Litkicks Message Board Archive

Culture clash: Dubya and me

Posted to Poetry and Politics

President Dubya went to Air Force basic training in June 1968, was given a direct commission to 2ndLt on graduation, without going thouugh occifer training school, and given a slot in the Texas Air Guard. He attended Air Force undergraduate pilot training at Moody AFB, Georgia, from November, 1968 through December, 1969, a full time occupation. After this, he trained full time in the F-102 interceptor for another five months at his guard base in Houston. So he was on active duty for a full two years from his initial enlisting in May, 1968, until June, 1970. He then was a part time guard pilot for two years after that, until the summer of 1972, when the discrepancies began.

He did not report for his mandatory annual pilot’s physical, thereby being grounded. He also applied for a transfer to the Alabama Air Guard, do to a change of civilian jobs. This was initially disapproved, because the Alabamy base did not have an active flying unit. But later approved, and he cleared station. He then did some time, reported as a year of community service work in Houston. Then he was discharged from the Air Guard in October 1973.

The book, {Fortunate Son}, details his bout with cocaine, getting busted and being giving a community service sentence in lieu of jail. It also details his father’s connections with the presiding judge. What emerges is a picture of a son of privilege who did Guard duty for two years full time, all while training, then part time per standards, then got busted for partying, skipped his physical to avoid a military bust, lied about being in Alabama while he was actually in Texas for over a year performing his sentence of community service.

He then got an honorable discharge, early, and went on to business school at Harvard. In fact, he started biz school in September of 1973, a month before he was finally discharged. It speaks of privilege.

Whether or not this is relevant to anything is up to discussion. The fact that his military records were expunged in the mid 1990’s to avoid a controversy should be relevant. The fact that he is parading around wearing a military costume with wings is his show.

The beat life that I lived because of my lack of privilege is also debatable as being relevant. I went through 4 years of Air Force ROTC, getting commissioned upon graduation from college, May, 1969. My active Air Force career lasted less than his. I did over 2 full time years, 1 in basic flight school, plus the advanced training in my cargo aircraft, plus 2 survival schools, then a year in Vietnam September, 1970-71. After that, my troubles started, by becoming a war resister inside the military, which took from Sept 1971 til Jan 1972 to develop and a full 6 months after that of active antiwar activity inside the Air Force until I got out by resigning my commission. This was definitely a privileged escape clause; I took it as an alternative to being court-martialed. 3 years, 29 days.

Dubya was well adjusted, went on to an MBA, Harvard, and a business career, the Texas governorship, and the White House. I was not well adjusted. I went to Mexico for the summer of “72, then to the big VVAW demonstration at the Republican Convention, August 1972. Then I also went to an MBA program, dropped out after the first semester, full of angst, getting 3 F’s and an A. I did some civilian retraining in aviation, got a job flying for a bank, then left it dissatisfied and angst ridden. I got a job in New Hampshire on a mountaintop working as a rehabilitation aide with handicapped kids, then bummed out to Nevada working in a mine, hiking about, rucksack hiked and camped on the west coast before coming back to the same grad school and trying a repeat, wanting social involvement with non-profit organizations. I did well at first, but the demons reemerged and I became morose, moving about a lot and losing my way into a truly beat down life for several years. I also studied drawing, a consistency an affirmation.

When I healed, I went through a populist reframing of my psyche, healing with other Vietnam Vets, Buddhists, Unitarians, poor elderly folks, many of them black, and a reconnecting with my antiwar roots, as it were, the true beginnings of my adult life. This period of 5 years of personal renewal was followed by another really downbeat traveling about all over the states and a final home finding in 1988 in St. Petersburg. I had little contact with my family for years. My new community gradually developed through Quakers, arts, a new career in healing, a growing into community as activist at times, a speaking out, much communicating. I became well adjusted and different. Also back in touch with some of my folks, but little to do with the extreme conservative wing.

So Dubya is not either perfect nor imperfect. He is a man of means and privilege who developed along that schemata. But the unfortunate thing is that his reality does not encompass an ethical standard that speaks of quality beyond what he can do to maintain the status quo. Perhaps this is a subjective evaluation, but there are many who would say the same.

I am neither perfect nor imperfect as well. I have my means now, having gotten it by dread and healing, with help from others when I reached out and found it, and I have developed along my schemata. I hope that my standard of ethics encompasses a sense of responsibility to search for growth of humanity. And I believe that the Beat writers were a pioneering force for this expression of alienated angst, beyond a trapped existentialism, and into a celebration and engendering for creative goodwill, beyond the maintenance of the status quo of privilege and persistent shallowness.

Can a beat writer get an MBA? You bet. But an MBA who digs the Beats would probably have a developed sense of aesthetics and therefore, ethics as well. So the poets against the war got uninvited to the White House. But a populist president would welcome a diversity of creativity beyond a parroting of status quo mentality. So lets keep on reaping, sowing, wheat from chaff. And blessing the sacred moments of flow.

It may come down to a cultural transformation and Beats have a part in this: the humanity of an emerging culture.