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A Stranger in My Native Land

Fifty-two years ago the sights along Route 66 set my little-boy eyes aglow, while my dad kept his eyes fixed on the road that was taking us to California. Neither the first nor the last, we’d hit the road on a quest for opportunity out west, a new chance to take our best shot at building a better life. Seemed like that was what the country was all about: for an honest day’s work a man got an honest day’s pay, no doubt— at least, we never doubted it. So when the Russians shot that Sputnik into space and Eisenhower thought we Yanks should quicken the pace, I studied hard at math and science and languages. Quick after graduation, I enlisted in Uncle Sam’s forces, and it was in that situation that I first began to hear voices telling me that something was dreadfully wrong. ‘Cause the men who commanded me seemed more interested in sadism and sailing in a calm sea than in fighting communism. After that, it was all downhill for my illusions. Vietnam and Nicaragua, Panama and Persian Gulf One came and went like so many bad dreams, so many bum projects begun only to grow worse, it seems— not even good deals for the guys who got out alive. And now, nearly sixty, I find that I am once again a stranger in my native land, wondering what it is that makes us see danger way out there, when it’s always so much closer to home.