Although I’m probably now pro-choice–I haven’t decided–I have to take exception with the idea that abortion is only a woman’s issue. Some women may believe that but, based on my own experience, a woman’s decision about whether or not to abort an unborn child can affect the father of that unborn child every bit as much as her. Not only that, the decision affects not only people alive when the decision is made. It also affects the people who are affected differently if a child is aborted rather than being allowed to live his or her natural life. Just for one example, albeit a Hollywood movie example, James Stewart, in the throughs of depression got to see what would have happened if he’d never been born and realized God had given his life a purpose which would never have been fulfilled had he not been born.
l even believe a fetus which results from rape or incest has the same right to have life outside of a mother’s uterus as does a fetus resulting from consensual sex between a man and a woman. I don’t know how often children are conceived by rape but it’s probably more than most people thing. I know, for example, that, when i was doing refugee work, a presenter told us that, with just a single vaginal penetration by a man with viable sperm, there was a fifty percent chance of a resulting pregnancy. That seemed a bit overstated, and she may have been somewhat biased what with her job of encouraging us to convince our refugees to practice birth control. Still, I once knew a woman, a very significant woman in my life, who told me she’d never slept with a man and was in denial about her pregnancy all the while I was with her and even after I left her to find a “real job” in the States so she could come over and be my wife. She was so ashamed of becoming pregnant outside outside of marriage that she couldn’t admit it even to herself.
I’m sure that every situation is different, but this one occurred in Thailand during the Vietnam War. , and since the father was a counterinsurgency officer, I was told that what happened was normal. And what with the promiscuity around an Air Base, my American family couldn’t bring themselves to believe she was actually raped.
I lost touch with the woman who was raped. In fact, based on my attempts to talk to her a on the phone, it appeared that she hated me and/or believed I wanted to ruin her life– not just her marriage, because I was trying to talk to her after she divorced the volunteer who married her three month after I left her (leaving the Thai community to believe I was the child’s biological father). They got married one day and left town the next, leaving the town to believe another American was taking responsibility for another American’s indiscretion, a necessary ploy to keep the policeman at bay.
She’s now 72 years old. I’m 73. Her daughter is pushing fifty.
So who was the victim there? It’s apparently not the daughter, or maybe it was, but she has an internet presence, and appears to be quite successful in her career. From the other American’s point of view, it was always important that his wife and daughter never communicate with me because, from his point of view, I’m “infected”. From my ex-girlfriend’s point of view, I was a stalker for trying to contact her after her divorce, which was twenty years after I’d left her.
She may have been the victim of a rape, but, as it turned out, she got what she wanted…….I think……that is, the freedom of being a single woman in America. Meanwhile, the Thai girlfriend of the guy she married was devastated to learn her boyfriend had taken responsibility for my indiscretion while she was away at college.
That’s how it came down. I may have stopped my life of serial promiscuity before I met this woman, but, after she was raped, I became the villain who’d knocked her up and fled. It was a tricky situation. A lot of intricate if convoluted arrangements had to be made for this to happen. So much that happened was invisible to everyone except for the people most intimately involved.
She was raped during my Peace Corps home-leave. I knew she was very naive. I had a premonition about what was happening during my absence, and I almost didn’t go back. But I did go back and tried to make it all work. I no longer had a job. Her mother hated me. After three months, I knew it was time to leave. She arrived in California one year later, and, once her daughter was raised, she decided she didn’t need the American she married. Eventually, I think she confided in her friends, telling them that that she’d married an American she didn’t love because of her condition, and because he’d offered to raise her child as his own in the States.
There’s more to it all than that, a heck of a lot more than just that, and, of course, my point of view is quite different than that of anyone else. In fact, every person had their own point of view, and there were many people involved, if only indirectly. I did learn a lot about Thailand, but I never hated the place as some people seemed to have surmised. For years I wanted to go back and live there, and I’ve been married to a Thai for twenty years. But still, this stuff will always be inside me.
There was once a Tom Hanks movie about the Peace Corps and its relationship to the CIA in Thailand called Volunteers. According to the producers and writers, the idea for the movie originated in 1979 which, coincidentally, was the year I sent my story to a Hollywood producer.
