THE EARLY YEARS: CONSERVATIVE UPBRINGING
I was born on July 4, 1941, five months prior to the official entrance of the United States into World War II. That this is the day U.S. Americans annually celebrate our Independence was exciting to me during my youth. My European ancestry is German, English, and Scotch, and my "American" roots are rural and agricultural, religious (Baptist), politically conservative (reactionary Republican), and economically modest (lower working/middle class). During the first half of my quite normal childhood we lived in Geneva, New York, a small city at the head of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region. Geneva had been a large Seneca Indian village prior to its destruction by General Sullivan in 1779, who successfully carried out orders issued by Continental Army chief, General George Washington. I often played around the large Indian burial grounds and collected arrowheads not far from my home. At the age of 9 my family moved 150 miles west to a small farming community near Chautauqua, New York. This region was not far from two Seneca Indian Reservations to where the Senecas had been ultimately relegated after the 1779 Geneva routing. Though we studied the "history" of the Senecas, and the Iroquois Confederacy in general, in our seventh grade New York State history class, we did not learn of massacres and routings. There were also a number of Amish communities in the area living in non-electric households and operating thriving farms using only horse-drawn equipment. They could often be seen driving their horse drawn buggies to and from local towns.
Our new home was in a homogenous, sleepy community, virtually free of drugs and violence. My father was an itinerant, door-to-door salesman, and served as a deacon in our church. My mother, a very warm person and a good listener, proudly served as a housewife. She regularly sang in the church choir. We struggled financially. My parents neither smoked nor drank alcohol. Our home was free of physical child or spousal abuse but my father was emotionally cold and tyrannical. He was a Biblical fundamentalist, ardent anti-Communist, and passionate opponent of labor unions. My parents often expressed twisted racial, ethnic, and religious prejudices that seemed incongruent with their devotion to the Christian faith, but such views were not atypical in the area.
I played with the other kids in our intimate community, collected baseball cards, and regularly swam and fished in Goose Creek which meandered through our small village. I loved boy scout troop weekend campouts at which I was always accompanied by my water spaniel companion, "Lucky." I remember carrying the "American" flag in a July Fourth parade on Maple Street. I loved shoveling and playing in the annual heavy snows of winter. I have but one sibling, a brother nine and a half years older than myself, who taught U.S. history in high school for nearly 30 years before he retired. I attended a rural, four-room elementary school in which two grades were taught in each classroom. The school was an easy ten-minute walk or three-minute bike ride from our house. I was the class valedictorian of my elementary school. At our eighth grade commencement ceremony my nervous speech stressed the importance of being a good sportsman, especially for those who found themselves physically handicapped. At high school, ten miles from our village, I was academically solid though insecure, popular though socially shy, and a lettered athlete. I served on our student council, was selected into the National Honor Society, and elected captain of both intramural and varsity sports teams.
An early experience exposed me to issues relating to our criminal "justice" system. While in high school, my mother served on a jury trial of a man accused of committing a highly publicized murder. She was in a sequestered jury during the trial so as to be insulated from prejudice due to the extensive media coverage. The man was convicted and the law allowed the jury to decide on the punishment: either life in prison with the possibility of parole, or death by electrocution. My mother, like the other jurors, voted the death sentence. After she returned home she described her agony over the deliberations. If the young man could have been sentenced to life without parole, she would have held out for that alternative. My mother never fully recovered from the stress and guilt that decision cost her, and she became an opponent of the death penalty as a result.
COLLEGE & LAW SCHOOL
In the three colleges I attended, I continued participation in varsity sports while half-heartedly studying mathematics and sociology. Finally settling at a Baptist college, I earned my Bachelor’s degree while contemplating, with some confusion and anxiety, careers as a mathematician, forestry manager, Baptist minister, and FBI agent. Near the conclusion of my senior year I made a quick decision to enroll in law school to explore a growing interest in criminal and penal law.
