Karl Marlantes in Conversation

(majestic music) – [Rivkah] Our One Book
Sacramento kick off And we’re so excited because we usually do dead authors and
(audience laughs) we have a live author tonight. So give him a run for his money and we hope you’ll ask lots of questions. We’re thrilled to have received a grant from the Cal Humanities
for California Reads, we’re so grateful to
them for their support of our programming efforts and it’s my pleasure to introduce Tricia Wynne who really needs no
introduction if you know her, I’ve been giving her a
hard time all night so, please join me in welcoming Tricia Wynne from the Cal Humanities Board. (clapping) – Well good evening everybody
and I’d like to thank Rivkah for that introduction
and also to thank you all so much for coming out tonight. This is such an important event. I’m Tricia Wynne and I’m a Cal Humanities board member and on
behalf of Cal Humanities and our partners, the
California State Library, and the California Center for the Book, I’d like to welcome you to this Author In Conversation event hosted by the Sacramento Public Library. I’d like to tell you a little
bit about Cal Humanities. There are these beautiful
brochures in the back of the room. I hope you’ll pick one up, it’ll tell you a little bit about what we do, but we’re an independent, nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities and for nearly 40 years we have supported and created programs that have informed, inspired, and connected Californians, and worked to cultivate
a state of open mind. We hope that this
conversation will engage you, inspire you, and encourage you to become part of the humanities
community here in California. So before you leave,
if you haven’t already done so, please grab a brochure and add your name to our mailing list and you’ll get contacted about future events. So this event is the second
of 12 Author in Conversation events taking place throughout
California this fall that are part of our War Comes Home, our current thematic initiative. This initiative aims
to raise awareness of, and promote greater understanding of, our veterans and to explore the impact of war on our communities. Through hundreds of events
throughout California we are working to bring
communities together with veterans and their
families, writers and historians, for thoughtful reflection
and lively discussion in the aftermath of more
than 12 years of war. To anchor this initiative,
best selling author, Karl Marlantes’ book, What
It Is Like To Go To War, was selected as our statewide read. Karl grew up in a small logging town on the Oregon coast,
attended Yale University on a National Merit Scholarship and went on to study at Oxford
University as a Rhodes Scholar. He served as a marine
in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for Valor, two Purple Hearts, and 10 air medals. He is the author of two New
York Times Best Sellers. His novel Matterhorn was published in 2010 and won numerous prizes including the William E. Colby Award given by the Pritzker Military Library. Mary Menzel, our interviewer and moderator of the Author In Conversation series, is a native Californian, raised in Napa, and currently living in Los Angeles. She is the director for
the California Center for the Book, a reading promotion agency affiliated with the
California State Library and the Center for the Book
in the Library of Congress. Thank you both to Karl and Mary, and thank you all for
joining us this evening and we hope you enjoy the program. – Thrilled to see so many
people here this evening. The way this is going
to work logistically is that I’m going to get Karl talking with a few questions for about half an hour, and then I hope that you all were given, or had a place to have a little card. At any point, please
write down any questions that you have and then
about a half an hour from now I’ll ask for those cards to be picked up and I’ll sort through them and ask Karl your
questions on your behalf. There is going to be a book
signing after the program. The fine people from Barnes
and Noble are back there and I’m not sure they know
that Karl’s novel, Matterhorn, won a Barnes and Noble
Discover Great Writers prize and it’s basically how it
got a mainstream publisher. So thank you for being
here and I can’t resist since we’re in this
beautiful library to ask Karl why he likes
libraries and librarians. – (laughs) I told her this
story so it’s a setup, but I did grow up in this
little town, Seaside, Oregon, and then it was a logging
town, and now it’s sort of a tourist town for people
that can’t afford to go south. Because it rains a lot there. But the library was in the same
building as the fire truck. The fire truck was on one wall over here and the library was over here and they had put a partition between the two. And Mrs. Witty was the librarian and she’s a classic, I mean, blue hair, and she had this big wooden desk that she sat behind and
she had those sort of sensible shoes that had little holes in this part of the shoe, and I mean, she just was your archetypal librarian. She was enormously
important in my development, in my intellectual development. I mean, she would tell me things to read. I was like eight, nine and then she’d say, you know, you ought to read this and pretty soon we were into books that the library didn’t have, I mean the library was from
that pillar to that one. So then she would write
away to the state library and in a couple of weeks the Bookmobile would come by and there would be my book. It was just a big part of my life. And I have to tell you that I was conned into, my utter respect for this because of a conspiracy between
Mrs. Witty and my father. My older brother could take books out of the library and I
said, “well why can’t I?” “Well you have to have a library card.” “Well why can’t I have a library card?” “You can’t handle the responsibility, “you have to be older.” And I’m like I can do this. And four months go by and “Dad, “am I old enough to have a library card?” “Well no, maybe not yet.” Well anyway, one day the magic day came, and we marched down to the library and Mrs. Witty is there at her desk and she has a library card about this big and it’s got scrolls
around the side of it, and it’s got my name on it and my Dad’s standing behind me with
his hand on my shoulder, and she presents me my library card and I’m really pretty cool, right. And this goes on, my library card, and I can go in the library and get books. And one day I’m at home, my brother and I had the same
bedroom, my older brother and he looks at this
and says, “what’s that?” I go, “that’s my library card.” He goes, “that’s funny,
this is my library card.” (laughs)
(audience laughs) And it was at that point the first time into my head, I’d been conned. But the library was
enormously important to me, and that librarian because
she was like a mentor. I mean it was a big part, you know we were just talking about culture, librarians are one of the
guardians of the culture, and the ones that are serious about it really do pass it on, and to this day I’m grateful to, wherever
you are Mrs. Witty, in the big library in the sky, I think it’s just a wonderful thing, that’s how I got started with libraries. – [Mary] Well can you go
on with your biography a little longer and tell us about the kid in rural Oregon to the kid in Vietnam, Scholar, businessman, best selling author. – Okay, that’s it in a nutshell. (audience laughs) (laughs) You know it’s interesting, when I grew up, I mean actually even
though I was in high school and college in the 60s,
I’m really a product of the 50s because that
was when I was little. And that’s when you’re mostly formed. And in this little
town, everybody’s uncle, everybody’s dad were
World War II veterans. It was in the air and it was
referred to as The Service. “That was when your uncle