Just saying that makes me seem like I have or had delusions of grandeur, when, in fact, I’d only sent my writing to Bob Shanks, the Executive Director of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation after he expressed some interest in reading what I wrote. Then, without my knowledge, he urged his Hollywood friend, Bob Shanks, to read it. Then Bob Shanks asked me to send my manuscript to him. After receiving it, he promised to read it but said that, since it was “weighty” and since he was involved in writing projects of his own, I should be patient in waiting for his reaction. But the only reaction I got was a movie which mocked the Peace Corps and assurances from everyone who knows me that the movie most likely had nothing to do with what I’d written. In fact, it didn’t. It was totally different; coming, it seemed, from almost the opposite perspective from what I’d written.
And then, as I learned, Peace Corps people believed I was tarnishing the image of Peace Corps all along.
Anyway, in Thailand they had a saying about how people that make ghosts get ghosts and, shortly after I got there, I’d had a girlfriend–a bargirl, all my girlfriends were bargirls except for the last one–who got pregnant. I didn’t even know if her baby was mine. She said it was, but I believed it was the child of her previous boyfriend. Anyway, she mentioned that there was a way to induce an abortion by taking some sort of concoction downtown, and I gave her $25 to take it. It worked, but it almost killed her, and, after that, whenever she rubbed her breasts, they emitted a stream of milk. She thought that was kind of funny, but, when I saw that, I finally realized I’d really curtailed the life of a human being. And, perhaps because of that, or partly because of that, and everything else that happened in Thailand, I didn’t get married to my present wife until my fifties, too late to have children, although we tried.
So why do these women I see on the news say abortion is a women’s issue? I was heartened, at least, to learn that the abortion rate has been going down. For myself, I have to believe that my ex-girlfriend’s daughter in California, the product of a rape, whether she knows it or not, has the same right to be alive that I do. In fact, I used to hope she’d do great things, cross-cultural things, and maybe she does. Anyway, because I believe that, I have to be pro-life even though it’s surely the woman’s choice. But I have to be pro-life even though
I guess that’s it for today.
I didn’t consider New York City to be a training ground for the Peace Corps. Official training was not to start for another month. Nor did I expect to see a doppelganger of Lee Harvey Osward, the man who’d assassinated President John F. Kennedy more than seven years before.
By 1971, my folks had moved back to Michigan, and I’d been accepted into a Peace Corps program in Thailand. But I had to take my induction physical in Manhattan first and then try to get some treatment for a cut nerve in my hand which was still causing me problems. The doctor at the induction center had given me a six-month deferral to get further treatment for my hand, but the specialists in New York informed me that there was no way to surgically fix the damaged nerve and that I had to just give it time. I wanted to be independent, so I decided to get a job in New York and stay at the West Side YMCA, just a block from Central Park, and wait there until my Peace Corps program started.
The Peace Corps harkened back to the Kennedy presidency. Some historians even say the creation of the Peace Corps was the accomplishment for which Kennedy was most proud or the apple of his eye.
Anyway, when I wasn’t at Cornell, I’d been living in Westchester County, not New York City, but my next-door neighbor, Billy Weber, had attended Fordham and driven a taxi in the City while going to school. On a whim, I walked into a taxi garage in the Bronx and applied for a job. “Sure, I can hire you,” the proprietor said. “Just take the hack test to get your chauffer’s license, then drive around for a while, and, when you feel ready, start picking up fares. I don’t care how much money you make, but, if you damage one of my taxis, I’ll never forgive you.”
I earned enough driving that summer to eat and pay the rent. Each night I was doing a little better. Some nights I’d t drive back and forth on one of the avenues and wait for someone to hail me. Some nights I’d wait in a cue at the airport or one of the large hotels. I had a few memorable experiences that summer, and the one which involved Lee Harvey Oswald’s doppelganger occurred right after I’d picked up two couples at the Hilton. One couple sat next to me in the front seat while the other couple sat behind me.
We’re from Minnesota,” an elderly gentleman in back informed me,” and we’d like to see a movie. Could you take up to the movie district and help us find one?” For the very first time I was being treated like a native which made me proud, and I and I knew just where to go.