The financial circumstances of my upbringing help explain my fiscally conservative nature. During my high school and early college years, my father’s income as a salesman was barely sufficient to make ends meet. One ill-fated day my father received notice of termination by his parent company. In his mid-fifties at the time, he lost the entire company share of his pension that had been contributed over the years. Our family was devastated. It seemed so unjust to me, and I felt a lot of sadness for my father. Because I had been working at various jobs in the community since eleven years of age, I had saved a fair amount of money in preparation for anticipated college costs. I was able to help defray some of the family expenses. While studying in undergraduate and graduate school I possessed no academic scholarships and my parents were unable to help. I continued to work at a variety of jobs during summers, and during school years as necessary, in order to pay my expenses. I completed eleven years of higher education virtually debt free, a situation that would be nearly impossible today.
Washington D.C. Jail
While attending law school I arranged to live and work in the 100-year-old (at the time) Washington, District of Colombia (D.C.) Jail in order to experience a different "hands-on" reality. The Jail held 1400 prisoners, over 95 percent of them African Americans, cramped in space designed for half that number. I slept in an old cell and regularly ate with the prisoners or guards, at my choosing. In exchange for "room, board, and laundry," I interviewed newly incoming prisoners from court to gather basic information for jail records. Shortly after beginning my "residence" I witnessed an attempted hanging by a prisoner using a bed sheet wrapped around the frame of an upper bunk. Later I observed an elderly man’s frozen foot completely sever from his pungent smelling, gangrenous leg as he was being unbooted and undressed in preparation for a shower during intake procedures. I regularly attended Black Muslim meetings in the Jail while reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. As I witnessed the harsh and dehumanizing realities of prison life, many of the naïve and parochial life views from my rural, white, working class background began to be seriously challenged.
During this period, 1965-66, I was also teaching Sunday School to high school students in a Maryland Methodist church. I remember one class where I brought a news article that reported a formal position adopted by the World Council of Churches condemning the U.S. bombings of Vietnam. We decided to respond in writing by declaring that as Christians we believed that such bombings, though regrettable, were necessary to preserve democracy, once and for all, from a world threate
ned by Godless Communism.
I was surprised and distressed to receive my draft notice in the winter of 1966. I had assumed I was exempt from the draft because I possessed a student deferment. However, I learned that my deferment was preferential, not absolute, and that I would have to enter military "service," even though I was still enrolled in law school and living and working at the D.C. Jail. The Selective Service Board agreed to delay induction until the end of Spring semester, granting me time to enlist in a more favorable military program.
In September of 1966, at the age of 25, I entered Officer Training School in the United States Air Force. I was a total believer in the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War but not a gung-ho, combat-seeking young man. Commissioned a Second Lieutenant in November, I was assigned to headquarters Air Force Systems Command in Washington, D.C. to be a command-wide installation security oversight officer on the Inspector General’s staff. After coasting for nearly two years in this relatively easy, white collar assignment, I received orders in the fall of 1968 for "combat security" police training at a U.S. Army base in Kentucky.
Because the Pentagon had concluded that the Army and the Marines were not capable of adequately protecting Air Force bases in the hostile environment of Vietnam, the Air Force was forced to create its own special combat security forces. Thus, my assignment made me part of this new Air Force concept to secure its own bases threatened by guerrilla ground penetration/attacks. With greater mobility, heavier firepower, advanced detection equipment, and intense training modeled directly on the Army’s Ranger course at Ft. Benning, Georgia, my newly trained section of several fire teams and mortar units was one of a number of elements comprising a large combat security police squadron. During our twelve-week training period an early clue about a "different" Brian emerged. I was not able to carry out the bayonet training exercise of stabbing a dummy 100 times while shouting KILL, as ordered. Nonetheless, they continued to train me, though I was placed on an "officer control roster" where my activities, including off-duty time, came under closer scrutiny.
My subsequent assignment was to lead a combat security unit of about 40 men to fortify protection of perimeter and flightline areas of, first, a Vietnamese, and later, a U.S. airbase in South Vietnam. These bases had received more than their share of attacks and were deemed by 7th Air Force in Vietnam in need of extra security. My unit was to supplement existing local base security forces. In early March of 1969 my unit left the U.S., and after a lengthy flight and several stops and planes, we touched down in the dark of night at a small Vietnamese airbase in the Mekong Delta, 90 miles south of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). The pilot, witnessing nearby flashes and expecting impending explosions, was screaming at us to hurry up and exit the plane so that he could quickly become airborne again. Our greeters rapidly escorted us in the dark to the safety of a nearby bunker before subsequently taking us to our sleeping quarters, which were protected by abutments made of steel and sandbags. Though mild by many standards, the war became real in these first few minutes. Adrenaline was rushing.
