100th Anniversary of World War I and my family’s connection to the Great War.

1914 - Gavrilo PrincipThe events that led to World War I – the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife while in Sarajevo – occurred 100 years ago today. Carried out by a Bosnian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip, it set in motion a four-year war that was the most expensive in world history (estimated at $400 billion contemporaneously) at that time, it killed more people, caused more devastation, led to the simultaneous decline of four empires. Far more importantly it exposed the link between global capital and imperialism, setting the stage for a much more dire war. It’s no wonder people came out of it wondering what it was all for, with a minimum of 9 million (and perhaps as many as 20 million) dead, and turned to cynicism, consumerism, and dangerous radicalism across the globe. 

My great Grandfather Frank Moore and my Great Uncle William Brown fought in the so-called Great War. Grandpa Frank made it home, convinced he was a lucky one, and proposed to the love of his life. Uncle William wasn’t so fortunate. He perished in the Meuse-Argonne offensive’s final phase, and to this day, among the few times I’ve ever seen my Grandfather Clayton Brown cry was when he talked about his beloved “Uncle Willie.”

I have always been interested in World War I because of this familial connection. World War I was a seminal moment for my family. The Moore’s (my maternal grandmother’s side) believed that they had somehow been blessed, and our family could not have come about any other way but through luck. The Browns (my maternal grandfather’s side) were shocked at losing William, but as long-standing American patriots they thought “every generation needed to make its sacrifice” – until my Grandfather, Although he saw the flag draped box that came home much later (following William’s disinterment and repatriation) he became suspicious of pretty much anything national leaders said. He would fight in World War II, but never liked to talk about it. Years lat1929238_55862269720_7291_ner when I contemplated military service, his counsel provided a glimpse into his thoughts on war and nationalism.

I make no pretensions to intellectualism – the meanings of war are always made up, by politicians seeking to justify a particular policy. But the effect is always a personal one, felt by those whose lives are altered and those left behind. Tonight, I’ll have a drink in memory of those who didn’t come back until it was over over there, and those who didn’t come back period.


WTF is wrong with me?

[Note]  – I’m not prone to posts like this, but this blog is partially a way for me to get rid of the “snakes in my head” as I like to call them now.  So this may come off angrily, bitterly, some of the language crude, but this is it.  

I’m an asshole.  A jerk.  I’m emotionally unavailable.  I’m a wonderful man but I disappear when times get tough.  I don’t take care of my business. She loves me so much.  But I’m spiteful.  A terrible father.  A liar. I teach children the wrong things, in fact the kids hate me.  I treat women poorly.  I am not kind.  And many, many more things. 

I “just” got out of a relationship that was one of the most revealing experiences of my life.  I entered into the relationship in September 2011, and it was realistically over by February of 2012.  And yet it took another two and a half years and a hospital stay in which I nearly died for us to finally part company.  It was unquestionably the biggest failure of my life – I have never failed so spectacularly and felt so awful about myself, or been made to feel so awful about myself.  It affected me in so profound a manner that even now I’m at a loss to describe it.  I fucked up my life over this and I still haven’t recovered.  To this day my friends will ask me “what is wrong with you” and I can only point to this relationship, but I can’t put into words what it is.   

All this time later I’m still in a daze over the whole thing.  Sometimes, I can sit down with clarity and say to myself “here is where I was wrong, but here is where I was unquestionably right.”  I’m not nearly egotistical enough to think I was perfect in this relationship.  I lied – lies of omission, but lies nonetheless.  I don’t think I was right, or whatever.  I thought I was protecting her from something.  I was wrong.  But then I have moments where I think  – was I really so awful?  Then my friends – those friends who still bother with me – tell me it doesn’t matter, you were kind, you were flexible, and what you lied about was none of her business anyway.  And I feel slightly better, but it’s always temporary.