At that time, there was no barrier between where the taxi drivers were sitting and the passengers behind them, so it might have been easier for a driver to overhear backseat conversations. In any case, it was obvious right away that going to see a movie had been the gentleman’s idea and not his wife’s.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” she told her husband. “I’m afraid that something bad will happen if we go out there on the sidewalk.”
“Oh, honey,” said the man. “Please relax.
I may not have been a New York City native as they thought, but I knew there were of lot of movie marquees hanging over the sidewalks around Times Square. In fact, I’d always thought of Times Square as being the pulse of New York City; the place where New Yorkers gathered on New Year’s Eve and the place where tourists go just to be there. I felt, naively as it turned out, that if this woman, who seemed so anxious about being on the sidewalk, were to immerse herself in the sea of humanity around Times Square, she’d have no choice but to learn that her husband was right and that there was indeed no need for her to be afraid.
I’d never actually seen a movie in New York City. Mom had taken me to the Radio City Music Hall and to see a Broadway play, the type of things tourists do, because, as far as New York City was concerned, we were tourists ourselves. The only reason I knew about all the movie theatres around Times Square was because I’d been driving past them for a month or two that summer. I didn’t know that all the movie theatres around Times Square featured triple x rated sex shows until I drove down the street this time and looked to see if there was something my elderly passengers might want to see.
Of course, my passengers were reading the letters on the same move marquees that I was, and the woman in back started going into a frenzy. Her husband, silent now, finally saw a theatre that was showing Gone With The Wind. Again. this was 1971. Whether Gone With The Wind is racist or not was not an issue to the man from Minnesota. What was important was that it wasn’t a triple X rated peep show.
“That’s it!” he said as soon as he saw it. “Stop here driver!”
At this point the front seat passengers paid me and disembarked, but, although he used all his powers of pursuation, the man in book was unable to get his petrified wife to move for quite some time. Then, as she finally did get out, a man in a hurry jumped in before the door was even closed.
At that point, she screamed a high-pitched blood curdling scream which pierced through the warm night air and drowned out all the street noise. Then, m when she found her voice, she shouted, “My purse! My purse! My purse!” as she clutched her purse to her breast and as her husband whisked her away, most likely to see a movie with the couple who was with them.
I looked at my new passenger, the man who’d been in such a hurry as to jostle the woman from Minnesota as he got in the cab. I noted he was a thin man with a swarthy complexion and short brown hair parted neatly on the side. It was time for him to tell me his destination. the place he needed to get to. He didn’t say a word. Then I looked to see the crowd that was forming around my taxi. It seemed like everyone who’d head that woman scream was now crowded around my taxi.
“Don’t take that man anywhere!” a loud voice boomed from the back of the crowd.
“What did he do?” someone asked.
“I don’t know what he did,” the loud voice replied, “but did you hear that woman scream? He must have done something. Don’t take him anywhere.”
By this time people were stopping not just because they’d heard the woman scream but also because of the crowd. They all seemed to know that something really bad must have happened. They just didn’t know what it was. The man in the backseat seemed dumbfounded. I was too. He didn’t speak, and I didn’t either.
That’s when he looked like Lee Harvey Oswald. I recently watched the footage again of Lee Harvey Oswald being murdered by Jack Ruby in the parking garage in Dallas. He’d already proclaimed his innocence in a holding room, and he was being ushered to a nearby jail. The newsmen were firing questions, but, by this time, Oswald was mute. He must have known his fate was sealed.
As for my Lee Harvey Oswald doppelganger, he finally got out of my taxi and shouldered his way through the crowd. I was scared. I wanted to get out of that place as fast as I could, but, before I could step on the gas, a couple college kids jumped in and asked me to take them across town. I said sure, and as I drove them to their destination, I told them what had happened and why my hands were still shaking.
“But nothing happened right?” one of them asked.
“That’s right,” I told him. “Nothing happened.” And then I felt very foolish and naive. (Note for Kennedy Conspiracy Aficionados who believe there was actually two Lee Harvey Oswalds. This would have been the second one, the Lee Harvey Oswald that Jack Ruby didn’t kill.)
