As Fate would have Her way, it was not long before I was pushed over the threshold by another aspect of Herself, Nature. Feeling the urgency to defecate, one day, I slipped off the mess decks to use the head after I had tried in vain to find Farris who had wandered off to fraternize with some of his cronies. Since the head was only about fifteen feet off the mess decks, I didn’t think Farris would mind if I stepped out to use it without his permission. On the way back, I ran into Marty in the passageway and stopped to talk to him. As soon as I spied Farris out of the corner of my eye, I knew by the look on his face that I was dead meat.
Like a vulture, he swooped down on me, screeching, “You’re on report.”
“What for?” I asked.
“For disobeying a direct order,” he squawked, “and for leaving your appointed place of duty without my permission.”
“I had to take a shit, Farris,” I tried to explain to him. “And when I couldn’t find you…”
It was useless trying to explain anything to him, for he was totally unreasonable. “You’re on report,” he kept screaming into my face, over ‘n’ over. “You’re on report.”
“I’ll tell you one goddamn thing, Farris,” I finally interjected. “I have never once had to ask anyone on this ship for permission to take a shit, unless I was on watch. And I’ll be damned if I’m going start now.”
Immediately, he spun around and raced off across the mess decks, only to disappear down the forward passageway.
“The guy’s a f***in’ animal!” Exclaimed Marty.
“Nah,” I replied, “he’s just afraid; that’s all. Like the rest of them, he’s afraid of the tide of resistance that has risen up from amongst us plebes, and threatens to sweep over the ship like a tidal wave.
“Don’t ya see it, Marty?” I asked him. “There’s a spirit arising all over this ship to stir up opposition to what we are being asked to do in Vietnam. Haven’t you felt it rising up inside of you like magma in a volcano?”
“If you mean the hate I feel for the Navy and f***in’ lifers like Farris, yeah, I’ve felt it,” replied Marty, “eatin’ away at my insides till I’m ready to f***in’ explode.”
“Can’t you see, Marty?” I exclaimed. “Filling you with hate for the Navy is soul’s way of letting you know she cannot tolerate the life you are leading.
“Don’t you recall how alive we all felt as we shared with each other the rebellious ideas our souls had awakened in us? Don’t you see how listless we’ve all gotten since they cracked down on us with their decrees? Don’t you ever feel like reaching out and grabbing hold of the life that would relieve the ache inside your heart and set you free?
“Don’t you see what we do to ourselves, Marty? When the soul draws us to her with tantalizing fantasies, we go to her. But let her demand commitment from us, and we drop her like a hot potato for some whore or totally unbefitting way of life that neither satisfies our desires nor fulfills our needs.
“Why? Why do we reject one set of fantasies as unrealistic and accept another as real? Why don’t we decide for ourselves what is real?
“Don’t you see, it’s because we’re afraid? Because their fantasy’s overshadowed the hearts and minds of men for so long, we’ve grown up fearing what they can do to us if we disobey them.
“While the havoc wreaked upon our souls, by our participation in their crimes against humanity, is far greater than the damage they could ever inflict upon our bodies for our noncooperation, we kowtow to their god—to the cyclops who resides within the great pyramid on the almighty dollar. As the pawns in this fantasy, we are taught that it’s our sacred duty to sacrifice our lives to this god in the bloody rituals that are periodically orchestrated around the hidden issue of maintaining, at all costs, the opulent lifestyles of those whom this god has favored. Through one of the biggest pyramid schemes in history, the American Dream, have we been sucked into believing that we too can become immortal but only if we turn our lives over to them to be used as they see fit.
“As our broken lives and dead bodies become the bricks and mortar with which they continue to build this colossal monument to their god, the question arises, do we really want to spend the rest of our lives fighting and dying, just to help make some lousy bastard back home filthy rich? Or do we want to espouse a whole new fantasy, one based upon truth and justice for all?
“Don’t you see how much they fear us? How afraid they are of what we’re saying. How afraid they are of the rebellious tone of our voices. How afraid they are of our reluctance to carry out their every command. How afraid they are of the truth that keeps oozing out of us no matter what they do to us.
“And so I ask, who has more to fear? I daresay, they do.”
“I don’t know about that,” exclaimed Marty. “They still have the upper hand, you know.”
“Only because we let them have it,” I yelled back as he disappeared down the passageway.
As I walked back to the mess decks…(to be continued).
[Excerpted from A Different Kind of Sentinel]