was in The Service.” And we don’t call it
that anymore, which is an interesting change in our language, we call it The Military, and I think it’s important to note that we’ve changed it from The Service to The Military. And it sort of was just
there, sort of a cloud. I mean if you were a boy
you just sort of, you’d get drafted or you sort of
just owed a couple years to your country and it wasn’t like people were chomping at the bit, some were. But it’s sort of like, I
relate it to income taxes. I mean, nobody really wants to pay their income tax, but everybody realizes that, well you know the republic
doesn’t work unless we pay our taxes and we’ve
sort of had that idea that you owe a couple years of your time if you were a young man, to The Service. If you didn’t want to get
drafted and you wanted to go into some branch
that you wanted to select, well then you just volunteered. And so that’s what I
did, I joined, when I got out of high school, I
joined the Marine PLC program and it’s called
Platoon Leader’s Class. You’d go to boot camp and
then when you survive, they try and weed you out, then you can go to college of your choice, they don’t pay you anything, it’s not
like NROTC or anything, but you get to be a marine
at the end of college. That thing was the other
thing, it wasn’t just all about service, it was also about, you know, guys on the football team, most of them wanted to go to the Marine Corp and they would disappear to San Diego, California, which was like whoa, that’s some place special, where’s that. They would come back with something we had never seen up there,
which is called a sun tan. (audience laughs) And, honest to God, you thought that they were four inches broader in the shoulders and four inches taller,
they had this swagger. And it was like, you’re a 15 year old boy and you go, “I want some of
that, I want some of that.” So there’s a lot of
that involved, you can’t deny that you want some
of that swagger and that’s mixed in, it’s a potent
mixture, Service and that. I talked to the marine
recruiter and I said, “well “you know I’ve seen
Sands of Iwo Jima, I know “that you guys invade beaches and stuff, “what else do you do?” And this marine recruiter says to me, “Well, we guard embassies.” I said, “Really? “You mean like in Paris?” And he said, “Yes.” “Sign me up.” (laughing) He didn’t lie, it’s all true. (laughs) I never saw Paris. I went through that PLC program and then so I was commissioned upon my graduation and I didn’t think I could
take the scholarship, the Rhodes Scholarship,
because the Marines were really short of junior
officers at that stage. It’s 1967, June, and we were fully engaged in the war by that time
and I wrote and said that I had gotten the scholarship and wondered if I could take it up. The Marines were great, they just sent a letter back and they
said, “take it, we’ll get you later,” and they assigned me to some Navy unit in London,
some kind of inactive reserve, I don’t know, some kind of status that they invented so
I could go to Oxford. But after about, I think about six or eight weeks there,
I began to feel guilty. I don’t think there’s
any other word for it, it was just guilty
because five boys from my high school died in Vietnam and when I was there, a lot of my friends were already in Vietnam fighting and
guys that I had gone through PLC program with were going over to Vietnam fighting and I’m there in the pubs drinking beer with the girls and having a wonderful time. Well it started to tell
on me and the war was problematical, I mean
by the time it’s 1967, fall of 67, there was a
lot of controversy about, well was the Gulf of Tonkin something that really happened or did that get made up? You know, people were beginning to sort of take a different
attitude and a different look at things, and I can remember talking to a bunch of my friends the previous year at Yale, and sputtering
at them, I’m going like, “but, but an American president
wouldn’t lie to Americans.” And they all laughed at me. I was taken aback, I couldn’t believe it. Well a year later, I’m starting to wonder and so that was the atmosphere. But if I was to go to
Sweden or something it was desertion and I
didn’t want to do that, and I didn’t feel like I could hide behind the privilege of the
scholarship any longer, so I sent a letter off to the Marine Corp and I think it was a
week, I was in Quantico. They didn’t waste any time. Then I became an infantry
platoon commander and I was in Charlie
Company, First Battalion, Fourth Marines, just a
straight infantry company and we were operated right where the ocean border met the DMZ. It was the absolute upper
corner of, then, South Vietnam. And I came back, spent some time in Washington, DC at the Pentagon, it was an annex building, but
it was in the Pentagon and this hand is always
slightly raised higher than the other one because I was the only lieutenant for four miles
I think when I was there. And then I went back to Oxford and got my degree in politics,
philosophy and economics. Most people go this way, I was doing intellectual entropy,
I just kept expanding. Then I got into business, I went into the lumber business,
which is where I grew up and ran the sales for several saw mills and then got into lumber marketing. And from there, I got
into my own consulting company in strategy and, didn’t know it at the time, but I was doing an enormous amount of adrenaline, I was all over the world, hauling my family with me. I’m constantly reminded by
my older daughter that she went to 12 schools in eight
years during one stretch. I was just having a lot of exciting fun, she was not, I ended up with five kids and we’re all quite close, but there were some rocky times in there
when I was undiagnosed with posttraumatic stress,
never had heard of it. I didn’t hear about it until the mid 90s. It was amazing, but I had already started doing some strange things and things that were happening to me that I couldn’t sort of just think that
this is just random. When I was running a
corporation in Singapore, I started a corporation
there for an Indian, an industrialist named SK Birla and we had a very important board meeting and I was the managing director
and so I was nervous. Not only was a nervous,
but it’s southeast Asia. Not only is it southeast Asia, but there’s east Asian people. So there’s a whole lot of triggers now that I understand posttraumatic stress, but I didn’t realize
it and so I walked into the board room to sort of get my thoughts together and it was empty, except on the table was a pile of dead bodies. I go like, “this isn’t happening.” But it’s what’s known
as an intrusive thought. One particular instance in Vietnam, we had stacked a bunch
of our dead up by an LZ so we could get them out and an NVA mortar round hit that pile. So that image of carnage was pretty well blasted into my brain and that came back and I began to think, maybe the stuff that’s going on, like why whenever I get into an elevator I would breakdown crying. I mean would just get into an elevator, the doors would go schwoot, like that, and I’d just breakdown
bawling and I hadn’t a clue. Some years later, in therapy, we realized that the sound that the ramp makes of a helicopter, schwoot,
going down like that and then you go out into a hot zone where there’s fire and of course
it was all unconscious. What we call that is ghosts, this content that you get from combat
that you don’t bring up consciously and look at and I credit a friend of mine named Joe Bobrow, who actually lives in
the Bay Area, he says it’s the process of turning
ghosts into ancestors. The ghosts are what make
you do the crazy things. The ghosts are what make you get addicted to alcohol or drugs. They’re the ones that make you blow up, do crazy stuff because