I was sorting through old books the other day when I came upon The Search For Lee Harvey Oswald by Robert J. Groden which was published in 1995. I read much of the book and remember being impressed that, whatever may have happened, Lee Harvey Osward was obviously running scared right after President Kennedy was shot. Supposedly he even shot and killed a policeman, Officer J.D. Tippit, when he was on the lam and was hiding in a movie theatre when he was apprehended. And then, two days later, he was killed.
But was Lee Harvey Oswald really the man who killed President Kennedy. Or was it more complicated than that? Like a conspiracy. The Kennedy conspiracy. Before all the other conspiracies, there was that. Some believe in the “lone nut” theory, that is, Oswald acted alone, but many believe there were others and maybe many others involved.
So what were Oswald’s last words? As I remember his last words were, “I didn’t do it! I’m just a patsy” I thought he said that just before he was shot. But now, after looking at a video which captures that moment in time, I see he said nothing as he was being led through the parking garage, so he must have said that earlier.
According to the Oxford dictionary, a patsy is “a person who is easily taken advantage of, especially by being cheated or blamed for something.” I learned some life lessons later about how that can sometimes happen. And if Oswald was really President Kennedy’s killer, then why, after killing Kennedy, would he have immediately gone out on the street and killed Officer Tibbet, something he also denied, before trying to hide in a movie theatre. And why did Jack Ruby, the man who killed Oswald, want Oswald dead before his trial? What was Ruby’s motive? Oswald may well have been playing both sides of an international espionage game, like a wannabe double agent, but Jack Ruby was doing the same thing in Dallas; making friends with the cops that visited his strip club, buying them drinks, and then inviting them to take advantage of his illegal prostitution ring.
A lot of people were surely as glued to the TV as I was right after Kennedy was shot. At the age of fourteen, I saw Jack Ruby stick his gun in Oswald’s stomach and shoot him as he was being transferred from the holding room, where he’d been being questioned, to the local jail.
And then, eight years later, in 1971, I saw the very same thing in New York City. Not exactly the same thing of course, but there was the same dynamics to it. The guy even looked like Oswald. Everyone knew he was guilty except for me. It was very scary. I wrote down what happened that day, and I once even read that story at a writers’ workshop. I still have suggestions from the others who were there at the workshop about how to make that story better. Next time I post, I’ll try to do it justice.
So I washed my cell phone again. It isn’t as if I don’t have a special place to put it, because I do. I just don’t use it all the time. That being the case, when I wash my clothes, I always check my pockets to make sure I don’t wash my cell phone or my wallet. But this time I missed the cell phone and the wallet too. I washed them both.
I’ve done this twice before, but this time I was prepared. After the last time, i bought a special dehumidifying pouch on the Internet. It took me a while to find where I’d put it, but, when I did, I read the instructions which said to remove the battery and the sim card from the phone before putting it in the pouch.
Needless to say, this was a race against time where every second counts. The longer the innards of the phone stay wet, the more likely they are to corrode. I’d already wasted too much time finding the dehumidifying pouch, but at least I could still see my home page when I powered the cell phone off. I kicked myself about not doing that first thing. Anyway, I found the pouch, read the instructions, and learned that I needed to remove the sim card and battery. The sim card came out pretty easy, but I couldn’t get to the battery because the back of the phone won’t come off.
Being a modern-day guy, I immediately went go to YouTube to see someone demonstrate how to change the battery of a DSL cell phone like mine. I found a guy who seemed to know what he was doing. He didn’t even use any tools, just his fingernails. He showed me a special notch on the side of the phone where I could pry the back of the cell phone off, and it took him only a minute to reach the battery and take that out as well. I didn’t see a special prying notch on my phone, but I was able to get my thumbnail into the crack where the back of the phone was attached until it–my thumbnail that is–started breaking. Then I get a flashlight and looked for the evasive special notch. I still didn’t see it.
I was able to open the crack just enough to slide in a credit card. I’d used this credit card method to take the backs off of electronic devices before, but this time it didn’t work. I went downstairs and find a screwdriver, and, with a little elbow grease, the back of the cell phone popped open. It was only then that I realized that, unlike the cell phone in the YouTube demonstration, the back of my cell phone had been glued down.
