the draft. To sustain their world-view of separation from the non-college boys... and to abandon those idealistic working class boys to a harsh fate- ...this must have surely affected the middle class. I can't even begin to imagine what twisted guilt they must have suppressed.

I may never fully understand such boomers because although I've become middle-class in my later adult life, I was raised working class and "on the wrong side of the tracks." My sort never wore teeth retainers or went to Disneyland.


Dots connected: If you are of generation Y, with an even handed view towards the armed forces, then please understand: your easy sanity is from being raised in these saner times. People my age, conditioned and re-arranged by the stress of Vietnam, may require a lot of effort to become as liberated.

The most liberated people in society have traditionally been the entertainers. Bill Shakespeare and his pals knew that being anti-Jew was wrong. (Oh, how they slyly "bashed" the bigots in The Merchant of Venice) Today stage artists know that bashing homosexuals is wrong...Yet, back in the '60's, actors and singers, like snarling distressed lemmings, would all rush to fiercely bash teenage soldiers, and their wives, and even sillier targets. ( Kate sings But he couldn't afford... ...But he never had a proper education...)

At last I understand why I could offer no answers, no alternate world-views, to such "long haired freaky people" during the sixties. Back then I was exempt from the hysteria. Today I am still "gun shy:" I still expect every long haired pop star to be nuts.

Kate Bush, though, is exceptional. Having a mind of her own, she has a kind, healing, gentle sympathy for poor working class boys. I knew those boys, I know their dreams.

Kate knows, too.

Sean Crawford
April 2009,

Let me say,  for the record, the fallen soldier, killed in action, was Corporal Nathan Hornburg.
Update of January 2014. I suppose when I wrote this I was grieving more for the surviving family than for the son, and not really for Sarah. I knew the parents, the polite boy would be in the background when I visited their home. I remember talking to the sister at length in the family store once—The girl is now a wife and mother, and this month her mother has passed away. I won't link to her, but here is a link to the family and son, written by a nice colleague of mine.

The newspapers once reported—to people's surprise—that the time between the end of the World War and the Tet Offensive was now equal to the time between Tet and now. Surprised, because we had closure for the one, long before Tet, but not the other, not even now. Still more time has passed, and if people my age seem more at peace with Vietnam it is not because we understand more, but from being bowed by the years. And I am slowly bowing my head to accept that people won't learn any lessons.