you’re unconscious of them. And putting them into ancestors is getting them outside, and there’s a lot of ways, I mean, I did it by writing. I would write and I would actually try and understand what I did and what happened. Things I was proud of,
things I wasn’t proud of. And believe me, there
was a lot of time that there was just tears and
snot on the keyboard. But it was getting it
from a ghost to ancestor. And there’s many ways you can do that. I mean people can do it through writing, music, art, talking to friends, talking to therapists, I mean there’s an enormous number of paths, but the key thing is you can’t leave it inside
as a ghost where it haunts you, you’ve got
to do something about it. That only comes from the
veteran himself, the rest of us have to help that
process, but it’s the veteran himself that’s got to
start to make that change. I went through that, I
lost my first marriage, and we are quite good friends now because now we both understand what was going on. I mean, my wife thought
I was crazy and I thought I was crazy, I was doing
really weird stuff. And so the marriage didn’t last and just a little education would have saved that marriage, just knowing that this is something that other
people get from combat and it’s not that your husband’s suddenly violent and crazy, it’s
just something you can learn to deal with and
I have, and my second marriage is quite stable
because my wife has a wonderful sense of
humor about posttraumatic stress, which I recommend highly. It doesn’t go away, I mean about a year and a half ago I was coming home, I had a couple bags of groceries
and coming through the front door, to try
and open the front door and my daughter had put
one of those chain locks on it and so I opened the door
and it went plunk, like that. Well, I dropped both bags and
I started hitting the door with my fists and my wife
peaks her head around, through the crack in
the door and she says, “did you take your meds today?” (audience laughs) And that just dropped it all back. It was like a situation
that a lot of people who don’t understand posttraumatic stress would have been horrified. The wife would have been
grabbing the children and gone to mother’s
because it is frightening when a veteran goes off
like that, but it’s like she understood that I was surprised and there’s no longer any thought. I mean you learn in combat
that when the sound goes like that, you don’t have
any time to think whether it’s a bird or a leaf or the wind, you actually rewire your neural networks. It actually is a brain
physiological change. Instead of going through
the cerebral cortex, the input goes directly
through the amygdala and that’s why most combat
casualties, woundings, deaths, occur early in a person’s tour because they haven’t adapted. It’s a very healthy adaptation to survive. The trouble is, you
can’t reverse it because you have to have enormous loads of adrenaline to rewire
these neural pathways. So once your rewired and you come home, you have to just learn to cope with it. There’s medicine and
there’s talk and I’ve had wonderful counseling at
the VA and I’m pretty good at coping now, but
it has not gone away. Witness, destroying all the groceries and having my knuckles hurt for two days, but the situation is so much better because we both understand what it is. And I think that programs like this, just getting the word out are enormously important to the culture to just start demythologizing this
stuff, it’s not that hard. So here I am, I mean
my writing was turning my ghosts into ancestors and luckily they sold well and that’s how I ended up here. – I guess I have found
it so hard to believe talking to you over the last few days that a smart guy trying to be a good father and a good husband just
uncontrollably weeps every time he’s in an elevator and doesn’t feel entitled to figure out
what that’s about and I wonder if that has
something to do with how Vietnam veterans weren’t encouraged to share anything about what happened? – Well we hid, most of us. We grew our hair long. Just sort of tried to blend in. The country was, you know, not everybody obviously, and there were
parts of the country, and I’m afraid this was one of them, that were worse than others. In terms of the terrible
welcome when we got back. I mean, when I landed at
Travis Air Force Base, my brother who was at Stanford, came to pick me up and I was just two days out of Vietnam, and he says, “I gotta warn “you, there might be
some trouble outside.” I went, “trouble, I just got out of “the war, what are you talking about? Let’s go.” And so we go out and there was trouble. I mean there were people screaming at us and pounding on his car
with signs and snarling, saying obscene things
at me and my brother. I was dumbfounded. I mean I can’t describe
how dumbfounded I was to come home to be received like that. So yeah, did I shut up? Absolutely, as soon as I could. And I’m sure it had
something to do with it. There’s also just a reticence about guys don’t cry, I mean, “what’s wrong with you, “you’re crying in the
elevator all the time?” I mean I’m not going to
tell people about that. It’s a lot of cultural
stuff, but I can’t think at all that Vietnam veterans
had a harder time coming out. I never told anybody that
I was a marine in Vietnam. We had these friends, my first wife and the other woman had been college friends and so they were quite
close and we all had kids about the same time, you know that routine, and Barry
who was the husband, and I coached the same
soccer team and we would pick each other’s kids up
from school, the kids would have overnights, seven
or eight years of this, and the two women are talking one night and they find out that
they’re both married to Vietnam Veteran Marines and it was eight years and we never knew it. That’s how you hid, I mean you just didn’t bring it up, so you’re not going to talk about symptoms or things either. – Well when you talk about the swagger that was so appealing, it reminds me of your chapter in ‘What
It Is Like To Go To War’ about heroism, which I
think is a tremendous chapter, make sure you don’t miss it if you haven’t read the book yet. Because it is talking about these larger than life images that encourage you to go to war and you, not very sensibly think, “well this seems like a good opportunity “for me to get a medal,
I’ve always wanted a medal,” it looks great when John
Wayne charges around. Can you talk a little bit about, well how do you feel about all your medals? – Well it always gets me a free beer at any Navy base or Marine base. – [Mary] Okay, so they’re good.
– So there’s some monetary value to these medals. They’re hard, because medals
are unfairly distributed. I mean, I talk about that in the book. If you’re a lance corporal and you do the exact same thing that some major does, the major gets a medal and the lance corporal was just doing his job. It is the way it works and, you know, and sometimes people do
incredibly brave things and nobody sees them, so
they don’t get it written up. So when I think about my medals, I kind of think of them as like the halfback on the football team, they say that he scored the touchdown, but I try to remember to wear the medals and when I do, you know Marine Corp birthday, we put on tuxedos, us old guys, and I put on my medals. It really represents what the guys that I was with did and I was the one that got the points attributed to me. What I learned about medals is that there is heroism and
what is really important is how your motivated for the heroic deed. I did a heroic deed
and got my Bronze Star, but I was motivated, quite frankly, by “I think I want to do something brave.” It was early in my tour
and a kid had gone down underneath a machine gun, I told him don’t go up there because the NVA would cut away the brush about this high so that they could see your legs as you were going up and then they would shoot your legs and then you would fall down