Though my men generally performed key responsibilities around the clock, the emphasis was during critical nighttime hours, guarding perimeter and flightline areas. Because we possessed mortars, heavy machine guns, starlight scopes, and anti-personnel radar units, and had received the special "combat security" training, my unit was positioned at critical and vulnerable spots around the outer edge of the base. We regularly received incoming rounds, usually during the nighttime, from mortars and recoilless rifles which, of course, kept us on edge most of the time.
For reasons I never fully understood, the Vietnamese airbase commander asked me, as an extra duty, to accompany one of his lieutenants to examine nearby villages immediately after having being bombed by South Vietnamese pilots. "Intelligence" reports had indicated these villages as "enemy friendly" and were therefore now identified as within "free fire zone" areas. The purpose of our visit, it was reported to me, was to assess, from the ground, the pilots’ successes at hitting their specified targets, rather than "intentionally" missing them, as some suspected. It was while observing the after-effects of these very "successful" bombings that I experienced an epiphany. On one occasion in April 1969, in eerie safety, I witnessed the incredible destruction that had just been inflicted in daylight morning hours on a typically defenseless village about the size of a large baseball stadium. With smoldering ruins throughout, the ground was strewn with bodies of villagers and their farm animals, many of whom were motionless and bloody, murdered from bomb shrapnel and napalm. Several were trying to get up on their feet, and others were moving ever so slightly as they cried and moaned. Most of the victims I witnessed were women and children. At one dramatic moment I encountered at close range a young wounded woman lying on the ground clutching three young disfigured children. I stared, aghast, at the woman’s open eyes. Upon closer examination, I discovered that she, and what I presumed were her children, all were dead, but napalm had melted much of the woman’s facial skin, including her eyelids. As the Vietnamese lieutenant and I silently made the one-plus hour return trip to our airbase in my jeep, I knew that my life was never going to be the same again.
The hostile conditions existing around my airbase provoked sufficient fear on a regular basis such that the daily rush of adrenaline quickly buried, deep within my subconscious, the horror I had witnessed in the bombed village. Strangely (to me), it took a flashback twelve years later, 10,000 miles away in Massachusetts, to re-trigger this traumatic memory.
On another occasion I was driving alone with only a .45-calibre pistol under my seat on my way to a meeting with a Vietnamese contact, when suddenly I found myself not far from a bombing in process. I quickly turned my jeep around, and while doing so I witnessed from about 200 feet away an old man fleeing his burning village, whimpering loudly as he ran. I remember wanting to stop and tell him how sorry I was that this was happening. When he saw me he ran into some tall grass. I have subsequently named this man "Hue." I sped away and almost immediately saw an old woman walking while carrying a heavy yoke. There was a water buffalo meandering nearby. It all seemed so surreal. I stopped my jeep and slumped onto the passenger seat, sobbing. I thought I was having a nightmare. I took out my personal Swiss army knife and jabbed the palm of my hand. I was able to feel the pain and see a drop of blood. I was not asleep. It was all really happening.
At one point in June, 7th Air Force quickly dispatched my unit to a U.S. airbase 250 miles to the north to help defend it from an escalated pattern of attacks. It was here that we were first exposed to rockets. During one such attack, an airman, who was later reported to me as a member of the local security police K-9 (canine) unit, was struck during afternoon hours not far from where I was walking and conversing with an "Aussie" officer. Fortunately, the Aussie heard the familiar (to him) eerie sound preceding a rocket hit, and quickly wrestled me to the ground with him on top of me. There was a huge explosion, with debris flying everywhere. Afterwards, I saw a dismembered body, presumably the airman’s, lying nearby, though his dog’s corpse, if there was one, was nowhere obvious. I was glad when we were later returned to our smaller base in the Delta.
