ALEX AND I ARE AT OUR HOUSE IN MALIBU. You simply cannot imagine how beautiful the weather is here today. Cloudless blue skies. No humidity at all. Slight breeze. Temps in mid-70s. Birds of all kinds, especially some kind of blue birds (maybe blue jays), flying all around, singing perfectly.
Immense hawks with forked tails also cruise by all day long looking for prey. Actually, we were supposed to be in D.C. attending memorial services at Arlington. But gnarled McFate (a Nabokov reference) stepped in. Two nights ago, I got a call from someone very close to me, a woman I am fond of, to put it mildly. She told me that her 24-year-old son, of whom I am also extremely fond, was having a nervous breakdown. The poor kid has been having one problem after another, so I ran right over.
He was standing in his undershorts (boxers, probably a gift from my wife and me) covered in blue food dye. He had several bowls of blue water on the counter in front of him. In the bowls, immersed in the water, were various bits of takeout Japanese food.
To make a horrendously long story short, the young fellow believed that there were microchips embedded in his rice, that some of the fish skin from his sushi was attacking some other skin in a bowl, and that persons unknown were attacking him with fishing line and fishhooks. He also thought that I was audio recording him and that my friend (his mom) was videotaping him.
It took until four in the morning to get him even a bit calmed down. By then, my wife and I were so tired from helping the young man and his family that we were in no shape at all to travel in the morning. I am bitterly sorry about missing that super special event.
At all events, here we are in Malibu. The young man is really a smart, lovely person, but he is going through a horrible time. If he took his meds on a regular schedule, he would be a lot better off.
His mother and my wife and I thank God every single day for the pharmaceutical companies that at least keep some small semblance of a lid on this kid’s soul. Where would we be without those scientists and their companies? The progress that has been made in antipsychosis, anti-schizophrenia drugs is simply fantastic. These are lifesaving creations of the human mind.
I do not believe this kid would be alive without these prescriptions. But he will take them, and he will get better and make a real contribution to society someday. Thanks to the pharmaceutical companies, from the bottom of my heart. They make life possible for so many millions of people every day.
HERE IN MALIBU, I slept late along with my Julie Good Girl, my perfect German shorthaired pointer, and then I got up and prayed a lot for that young man and for the hero soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors, Merchant Marine, war workers, OSS, CIA, FBI, Coast Guard, police, and prison guards who keep us safe. What can we do or say that is enough for these spectacular men and women? There will never be enough roses to throw in their paths.
In a related vein, if I had my way about education, I would require that The World at War, the marvelous 30-hour series about World War II from the UK, be shown to every grade-school boy and girl in this country starting right now. This would be a much better country with more gratitude for the people who keep us free and safe. What happened to teaching gratitude? Back at Parkside Elementary, long ago and far away, on its green and leafy campus in Silver Spring, Maryland, we were taught to love and praise the USA endlessly. Many of us were the grandchildren of immigrants. We had seen the miracle of America in our lives, our families going from poverty to solid middle-class status in a matter of decades. Every father of every boy and girl had been in the war as a military man or a war worker. It showed. We really loved this country.
The few kids who complained about America—usually children of Party members—did so about racism and did so with affection. I just cannot recall anyone who seriously doubted that we were the most fortunate kids who ever lived to be growing up in America in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. There simply was no ingratitude, just as there were no overweight kids except maybe one or two.
This was a different America. In some ways, it was worse than today, because there was explicit, legally sanctioned racism and vile sexism, but in some ways it was a far more confident, happier world. It was a club…the best club in the world, and we all belonged.
If someone told us we would have a First Lady who had been given every possible opportunity America had to offer and then had said that she never felt proud to be an American until her husband was named his party’s nominee for president, it would not have been conceivable.
As I say, a different world. I can remember reading a book in the mid-1950s about a Soviet takeover of the United States. The first thing the Russians did was round up all of the CPUSA members and shoot them. The Russians reasoned that if these people were dissatisfied with the best country on earth, they would be really, really dissatisfied with Red Amerika, and would make trouble. Why not do the sensible thing and shoot them all right away?