into the machine gun fire and then you would get killed. And he had been really
nervous and he couldn’t get his rifle to work and I could see that he just hadn’t seated
his magazine, so I just seated his magazine for him and I pulled the trigger, I said, “here,
it’ll work, but don’t “go up there, there’s
a machine gun up there, “we’re going to have to
work around this way.” And I think he felt
bad that he had sort of “messed up” and he was
18 and so he just charged up the hill, right where
I told him not to go. And he went down and I
heard him say, “I’m hit.” My platoon sergeant was just over there, and I said, “I think
he’s been hit, but he’s “still alive, I’m going to go get him.” And the platoon sergeant
said, “Don’t go get him, “we’ll get him later, you’ll
just get killed getting him.” And it occurred to me,
it really did, I’m really young too, I think I just
turned 23 just earlier. I thought, “Wow, if I pull
him out from under the machine “gun, that’s cool, that’ll
be like a heroic act.” And you know, young men want to be heroic. But that was the wrong motivation. I mean, it turned out to be very bad because when I finally
got him and the machine gun was shooting at us
and I was rolling down hill with him, we got to the bottom, I had had to crawl up to try to keep the machine gunners heads down firing my M16. I write about this in
the book, so I don’t have any trouble talking about it,
I would have 20 years ago. When he came down, the corpsman was trying to keep him alive and he looked up at me and he said, “there’s no use.” And he pulled his hair aside and there was a bullet hole in the top of his head. And I didn’t even think of it at the time, but that night I went,
“how could he talk with “a bullet hole in the top of his head? Oh, my God, maybe when I was trying to save him, trying to keep the heads of the machine gunners down, maybe I shot him in the head,” because he was laying feet up and head down. To this day, I don’t know and that whole sort of medal, that Bronze Star, I know a great deal about that medal and someone else will look at that and have no clue what went on. And believe me, when you see guys with medals, there’s a lot of stories behind those medals and you don’t really know, and some of them could be they should have had a way higher medal, but they were an enlisted man and they just didn’t
get it, or as a friend of mine said, a lot of people have done a lot more and have gotten a lot less and a lot of people have done a lot less and gotten a lot more. The only people that really know the stories about their medals are the ones that are wearing them. The Navy Cross was just the opposite. We were pinned down and if we went back, well, Marines don’t go back, so mortars were starting to hit us, we were on an assault and we were going to get just plastered, everybody was bogged down, no one was moving, and there are bunkers up above us with machine guns in them and so no one wanted to go up there either. So it was like, “now
what do we, Lieutenant?” I remember, it actually occurred to me, a memory when I was in the Basic School, there was a red-headed major, his name was Miller,
Major Miller, and he said, “you know, you lieutenants, you’re young, “sergeants and corporals can do anything “you can do, so why are you here?” And he said that,
“you’ll know that someday “you will earn your pay, and you’ll “know when that day happens.” And it hit me, it was this is the day that it’s going to happen and the motivation was I’ve got to get the platoon out of trouble, and so I stood up and charged the machine guns up above us, and I felt like I was all alone for my entire life going up that hill, but I saw movement out of my eye and I rolled to the ground to shoot, and it was one of the kids from my platoon and I looked behind me. The entire platoon was
coming up the hill behind me. That was the Navy Cross. But what a different
feeling of the two medals. And you’re too young
to really know why you do things for this motive or that motive. It’s sort of random a little bit. So I’m grateful that one of the medals was for the right motives and the other one is learned a hard lesson. – There’s another great
chapter about loyalty in which I think you
talk a little bit about something that resonates now about working hard on a mission and
finding either because of a political situation,
you find the mission isn’t what you were told it was, and so your loyalty has to shift. – I think that there’s no doubt that for grunts, they’re
loyal to their friends. I remember my father
and my uncle, I’d say, “wow, you guys whooping
Fascism and fighting for Democracy, they
just were like, “are you “kidding me, we just
wanted to get out alive “and keep our friends alive and get home.” It shrinks down. So even in the “good” war,
the loyalty is not about sort of I’m over there
whooping fascism, but at least they had that
so when they came back there was some meaning about why they were there, but their loyalties
were shifted pretty locally. And I think that we’re in
a situation today where we have to be very careful about this. There’s no problem now,
today, about the loyalty of the Military to the Constitution of the Republic, but we have an all-recruited military that is very different from a military that was basically supplied by a lot of volunteers from all classes of society, World War
II, Korea and a draft, which forced again all classes of society, once they got rid of the 2S deferment, to participate in the military. And I have this history
lesson that struck me as being something we should take note of, there was a battle in Ancient Rome when Hannibal crossed the
Alps with his elephants and there was a battle
called the Battle of Cannae, C A N N A E, which was
just across from Rome on the east side of the peninsula. It was a horrific,
horrible battle that 20% of the Roman Senate died
in that battle and 80% of the Roman Senate lost an immediate family member in that battle. The Carthaginians had to go in shifts because their arms got
tired killing the Romans, they had surrounded them
and there was no hope for those that were surrounded
and they were all killed. The first thing that’s a
lesson is 20% of the Senate was actually there fighting
and the rest of them had a very large stake in
who was there fighting, that doesn’t happen anymore. There were a bunch of people who survived, they weren’t surrounded, but the Roman Senate was very angry. They thought well they
should have died too. And so they isolated them. They wouldn’t let them
back into roman cities or villages, they put them into army camps that were outside of town, where they were kept away from the normal population. Well their families who were back in Rome itself, or some of the
villages around Rome, were hurting and so a very wealthy roman, who happened to be one
of them, he happened to be a roman officer
that was not surrounded, his name is Scipio, began to help them. He would give money to
their families or he would help them with
equipment, he was just sort of helping them
and they began to form around Scipio and when
he went after Carthage, and he actually did beat the Carthaginians and he became known as Scipio Africanus, a famous roman general. But something had happened,
those veterans’ loyalty had shifted from the
republic to Scipio Africanus. That’s an enormously
important thing to try and understand because
about 170 years later, a roman army invaded
Rome under Julius Ceasar. They were loyal to Ceasar
not to the republic, and there’s no danger of that right now, but you see the warning signs. We isolate our military
from the rest of us. We don’t participate, our elites don’t participate as they used to. These are warning signs that I think we better take note of now because the old, “it can’t happen
here” just isn’t true. They thought it couldn’t happen in Chili. They thought it couldn’t