My experience in Vietnam changed my life forever as was the case for so
many young men and women who found themselves struggling for physical and psychic survival in the jungles, rice paddies, and villages of Southeast Asia. As the World War I German soldiers concluded in the quintessential anti-war movie, All Quiet on the Western Front, our lives were ruined for an ordinary life. Such was the case for me. I began to regularly express my opposition to the bombings and the large numbers of civilian villagers that were being murdered as a result. I was in Vietnam five months when I was suddenly separated from my unit and ordered to return to the U.S. nearly one month ahead of schedule. With great difficulty, the Air Force and I tensely coexisted during the final year of my four-year commitment at an airbase in central Louisiana.
During my tour at the small Vietnamese airbase which was located next to the Bassac River, the southern most tributary of the fast-moving, 2600-mile-long Mekong River, I had become suspicious that it served as a key narcotics relay station between Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Saigon. Nguyen Cao Ky, an accomplished pilot, and at the time South Vietnam’s puppet Vice President under puppet President Nguyen Van Thieu, and former head of the Vietnamese Air Force, often visited the base. He was good friends with the Vietnamese airbase commander, also a pilot, and they often played tennis together near the housing area. I never thought that playing at night on the lighted court was a good idea, and I told them so. It made a wonderful target. The regular scuttlebutt was that Ky, other local Air Force officers, and personnel from the nearby Vietnamese naval base, were heavily involved with narcotics trafficking and the lucrative profits associated with it. Subsequent research by observers such as Alfred W. McCoy [The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (Lawrence Hill Books, 1971)] have confirmed beyond doubt those earlier suspicions.
While in Louisiana my wife and I were members of a small Unitarian Fellowship active in hosting meetings of Blacks and Whites to promote integration of the local schools. My wife served as a local legal aid attorney for the poor and often I would accompany her to remote areas where she would interview clients too poor to travel to her office. The oral history presented by these "squatters" and sharecroppers was another new revelation for me. On weekends I regularly spoke to community groups and individuals about the need to oppose the Vietnam war. I presented a several week course at our Fellowship about the history of French and United States intervention in Indochina. I learned that a representative of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) was present at those sessions to monitor my remarks. The commander of the airbase at which I was stationed called me into his office on several occasions for questioning, usually with an Air Force lawyer present. Many years later I discovered the FBI had also been investigating me at this same time.
On Sundays I was part of an effort to provide transportation and funds for family members to visit relatives who were incarcerated at infamous Angola Penitentiary located in a remote region on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River. I was authorized to visit a male prisoner on death row there whose mother had become seriously ill upon learning of the death in Vietnam of her only other son. This was an exciting time in my life because, awakened and energized by my Vietnam and earlier Jail experiences, I was discovering that I was an intelligent, thinking individual, and I was interested in many social justice issues.
1970s: Early Sense of Alienation
After leaving the Air Force in 1970 in the rank of Captain, I returned to civilian life to complete law school and was subsequently admitted to the District of Colombia Bar. My strong feelings against the war were joyfully affirmed in April 1971 as I witnessed the presence of 1,000 members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War encamped on the D.C. Mall for their week-long "Dewey Canyon III" activities which culminated when they threw their Vietnam medals with disgust onto the Capitol steps. While finishing law school studies I worked full-time for the D.C. Public Defender Service. However, I was shocked to realize that I was unable, or unwilling, to conform to the protocols of courtroom respect, or to even be present in conducting serious business in front of the U.S.flag. It was difficult for me to admit that these matters affected me so deeply, and for years I did not talk about it. I was ashamed, and felt abnormal, to be so affected by mere symbols and yet the visceral reactions I experienced illustrated the depth of the sense of betrayal dominating my heart. After all, my memory of earlier times conjured up feelings of proud loyalty to America and all I believed it stood for. It was extraordinarily painful to give up that comfortable-feeling myth, even though I knew it was a terribly unhealthy and destructive lie. I abandoned the idea of practicing law practically as soon as I was officially authorized to do so. Prior to going to Vietnam I had married a woman who was an attorney but unfortunately our hopes of working together in law were ill-fated.
Because I also had received a graduate degree in criminology and penology, I worked for a number of years addressing serious issues in the criminal (in)justice and prison systems throughout the United States. Initially I was hired to be a prison consultant for a large Midwestern city. Later, I coordinated a national office located in Washington, D.C. that attempted to educate Congress and others across the country about the dangers of increased dependence upon the use of incarceration, and the illusion of its use as an effective device for assuring a safer society without seriously addressing fundamental social and economic injustices. This position entailed extensive travel, speaking, and writing, including preparation of testimony to be presented before state legislatures and the U.S. Congress.
