Saturday, January 9, 2010

Catch 22

My Uncle Jack who served in Viet Nam responded to my post yesterday. Here's our messages:

Sgt. Nephew,
I feel your pain and I applaud that you have kept your daughters out of public schools, aka government indoctrination centers. That said, knowing you are a devoted reader and lover of literature I recommend the greatest anti-government/military book extant: Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. I'm also an avid reader but mostly on the surface level. I seldom look for the symbolism buried deeper in the text. It took me a couple of readings of Heller's book to realize he was using irony, if that's the right word, to illustrate the lunacy of government and especially the military. Rather than an expose' or an angry diatribe he used subtlety to insinuate his point without bludgeoning his readers. By doing so, he engaged a far larger audience and perhaps changed the minds of people who never suspected what he was up to. If you haven't read it, try it.

The movie alluded to this in a few scenes but mostly treated it as a comedy farce.

Uncle Major,
I loved the book and did not like the movie for that reason—it kept the farce and lost the point. Catch 22 also makes the point that in all bureaucracies, paperwork is reality and reality means nothing. This worked out decidedly to my advantage in my 2nd enlistment. I was never a resident of PA but got a better deal from the PA recruiter. I gave him a PA post office box—P.O. Box 334, Brownstown PA. When I went to get out in 1979, I thought I was going to Massachusetts. They would not ship my stuff to MA. I would have to retain a civilian lawyer to prove I was an MA resident because my DD Form 4—even though Ma and Dad were living in the same house I enlisted from in 1972 and lived in since 1957. It turned out I got to go to Penn State as a resident because of that form.
Joseph Heller would just smile.

Sergeant Nephew,
I wondered how you ended up in PA.