happen in Germany. I mean, come on, it can
happen unless your careful. So this loyalty thing is very important. – I want to recommend that everyone pick up this publication from Cal Humanities. All of the content in
this quarterly publication this time is about veteran
issues and programs addressing the needs
of veterans, especially looking at things through
the lens of the Humanities and one of the essays is by former marine who served in Iraq, named Phil Clay, who’s now an author
and they have reprinted an Op-Ed piece from the
New York Times called, ‘After War: A Failure of the Imagination,’ It’s about people saying
to him as a veteran, “I just can’t imagine
what you went through,” and he says that he
thinks a lot of veterans feel, “well okay, maybe
you think you can’t “imagine what I went
through, but what if I “want you to imagine what I went through, “what if I actually
need you to understand?” And he says that, war is
the most morally fraught activity our nation engages in. So if we can’t ask you what happened, and if you think we can’t
take hearing about it, our democracy is basically going to be in trouble, right? – Totally, I think
that’s absolutely right. I think that we are in
danger of a Victorian Guard. I mean it’s like, well they volunteered. Yes they volunteered,
but they are the weapon of the Republic and who’s the Republic? Hello, it’s us. And if you’re running around in a car, the price of your gasoline is determined by our Foreign Policy and you pay your taxes, you are involved. You can’t just say, “Oh, you know “I don’t agree with that
thing, so I’m clean.” You’re not clean, you’re clean if you leave the country and
move to, I don’t know, the North Pole and use a bicycle. It’s hard to be clean if you’re here. So you’ve got to become aware that this is something I am involved in and this thing about well, you can’t imagine what goes on, literature is full of very fine writing that you can identify quite quickly with characters and find out really
sort of what’s going on. The great poets, World War I poets, Sassoon, Owens, I mean there are many ways you can find out, it’s not that hard, of course you’re not going to get the exact experience. I can have 40 women tell me about childbirth, but hello, sorry I’m just not going to get it, but I’m going to get darn close
if I pay attention. And I’m going to understand, I’m going to be like, Oh, that really hurts. (audience laughs) That’s a lot better
than I was when I was 15 because I didn’t even think about it. Women had babies, I want to play football. So that’s an analogy
that I can come up with, is that, something that’s totally foreign to me, I can understand through talking to people and through
reading about things. Fiction or non-fiction. That’s where humanities comes in, that’s where art, literature, biography, that’s what it’s about and it’s up to citizens of a republic to be informed. It’s just something that is
part of your responsibility. Equally it’s also on the
shoulders of the veteran, and the veterans aren’t clean because I came back with, and I’m not alone, this sort of attitude, “you don’t know “what in the hell I’ve been through. “You have no clue, you have no concept, “so I’m not going to talk to you.” You know, it’s that sort of arrogance of I’m superior to you because I’ve had an experience you haven’t had. Well that attitude has got to change too, because if I don’t talk
about it, how could I come back into the community? And really what it’s all about is coming back into a community. It was easier when we
were primitive people. You know, 40,000 years ago, we were all wearing moccasins and skins and, you know, if there was a war, the hunters turned into the warriors and nobody ate meat. I mean the entire community really, really understood that they
were at war, and not only that, when the ones that
didn’t return, I mean I know the Warm Springs Indians have a ceremony where the
warriors ride their horses in a circle around the
village and then they wind out of the village
and then go off and when they come back, some of
the horses are empty and they wind them back in
with the empty horses. And there are rituals,
sweat lodges, campfire rituals, sand paintings, there’s all kinds of stuff the Native Americans understood and did, but we’re beyond that. I can’t imagine having a sweat lodge for all the returning
veterans, some of them are lucky enough to get in there, but how are we going to replace it? How are we going to bring
people in the community? We’ve got to make a
conscious effort to start talking to each other, I have this whole chapter called The Code of Silence. Both sides of the issue have
got the code of silence. I was telling people in there,
my own father, I found out he was in the Battle of
the Bulge when I was 50. It was some Christmas and
he just sort of dropped it, “Oh yeah, well I was in the
Battle of the Bulge…”, “Dad, why didn’t you tell me?” He just looked at me and
said, “Well you never asked.” I said, “what am I
supposed to say, hi Dad, “were you in the Battle of the Bulge?” It’s amazing in my own
family how quiet my dad was about all that stuff, it
just isn’t in the culture. It’s gotta change, I think we just have to change it, and we can do
that, just get conscious. – I think there are some questions… about that here.
– [Karl] Yeah, I’m sure there is. – These are excellent
questions, thank you all. Oh, thank you all, very much. So I’m sure we have 40 minutes
worth of questions here. – [Karl] Fine. – In light of your
cautionary remarks about the all volunteer military, do you believe that the draft should be reestablished? – I believe that we should
establish a National Service. You can’t draft everybody
into the military and quite frankly there’s
a whole lot of people I wouldn’t want fighting with me. Sorry. Most of the people in my family even. Everybody’s got talents. Marines are endurance athletes. Not everybody’s built with
the body that’s an endurance athlete’s body, but they
can do something else for the country, again it’s the Service. And I don’t know a Marine that I’ve talked to that would feel like
someone wasn’t pulling their oar if they were
teaching inner city kids how to read, or if they were, you know, building forest service trails. It would, I think, start to even out this dangerous trend where the elites of this country are not participating. It’s not good, so if you
had National Service, I think a lot more who
would say, “well I want “to do my two years of National Service “being in the Air Force.” And you would get more of the elites because they knew they’d
have to do two years and maybe they don’t want to fill potholes and maybe it would be
more fun to try and learn to fly an airplane, and I think you would start to turn the trend around. I don’t think you could
draft into the military, and I also have the feeling that you should not coerce somebody into killing. I think that there’s lots of jobs, even in the military, that can be performed without having to kill people. I think you should
volunteer to in the Infantry or be a bomber pilot, not be drafted and forced to do that
pain of going to jail. That just seems immoral to me. Believe me, I don’t think we would have any trouble filling all those roles and I would have been right
there instantly, I was. So that’s the way I would
sort of organize it. – How do you feel the
average non-veteran citizen can help veterans who return from war? And can I just add, last night a young man asked very movingly, a
member of the audience during the Q&A, said that
he was an Iraq veteran and two guys that he had fought with had killed themselves and
he was extremely worried about the mental state
of a third guy, and his question was basically, “how
can I help my brothers?” So maybe you can talk
about veterans themselves helping other veterans and civilians.