After years of lobbying on justice issues in Washington, I became discouraged about the "democratic" process. I then "dropped out" for a period and operated a Jersey-Cow dairy farm in rural New York State, while also serving as the town tax assessor and building inspector. I provided fresh, raw milk to my neighbors and maintained a large organic garden. My wife, who worked at a law office in a nearby small city, served as the town attorney. We became active in a nearby Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. However, a divorce soon ensued and the farm was lost. I reflected on what my restless life path might reveal next.
Massachusetts: Vietnam Flashback
In 1980 I received a call from a Massachusetts State Senator whom I had met at a prison conditions conference. He asked me if I would be interested in becoming a legislative aide in Massachusetts working on prison and veteran issues. I accepted. I drafted several pieces of legislation relating to expansion of veterans services. I conducted research about and prepared legislative proposals addressing the myriad of problems in the Massachusetts juvenile and adult criminal justice and prison system. I had an official pass, authorized by the legislature, which enabled me to inspect any prison at any time. For a year I investigated several hundred prison brutality complaints, including several homicides, especially at Walpole State Prison. While interviewing a prisoner in Walpole one day in June 1981, I witnessed the guards beating a nearby prisoner. At that moment I experienced a severe flashback to the village scene in April 1969 near Sa Dec, South Vietnam, where I was looking into the napalmed face of a young mother holding her three napalmed children after a bombing, all dead.
Mysteriously, this horrible memory had not been conscious in the intervening twelve years. I immediately ran out of the prison and soon after sought help, for the first time,
from a veterans’ outreach office in the Boston area. I had become a Vietnam veteran in a new sense in that moment and there was no sense in pretending that I could get on with my life without addressing the war’s moral and psychic pain.
Nonetheless, soon after I was able to complete a 200-page report of my prison investigations. The State Senator I worked with most directly endorsed the report. However, it was clear there was no political intention to seriously address the issues presented in the report, due primarily to the intransigence of the governor at the time, and to the apathy of most of the legislators. I started receiving night-time telephone death threats at my residence. I took a leave of absence for six months before deciding to resign. In 1982 I became a worker-owner in an all natural dairy business in New England, but left that position after two short years.
"Becoming" A Vietnam Veteran
As I wrestled with and sorted out my Vietnam memories and meanings, I began to associate with other veterans, both individually and organizationally. I was subsequently hired to direct a Massachusetts Agent Orange information office. The depth of moral and psychic pain among Vietnam veterans was illustrated by the dozen suicides that occurred in our relatively small area over a three-year period. Later I became executive director of a Massachusetts-funded Vietnam Veterans Outreach Center. For nearly two years, with the assistance of a secretary/receptionist and a lawyer, our office became a bustling center for addressing a myriad of veterans’ problems, from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Agent Orange poisoning, and chronic alienation, to homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, and violence. The new governor at the time, Michael Dukakis, ultimately awarded me a special commendation for my work with veterans. However, I resigned shortly thereafter, feeling incapable of competently dealing with the chronic challenges that our culture and its beleaguered veterans posed, while feeling my own vulnerability and fragility.
Nicaragua: Total Alienation
I chose, instead, to travel to Nicaragua in January 1986 to see for myself the nature and extent of U.S. intervention through President Reagan’s "Freedom Fighters" ("Contras") who were funded by Congress and armed and trained by the CIA. I had been studying U.S. involvement in Central America for several years, and due to what I learned in Vietnam, I knew that the use of the terms "Communist" and "Marxist-Leninist" were code words used to cover up murders of civilians seeking self-determination (democracy). I was extremely angry that my government continued to terrorize and murder the poor for lies shrouded in noble sounding pretexts. After but one week during my first trip I was exposed to attacks by Reagan’s Contras on three nearby cooperatives in the northern mountains. For two days and nights I heard gunfire and saw red tracers. Then I witnessed the caravan of open caskets on horse-drawn wagons carrying eleven dead civilians from those attacks, mostly women and children. I mumbled under my breath, "I have been here before. My money is still murdering people in my name for a big lie." I wept openly, almost uncontrollably, along the roadside near the cemetary.
