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Saturday, April 3, 2010


composition in gray #21

Today's netflix film was ARMY OF SHADOWS, the French Resistance during WW2, 1942 and 43. The film was released in 1969, though not in America until 2006. Serious film. The only humor in it was the people engaged in the Resistance, Patriots according to the French, were called Terrorists by the Nazis. It made me think that in 25 years, thereabouts, historical accounts of the Iraqi Resistance (Terrorists to the foreign invader), novels, films, poetry, painting, every art form, will hold up the Iraqi Resistance fighters as patriot heroes. Their stories will be told. The same in Afghanistan. Down the road of history their Resistance fighters will be held up high as the greatest patriots. We call them terrorists.

The day before I boarded the plane for Norfolk, VA, to turn myself in for 2 years of involuntary servitude with the Navy, somebody I had just recently met, like a day or 2 before, gave me a copy of Albert Camus' The Stranger. I read it on the plane and later in the barracks when I was put in the transient barracks waiting for the next class for radio school to start. I didn't have a lot to do, so I went to the base library and looked up some more novels, essays and plays by Camus. He spoke my mind. The Stranger was the first book I'd read that spoke. I imagined that with a degree from the Sorbonne in Philosophy I could have written it too. It's such a deceptively simple story that a beginning reader gets it. Looking back, after an entire adult life approaching 70, knowing what I know now and didn't know then, I see that when someone turns up in the life for a moment, gives me a book to read on the plane and it turns out to have a major impact in my life, there's something more going on than meets the eye. This work of fiction by a French philosopher changed the direction of my reading overnight from whatever I could find that looked good on a drug store paperback rack to the French Existentialists.

The hilarity is that I couldn't read with comprehension so soon after high school. Attempted short bursts of advanced education at the University in Wichita, but didn't get it, couldn't read with comprehension, befuddled, realizing I needed to learn how to read. Textbooks are so horribly written they discourage reading, and when one comes in contact with non-textbook writing, there's no comprehension. Anyway, that's how it worked out for me. Senior year in high school I attempted some grownup reading, like Ben Hur, Dr. Zhivago, both novels movies of the day were made from and none of it sunk in. I was reading pages of words. The library at the Navy base had probably everything by Camus. Having plenty of time on my hands, I read Camus all the time. In radio school, I continued to read Camus at the same base. I'd never read anything before that seemed like it came out of me the way Camus did. After I'd exhausted the writings of Albert Camus, I started reading novels by writers he wrote about, Jean Paul Sartre, and Simone deBeauvoir. They each wrote several novels of the French Resistance during WW2. They, themselves, were involved in the Resistance.

I was teaching myself how to read. I used the 2 years of incarceration to read until I caught on. DeBeauvoir and Sartre were way out of my league as writers, and that was what I wanted, something to pull me along. I thought if I could read these people with comprehension, I could read anything. The goal was to get back into college after the 2 years of what I took for prison, using the time I could not take seriously to learn how to read. I also went through the reading list, what I remembered of it, from the senior English class I'd not taken, because it was all reading and I couldn't read well enough. Catcher In The Rye, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and others. I read Kafka's The Trial and didn't get it at all. A few years later, I read the Castle and got it, that is, if Kafka can be got.

The French Resistance was right for me at the time. I'd come from a lifetime of resistance at home. In the Navy I felt like I was in resistance. I was in resistance to about everything, all my life to that point, including that point. It was a period of intense resistance. The Navy didn't give a damn if I lived or died, but I was expected to care about the Navy. It didn't work like that for me. I didn't like being forced into military for being born male in America. I was one of the examples of why a volunteer military is best. The only resistance I could get away with was being a slacker. Also the only resistance I could get away with at home. I waited for the day I'd be free to make my own decisions. That day was awaited with much anticipation. I'm not one to celebrate such moments, but I certainly made note of it within. The day I walked away from the ship the last time was the beginning of living by my own decisions. I waited so long and sometimes hopelessly for the moment of transition that when I had my freedom, I guarded it jealously. I realized I'd married daddy in a woman's body, which freaked me out into outer space. Been there, done that, not going back.

It was in this time of the life when I was in process of breaking free from the bondage of the past that the French Resistance was so important. Patriots called terrorists. I was interested in the black resistance of the early 60s until Stokley Carmichael, the voice of Black Power at the time, put out the word that white people in the black movement were not welcome. It was a black issue and black people needed to take care of it themselves. I saw the truth in it and pulled back my interest. I continued to pull for the black people, but kept my nose out of their business. In childhood I identified with the Indian Resistance. All the way along, my heart was with every resistance movement there was.

In 1968 I took a bus overnight from Charleston to be a digit in the mass demonstration in DC against the VietNam war. It was there I realized the resistance is locked in with that which is resisted. The resistance there was creating television news in a premeditated way. It was all television.
I saw the next day the corporate press all told the same lie about the event, the lie Johnson told them to tell at a press conference before the event. Next day when I saw NY Times, Washington Post, AP, Time and Newsweek, they all told the same lie. It was disconcerting. It was like a movie of a time in Fascism. The Village Voice, a weekly, had an article that told it exactly like it was, and reported on the press conference beforehand and what Johnson told the press to say. That day I lost any confidence in the press I had, and all confidence in the presidency. It was that day I realized resistance doesn't matter. I've fairly well let go of all that kind of thinking. However, if a power like China defeated us and occupied us, I'd be in the resistance. I'd be a terrorist fighting the foreign occupier.

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