– [Karl] Sure. Just sort of a grim
statistic, the suicide rate is 22 a day among veterans right now. That is a Department of Veterans’ Affairs study a very solid study, so it’s not some newspaper story, 22 a day. So we do have a real problem with suicide. How can you help? First of all, I think that you have to be willing to keep at it. A lot of veterans are
19, 20 years old and they don’t want to have anything to do with it. They just want to do
drugs, sex, rock and roll, I mean you’ve all been 20 years old. It’s really hard to get through a kid that you know, you may have some trouble here, you’re not just drinking because it’s fun, you might be drinking because you’re trying to cover up some stuff. I don’t want to hear about
that and they’re going to rebuff you and so you’re going to have to just keep at it. I had a friend, he was
in my secret society at Yale and when I got back I was a mess, again I wrote about it so I don’t mind talking about it in public. I was doing nothing but
drugs, sex, and rock and roll while I was in the
Marines in Washington, DC and I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I just wanted to just sort of hide and do this thing and he would
come over on weekends, he worked for a senator
on the Hill, and he would literally just
come in the door and not even try and wait for
me to answer it and he would just take the covers off of me, I had slept on the floor. I slept on the floor
for about 25 years and I was talking to some
veterans and it was like, “you sleep on the floor? “I sleep on the floor.” It’s that sense that I’m safe down here. Anyway I was on the floor
and he would just say, “we’re going to the beach.” “I don’t wanna go to the beach.” “We’re going to the beach,” and he’d be packing for me, and he
had rented a house down at the beach, and he had
these girlfriends he knew and they were civilians
and normally no girl would date a marine then,
it was just not done. It was a very hard time to
be a single military guy. And he kept at me and
to this day I thank him for that effort, because
eventually I started going to the beach and
then I started talking to people and I was really lucky. The other thing is, is that you’re not skilled generally to help. I had the benefit, once I got into the VA system, of some superb counselors. None of them were combat veterans, two of them were women, one
was a man, and they’re extraordinarily skilled
at posttraumatic stress trauma, I’m not and none
of my veteran friends are, so you need to get people help. You have to get them to professional help. So there’s a lot of ways, you
just have to keep at them. It’s like you know, “I
think you’re hurting “and I think you need to go see “somebody and get some help. “Maybe I could help set
you up, maybe I could help get you organized,
get you to the VA,” and eventually some pride will take over, “I’ll do it myself,”
or you’ll get rebuffed. The other thing is is that you can kind of do a little bit of manipulation. I don’t think it’s bad if you’re really actually helping somebody, you can enlist their brothers and sisters, their parents, their kids, whatever it is, just say, “you know, you’ve got to help him and “he’s refusing help and he’s depressed,” and if he is depressed,
what’s going to motivate him to, you know, even get out of bed to do anything for himself? It’s active caring for an
individual and it’s not about sort of like this is
a victim, it’s not a victim. This is somebody who has received a wound. My analogy for that is
if a man sees a child on the railroad tracks and he rushes down and he saves the child and throws him off the tracks and the train takes off his right ankle, is he a victim? No, he’s a hero, but he’s
had his leg taken off. But that’s a very different
thing, so even our attitude about who these people are and what they need has to start shifting. Ever since Vietnam
there’s been a whole a lot of the veteran as victim sort of stuff that most veterans really resent. Some people, I think, they’re doing it out of some kind of sense of kindness, but that’s not the way to approach it. A lot of them need help
and some of them are enormously in trouble, I mean terrible addictions, violence in
the family, I mean there are some serious issues
that have to be dealt with. And again, that’s why you have to try and get help from pros and there’s a lot of systems, there’s a
lot of ways to do it, there’s all kinds of veteran service organizations, there’s government organizations, there’s many ways. It’s just being active and keeping at it. – I’ve got a nice comment here
and then a related question. “I was moved by the chapter
Home in your new book, especially the incident where the women came up and spit in your face. My own experiences coming
back in 1970 was not this overt, but more of a looking through me as if I was invisible. This happened to a lot
of vets I talked to, it still hurts so I can only say thanks for your service and for
bring PTSD out into the open. The related question from someone else is “how did you cope with the insults “after returning home to civilians “not supporting the troops?” – I coped by doing a lot
of drugs and alcohol, I think, it was probably
one of the ways I did it. I just obliterated myself
because I couldn’t get dates, there were signs on the clubs in Washington, “No Military Allowed.” This is our Nation’s Capitol. Two of my friends were
in their dress whites, they’d wore their dress whites to town, and they were gunned down and killed. It was a really hard time and so I coped with that by ending up, I hate to say it, I turned into what’s known as a Jody. It’s the guy who other people are off and you’re the one staying behind messing with their wife or girlfriend. There were a lot of older women around that were, you know, easily my companions and I would just be sort of obliterated and that’s what I started doing. I didn’t date girls my age, you know. And this is hard to call this dating, I mean it was just sort of, you know, it was numbing and that’s
the way that I was going. And because I was hurt. I mean I was hurt. It just seemed unfair and I couldn’t do anything about it, because
I was still in uniform. I’ve talked about this, I remember I had to take some papers to the White House from the Pentagon and I was in my uniform and I was going down,
I think it’s M Street or Pennsylvania Avenue, it was very close to the White House and there were a bunch of students with signs and
North Vietnamese flags. I mean I had just come back from the war and that was the enemy and they were on the other side of the
street shouting insults at me and waving the enemy’s flag and, again it was this sense of,
“you don’t know who I am,” it’s that sense of what he was talking about, being seen through. It was like I’m not a person anymore, I’m just this symbol of, I don’t know what they thought I was a
symbol of, you know, evil. And there was no way I could reach across the street, I couldn’t walk over there, there would have been chaos if a guy in a marine uniform was walking across the street toward a
bunch of demonstrators. And all the people in
the street were going by and no one would do
anything or say anything, and so again the strategy
this marine chose was retreat. I was just so lucky that I
didn’t end up getting just terribly hooked on drugs
and alcohol because I got my scholarship back
and I went to England. I think this is an important lesson that I was lucky enough to receive. When I got to Oxford, there was a group of girls there that were
not politicized at all, they didn’t really care
about the Vietnam War. They actually knew I was a Marine, I’d come back from the war, I was three or four years older than they were, they were like 19 and 20 and I was like 23, 24 when I got there. And I would go over to Saint Ann College, and they would serve me
tea, just being girls. And I didn’t realize this
until I started going on a fairly frequently at
about four o’clock, tea time. “Well I think I’ll go to Saint
Ann’s and see the girls.” And I knocked on Jill’s
door and she opened the door and she goes, “Oh Karl, yes, “I’m beavering away here
on an essay, I’m just “terribly under the gun, but we’ve gotten “together and Leslie
has you this afternoon.” (audience laughs)
(laughs) I was a project. These 19, 20 year old
girls just fed me tea and capital F Femininity and filled me up and I stopped doing drugs
and I stopped drinking, because they filled that
hole that the returning lawyer who’s needs, and
I think it’d probably be the same for females,
I mean you need to have the opposite sex say “come on back.” And you’re missing that capital F Feminine and they just gave it back to me. I talked to one of them just a couple of years ago and she said, “you know, “we knew, kind of, that you needed “some kind of attention but we “didn’t know exactly what we were doing, “we just had you over for tea.” (audience laughs) That was simple wasn’t it? – [Mary] Yes. – But what was different is I was an individual and they were reaching out. I was really lucky. – These are great questions,
