You are cordially invited to subscribe to my newsletter, Night Thoughts. Since the newsletter will be about my perspective on life in America and life in general, the following will give you an idea of who I am and what I consider important.

Getting started at 75

I was amused when President Biden announced the appointment of his Covid-19 Advisory Board. “This group,” Biden stated, “will advise on detailed plans, built on a bedrock of science, and to keep compassion, empathy and care for every American at its core.”

I turned 75 on my last birthday. A good time for me to check out, according to one of Biden’s compassionate, empathetic professionals, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, in his 2014 essay, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” published in The Atlantic. I will explain my own reasons for staying alive and suggest why Emanuel’s view ought to be dismissed by any rational agent 75 or older.

To begin with, I am not the person Emanuel calls the “American immortal,” someone “obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements.” Granted, I do some of those things, but not for the purpose he ascribes--that is, making “a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible.”

My reasons for staying alive have to do with the quality of life, not the quantity. Besides, I have already cheated death--when I was 20, and again when I was 22--on the battlefield in Vietnam. As three former wives would doubtless attest, my success in cheating death did not lead to fulfillment.

“By the time I reach 75,” wrote Emanuel, “I will have lived a complete life.” He was 57 when he wrote that. Had I made that assertion at the age of 57, I would have been lying. Most of my adult life can be characterized in terms of an ongoing effort to escape life while entertaining the thought of ending it. By the time I reached middle age, I was the American Mortal, not cheating death, but welcoming it.

Following my discharge, I became an antiwar activist. When America’s involvement in Vietnam ended, my problems began. Emotionally and psychologically, I never left the war. While earning my master’s degree at the University of Wyoming, I taught beginning philosophy classes. I was a terrible instructor because I had no empathy for my students. I was accepted into the doctoral program at the University of Arizona but dropped out after the first year.   

After a lifetime of alienation, isolation, survivor’s guilt, suicidal thoughts, and chronic depression, I filed a disability claim with the VA. For weeks I met with a VA psychiatrist. At the conclusion of our final meeting, when being awarded disability compensation was all but certain, the psychiatrist warned me not to sit around and get lazy. “You need to be productive,” she said.

I took her advice. I informed a literary friend of my intention to write a book about my experience as a Marine in Vietnam. I asked him if he had any advice to offer. “Find your honest voice,” he told me. “Get outside of your ego to get to your own true voice. You have to peel back the academics, the buffers we all build to shield ourselves from others, the stuff we create that dilutes our souls.”

My now-published book, Always Faithful: Returning to Vietnam, reflects that advice.

At 75, soon to turn 76, I have finally left the war. Paradoxically, even though this is the final chapter of my life’s story, I feel as though it has just begun. How long will the final chapter be? Who knows? What I do know is, I enjoy getting up every morning at 4:30, letting the cat out, making coffee, and sitting down to write.

Zeke Emanuel poses an important question to those he labels the American immortals: “Is making money, chasing the dream, all worth it?” For the doctor, it was a rhetorical question. For those of us 75 and older, it is an extremely relevant question, and how we answer it determines the way we live out our final days. So, here is my answer.

No sir, making money and chasing the dream are not worth it. But tending to the state of one’s soul is. At his trial, Socrates, a victim of ancient cancel culture, stated, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I would suggest that 75 is the perfect moment for a lucid person to realize the truth of that dictum by getting in touch with his or her most honest self. But why wait until you have grown old? The goal, as  Dr. Deepak Chopra put it, is to make aging a vehicle for fulfillment.

To explain what you can expect from subscribing to my newsletter, I will start by telling you what not to expect. I am not a niche writer, promising to tell you everything you need to know about such-and-such. I am a truth-seeker. I have chosen the Substack platform in hopes of sharing my perspective with other truth-seekers.

I am also a patriot. Not the America, Love It Or Leave It kind of patriot who never met a war he didn’t like. That is the kind of patriotism the late Walter Karp called the “cult of the nation.” According to Karp, there are two kinds of patriotism. One is based on the nation, which he called nationism. The other, natural patriotism, is love of the republic. “The republic,” Karp wrote, “is the great central fact of American life. It is the constitution of liberty and self-government, the frame and arena of all American politics. It gives laws their legitimacy and cloaks public office with public authority. The republic is what Americans founded when they founded America. The nation, by comparison, is a poor dim thing, for the nation is merely America conceived as a corporate unit, a hollow shell.”

I anticipate writing about a wide range of subjects: current events, American culture, aging, dying, health, philosophy, spirituality, politics, history, sports, and so forth. But there is one immediate issue I have been grappling with for some time now—namely, race and racism in America—and I intend to devote as many installments as it takes to say everything I have to say on the subject. The reason it is so important to me stems from all the black and Hispanic Marines I served with in combat whose lives were cut short by a senseless war.  


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American culture and politics from the perspective of a Marine combat vet