At that moment there was a synthesis that occurred within my deepest being. My cognitive understanding of the history of U.S. arrogance and imperialism was being psychically integrated with the viscera throughout my body and heart-soul. There was an alignment of clarity and energy I had not experienced previously. Vietnam was not an aberration. Neither was Nicaragua. Nor the original Holocaust of Native Americans, nor the subsequent Holocaust of kidnapped Africans. Nor U.S. interventions and murders in countless other locations over time and regions, amounting to yet another Holocaust, this latter one being global in nature. They all represent the tragedies inevitably caused by the historic superior attitude of "Manifest Destiny" that has dominated and enabled our civilization from its origins. Genuine people’s self-determination, i.e., democracy, simply is not tolerated. Such principle interferes with unfettered domination and exploitation. For me, there was no escaping this conclusion. The pain it has caused and continues to cause was being felt intimately in my own body and heart. A much deeper meaning from my Vietnam experiences, and from this new intimate awareness of the continual, ad nauseam, U.S. bellicosity around the world, came together at that point. I understood in the most visceral of dimensions, just how demonic the American Way Of Life (AWOL) and its inevitable policies were and continue to be, and must be in order that AWOL be preserved. The napalmed mother in Vietnam was psychically speaking to me in a most clear manner. This lawless and immoral behavior must not continue in my name, and this mother, whom I have named Mai Ly, helps guide me as a spiritual partner in my own healing and liberation from complicity in the big LIE.
Since that first visit to Nicaragua I have found it difficult to continue any kind of employment as my awareness and pain intensified. Subsequently I have made numerous trips to two dozen countries in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, in efforts to understand the nature and extent of United States economic, political, military, and covert policies, and their effects on various peoples’ cultures, and resources. Additionally I have travelled to many parts of the U.S. to assess the real condition and health of social and economic justice here at home. I have been involved in a number of actions designed to educate the U.S. American public about the nature and extent of U.S. lawless and unconscionable policies, and their dangerously destructive effects on all life, everywhere. On one of my trips to Nicaragua I met a woman, visiting from California, who would become my second wife.
ESCALATED POLITICAL ACTIVITY
Tax Resistance and the Veterans Fast for Life
I have refused to pay federal income taxes because, by paying them, I become directly complicit in supporting and financing policies that are so clearly repulsive to me. This has required a radical change in my personal lifestyle, a number of interactions with officials of the Internal Revenue Service, and a willingness to go to prison. I have helped create efforts by which groups of veterans visit classrooms and tell their own stories of the REAL nature of military "service," providing an alternative perspective to that presented by the military recruiters’ public relations’ raps. I have been part of lengthy water fasts to bring attention to U.S. lawless and immoral policies, including the 1986 four-member water-only, open-ended Veterans Fast For Life (VFFL) on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. About forty days into the fast, U.S. Senator Warren Rudman (R-NH) was quoted in The Boston Globe newspaper likening us fasters to Middle Eastern terrorists. Our VFFL office was broken into, as was our living quarters, with records taken during each break-in. I have helped organize veterans to train in nonviolence and then travel into war-ravaged areas in Nicaragua and El Salvador to witness the U.S. role in terrorizing civilian populations. I have participated in a number of peaceful, civil disobedience actions at critical and symbolic locations in efforts to disclose more clearly the role of the United States government in promoting war and misery, instead of peace and justice. I have spoken at many events about such matters, and have written many articles as well.