we’ll try to get to them all. And at the end we’ll talk a little bit about writing in books. – [Karl] Okay. – Hello from proud parents of two active duty marines, son and daughter. If you were going to
address junior Marines today who were grunts and were
going to be deployed, what would you say to them? How can we prepare our children for deployment and war and coming home? – That’s a good question,
but it’s pretty broad. The first thing that I
would do is I would want to make sure that there
was no romantic notions about what was going to happen. Being in the military should not be viewed as another career, and
it is portrayed that way. It’s like, you know,
the recruiting efforts are sort of like, well
join whatever branch and get retired after 20 years
and get a college education. This isn’t Microsoft, all right? This is not, you know, Ford Motor Company. You are being in a
profession where you are being asked to use
violence and you are going to probably end up killing people. That is not just a career,
that’s like a calling, and you’d better be sure
that you are somebody that really will be able
to accept that burden, because even though the
entire republic has paid for your weapons and
trained the scientists that have built them and
financed the factories, and did this huge, long chain, at the end of that long chain,
you’re going to be the one that pulls the trigger
and you’re going to be the one that carries the
burden of the killing. I think that we should
change that because we need to understand as
a nation that they are our weapon, they are our weapon. We’re the ones that are
actually putting them out there and they’re function of that weapon is pulling the trigger. So they need to understand
what their role is in this whole thing and
that they may be doing this without the
understanding of the people who are actually putting them out there. Are you willing to do that? If you’re not willing to
do that, now’s the time to raise your hand and say, “I want out.” And if you can’t get out, you can certainly get out of the Infantry. You can move into, there’s a lot of work to be done that doesn’t involve actually killing people in the military. So that the first thing. The second thing I think
I’d be very careful about, is so they would understand the psychological, I call
it sort of trick they have to go through if they
are going to kill somebody. I call it pseudospeciation, not my term. I picked it up in England, but what it means is you take a human being and you make an animal out of that human being. Now a lot of people that
are sort of liberal, politically correct would say well that’s dehumanizing
people, how can he do that? My answer to them is it’s the only way you’re going to be able to kill somebody. If you’re a decent, solid
kid who has been raised in a Judeo-Christian culture where you’ve been told your entire
life that killing is bad, thou shalt not kill, how are you going to actually pull the trigger, which will be your job? The way you do it is
the way it’s been done for eons is you turn the
enemy into a nonhuman. We have myriad names,
nip, jap, gook, crout, towelhead, hadji, on and on and on, and the enemy has all
the same names for us. It’s going to happen. An animal, the hadji,
a towelhead, whatever, is going to try to kill
you and try to kill your friends and you’re
going to kill them. But what you have to understand is that as soon as you’re done, you’re going to have to try and bring back the fact that they are human beings, because if you don’t, that’s when atrocities happen. At My Lai, they were, in their own words, killing vermin, they were
still pseudospeciating. They were still killing
animals and they weren’t. Everybody on the other
side is a human being, just like on our side and the way it got on to this was a very
interesting incident. We were in quite a terrible fight, I mean we had taken terrible casualties, 120 Purple Hearts in this 8 day battle. 180 Marines, so that
was quite a bit of us. And a few days into this battle, I notice a couple of the kids, I call them kids because they are, 18, 19 years old, they had ears in their helmets, you know these big rubber bands around that you used for basically camouflage, putting branches in it and stuff, and
they had stuck some ears in there and I had, by this time, seen a lot of carnage and it wasn’t I was upset by, oh dear, they’ve taken somebody’s ears off,
I mean, God the horror of what steel and explosives do to bodies, cut off ears is nothing,
but I was the Lieutenant and I was like this can’t be done. This is the beginning of atrocity
and we need to stop this. So I went to these two
kids and I said “look, “I know that they killed your friends. “I know you’re really
angry, and in some ways, “I know your proud because
you did kill them.” I mean they’re teenagers, it sort of like a letterman sweater, I mean I got a letter in track, you know I killed two of them. You just have to get into their heads they’re not adults,
they’re just very efficient warriors, they’re the ones you want, but they need help from the adults. And so I said, “you’re going to go down “and put the ears back with the bodies “you cut them off of and you’re going “to bury them,” and it
wasn’t a trivial order, because we were still taking sniper fire, that lull in the battle and they had to leave their holes and go down, but they had done that to go cut the ears off anyway, so I said, “you can go back down and bury them now.” And so they went down
and they both started crying when they were burying the bodies. What had happened is that suddenly they were burying human beings and I went wow, that’s a psychological shift that had happened because of a
symbolic act, burial. We don’t bury our enemies. We don’t even acknowledge
that we’ve killed them. I mean why don’t we? It’s sort of like, I think
that it’s the horrors of war and the tragedy
of war is that people on both sides die and a lot of people who aren’t even combatants die and we just tend not to think about it. Well, what are we doing,
we’re not treating them anymore humanly than
people that are actually killing them, we said the same attitudes and I think you can start to make changes. So I would tell them, you’re going to have to understand that this
is what you’re doing and you’re going to have to be able to flip in and flip out and
flip in and flip out, and it’s not easy, but if your conscious of it you’ll do it and
you’ll be aware of doing it. People say, well if you have those people like that then they are never going to be efficient, they won’t be good soldiers or Marines. I go, believe me it is
not going to be a problem, as soon as someone starts shooting at you, you’re going to turn them into an animal and you’re going to shoot back. I mean it’s just the way it is. It’s just human nature. Okay, say you were not the top animal on the food chain in the planet because we’re a nice species, we’ve got it in us. And that’s the last thing that I would try and talk to them about is that you have a very fierce part of you inside and the military has removed the webs, I call them spiderwebs because they’re that thin of civilization, if any of you have ever been around a mob, you know what I’m talking about because that’s when the spiderwebs of off and it’s ugly what
comes out and that’s us. All of us and they have to understand that that’s in them and what they’ve been through for the last few months in their training is, yes, they’ve
learned competency with weapons, but what’s really going on is like being given permission to no longer have the restraints on what in fact is a natural aggressive part of us. Civilization is what keeps it in check and we have the very difficult task between controlling it and guiding it or repressing it and I think it’s as problematic as trying to repress sex. Look at 19th century victorian morality, there was so much darkness going on because of sexual repression, and the same thing happens with aggression. It’s part of our system and I think the young soldiers need to understand that aspect of their personality. Again, so that they’re in control of that aggression,
it’s all about control. It’s about riding that horse, not letting the horse run away from you. – It does bring us to some
related questions here, which I won’t read all of them but talking about quagmires and when
did you specifically realize that war is not the answer? Which I’m not sure you’ve determined. One says you write with brutal honesty on the effect of war on the person, how do you speak to the reasons for going to war in the first place? Are those things all connected? – Well I’m not a pacifist. It’s hard to be a Marine
and be a pacifist. Because I believe there are bullies and people who actually are evil, they’ve gone to the dark side for their own personal reasons. I mean I think you can
see them all the time. You’ve got one in Syria,
you had one in Iraq, they crop up all the time, North Korea, people who bully people and will kill and torture them for their own gains. Whether the gains are
political or sickly sexual, or monetary, whatever they’re