Removing the battery from the cell phone wasn’t any easier. The guy on YouTube may have popped his battery out with his fingernail, but I couldn’t even get it mine out with a screwdriver. As I went back downstairs to find a larger screw, I realized my attempt to save my cell phone had turned into an irrational quest to remove a battery that didn’t want to be moved. Still, I had to take it out. I’d gone too far to just quit.
This time I did my prying in the tool room rather than upstairs, and, little by little, I got the battery to budge, not without a little damage, but at least it started moving.
Then all of sudden, and with little warning, the battery started throwing sparks, and I threw it down in a burst of angry flames. The light show lasted about a minute, after which it was limp and reduced to perhaps a quarter of its former size, quite obviously never to be revived. The entire basement smelled like burning rubber, and I hoped my wife wouldn’t notice when she came home from work. After all, I knew it would be embarrassing enough to tell her that, for the third time, I’d put a cell phone through the washing machine, especially since she’d told me, many times over, that I need to take the cell phone out of my pocket every day just as soon as I get home and put it in its special place. And I do have a special place, a special compartment attached to the wall.
I brought the charred phone and battery back upstairs, put them under the kitchen faucet and watched them sizzle. Then I carefully dissected the damage, sort of like the like the fire department does after large disasters to see if they can determine the cause of a fire. I read some information on the phone to the effect that the cell phone battery was not supposed to every be replaced.
I liked that cell phone. I wondered if I could have saved it I’d read that message on the side of the phone and put it in the special dehumidifying pouch without even trying to pop off the back. I guess I’ll never know. Of course, as my wife said when she got home, I need to get in the habit of taking my cell phone out of my pocket just as soon as I get home. Lesson learned. Again.
I’m writing this on my word press site, jimjouppi.com, but it goes to facebook as well. At least it’s supposed to go to my facebook site, Peace Corps Pariah, but I checked the other day, and only the first part of my word press entry went to facebook. Anyway, as already mentioned, I was in the Peace Corps. I was also a medic in the Army, but that was later and pretty much noneventful. As mentioned, in the Peace Corps, I was stationed in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, and my book is about what was going on there, mostly during the Vietnam War.
My recollections, admittedly, are quite a bit different than those of RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) author Peter Navarro, who, in his best-selling book In Trump Time: A Journal of America’s Plague Year, reminisced about having commandeered a bulldozer from the Nakhon Phanom Air Base to build a fishpond. As a reference footnote, he used an article by former Airman Phil Carroll, “Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in the Vietnam War,” which has nothing about Peter Navarro or his fish pond.
I don’t know if Peter was lying, but I’m sure there’s been a lot of misinformation about the Peace Corps over the years, some by volunteers themselves. While e Navarro’s account about his Peace Corps fishpond and other Peace Corps exploits may have been the most braggadocios piece I’ve read, I don’t think social scientist and best-selling author Charles Murray were doing the Peace Corps any favors by describing it as he did when speaking to college students at the American Enterprise Institute. (See Charles Murray: How to Spend Your Twenties on YouTube.) Murray wasn’t actually stationed in Nakhon Phanom as a volunteer, but he went there doing research after his Peace Corps tour was over.
Still, according to Peace Corps historian Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, it was volunteers like me, volunteers who were using the Peace Corps to avoid the draft, that “tarnished the image of the agency and sometimes embarrassed those who had joined for better reasons.” (from pp. 206,207 of All You Need is Love: Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s), and Stanley Meisler, author of When the World Calls, the Inside Story of the Peace Corps and It’s First Fifty Years, even called out my name when mentioning that some volunteers succumbed to “the temptation to fraternize with fellow Americans [from] the Air Base. (p.103 of When the World Calls). So I really was, in the eyes of some Peace Corps people at least, a Peace Corps Pariah.