The Train Assault
I have participated in actions to directly block movement of lethal munitions from the United States intended for killing and maiming innocent human beings in Nicaragua and El Salvador. In 1987, while peacefully blocking a military train at a U.S. Navy munitions base in California loaded with armaments h
eaded for Central America, I received severe injuries and was almost murdered when the train chose not to stop. The Navy train crew and their superiors knew in advance of our nonviolent three-member veterans’ blockade and had a clear, 650-foot view as the train approached us at high noon on a bright sunny day. Though expecting to be arrested and jailed by the nearby armed U.S. Marines and local police, we never imagined the conscious and criminal acceleration of the loaded train to more than three times its posted five-mile-an-hour legal speed limit. I lost both legs, suffered a fractured skull, multiple other injuries, and nearly lost my life as I was run over by the speeding train. One of the other veterans dove out of the way at the last minute. The other veteran jumped high in the air to grab onto the cow catcher railing on the front of the locomotive just above the platform where the two government spotters stood. A military ambulance and crew quickly arrived on the scene but refused to transport me to a hospital, alleging that my limp, maimed body was not lying on military property. In the meantime, my wife, who was a midwife, and other friends at the scene, worked feverishly to stop my bleeding and to preserve my life energy while we awaited arrival of another ambulance 15 or 20 minutes later.
I recovered from that assault with the help of multiple surgeries, including repair of my lacerated right frontal brain lobe, placing of a protective plate in my skull, and the fitting of prostheses for each leg. However, without the tremendous love and support from around the United States and the world that nourished my healing process I might not have survived the trauma.
No jurisdiction, local, state or federal, was willing to bring criminal charges against the U.S. Navy and its employees. Thus I had to seek redress in civil court. Subsequently my lawyers and I learned that during the VFFL in the fall of 1986, the FBI had identified a number of politically active U.S. citizens as suspected domestic "terrorists," including us four fasters. While still recovering in the hospital, government investigators quizzed me on our plans for "hijacking" the train. I was shocked! It was obvious that such scenario was imagined by paranoid government security officials such as members of the FBI. We also learned that on the day of the assault the government’s train crew members were ordered by their superiors not to stop the train for fear that we might attempt to board the locomotive. Strangely, there were 300 armed U.S. Marines stationed at this base to assure its security, and some were present just a few feet from us at the time of the assault.
I have continued to be active in educating about the continued destructive arrogant attitudes and policies of the "American" civilization, while promoting a radical paradigm alternative. My second wife and I created an office to train people for practicing the teachings of nonviolence in a variety of settings. The need to continually raise money to support an ongoing office seemed like needless competition for dollars with so many other worthy national and local efforts. After two years we decided to close the office. That combined with other personal stresses following the train assault trauma finally led us to decide upon a divorce, although we remain bonded as soul-friends for life. Our stress was aggravated by continued requests for information from the Internal Revenue Service, surveillance by U.S. Naval Intelligence, and the regular interception and opening of our incoming mail.
As difficult as it has been to recover from the trauma of personal injuries inflicted by a politically motivated attempted murder committed by my own government, my journey as a recovering white male has also been extraordinarily painful, perhaps as traumatic. I deeply believed in the myth of the American dream: that one could grow up as a Christian from modest circumstances and become economically and politically successful. I did not know, and perhaps couldn’t have known, as a kid, the lies, and the unspeakable pain, upon which this myth of the "American" civilization has been built. Being a WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) male — no matter the modesty of original economic or political circumstances — provides a tremendous advantage for achieving success as defined by the prevailing societal paradigm. Personally, I have come to realize that this ingrained arrogance and privilege, in effect, imperialism, is itself a sickness on the earth, a sickness within myself, and has required a healing and liberation recovery process in which I will be engaged for the rest of my life. In my journey from naivete to new levels of awareness that have emerged from various life experiences, I have had to feel, intensely, the pain of letting go of my addiction to the myth and the comfort that is associated with believing in "America" and its Way Of Life. In the process of letting go, I have chosen to walk, difficult though it is, on a different path, striving to free myself from imperialistic assumptions and thinking. This enables me to evolve as an authentic human being experiencing the new joys that accompany awareness of my sacred interconnectedness with all life. We are not worth more, they are not worth less.
- 1964, B.A. in Sociology (minor in Mathematics), Eastern (Baptist) College, St. Davids, Pennsylvania
- 1968, M.S. in Correctional Administration (Criminology and Penology), The American University, Washington, D.C.
- 1972, J.D. (Juris Doctor) in Law, Washington College of Law of The American University, Washington, D.C.
- 1988, Ph.D. (Hon.) in Humanities, New College, San Francisco, California
- 1990, LL.D. (Doctor of Laws) (Hon.), City University of New York Law School at Queens College, Flushing, New York