doing they’re bullying and they’re willing to use
violence to achieve their ends and there is only
one way to stop them. These are people you don’t reason with. You have to stop them
by using violence back, and that’s why I’m not a pacifist and that’s why we have a military and that’s, in my opinion, just part
of the human condition. As long as we have bullies,
we need to have people to protect our people from the bullies. The issue is how is it
employed, and I think there is where it starts to get very murky because, is this really
our enemy, or is this maybe somebody that’s
upsetting world order, if it’s our enemy, are they attacking us? Or are they behaving in
a way that we don’t want to see and maybe violating the U.N. Charter of Human Rights. Who actually should be involved in trying to maintain civilized order
and when is it, in fact, a mission for our military people? It’s pretty clear, if the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, okay this is a military job, we got to go back, but we are confusing police work quite often with warrior work. Warriors, in fact, are
willing to inflict damage and pain and violence on the other side, and they do indeed choose sides and they’re willing to risk violence to themselves to do that,
to protect their side. The police are willing to risk wounding and death, and they are willing to inflict violence, but the police
can’t choose sides. They have to be on the side of the law. And police work requires
enormous judgment, patience, wisdom, 19 year olds are pretty short of that, okay? But we’re sending 19 year olds into jobs that require that level
of maturity and I think that we’re making a big mistake and so, when I’m talking about the employment of our military, we have to be careful as the adults here to make sure that we’re actually using the right tool, and I think that in Iraq and in Afghanistan, once the Al-Queda was taken care of, we were involved in something that really looks a lot more like police work and who should be doing that and how
long should you be there. You don’t send the police
into a bad neighborhood, have a battle there for a couple days and say that’s good,
neighborhood’s solved, and the police leave, the
police are always there. And is that what we
want to be involved in? Well maybe we should
help the United Nations do things like that and then of course, that’s got all kinds of
political problems too, but going back to the original question, I do think there is a
place for the military, but I think we’ve gotten kind of befuddled about what their role is compared to what a police role is, or just the role of the Department of State, and we need to get that more conscious. – Have you gone back to Vietnam and have you been to the wall? – Oh yea, I’ve been to
the wall many times. Every time I go I end up bawling. The overwhelming feeling of a war, for me, and I think for almost all
of my friends, is sadness. It’s an enormously sad thing. You lose your friends. You realize when you’re older, that you’ve inflicted the same kind of
sadness on other people. And it’s just sad. That doesn’t mean that I
think we shouldn’t do war, I just think we have to be very careful because this is the cost. So that’s the wall. Going back to Vietnam, it’s a little odd, because I really don’t know anything about Vietnam, I was never
in a friendly village. My Vietnam War was very different. I was dropped into the
jungle about 5,000 feet up, where it was cold and we
were shivering all the time. And nothing but one of the most beautiful, it looks like a national
park, it was incredibly beautiful jungle mountains, except that the rangers were shooting at us. And we were just fighting
North Vietnamese regular army. It was sort of like somebody
who’s in the villages down south, or in the
Mekong Delta in the swamps, their world looked different
so even when you say the Vietnam War, there’s many Vietnam Wars and going to Vietnam for me would be just like going to a foreign country. That’s why I don’t really have
any feeling of going back. – Did you like writing
Matterhorn, a fictional tale of your experiences in
Vietnam more than writing the nonfiction, What It
Is Like To Go To War? – Did I like writing Matterhorn? I was almost compelled to write it. What I was doing in Matterhorn is that I was working out my unconscious side and pouring it out into symbols. I realized, after I had
done the first draft, I started reading a lot of
mythology/union psychology that, the first draft
of Matterhorn, the main character, Mellas, who he did see most of the things I saw, he’s not me because if I were personally
as politically attuned and cagey as Mellas, I’d
be really a lot richer than I am and maybe the
governor of the state, but I’m not built that
way, I kind of modeled him on my older brother
who was enormously savvy corporate politician,
and what’s it’s like, as I said before, I was
more consciously trying to work out problems of my own psyche, but when I started seeing what happened in Matterhorn, that it was
actually Parzival myth, which is the myth of a young
man coming to adulthood, it’s part of the Grail legend,
then I began to consciously pour the Grail symbolism into the novel. And Gawain is Middle Welsh for hawk and so hawk is the Knight
Gawain and he represents the knighthood, the
ideal, Mellas as Parzival, that dog, Pat, is the
irish hound from hell, he’s white with red ears and whenever that dog sniffs somebody (mumbles) and then jumps on somebody,
that person’s going to die, and all the symbolism is,
the hospital ship scenes were all about Condwiramurs and the damsel that points the finger at
Parzival for being negligent in his attitude toward life and toward the Fisherking for not
asking right questions. And of course the
Fisherking wound is a wound to the testicles in
the myth, and it is the male fecundity is stopped, in war, male fecundity is stopped. The male energy is used to kill, it’s a very different thing and so Corporal Fisher gets that terrible wound with the leech, I don’t
know if some of you have read it or not, but that’s what’s going on in there, is all that was poured into the novel because I realize it was just actually the hero
myth and Parzival is that, and so I just consciously started to beef up the symbolism and that was fun. – Usually as a librarian,
you know, what I say is what are you working
on now, or what’s next. I like the way this is phrased, do you have another book in you? – I’ve got about seven.
(audience laughs) No honestly, I mean I know what they are and I just getting the
time to get them out. If I take as long as Matterhorn, I’m not going to get there, it’s 35 years. Yeah, I’m working on a
novel called Deep River and it’s set in the
logging camps in southwest Washington State at the
turn of the last century and it’s a story of a
woman and her brothers and she’s a labor organizer and she firmly believes that one big union and one big collective solution is
going to make us all happy. And she falls in love with a guy who all he wants is his own fishing boat and wants nothing to do with
companies, corporations, unions, or anything,
he’s an individualist. We in our culture today
are very much dealing with this inability to
balance out the need for community and collective and the need to stay individual and
it goes kaboom, kaboom. And I would think that
lately we’ve been sort of going toward the individual side, more than we ought and the Europeans had been going to the collective
side more than they ought because if you go either
way, you get in trouble. And, it’s just, I’m
sorry, it is about balance just to be a political
state, and that’s why we need two political
parties that are both sane and active and we’ve
got to try and remember that, they’re there for a reason. Neither is right or
wrong, it’s the balance that you’re looking for and so through these two characters I’m kind of exploring that dichotomy in our culture. – This is such a nice,
simple question to end a conversation about the
divide, can civilians ever understand veterans, and visa versa, how do we make the general public care? – Yikes. You know I think you’ve got to start with getting a leadership to care. They need to be educated. Is there any leadership,
that’s another issue. (audience laughs) But it’s only through education that you can get the general public to care. I think that one of the things that’s very important is that the general public has to understand that the survival of us as a republic involves making sure that those we send out to do the tough job of maybe killing our
enemies, are our weapon. We are employing them. We are the ones that are going to war. And that if we begin to not care about these people, that’s when we’re going back to Cannae and the ghosts of Cannae and Scipio Africanus, why should we care? The fate of our republic depends on us making sure that the wielders of violence are us, not somebody separate from us. That’s why we should care. (applause)
– [Mary] Thank you (mumbles) (majestic music)


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