Songsmith, Giraffe-whisperer, Ninja, Archeologist from Pluto and elsewhere, Model, Former Ambassador to Chad, Ice skating champion, part time Falconer and Chef. None of the above is true. My books speak for me. All else is commentary or speculation.
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Fighting for Christ the Lord ... The New Preface to The Killing of an Author
New Preface (October 2014) [Book is also now a paperback on Createspace.]
Recently, thanks to a chance meeting with a childhood friend, I understood why I had really written The Killing of an Author.
As a boy of 11--at an age when American boys are usually
playing with their Lego collections, and Indian children of my social class,
then, were playing rubber-ball cricket or throwing stones at cashew and mango
trees--I enlisted in the Army of Christ. And, as an enlisted serviceman, I
ultimately ended up doing a lot of fighting ... though not for Christ.
To begin at the beginning: In a country that has 43 Hindus
for every Christian, I was born, in Bangalore, to Roman Catholic parents.
Moving to my parents’ home town, Mangalore (which sometimes refers to
itself as “the Rome of the East”), at age 6, I grew up a devout Catholic,
brainwashed into believing that martyrdom was the only guaranteed path to
sainthood and immortality.
Attaining sainthood, I realized, was very hard work: like
studying for the most difficult exam you could ever imagine, but studying, not
just for a few years, but for all your miserable, self-flagellating life, and
being better at it than most others.
However, there was one shortcut to sainthood (a
shortcut that appealed to my lazy self): martyrdom. The deal was this: All you
had to do was offer your neck, at the right time, for Christ the Lord (or Mary,
his mother; no, Joseph was not good enough). And no matter how sinful your life
had been until that moment, if you recognized the error of your ways just
minutes before your beheading or deep-frying (or whichever inventive and kinky method
your persecutors used), and so long as you had mentally repented your past
sins, and so long as you were clearly sacrificing your life for the True Faith,
you were guaranteed martyrdom—which, in effect, also ensured sainthood.
However, just to be sure, and just to strengthen my
spiritual resume (which would be examined by the Pope, as well as by Saint
Peter, before I was granted sainthood), I joined the Sodality of Our Lady, a
Catholic youth organization whose anthem was this martial song:
An army of youth
Flying the standards of truth
We’re fighting for Christ the Lord!
Heads lifted high
Catholic Action our cry
And the Cross Our Only Sword!
Till the World is Won
We Have Pledged You Our Loyal Word .... etc. etc.
The Cross Our Only Sword! Winning the world for
Christ!So, at the age of 11 or 12,
I had been brainwashed into becoming a sword-wielding crusader, for I
had now been told that it was not enough to follow Christ; one had to fight
And, though, as a mere first year high school student, I
outperformed college seniors to win first prize in the Sodality’s Religious
Quiz (it helped that I had been coached by Father Matthew Lewis, the Rector,
who came from a non-upperclass family, like me, and probably had some sympathy
for a fellow prole), there followed, four years later, a stunning reversal.
It was a combination of things: that Catholic
theology couldn’t explain erections or pubic hair, and that I read a book by
Bertrand Russell, that helped me overcome my Catholic brainwashing at the age
of 16—at first, hesitantly, and with finality and confidence by the age of 19.
At that time, I did not realize that history would repeat itself—that I would
end up wasting (?) twenty years of my life as a crusader for different Cause: a
crusader for justice and truth.
Much of politics and history, especially in the U.S., is about Us and Them. Us, the Good Guys, versus much of the Rest of the World: the Bad Guys. If you're with us, with moral as well as material and diplomatic support, you're also good guys (though not as good as us). If you're against us, or simply not with us, you're bad guys. And our mission is to bomb, starve, and sanction you into changing your mind.
Historian Mark David Ledbetter does not accept such a simplistic view of wold affairs. His study of history, contained in three works of towering research, America's Forgotten History: Parts 1-3, tells him that every nation, at some point in its history, has been guilty of genocide or war crimes. It just happens that different nations are at different points of development and engagement with the rest of the world, and therefore, we don't all behave and think the same.
But that's just one element of Ledbetter's new book, Dancing on the Edge of the W…
When I was in my late teens, I used to read Punch magazine, and one of my favorite writers was Alan Coren, who published a humor collection titled Golfing for Cats. It turned out that the book had nothing to do with either golfing or cats; but golfing and cats were the two hottest subjects on the bestseller list at that time, so he married the two and made up the title. (Alan Coren's book ended up doing quite well.)
My story is totally different. Neither cats, goats, nor Mahatma Gandhi are particularly hot at this moment (the Mahatma, if resurrected, would be horrified by Donald Trump and prefer to return to his grave), so the Alan Coren anecdote only partly explains the title of my new book: The Mahatma, the Goats, and Young Cats, all of which do occur in my collection of humor and satire, but are not its main subjects: this being a diverse humor collection ranging from Jesus to Ronald Reagan, from Indian politics to American nukes and deficits, from Adam and Eve to modern puber…