As already mentioned, I started this site to promote a book called Nakhon Phanom: The Domino Which Did Not Fall (and my Thai hometown) which isn’t selling. I did this after Scott at The Online Book Club asked me for my social media websites so they can promote the book. Of course, I paid them to do this-after they offered me an enticing special deal-but I had no social media websites other than Facebook, which I rarely use, which is why I started this Word Press blog. But I guess that wasn’t enough for Scott, so now I started a Facebook page called Peace Corps Pariah specifically for the book. I called it Peace Corps Pariah to distinguish it from other Peace Corps Internet sites, the vast majority of which serve the interests of Peace Corps.
It’s not that Peace Corps Pariah won’t only serve the interests of Peace Corps; only that I’ll be writing about things which a more sanctioned Peace Corps site could never touch. In fact, I’ll be writing about things which some Peace Corps people have told me have nothing to do with the Peace Corps. Aside from that, I was in the Peace Corps fifty years ago, so it’s not as if I have any basis to know what the Peace Corps is like today, or what it was just before the pandemic.
Anyway, this is new technology for me, but, if I set everything it up right, everything I write on this site, including this blogpost, will automatically be posted on my Facebook Peace Corps Pariah Page. Wala. Now I have to see if it worked. Back later.
Thought I’d write today about Marina Ovsyanniko’s six-second protest. I thought that was pretty amazing….like she decided she could do something that would count more than marching in the street. And then she pulled it off.
I thought she’d immediately be arrested, and she was, but then, a day or two later, she’s sitting in her comfortable apartment looking none the worse for the wear and talking freely to an American journalist about what she did and why. Putin has thrown thousands of street protesters in jail without a trial for “holiganism”, and they’re still in jail. But not Marina. She got out, at least for the time being. So Putin must have some political constraints even in Russia. Anyway, I thought that was kind of cool.
Firstly, I should say that the h in Nakhon Phanom is silent. It’s there because that’s the way linguists decided to spell the Thai consonants that way in English. The town and province in Thailand is actually pronounced Nakone Panome with kone like an ice cream cone and nome as in Nome Alaska.
When I lived in Nakhon Phanom as a Corps volunteer, it was the center of my world and it remained so long after I was physically back the States. I learned a lot there, and, even when I write about other things, my experiences there remain in the back of my mind. Some people, like the late author and activist Louis Lomax, author of a Random House book called Thailand, The War That Is, The War That Will Be, even said what was going on there was a war.
I used to write as if I was writing to an old girlfriend in Nakhon Phanom. She was very naive, or at least I thought she was very naive even before I learned she’d been raped by a Communist suppression officer, and I wanted her to know what was going on behind the scenes when I was with her. It took me decades to realize she already knew or suspected much of what I wanted to tell her and that I’d been being played all along. I may cast myself as a victim in some of my stories, but, from my perspective, I just tell the truth as I saw it when I was somewhat naive myself.
And what with this war in Ukraine, it seems pretty obvious that Vladimar Putin is the reincarnation of the devil. We’ve had a string of guys like that in my lifetime: Ho Chi Minh, Sadam Hussein, Ossama Bin Ladin, now Vladimar Putin. I’m sure there’s more. I just can’t think of their names at the moment. There’s actually a shrine to Ho Chi Minh in a Vietnamese village in Nakhon Phanom. Strange to realize now that the vast majority of Americans weren’t even born when he was America’s enemy number one back in the 1960s.
We like to personalize our wars with good guys and bad guys, and right now Volodymyr Zelensky is the good guy. It seems strange that Putin and Zelensky have the same given name. Or almost the same. Putin is Vladimir and Zelenski is Volodymyr.
I’m not saying I don’t believe that Putin is the bad guy or that Zelenski is Ukraine’s savior if they have one. Like other Americans, I think it’s important for Volodymyr to beat Vladimir, but I don’t see how that can happen unless this war becomes a war of attrition like Vietnam, and I don’t think Vladimir will allow that to happen. I think we’ll learn a lot in just the next month.
I signed up with Word Press for the specific purpose of promoting a book I wrote called Nakhon Phanom: The Domino That Did Not Fall. I did the same thing ten years ago to promote another book called War of Hearts and Minds: an American Memoir. I know this is not social media, but at least it’s a platform to social media. Anyway, tomorrow I’ll introduce myself and say why I wrote these books.