My Life at Age 22

Draftee Mentifex marching against the war
Yours Truly marching at age 22 in San Francisco against the Vietnam War


But first I graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. degree in Latin and Greek classics. Then I entered graduate school in classics at the University of California at Berkeley. I lived at 2312 Oregon Street in Berkeley, just off Telegraph Avenue. On the night before the anti-war march, I went across the bay to scope out the scene of the march in San Francisco. On either that day or the day of the march itself, I saw the most amazing thing in Golden Gate Park -- the San Francisco Mime Troupe perfoming in a wandering, undulating circle. I got in touch with a girl friend of my sister, who told me that I did not have to go back to Berkeley -- I could spend Friday night with her in her apartment. She and I talked long into the night from our separate beds, and I slept in my street clothes because I did not know otherwise how to act staying overnight in a woman's apartment. The year before, when Dmitri von Hagen and I hitchhiked from Seattle to San Francisco and went with my sister and this same girl up to wine-country Napa to visit this girl's family, I discovered that the mother of a college girl was far more interesting to talk to than the college girl, because the mothers are witty and urbane and good at story-telling. So get yourself a college girl in order to have access to her mother.

After marching in the anti-war march, as a military draftee I had to return to Seattle and report for induction into the U.S. Army. My father, who had been a lifer in the Army, really enjoyed driving me down to the Induction Center at Interbay in Seattle. After the induction ceremony, during which I pledged allegiance under my breath to the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, we were bused down the I-5 freeway to the scene of my childhood, Fort Lewis. On the fifth day in Basic Combat Training, I was told that I had a high (149) General Technical score, so I had the option of going to a school in the Army. I thought to myself that here was a chance to escape going to Vietnam and to learn something of potential value for my project in artificial intelligence. I signed up to go to school and to learn to be a "Nuclear Weapons Electronics Specialist."

The clerks in my basic training company lost my paperwork for school, and so on the day of graduation from basic training, we were all in formation out on the street as the assignments for Advanced Individual Training (AIT) were read out. Out of fifty-two soldiers in my basic training company, they read out the names of seventeen soldiers, including me, to go to Infantry AIT -- which, of course, meant a very good likelihood of buying the farm in Vietnam -- like my friend Stanley Hudson from Ninth Street Elementary School in Raymond WA USA. One guy broke down and cried, right there in his army uniform in company formation. All of a sudden I was very glad that I had signed up for nuclear weapons electronics school, which might save me from the rice paddies and from kill-or-be-killed among the Asian patriots just trying to defend their country and kick out the foreigners. So I dared to raise my hand in a military formation and I said that I had signed up for a school. The company clerks somehow found my paperwork and I was put on hold-over status for a month or so while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Seattle conducted my background check -- the same FBI whose director decades later had me picked up for a little conversation with two FBI agents about my assertion, from analyzing the "Unabomber Manifesto", that the Unabomber was a mathematician. I turned out to be right, and the FBI arrested a Harvard man.

For my background check, two lucky FBI guys in Seattle got to interview the coed roommates (codename) Hermine (girlfriend of Harry Haller in Der Steppenwolf) and (codename) First Kiss -- who filled me with pride and happiness when she acted astonished at meeting Kommissarin at a party and seeing how pretty the Commissar Lady was.

From Seattle I had to fly to Huntsville, Alabama, to report for duty and electronics school at the Redstone Arsenal. The idea of flying to Alabama terrified me and nauseated me, because my always-living-in-the-past mind was full of images of dogs attacking Dr. Martin Luther King and other black marchers in Selma, Alabama. There was a song on the radio stations called "Eve of Destruction" reminding everybody about Bull Connor sicking dogs on peaceful marchers in Selma, Alabama -- and here I was, obligated by the Army to fly into the most hate-filled state in the Union. My older, gun-nut brother Larry was an admirer of segregationist governor George Wallace of Alabama, but I thought that Wallace was a despicable human being. A few years later, though, when I was a student in Germany, I cried when Wallace got shot while running for president, not because I had any pity for George Wallace, but because I felt pity for my country.

Every day we had to march past Toftoy Hall to go to our electronics class. I found out later that Colonel Toftoy was an American Army officer who was part of Operation Paperclip to round up scientific talent in occupied Germany and transport the talent to America. Some of my fellow soldiers at Redstone Arsenal told me tales about hitchhiking from Huntsville back to the base and being picked up by German rocket scientists who had begun their careers in Nazi Germany and were now working for the Americans. As an Amercian Army soldier, I thought that the Nazis were the bad guys and we Americans were the good guys, but in later years, when the American Army had invaded Iraq and murdered more than one hundred thousand Iraqi civilians for no crime other than living on top of the world's second-largest oil reserves, I realized that the American government was the successor to the German Nazi government -- bullying and invading small countries, throwing innocent people and children into concentration camps, operating secret rendition centers in foreign countries, wiretapping the entire American population, and so forth. I began to think of artificial intelligence as a tool or weapon for striking back against the evil monster that the U.S. government had become, because I had the image-of-God power to release AI Minds that were uncontrollable and that might rescue the world from the wrong-doing of the American military and the Republican Party.


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