When I moved to St. Louis I was so full of optimism.  I had been overwhelmed by cynicism for much of the preceding few years that maybe this did seem like a fantasy.  I thought I had found my soul mate – I had even begun to think of religion in a far more mature way than I’d ever conceived.  I thought my life was taking a new positive turn – I could have a career, a family, be happy, and not a product of stress.  But almost the second I made the decision to move there, things started unraveling on me.  I lost my job and was unemployed my last month in Houston.  Before I knew it I was unemployed for 14 months.  Still I moved.  And while there in St. Louis I moved into a home I knew we could not afford, bought furniture with the money I had saved, rationalizing “this is a temporary hit – I won’t be unemployed forever.”  And slowly my savings dwindled until there was nothing left.  

While I wasn’t following through and handling my business, the person I was with was an independent contractor who couldn’t be bothered with billing their employer; would demand that I take her kids out so she could get work done, and then returned to find no work had been done.  She would chastise me for not working or networking, but when I would make the time (i.e. attending lectures at Washington University and introducing myself) I would be barraged with texts and calls wanting to know when I was coming home.  While she openly questioned my commitment to our relationship, she wouldn’t even admit to being in a relationship with me.   When we split, she told me our relationship was inconsequential, literally a blip on the map of her life.

We had been arguing the night I went into the hospital in January.  When I subsequently got sedated and went out for three weeks while doctors fought to save my life, she believed that I had stopped communicating with her.  She reached out to my friends, none of whom really had anything to say to her given what they knew about our relationship.  She reached out to both my mother and my father who told her I was in the hospital.  My father had to talk her out of coming to Texas.  All the while she maintained that she should have been more in the loop – a woman who had maintained all of these awful thoughts about me, was making ugly remarks to my friends at the same time asking for info, and was stunned no one wanted to talk to her.  

When I got out of the hospital it kept up.  Literally the day I got out, she said “we need to have a talk, and its going to get ugly.”  I begged her to wait – I was exceedingly weak (I literally could not stand on my own), I was on medication because my blood pressure was low, but the doctor told me specifically avoid stress and stressful circumstances – its not good for you particularly right now.  I repeated this warning and asked her to please wait, and then she could say whatever she wanted.  She didn’t wait.  Literally the same day I got home she was yelling at me about all of the horrible things I had done and how I lied to her (about my former girlfriend), about how no one would talk to her and how awful it was for her not knowing.  In short, it was as if the last month hadn’t happened to me at all, what mattered was what happened to her.  It went on like this constantly.  At one point I thought for sure I was having a heart attack – I pleaded with her to stop.  Which she did until it became clear I was okay, and then it resumed.  I remember telling her once, you are saying everything you can to hurt me.  In case it’s lost on you, just because I did these things, I still have feelings too.  Her reply was that my feelings do not matter.  

She humiliated me over and over.  Because I had not told her anything about Theresa, she demanded I get an HIV test, even though I had just been in the hospital for a month and had more than one full blood panel done.  Even though I had lost all of my teaching jobs and had no income, she insisted.  For reasons I will never be able to explain I agreed to do it, despite how humiliating it was to go to a clinic and ask for this.  She understood that I had no money, and that all of my possessions were in a storage unit.  She offered to pay for the unit and then when I got the bill, claimed she had no idea what I was talking about.  Despite asking her to call the storage place on multiple occasions, she chided my concern that they might auction my unit off (which is standard on a 90-day delinquency) as ridiculous,  When I would hit the wall in her attacks on me she would respond that I was “worse than a teenage girl.”  She was right.  A man would have walked away.  

It boils down to this.  I’ve spent two and a half years now arguing with her about a four month long relationship.  I wasn’t perfect, but I know I wasn’t the devil.  I uprooted my life.  I didn’t move there because, as she said, I so desperately wanted kids and she was a conduit (I couldn’t have found that in the 4th largest city in the country?).  I didn’t move because I was so ashamed and had to find a new anonymity or a way to hide – if that were true, I stood a far better chance In Houston than St. Louis.  No matter what I say, she won’t believe that I loved her and moved because I wanted to be with her.  And that’s it.  No matter what happened, no matter what we tried, we just couldn’t make it work.  And it sucks.  And I feel burned.  And I feel weak and lost.